Factoring UX into Enterprise Resource Planning Upgrades: Joe McKendrick, Unisphere Research, talks about productivity and user adoption

By Misha Vaughan, Architect, Applications User Experience

Joe McKendrick
Joe McKendrick, Analyst & Contributing Editor, Unisphere Research

You know how sometimes you find an absolute gem of a link in the middle of a blog? I found a link to a study just completed on the Oracle Applications User Group membership by Unisphere Research recently. It was tucked away in a blog post by Debra Lilley, who is an ACE Director with Oracle.  Full disclosure: The study was sponsored by Oracle.

I contacted the author of the study, Joe McKendrick, analyst and contributing editor at Unisphere, because the survey provoked some questions for me. I found the study to be pretty illuminating in terms of trends such as productivity and user adoption – that orbit near user experience – but the survey didn’t address enterprise user experience (UX) directly. I wanted to push a little farther, and see if Joe had some specific insights to share based on his work.

MV: What was the motivation behind the survey?

JM:  The purpose of the survey was to understand how much work needed to be done in terms of upgrading to the latest versions of Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft or JD Edwards, and what kinds of issues companies were encountering in making these upgrades. 



MV: How did your company get involved in this study?

JM: Unisphere Research has strong partnerships with Oracle Applications User Group and Quest, the PeopleSoft user group. Members of these groups are providing both the leadership as well as hands-on involvement in ERP upgrade efforts seen in enterprises. 



MV: In the survey, I noticed anticipated benefits of enterprise upgrades, including some areas that relate to user experience such as access to new functionality, improved user productivity, and reduction in IT costs. How do you see usability, user interface, and user experience emerging as an anticipated benefit of an Oracle applications upgrade?

JM:  One of the leading criticisms of ERP systems since they gained popularity over the past two decades is complexity, difficulty to implement, and user resistance. This criticism is not lost on the major ERP vendors, especially Oracle. Each upgrade is built upon user feedback to the previous version. The emphasis now is on providing a relatively lightweight interface, not only for PC terminals, but mobile devices such as smartphones, that not only are simple to navigate, but provide 24/7 access. 



MV: In another part of the survey, I read that top enterprise risks also had some areas that related to user experience, such as maintaining customizations, end user adoption, and rise in training costs. What do you think about usability, user interface, and user experience with regard to ERP rollout risks?

JM: User adoption has always been one of the major sticking points in new ERP system rollouts. This is considered a risk area in the upgrade process, simply because user unfamiliarity with a new interface or new functions may impact the productivity of the organization. 



MV: I also read that user acceptance was among the top issues encountered during enterprise upgrades. What is your perspective on this?

JM:  As alluded to above, users often grow comfortable with existing environments, and change always poses a threat. Businesses need to provide more training and facilitate greater user input into the ERP upgrade process, to enable greater buy-in and less trauma when the rollout actually occurs. 



MV:  In the survey, you discuss compelling reasons for enterprise suite upgrades related to user experience: adopt next-generation technology, increase user productivity, minimize/remove customizations, modernization, and prepare for Oracle Fusion Applications. Can you comment on any of these factors specifically?

JM:  Simplicity and ease of use are the holy grail for ERP applications. Again, these environments have long been regarded as complex, difficult to navigate, and difficult to maintain.  New generations of systems seek to align with the online experiences seen with social networking and mobile applications -- more intuitive, more graphical, and more targeted.

MV:  If you would like to see the survey conducted by Unisphere, you can find it here.

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Misha Vaughan
Misha Vaughan, Director, Applications User Experience
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