Written by David Hart, co-founder of payroll and workplace pensions platform, Paycircle.co.uk
FAST-PACED, interactive, user-centric and fun are just some of the words that could apply to modern-day video games. Not one of them, however, would accurately describe the vast majority of business software on the market today. If any words do spring to mind on the business (and that includes accounting) software front, it’s clunky, complex, sterile and, assuming double-barreled words are permitted, soul-destroying.
Now while accounting software is never going to be as fun as a shoot ‘em up, why can’t it at least share some of the qualities and characteristics that are now gaming bread and butter? For example, pretty much anyone can pick up an Xbox One controller and effortlessly find their way around a modern gaming environment. Every last one of today’s games is built to be so intuitive that even your nan could rank up and achieve certain goals.
Equally, in modern day gaming environments, most people tend to play online with other real people dotted around the world. Again, why can’t company directors using general business and accounting software easily interact with, and team up with, others for their own gain? Rather than fellow gamers, they would have real-time access to the expertise and advice of other experts online, whether accountants, consultants or service providers. They’d also be able to effortlessly communicate with their own employees, suppliers and clients in a real-time digital ecosystem.
There’s the personalisation thing, too. In today’s gaming environments, the user interface can be effortlessly personalised to be an extension of whoever’s signed in. Most business software, by contrast, has no personality.
There’s something else, too. In the gaming world, every single player is part of the development team: it’s 100% collaborative. Even if unknowingly, their behaviour is feeding back and making for a better experience next time round. With business software, by contrast, it’s one-way traffic.
So why does modern business software have so few, if any, of the qualities of the average gaming environment? There are a few reasons. The first is easy enough: often it’s not in the interests of corporate software providers to offer business owners a seamless experience.
After all, give them an easy ride and empower them to manage key business processes — such as their day-to-day accounts or payroll — themselves, and you threaten the other major revenue channel that is consultancy. Keep business software mildly arcane, however, and your users double guessing, and you’re quids in.
There’s also the fear of change. While more next-generation business software and platforms are emerging all the time, big chunks of the business world are frankly terrified of change, and its impact on returns, clients and business practice as a whole.
So what needs to be done? First up engage teams of people who understand people and place absolute importance on the user experience. The gaming industry has them by the bucketload. It might cost a small fortune to bring them in, but the potential rewards are huge.
More fundamentally, there needs to be an acceptance that, due to emerging cloud-based technologies automating many day-to-day processes, business is currently undergoing a quantum leap change.
This applies both to business owners and business advisers. In fact, the distinction between the users of business software and the people buying it is disappearing, as has always been the case with games software. And this simple fact is becoming a catalyst for massive upheaval
In the face of this upheaval, the value-add advisers, consultants and accountants of tomorrow won’t go into their shells and resist technological change but will exploit it to their and their clients’ advantage. Rather than fear change, they will embrace it.
As for the dinosaurs of the business world, well, they’re simply counting down the days to their own Ice Age.
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