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JD Edwards EnterpriseOne
 
Sweeping Change in User Experience Defines New JD Edwards Releases

JD Edwards Is First Enterprise Application to Run on Tablet

Kathy Miedema

Author: Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
February 9, 2012




Oracle is making a bold statement about usability with recent releases from JD Edwards EnterpriseOne—all based on tools and gestures that offer an improved user experience.

 
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“We really wanted to do an order-of-magnitude change in our user experience,” said Chris Walsh, Senior Principal Product Manager for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne. “That’s what we really tried to do with the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Tools 9.1 release that was just recently released for general availability” in December 2011.

Walsh
Walsh

User experience principles also drove JD Edwards EnterpriseOne designs for a new mobile platform on the iPad. JD Edwards is the first enterprise application suite to run on a tablet—news that was announced at Oracle OpenWorld in October 2011.

“We took inspiration from the tablet environment and leveraged it across the other web-based platforms that we support,” Walsh said. “Innovation was paramount throughout the whole process. Early on in the process, we set the vision on how our
UI [user interface] would be transformed, but we also allowed our development staff many opportunities to innovate all the way through the development cycle. So this new release really goes beyond what our initial expectations were, and we couldn’t be happier about the result.”

An Innovative User Interface

Before its release, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Tools 9.1 had been in the works for a year and a half, said Brian Stanz, Senior Director, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Development. “Over the past several releases, we’ve concentrated a lot on feature functionality. And we’ve been hearing from sales and partners that our user interface had started to appear ‘dated.’ With Tools 9.1, we wanted to take that perception and throw it right out the window. We spent a considerable amount of time making the UI, the navigation, the feature functionality of the UI that much better for our end users.”

Stanz
Stanz

Stanz added that there is a lot happening with the JD Edwards user experience. “We have 19 patents (pending) on different technologies that are included in this UI and this release,” he said. “When we developed the carousel, we took the iPad usage into account so that as you are using the carousel, it feels like a tablet device. Whether you are on a browser on a PC, whether you are on a tablet device using a touch screen, the user interface belongs on the tablet as well as the browser on the PC. Wherever people are using this software, it’s going to look and feel the same, and feel right on that device.”

Johan Teekens, of Steltix, an Oracle partner firm specializing in JD Edwards applications, recently talked about the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne user experience in a YouTube video. “Oracle has come out with a whole new user interface for JD Edwards. It’s a huge improvement, and I’m sure the end users are going to love this—not only because it looks better, but because of all the new productivity features. This user interface is way ahead of any product I’ve seen, and I’m very positive it will be for at least another year.”

How the JD Edwards Team Did It

Oracle’s JD Edwards strategy team went back to core customers to help define how JD Edwards should evolve in these releases, Walsh said. Members of the Oracle sales community met with the strategy team to talk about requests, and noted partner and customer suggestions. The team still meets regularly with user interface customer strategy councils for feedback and to define requirements for future releases. “We also listened to development,” Walsh said. “We’ve got some great people who understand what’s going on in the industry, and we allowed them to innovate and come up with things that hadn’t been thought of by the customers or the salespeople.”

Bali
Bali

Stanz said the strategy and development teams used storyboarding and prototyping methods to develop their ideas. “[These methods] presented us with some really great navigation paradigm changes in the software, as well as just the rendering of the applications—how they look and feel,” he said.

Gurbinder Bali, Senior Manager, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Development, said the number one goal was to make the applications easier to use. “We took a different approach to UI design this time,” he said. “Traditionally, we get a bunch of requirements—the product should have A, B, C—and that causes engineers to put functionality into the product. It doesn’t work for UI design. Instead of doing requirements, we decided to do design storyboards. We wanted to talk about what the product feature is about, and we wanted to talk about design, and how it was going to interact with people who are going to use it. So, for a moment, we stopped talking about just adding functionality. If a feature seemed useful, we put it in our storyboard. It didn’t matter how complex it was engineering-wise.”

Bali said that then they started building prototypes. “With prototypes, you don’t have to worry about how the feature works in the real software. We got a lot of good feedback from people who use our software and could see how it interacts. We then created a design that embodied these UI elements,” Bali said.

“Most of the work was getting the design out of the way so that the product seems quite intuitive and natural to the end user,” said Bali. “A lot of the functionality is built in, but not in an obvious way.”

Shakespeare
Shakespeare

The change in process presented some challenges, Bali added. For example, designers thought the carousel, which enables new, streamlined navigation in the application, should have a rhythm to it as it moves across a screen. But some of the engineering and hardware involved in achieving this effect posed constraints, so designers invented what they needed to make the carousel work the way they had envisioned it.

“By focusing on design, we took the core of the product and invented everything all the way,” Bali said. “We really leaned on the side of making it easy to use. If by adding more functionality, we would have to make it more complex, we would not add the functionality.”

New Features Focus on Productivity

The first thing to note, Bali said, is that JD Edwards developed all of its new technology so that features work on all platforms. “There are no gimmicks, something that only works in Internet Explorer or Firefox. All this code is based on open standards, and we have a common underlying metadata layer,” Bali said. That means that personalizations or customizations can be made by the user instead of by a developer. Future upgrades will also be easier and less expensive, he said. 

But the new user experience goes beyond that.

  • A new look and consistency among screens reduces training.
  • Additional rich interactions increase efficiency.   
  • Streamlined navigation features, such as the new Favorites tool, reduce clicks and time spent hunting for work.
     
gif
The user experience with the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne grids is more dynamic and interactive in JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Tools 9.1 with editing and sorting abilities. Popups keep you within the context of your work, and personalizations can be saved for future use.

And all of these designs have been adapted for the iPad. JD Edwards EnterpriseOne is the first enterprise resource planning software to have the full suite of applications running on the iPad in a connected mode.

NEW LOOK AND CONSISTENCY: All of the Oracle applications based on Oracle
Fusion
Middleware are moving toward more consistency in look and feel, and JD Edwards is part of the investment that Oracle is making in its next-generation software. “When you have [JD Edwards] EnterpriseOne and Fusion [Oracle Fusion Applications], they look like they belong together,” Stanz said.

RICH INTERACTIONS: Additional features have been added with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Tools 9.1, enabling the user to personalize the way applications look and then save those personalizations. “The meat of what the end user does in the application is centered around the EnterpriseOne grid, around more features and functions that help productivity for the end user within that grid. It’s been coming over the past few tools releases, but in this release, it really came to a climax.”

Another big hit is the flexible query capabilities, Stanz said. “Users have extreme flexibility on ranges of values and lists of values—[users] can craft their own personal data fetches and can save those off either as a default or bring those up quickly. So if I want to look at orders that are over a month due, I can do that and then switch it over to say, ‘Show me all of the other orders.’ It’s very easy [for the end user] to configure and modify.”

gif
The bottom of this page displays an example of the carousel, which provides easy access to the tasks that a user needs to access, whether the user is on a mobile platform or a desktop. A tab on the carousel called My Daily Tasks provides personalization capabilities.

STREAMLINED NAVIGATION: The versatility of the carousel is a user experience highlight. The carousel can be anchored on the bottom, top, left, or right of the page. It can use icons or text. It can collapse. It can be personalized so that only what a user needs appears. It also translates easily to a tablet, where it can be used with gestures instead of with a mouse.

The new navigation also includes an enhanced Favorites tool, which lets users define daily tasks or create a Favorites menu, and then quickly and easily access those tasks, Stanz said.

MOBILE PLATFORM: “What we did here is utilize the Safari browser to host our web application on the iPad, as well as create custom gestures that allow the user to more easily navigate certain functions on the iPad,” Stanz said. Without using a mouse, the gestures give the user an iPad-esque look and feel to navigating and using the application.

Stanz added that any custom applications that have been developed using the JD Edwards design tools can also work on the iPad.

Darryl Shakespeare, Senior Software Architect with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Development, said that the highlights include the native application integration and contextual keyboard. “We’ve thought about the iPad, and we’re trying to work with the environment,” he said, “It’s not just running our apps in a Safari browser.”

gif
JD Edwards EnterpriseOne on the iPad

That means that if the user is in an application that has a specific address, instead of going to a website for a map, the application integrates directly with the native Google map application that is on the iPad. “That was demoed very well and got a great response,” Stanz said. As another example, certain fields bring up the contextual keyboard. A numeric field brings up the numeric keyboard, for instance.

“We’re Still Innovating”

“It’s quite obvious that we’re still innovating, we’re still investing, we’re still driving this product forward,” Walsh said. “We’ve got an excited team that is absolutely revved up to do it, and there’s lots more stuff coming in the future focused on user experience and mobility.”

Bali said that the team is especially proud of the user experience improvements that span the new releases. “We spent countless hours on designing this UI, making it simpler, more intuitive to use, with improved navigation, improved search, improved grid capabilities. We’ve taken cutting-edge research in UI [design] from all frontiers and presented it in 9.1.”

But, Walsh added, the team is not stopping there. “We’re going to still be pushing this product, especially in user experience, improving end-user reporting and mobility for both smart phone and tablet devices. We still have heavy investments in all these exciting areas.”

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