Shaz Khan is Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of Vroozi, the leading cloud-based business purchasing platform. He has managed and implemented SAP supply chain and operational procurement projects for numerous Fortune 500 clients in the Media, Entertainment, Chemical, Oil and Financial Services industries. His specialties include:
a.) Software Product Design & Innovation
b.) Startup Mentoring
c.) Mobile & Enterprise Mash Economy
As shared in a prior episode, I had fun talking with him about his passion for human-centric design. See that interview here. It got me thinking about what happens past iterations and once products are built. Below are his insights into how Vroozi is empowering its users with the ability to turn various functions on and off.
Ryan Foland: Are you a golfer?
Shaz Khan: I’m a golf hack. I’ll get on the course and try my best to hit the golf ball. Winston Churchill (who was a golfer) said it best, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”
Ryan Foland: Same could be said to the enterprise software world, right?
Shaz Khan: I never really thought of it that way, but yes. Companies who are trying to get the “ball in the hole” (when it comes to automating a part of their process) can’t use ill-designed software and expect to hit par. Owners cannot live on the promise of, “I’m going to buy and immediately implement software, and it should last for years.” Nobody knows what the next 18 months look like. Any number of things can upset the applecart.
Ryan Foland: So what is your advice to owners who are trying to leverage technology to better run processes and procedures?
Shaz Khan: The ideal is to launch competitive products, make better decisions, and do things quickly without dying on the sword by living in a two-year project cycle. People need to implement products more quickly, so they can realize the benefits more quickly.
Ryan Foland: Does the need to get products done quicker effect the complexity? Does that complexity make it more difficult to keep things simple?
Shaz Khan: That’s a great question. We were just talking about this the other day. There is an interview of Martin Scorsese from about 30 years ago where he said, “The hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life is to take a simple idea in my head and put it on screen.”
Ryan Foland: I love that concept. One of my favorite quotes (from about 500 years ago) is from Leonardo Da Vinci, who said, “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.”
Shaz Khan: And the same concept can be applied to software. At Vroozi, we want to ensure our solution isn’t over simplified to the point where people think it’s a clever gimmick that can’t actually help them run and improve their business. When you build a software solution like Vroozi, you have to have the power tools built into it for a specific audience. We typically analogize that audience to the “backstage-pass-access folks” — the people who can set up the system according to their business processes, and then distribute the product to a wider audience in need of a simpler interface. We do this in a way that allows people to order products and services. When deciding how simple the experience should be, we look to the specific roles within an organization. Most of our end-users are people who are looking to purchase products and services, and that’s where we hone in to provide the best user experience. We aim to give them all the toolsets they need to be successful in their jobs.
Ryan Foland: If I’m hearing you correctly, it’s not that you’re trying to make the most simplistic process or simplistic solution, but you’re identifying the kind of simple and powerful tools that would make specific roles easier.
Shaz Khan: Absolutely.
Ryan Foland: Would you consider yourself a minimalist?
Shaz Khan: If you go into my garage, you’ll see a number of different knick-knacks neatly organized and structured. However, there’s too much stuff for my wife’s own good. I have always ascribed to the philosophy of “if you get overwhelmed with something, chances are you’re going to reach out for some kind of help.”
Conceptually, let’s look at the minimalism and simplicity of Apple. Where’s the training manual for an iPhone? It’s there, buried as a PDF with really, really small text. But the brilliance of what Apple was able to achieve was creating an intuitive product where a manual becomes secondary to experience. For us, we want to continue to build software that does the same. We want our users to “get it” simply by using Vroozi, with a look and feel that is familiar to them. Our agile, customer-centric ethos makes it easier for us to achieve this outcome for our users.
Ryan Foland: From a sales perspective, there must be a challenge in making something super simple, then selling it at a premium against somebody who might, on a surface level, have more bells and whistles…
Shaz Khan: Great question, Ryan. In our history, a product can never solely be sold. This is our own kind of anecdotal evidence just based on the value proposition of simplicity. It has to solve real business problems. We see this challenge every day, but we’re able to demonstrate that Vroozi is not just a pretty face on a complicated software. There are several bells and whistles behind our product that allow businesses to configure the platform according to their unique business needs. If they want to customize their tax code, if they want to integrate with a third-party system, or if they want to enable real-time shipping notifications — it can be done. These are things that we believe should be activation switches within the framework and within the platform. That way, our users can customize their experience by turning features on and off.
Common interfaces with complex systems are also complex for the user. We’ve chiseled away that complexity for the end user by allowing the integration to be turned on or off.
Ryan Foland: I’m totally visualizing my Twitter notification panel that gives me complete freedom to choose which functions I want and don’t want.
Shaz Khan: Exactly. Social media platforms (like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) see the value of empowering their users to turn features on and off. They’ve invested a lot of money on the administrative side to make the user experience as customizable as possible. The same concept can (and should) apply to enterprise applications, as well.