Oracle Usable Apps | Applications User Experience Simplicity, mobility, extensibility
   
 
Fusion Applications: The New Standard for the Complete User Experience
 
Oracle Fusion Applications CRM Helps Drive Sales with Sharp, Practical User Experience

 

Kathy Miedema

Author: Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
Revised: June 22, 2012
First published: December 30, 2011




In the customer relationship management (CRM) space, it’s all about the sale. So in developing Oracle Fusion Applications CRM, a next-generation enterprise application for CRM, it was—naturally—all about supporting the person behind the sale: the one making the deal.

 
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Those making the deal are often on the move, tight on time, and in need of key information at critical moments. Many aspects of their jobs are unique, and it was vital that the Oracle Applications
User Experience (Applications UX) team deliver experiences that responded to their needs.

Anthony Lye
Anthony Lye, Senior Vice President, Oracle CRM

General availability for Oracle Fusion Applications was announced in October at Oracle OpenWorld 2011. However, many customers have had opportunities to look at the user experience that drives Oracle Fusion Applications during the last year.

“We’re hearing a number of things on the positive side,” says Anthony Lye, Senior Vice President, Oracle CRM. “[Oracle] Fusion has a tremendous amount of power in terms of functionality and capability. People have responded very well to that capability.”

Uncovering What Salespeople Really Need

“The keys to building the best user experience were building in a lot of flexibility in ways to support sales, and being useful,” said Arin Bhowmick, Director, CRM, for the Applications UX team. “We did that by talking to and analyzing the needs of a lot of people in different roles.”

The team studied real-life sales teams. “We wanted to study salespeople in context with their work,” Bhowmick said. “We studied all user types in the CRM world because we wanted to build a user interface and user experience that would cater to sales representatives, marketing managers, sales managers, and more. Not only did we do studies in our labs, but also we did studies in the field and in mobile environments because salespeople are always on the go.”

Several core principles came out of the research, offering a guide on how to best design for these roles:

Arin Bhowmick
Arin Bhowmick, Director, CRM Applications User Experience
  • Time: “One of the main things we learned about the CRM user is that they don’t have time, so they need the right information at the right time and the right place,” Bhowmick said.
     
  • Flexibility: “We found that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work,” Bhowmick said. The answer was to provide personalization features and flexibility on how the customer uses the user interface.
     
  • Recognition over recall: Designers used this principle to guide navigation. “You really don’t have to remember exactly where something is,” Bhowmick said. You should just know it when you see it.
     
  • Progressive disclosure: “There’s a huge volume of information in CRM, and we don’t want to overwhelm users by putting in tons and tons of information,” he said. The Applications UX team provided a design for progressive disclosure so that more information around a particular target is available when you dig deeper.
     
  • Minimal data entry: Nobody likes to enter data. But in CRM, there can be a lot of contact information and interactions around accounts and around sales events and campaigns. The team made a special effort to automate and provide meaningful contextual defaults for much of the data entry so that users had to complete forms only once, for example.
     
  • Consistency: “We have taken the best designs in Oracle applications, such as PeopleSoft and Siebel,” Bhowmick said. “Users of those products will be able to tap into their knowledge. Consistent designs using design patterns employed throughout the application will mean less learning in general, as certain tasks will already be familiar.”

Communicating the Right Ideas

How do we help salespeople close the deal? That was the question behind every user experience enhancement considered for Oracle Fusion Applications CRM.   

“This has been all about understanding the needs of people in field,” says Eva Gaumond, Senior Principal Usability Engineer for the CRM Applications UX team. “We looked at their need to get information quickly and get the right information. They don’t want to be slowed down by technology. They want technology to help them, not become a burden. We really focused on what was going to help them know their customer better and keep track of everything they learned about the customer.”

Gaumond said her job was to help match functional requirements with knowledge of the user and usability principles.  “I see myself as the voice of the user,” she said.

Gaumond collected user requirements at CRM conferences, in usability labs, and at customer advisory boards, where she listened to the questions that users were asking. “We looked at what we were planning for [Oracle] Fusion Applications and developed a survey to determine what was most important to salespeople in a CRM application,” she said. “We used that to start driving more usability requirements.”

“When I look at [Oracle] Fusion Apps, I think it is very apparent that there is deliberate, significant value in the user experience.”
– Anthony Lye, Senior Vice President, Oracle CRM

The need for mobility was apparent from the beginning. People did not want to stop on the road and take a big chunk out of their day just to record what had happened, Gaumond said. Having relevant, easily accessible information about their customers also affected how well they could do their jobs.

“Our research has shown us that salespeople want to understand their customers, understand their needs, know what they can offer them, and do that in as close to real time as possible,” Gaumond said. “They also want to be able to track what they’ve done but don’t want to spend a lot of time on it, so they need a way to jot down key things in a way so that they can push the information to wherever they sit—whether that’s a desktop, an appointment calendar, or something else.”

“[Oracle] Fusion is a change from administrative overhead to something that enables you to get your job done in a much more efficient manner,” Gaumond said. “It becomes your tool. We had real salespeople come in and use our CRM product in our labs, so they could actually experience it and give us feedback. We conducted studies at multiple points in the product development lifecycle because we wanted to see if it was something that was really going to work in the field or not.”

Through hundreds of hours of study and refinement, the Applications UX team zeroed in on the user experience features that provide the kind of support salespeople need.

“It’s designed around the real world of a salesperson and what they really need to do to make the sale,” Gaumond said.

“When I look at [Oracle] Fusion Apps, I think it is very apparent that there is deliberate, significant value in the user experience,” Senior VP Lye said. “It’s role-based, not functionality-based, which means that the application’s user experience sits consistently atop all of the functions you may do in an organization.  When you’re selling, managing contacts, managing employees—all of this is done through the same, consistent user experience, without having to go through different user interfaces.”

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Sales representatives can quickly focus on the most promising prospects with this Opportunity Landscape screen. A colored heat map displays sales recommendations and proactively identifies new sales prospects.

Highlights in the Oracle Fusion Applications CRM User Experience

Many of the user experience highlights in other areas of Oracle Fusion Applications are meaningful to CRM users as well, despite the differences in their jobs. For example, streamlined navigation and contextual action that enables you to see information within the context of your current work help promote productivity. Collaboration is also a huge piece, Bhowmick says. Collaboration tools are often embedded within transactions, so if you need help, you don’t have to leave your task to get it.

The ability to personalize pieces of information using tagging and to share them with people who need to know are also part of the social collaboration user experience. Features such as group spaces, social network information and conversations, and the activity stream help employees stay connected around events, especially sales transactions.

“I really like the collaboration in context,” Lye said. “Users don’t have to pull context out of somewhere else. They can click to chat, click to call, and it’s all inline and embedded.”

Tools like the Sales Coach, which guides salespeople based on the sales stage, help salespeople close opportunities faster, and Oracle Fusion’s global user assistance tools also provide information efficiently, cutting down on training costs.

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This Home dashboard for a sales representative shows sales-related conversations, activity stream feeds based on events tied to sales transactions, forecast and quota trends, and the sales pipeline.

In addition, embedded utilities like the Opportunity Landscape help salespeople proactively target new prospects by highlighting intelligent system recommendations based on a filter criteria set by them. These recommendations, generated by the Sales Prediction Engine, not only provide unique insight to clinch deals, but also they enhance user adoption by showcasing the power of the CRM system.

There are also user experience features specific to roles within the sales organization, such as the sales manager or sales representative dashboard, which can be personalized and promote productivity.

Role-based dashboards: For a salesperson, a dashboard needs to show everything important to his world. The sales dashboard enables users such as sales representatives or sales managers to access summarized information for all aspects of sales that they care about. The information is in one place, answering key questions about what they need to know and do. Unlike traditional dashboards, the Oracle Fusion Applications dashboards are business-intelligence-driven. They provide big-picture information that helps users prioritize their actions.

“Some of the key things a sales representative might want to know are: how many opportunities do I have, in what stages are they, and how am I doing this quarter,” Bhowmick said. The sales dashboard provides information that can be adjusted and personalized, so the sales representative or manager can see quickly and easily where to focus his attention.

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This campaign diagrammer enables users to visualize the planning and flow of a marketing campaign.

The dashboard can include information from forecasting, opportunity management, lead management, contact and customer management, team management, and marketing. This information is easy to tailor, depending on the needs of the user, and the dashboard provides a single place where you can launch and complete all of your tasks. You can keep an eye on trends and obstacles, for example, and react quickly to any changes.

Help with marketing campaigns: “In the past, the marketing campaign user interface used to be table-based,” says Rami Musa, a principal interaction designer on Bhowmick’s team. “The bulk of functionality used to be in tables only, which is much more cumbersome to marketing managers, especially to understand the big picture and the flow. So getting it into a visual form really makes things more intuitive.”

The campaign diagrammer was a hit with customers who were part of the early phases of testing Oracle Fusion Applications. The customers liked the easy process of creating campaigns and the visual treatment that helped them manage the campaigns. Musa said the team worked hard to respond to specific feedback about designs. If something looked confusing to users who were testing the software, it was changed. Participants were very positive about features that made it easy to edit, such as drag and drop, add, and getting information in context with their work.

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Oracle Fusion Mobile Sales screens are streamlined for efficiency, but key information and user experience features such as collaboration are still accessible.

“All of those kinds of things help marketing define campaigns far more effectively in [Oracle] Fusion,” Lye said of the CRM marketing capabilities in Oracle Fusion Applications.

Delivered on different kinds of platforms: Because salespeople are always on the go, they need to be able to access or input information on a variety of devices. “Reps want a system that gives them value, and is pervasive,” Bhowmick said. That makes developing an application like Oracle Fusion for
multiple platforms including the web, mobile devices, and the desktop a practical choice. “Whichever tool you choose, the user experience is native, and the data is synchronized so that you don’t have to enter the data in the other systems,” Bhowmick said. “If you create or edit in any device, it’s pushed to all three.”

Measuring Productivity

The boost in productivity in Oracle Fusion Applications CRM is tangible. Oracle tests showed significant improvements, up to 82 percent in productivity gains in some tasks, based on Keystroke-Level Modeling, or KLM, tests.

The reasons behind these productivity gains are simple. Oracle Fusion Applications is:

  • Easy: Users spend less time learning.
  • Familiar: Consumer web concepts are used to enhance user adoption.
  • Streamlined: Whether you are working on a desktop or mobile device, the user experience is designed to help you navigate to what you need quickly.
  • Customizable: A personalized user experience increases ease of use and efficiency. You see only what you need to see.

“In [Oracle] Fusion, users are provided with a cockpit of tools to help make them more efficient,” Lye said. “I think that the user experience, combined with the functionality, for the first time provides a selling organization with a system that provides a healthy combination of ease of use and personalization. It’s very easy for users to use the application, very easy for administrators to change or extend the application, very easy for sales operations to administer the application and to optimize the process.

According to Lye: “Oracle Fusion is easy, Oracle Fusion is effective, Oracle Fusion is efficient.”

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