Oracle Usable Apps | Applications User Experience Simplicity, mobility, extensibility
   
 
Fusion Applications: The New Standard for the Complete User Experience
 
Easy Access a Cornerstone to Fusion Applications HCM User Experience

 

Kathy Miedema

Author: Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
June 13, 2011




With Fusion Applications, Oracle fundamentally changes a fragmented, frustrating work situation. Users of Human Capital Management (HCM) software often must bounce around between applications, searching diligently for the right information about employees. They may spend a lot of their time tracking down the data they need to complete a task. Fusion offers a completely different user experience.

 
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“Easy access is a big differentiator for Oracle, especially in Fusion HCM,” says Aylin Uysal, Senior Manager of Oracle’s Human Capital Management User Experience (UX) team. ”If you want to find data about a person, the data lives in multiple places. There is not a single space where you can go and find all that information about a person -- whether it’s payroll, compensation, or benefits. That is the biggest issue for HCM users. They really want all that information about a person in a single space.”

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Photo by Martin Taylor – Oracle Applications User Experience

Gretchen Alarcon, left, Oracle’s Vice President of Product Strategy for Human Capital Management, talks with Aylin Uysal, Senior Manager of Oracle’s HCM User Experience team.

Uysal can say that with confidence because Oracle invested heavily in research activities before a line of code for Fusion was ever written. Fusion’s creation followed a user-centered design process, Uysal said, which included gathering feedback from hundreds of customers and other end users during the research phase, analysis phase, and design phase. Customer site visits, focus groups, eye-tracking research, personal interviews, feedback sessions, surveys and polls were used to gather customer “wants and needs” from 1,350 usability test participants in about 20 different industries. “There is very strong research behind all of this,” Uysal said.

       “There is very strong research behind all of this.”
– Aylin Uysal,
Senior Manager of Oracle’s HCM User Experience team

Gretchen Alarcon, Oracle’s Vice President of Product Strategy for HCM, said that starting with the customers has paid off. “We had a real focus within Fusion HCM on making sure that this is a product that is very, very customer-driven,” she said. “Having dedicated UX people who could reflect that in designs and in prototypes, and then go back and re-validate with customers, meant that we really had a much better understanding of customers, and also a better way to discuss with them what they had asked for. The amount of time that the Applications UX team spent making updates based on customer feedback was huge, and it meant that we had much richer customer feedback and much richer designs for them.”

 
 
Oracle customer Carrie Medders on usability testing for Fusion HCM

Carrie Medders is the director of Administrative Applications in the Division of Administration & Finance at California State University, East Bay. She has participated in several rounds of usability testing for Fusion’s Human Capital Management (HCM) work flows, and she is a member of the Oracle Usability Advisory Board, which first met in 2008 with the goal of bringing the usability of enterprise software to a new level. Carrie is also a member of the HCM Strategy Council. Here’s what she had to say about Oracle’s usability testing process with Fusion applications:

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The User Research behind Fusion HCM

“We had a chance to build Fusion following a true user-centered design because of the amount of research we could put into the product,” says Lulit Bezuayehu, a Principal Usability Engineer with the Oracle Applications UX team who worked on Fusion HCM features. Her team began their work with customer site visits. “We created user profiles based on the site visits that we conducted, and then developed roles to really understand what roles are involved in what activities,” she said. “During the site visits, we would just sit at the end user’s desk and watch, seeing all the shortcuts and tips and tricks that they’ve come up with to overcome usability issues. We took copies of cheat-sheets and uncovered pain points. It was really interesting and very, very valuable.”

The response to such diligent research has been positive, Bezuayehu said. “In almost every feedback session we’ve done since then with prototypes, customers say, ‘Oh wow, I can’t wait to get my hands on this.’ They’re very eager to actually use the product.”

 
 
Oracle customer Debra Lilley on usability testing for Fusion HCM

Debra Lilley is a Principal Business Consultant with Fujitsu Services, which provides IT systems, services, and products. She works and lives in the United Kingdom and has participated in several rounds of usability testing for Fusion Human Capital Management (HCM). Here’s what she had to say about Oracle’s process:

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Alarcon said the Applications UX team also started doing user testing at a lot of Oracle’s user group conferences, which meant that typical users who didn’t know anything about Fusion had the opportunity to see the application designs and participate in task-based studies and other types of usability research such as eye-tracking. “On the one hand, it let us get much more customer feedback,” Alarcon said. “But it also gave the Applications UX team broader access to our customers, because they weren’t just getting those who we were working with on an ongoing basis. At a conference, you get people who are coming from all sorts of different backgrounds and knowledge of human resource systems. That meant we were really making sure this was going to be a product that approaches a lot of different customers as opposed to just a subset of customers.”

Increasing Productivity with the Person Gallery

One feature that really boosts productivity for end users is the person gallery designs, says Sally Baggett, a Principal Interaction Designer on the Applications UX team. “It’s like a 360-degree view of an employee,” she said. It’s the place a user can go to get any and all information about work from the human resources perspective, and from a collaboration perspective. This is where users get employee data, change their address, or communicate with other co-workers through networking tools. “We did a lot of research up-front to define the categories of information,” Baggett said. “We wanted to make sure we were calling them the right things, and that we were putting the right information in there.

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In this image from an eye-tracking study on Fusion’s proposed organizational chart, Applications UX team members were able to track the eye movements of users to confirm that they could follow the right path, by clicking on various portrait cards to retrieve specific contact information. This image shows an aggregate of the eye fixations of several test participants.

“Because we worked really hard and did so much work up-front, when we actually got the prototype together and had end users go through it, there weren’t really tons of usability issues that came up. Our research validated our direction because they thought those categories made sense.”

Baggett said the initial idea behind the portrait cards was that they would be very flexible and scalable, and that users would be able to move the cards around using a natural navigation method, which led to the drag-and-drop feature as a mechanism to shuffle and rearrange the cards. Such a dynamic, flexible activity wasn’t a high priority for the development team – until they got very positive feedback from customers about the animated and interactive prototype. “When we asked customers how they would expect to move or shuffle different cards around the page, they all wanted the ability to click and drag the information on the screen,” Baggett said. “That made it easy for the team to see that having that kind of flexible, animated interaction was the right direction.”

Bezuayehu, who was also involved in much of the testing, said security was key to making the Fusion social networking tools – or Fusion Network@Work tools -- valuable and practical as well. Customers want the ability to network and collaborate more effectively within their company, but control is a big concern. “Data security was the biggest thing with social networking – users wanted to be able to protect their data, protect their employees, and really make sure everything was secure.”

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With drag-and-drop portrait cards, a user can bring the most important information front and center.

Bezuayehu said the person gallery has received great feedback from customers and other end users who got a look at Fusion before it was released. “They really like it,” she said. “They can easily scroll through the information, they can see the action drop-down, and they can bring that up and take action directly. Everything that gave them a chance to do multiple activities in one place was a huge hit.”

Talent Review: A Powerful New Tool

One highlight of Fusion HCM is the talent review tool. “It helps you be in control of your talent, helps you decide who has high potential, who you should be focusing on, and helps organizations to manage their talent,” Uysal said.

Ivy Leung, a User Experience Architect, helped develop the new tool for Fusion. She said members of the Applications UX team first interviewed customers to learn about the process of the traditional talent review and how people are conducting that kind of meeting in the real world today. They studied the elements that customers are using and then looked at the process from an HR point of view to figure out how to improve the process.

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Several tools in Fusion help employers review the talent in their organization more easily, by tracking the progress of individuals or groups.

“The whole product is for facilitating a meeting, so we wanted something that was more interactive, that will really help people in a meeting room,” Leung said. “We did a lot of research on interactive models and the ways people filter data.” Leung said they found similarities with shopping Web sites and used those as models in building the tool. “It’s very similar to a Web site with hundreds of thousands of products,” she said. “You can focus on a category, then filter the category to focus on products with certain features. We tried to figure out how we could bring this experience into a professional product so customers can easily relate and understand how it works.” The talent review tool was built to filter through employees easily, while allowing both the facilitator and participants of a talent review meeting to be actively involved.

Customers then reviewed some of the features of talent review as it went through the design process. Leung pointed out one feature, which enables users to see the average rating of a group based on some factor, such as location. She said it was not in the original requirements, but members of the Applications UX team thought it might be something executives would be interested in seeing. “We showed it to customers, and they all validated it and said it was something they would love to see.” And they can see it, in Fusion.

The Value of Feedback

“We really leveraged the Applications UX team’s abilities to make sure that we had a lot of customer feedback,” Alarcon said about the research that went into Fusion HCM’s design.

Alarcon said that customers who participated in recent validation sessions are raving about what they’ve seen. “We’re getting lots of very positive feedback. It’s not just that it looks good, it’s that we’ve actually increased their productivity as well. I think we’re going to see that customers really are able to adopt and use the product and find a lot of value from it,” she said.

Alarcon also said that Oracle intends to continue with this intense customer focus. “A lot of things that we implemented in the first version of Fusion are now becoming the way that we do business at Oracle. I think that’s a very important thing for customers, whether they’re buying Fusion applications or they’re just looking at Oracle in general as a customer. That emphasis on bringing the customer voice into our designs and into our products is going to continue, and it’s going to continue to extend.”

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