“Don’t make me think!”

The new User Experience for enterprise software keeps customers focused on the task in hand

The Ventyx World customer conference in Barcelona kicked off yesterday with an audience eager to hear about innovations in enterprise software. But when Laurie Tolson, head of the company’s R&D team, took the stage, she presented an image of 19th Century philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. Don’t be put off by his mutton-chop whiskers. He has more to do with modern-day software than you’d think.

Famous for his love of simplicity, Thoreau mourned “modern” life’s dependency on technology and how men had become the slaves of their tools. Remarkably, we’re in a similar situation today.

“How many of you have two or three remotes at home, with buttons you never used?” asked Tolson. It’s a pretty universal problem, and we tolerate it in the living room, but if you’re running a power plant or a mining operation, it’s simply not acceptable. Tools that are hard to use impact performance. They reduce safety and reliability, and hammer productivity.

Jeff Ray, who leads the Ventyx team, advocates a “don’t make me think” approach to the user experience, insisting that software needs to lessen the load for the user. With this in mind, he and the Ventyx User Experience team (as well as a number of other company executives) have been out in the field, visiting customers to see how their software is being used on a daily basis.

During a day with a US energy company, Ray saw that it took field technicians just over two minutes to switch from one account to the next. Not a huge inconvenience, but if that switch needs to be made multiple times a day, by multiple employees, across multiple customers, the time adds up. For this application, it would add up to nearly 1800 man-years per year. The aim now is to reduce the switch time to around 5 seconds.

All of the inputs received from customers and observation of tools in action have been put into the new intuitive interface that enables operators to focus on their core responsibilities, rather than worrying about how to operate the tool.

“Instead of forcing customers to adapt their work-styles to our software, we shaped the UX software interface around the way they work,” said Ray.

Simplification of the user experience will have a direct impact on productivity, and that’s where Ventyx fits into the ABB world of power and productivity. The growing complexity of industrial applications, and the requirement to be more productive while maintaining safety and reliability standards, mean that software is now an essential component of systems running the world’s critical infrastructure.

To help time-stressed customers across the world, Ventyx will continue with Henry David Thoreau’s quest for a simpler life, on behalf of software users everywhere.


For more information about Ventyx software, or to register for the third and final Ventyx World 2014 on the Gold Coast, Australia, July 23-25, follow the links below:


Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, Washington, United States (public domain image). Henry David Thoreau in 1856, famous for his pursuit of a simpler life.

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About the author

Sian Curtis

I am Communications Manager for ABB’s global Network Management Business unit. I joined ABB in 2006, working for corporate communications before joining Network Management in 2010. I have worked in publishing and corporate communications, in various countries, for the past 16 years.
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