Saturday, June 25, 2011

User Experience in Fusion apps

Historically, Oracle is a technical company. Historically, Oracle is a database company. Once they started to offer development tools, modeling tools and applications, the whole concept always centered around data. User interfaces were things that you should generate based on a table definition, not something you should spend time on. So when I heard about the Fusion Applications User Experience efforts, I was skeptical...
...To put it mildly.
My view of Oracle and User Experience has changed drastically today. I attended the Fusion Apps User Experience training with a couple of other Ace Directors that are at Kaleidoscope 2011 in Long Beach.

The message
Companies buy Enterprise applications for support of their business. This is different than consumer facing applications like Amazon or Facebook; in Enterprise applications, users need to be able to accurately and efficiently complete their tasks. Fusion applications enables this because it takes the context of the user/customer into account. The business context consists of four things:
  • Who you are
  • What you are doing
  • Where you are
  • What information you need to complete the task
Instead of looking at the data and generating a lot of screens on top of those data, Oracle has done extensive research to define the roles and persona's, the processes and tasks that need to be supported and the requirements these different users have.
They applied various user experience techniques like contextual inquiry, persona's and scenario's, card sorting, tasks analysis and qualitative methods like eye tracking and keystroke level modeling.

Analysis and modeling
This research resulted in prototypes and different solutions.
There are four key concepts in fusion apps:
  1. The right information at the right time. The information that is needed for a task is present, so the user does not have to navigate out of a screen to get to required information. Analysis of what information is needed at what time is key here. There are different patterns that are applied: showing information when hovering over an item, context sensitive actions that are available when clicking on an item, etc etc.
  2. Different types of navigation: search, dashboards, worklists (to-do lists), watch lists and bookmarks are examples of this. This caters different user preferences, and different types of tasks at different times.
  3. Collaboration and communication. People are a source of information, just like stored data. So collaboration and communication are an integral part of the fusion apps experience.
  4. Increased productivity and ease of use. By analyzing tasks, the actual productivity of the users is increased considerably.

The results were tested with customers to make sure that it actually increased the productivity and the overall experience.

The result
The approach Oracle took is very much task oriented with an emphasis on task analysis and quantitative research. This makes sense, considering the earlier statement about enterprise applications and the need to support the claims with data.
However, in addition to that, adding concepts like persuasive design into the mix to actually influence users in an organization would make it even more compelling. This is particularly true for areas like CRM or the so-called 'self service' or employee tasks like filling out expense reports, questionnaires, and updating resumes.

As I said in the beginning of this blog, my view of Oracle User Experience has changed drastically today. I think the Fusion apps people have solved the 'silo' problem that traditional ERP and CRM systems have. They did this by applying user centered design principles and of course have the architecture setup in a way that is supports this.

I look forward to hearing more from fusion apps in general and from this group in particular!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the post Lonneke,

    It sounds like the technical support stuff (including Apps DBAs - me) will need to adjust significantly their Apps troubleshooting methods/hobbits. There is a whole new world and challenges in front of us! I am excited to get my hand dirty :)