I agree with most of what I read in Thomas post, but I think the following part explain pretty well what most of people still doesn’t understand about usability:
Companies want to spend their time and money investing in differeniating business functionality not necessarily UI.
This doesn’t mean that businesses don’t want good looking or nicely interactive UIs.
Nor do they necessarily want each application to interact or look differently – ie. training costs.
That’s sound ancient.
Design a coerent functional and reusable user interface is not fancy. People interact with software through UI, a poorly usable UI mean poorly usable software, and a poorly usable software has less value.
Business does understand that now, perfectly. Every SAP client now have experienced, in his work or leisure, different, more innovative, and more efficient UI and they do require SAP UI to conform to his average experience; and from SAP moves I can assume SAP knows that.
For instance, I recently went through a full SAP ICWC implementation and I can assure it was painful to keep explaining to the client it have to deal with the fact the user experience and the usability of the application was not the one of the average web application they experience every day; and they didn’t want something nice and cute, they just wanted their IC agent to be more productive.
Most of people laughed when the mouse was introduced, now most of people laugh at them.
Few companies I know are still using old cobol software with a UI 20 years old, they achieve a high productivity with it, and I suggest them to stuck with it. But these are exceptions nowadays.
The rule now is better usability = more productivity, and as far as I can notice business knows that.