Oracle Usable Apps | Applications User Experience Simplicity, mobility, extensibility
   
 
Stories From The Labs: Incorporating Usability Into The Final Product
 
User Experience, Mobile Strategies Define Focus for Oracle Enterprise Apps

 

Kathy Miedema

Author: Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
January 2, 2013




User experience and mobile.

These two themes are guiding many of the innovations coming across Oracle’s enterprise software product lines. Both were among the top highlights at OpenWorld 2012 across all Oracle enterprise applications conference sessions. Whether you were in a session on Oracle’s PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Fusion Applications, Siebel, or E-Business Suite applications, the speakers were all talking about improvements in the user experience and how their users’ desire to go mobile is changing the face of enterprise applications.

The two themes actually go hand-in-hand. Jeremy Ashley, vice president of the Oracle Applications User Experience team, says the focus for next-generation user experience designs recently has been on simplification. Whether this means delivering only what is absolutely necessary in a mobile application, or understanding exactly which features in an application are most useful and bringing them to the forefront, the result is an improved user experience for customers.

Here’s a look at the user experience and mobile strategies that Oracle executives talked about for Oracle’s key application product families at OpenWorld 2012. Expect to see a sharp focus on these two areas in coming releases.

PeopleSoft

Paco Aubrejuan, Senior Vice President, PeopleSoft Enterprise, said the goal for the PeopleSoft user experience is streamlining and simplicity: “It’s what users can and want to use,” he said. “A big part of that is mobile. We need to understand the reality in our customer base and make changes based on that reality.” In today’s business climate, that means providing the tools needed to work on a variety of platforms, from desktop to tablet to smartphone, and tuning the user experience of each to fit the capabilities of that device and the requirements of the user when using the device.

Workcenters in PeopleSoft are already optimized for tablets, and new functional mobile applications were released in fall 2012.

PeopleSoft has long been a proponent of enhancing its user experience and has continued to make improvements in this area with each release. “One of the things we’re most proud of is the adoption of 9.1,” launched three years ago, Aubrejuan said. But that doesn’t mean that refining the user experience has stalled. “We’re continuing to innovate with 9.2 and PeopleTools 8.53,” he said, and customers can get a look at those innovations in upcoming user group conferences.

PeopleSoft’s strategy around user experience has been to make tasks simpler and more intuitive, even pleasant, Aubrejuan said. “This is a trend that is not going to stop,” he added. Recently, the focus has been to make it easier for customers to stay current with their PeopleSoft applications and to align the user experience with that of the consumer websites on the Internet. Some of the biggest changes have come with the way users search, not only to find information but also to initiate a task or process within the application. Activity guides and “train stops” are features that give a user greater visibility into the steps or tasks within a defined process so they can more easily see steps that are already completed, as well as what comes next. These types of user experience features are designed to make users more efficient, effective, and productive.

Jeff Robbins, Senior Director, PeopleSoft Strategy, led with a focus on effectiveness and productivity for users during his OpenWorld sessions as well: “You have to make it easier for users to access company resources,” he said. “Most users don't want to use an application; they just want to get a job done.”

Providing a rich user experience via a simple design is a goal for many of the PeopleSoft highlights, such as the Home page and the Workcenter. Questions like: “What content do people need to see in order to get something done quickly?” helped guide the design, Robbins said. “PeopleSoft should help users visualize what they need to do,” he added.

The same guidelines apply in the mobile arena. PeopleSoft dashboards and workcenters are already optimized for tablets, Robbins said, and applications for Mobile Expenses, Mobile Approvals, and Directory were launched at OpenWorld.

The PeopleSoft mobile applications are “very focused, with very targeted information,” Aubrejuan said. “We are not going to clutter the screen with anything else.”

More mobile applications are planned, Robbins said.

Oracle E-Business Suite

Cliff Godwin, Senior Vice President, Application Development, said at OpenWorld 2012 that leveraging Endeca technology brings a modern, Internet-type user experience with shopping-like capabilities to E-Business Suite (EBS). “We bought this technology to merge it with our web store technology,” he said. “It turns out there are a lot of use cases within E-Business Suite where this can add a great deal of value to the applications—on desktop or tablet."

This OpenWorld 2012 screenshot from an iPad shows an application for shop floor supervisors that enables them to reschedule jobs. The application offers support for touch-based events and gestures.

Weaving the user experience with a new direction in mobile is big for EBS. "I am going to try and contain my excitement,” Godwin said at OpenWorld. “This is really a big jump for the user experience."

Nadia Bendjedou, Senior Director, Product Strategy, talked about the EBS user experience recently on the Voice of User Experience, or VoX, blog. A big part of the improved user experience is the Endeca integration with Oracle E-Business Suite, she said, echoing Godwin’s enthusiasm. “Endeca is really going to take the user experience to another level—it will be about changing the way we use the apps,” Bendjedou said. “It is a delightful combination of search, performance, scalability, and business intelligence on structured and unstructured data. This is something we don’t have today in any application.”

Bendjedou said the vision for the EBS is a modern, personalized, productive, feature-rich user experience. “The things we have done which resonate with customers include improving our productivity,” Bendjedou said. “We have streamlined our workflows and business processes. Customers love how we have paid attention to the smallest details.”

As for mobile, Bendjedou said EBS is giving customers the opportunity to run Oracle Application Framework (OAF) pages with an iPad, with the certification of EBS for Safari on iPad.  “All of the self-service applications will now be able to run on an iPad,” she said.

“The second thing we are doing is building native tablet functionality that could be for iPhone, iPad, Android, or other devices,” she said. “We have selected where it makes sense to do this, for example, field service products. Mobile functionality makes a lot of sense here.”

JD Edwards

Lyle Ekdahl, Group Vice President, JD Edwards, talked at OpenWorld about the large number of releases in the last year. “We had a huge set of releases last year—the most product and most innovation we’ve been able to bring to market in a year in our 35-year history,” he said. Ekdahl credits the work going on throughout Oracle—being able to leverage innovation in technology, as well as user experience best-practices from other Oracle product families—as contributing to what JD Edwards has been able to push to customers.

figure 1
JD Edwards mobile applications focus on specific use cases, such as approvals, inquiries, expense entry, and time entry. The applications leverage Oracle ADF mobile capabilities.

The biggest user experience benefit to customers? User productivity, said Ekdahl said. Improvements in the user experience enable JD Edwards to shrink the amount of time it takes to get new users up to speed in making transactions and give them tools so that they can make better decisions, he said.

Gary Grieshaber, Senior Director, EnterpriseOne Product Strategy, also talked at OpenWorld about the significance of new usability enhancements, specifically in JD Edwards EnterpriseOne. He listed these user experience features as examples of user-productivity enhancements: EnterpriseOne Pages, enhanced queries, hover pop-up data, auto-suggest, single-click report access, favorites, and personalized grids.

The focus here, he said in an earlier interview, is on making users productive while they are interacting with the JD Edwards applications. “This encompasses items such as delivering composite applications to deliver all the information they need to make decisions, enabling
end users to personalize the software for their specific needs and making the transactions as simple as possible,” he said.

Many of these features fold into the EnterpriseOne One View Reporting functionality that spans the needs of the company. In the Voice of User Experience, or VoX, blog, Grieshaber calls One View Reporting a set of tooling and applications that enables users to create their own reports by using the familiar interactive application to drive the reporting process.  “The user can simply select fields from the applications that they are already familiar with to select the data for the report, and then use the power of the BI Publisher interactive reporting capability to generate the report,” he said. “This is a major game-changer in terms of ease of use for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne users.”

The JD Edwards strategy around mobile solutions also embraces the ideas of simplicity and personalization. The strategy is to give users a choice in the platform that they choose, such as desktop, tablet, and smartphone. To that end, all JD Edwards applications are now on the tablet. Grieshaber said that JD Edwards is working on covering more tablet types and taking advantage of tablet features such as the camera or global positioning system.

Grieshaber said JD Edwards has gotten “great traction with the tablet support for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, which enables our customers to run the entire suite of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne applications from an iPad.”

He said more solutions around mobility, personalization, and user productivity are in the JD Edwards pipeline.

Siebel

George Jacob, Group Vice President, Siebel Customer Relationship Management applications, spoke to the writers at the Voice of User Experience, or VoX, blog just before OpenWorld about the Siebel user experience. “Siebel is designed for a user experience that reduces clutter and user keystrokes,” he said. “The user experience enables Siebel to adapt easily to business needs, device types, and user preferences.” And that puts mobile at the top of the list of priorities.

Siebel provides rich, interactive presentations with a user interface that has been optimized for platforms such as the iPad. This screenshot shows account information.

The avenue through which Siebel is addressing user experience improvements and mobile solutions is the Siebel Open User Interface. Uma Welingkar, Senior Director, Product Management, spoke in several sessions at OpenWorld about Siebel Open User Interface. “You can do a lot really quickly,” she said. The goal is to “drive efficiency and effectiveness,” and Siebel Open User Interface is “all about giving you the flexibility to extend.”

She said that the user experience with Siebel Open User Interface is part of the continued innovation across product lines, and themes include ease of use, complete accessibility, and best-practice user experience designs.

Mobility is also a hot topic for Siebel. “We’re going to leverage existing metadata,” Welingkar said at OpenWorld. For example, with a pharmaceutical representative scenario, the application shows information in context for the iPad, all the way to leaving a sample and collecting a signature from the doctor.

The framework is changing, and Siebel can now provide mobile across the board, Welingkar said. In the pipeline are applications for field sales and service, consumer goods, and pharmaceutical solutions. Connected and disconnected applications are part of the mobile solutions, and Siebel is building in social collaboration and social intelligence.

Jacob said earlier that the new Siebel Open User Interface, by virtue of working on all browsers, will run—when it is released this year—on tablets and smartphones.

“We are working on the Siebel Open User Interface, to be released this year in the Siebel 2012 8.1.1.9 and 8.2.2.2 innovation packs,” he said. “We are building specialized applications that exploit the new UI framework.” These will be the foundation for further user experience enhancements.

Oracle Fusion Applications

Chris Leone, Senior Vice President, Applications Development, said at OpenWorld 2012 that Oracle is highlighting mobility and driving new processes more quickly into upcoming Oracle Fusion Applications releases. Oracle strategy is about “driving simplicity into your business processes,” he said.

figure 1
This screenshot from OpenWorld 2012 shows the new HCM self-service entry experience into Oracle Fusion Applications.

“We want the user experience to be intelligent, social, mobile,” Leone said. Oracle Fusion Applications is being information-driven from the ground up, and the goal is to give customers the information that they need when they need it so that they can make the best decisions possible—no matter what device they are using.

That’s why mobile is definitely a part of the releases that are coming out in the next year. “We continue to focus on usability from a self-service perspective,” Leone said, adding that this applies whether the user is on a tablet, kiosk, or desktop. One such offering is the new Human Capital Management self-service entry experience into Oracle Fusion Applications. Leone called it a “simple UI, very clean, easy, zero training—very, very easy to do. It’s as easy as one click,” he said. “It’s very simple to navigate, and you get just the right amount of information.”

“The area we focused on in [Oracle] Fusion Applications is UX,” Leone said. “It’s designed to be information-driven. That remains a key, core tenet today. We also designed Oracle Fusion around a social experience, and you’ll see us continue to expand that.”

The key design principles for Oracle Fusion Applications—from the beginning—have been user experience, innovation, and deployment, Leone added.

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