Sunday Feb 12, 2012

Oracle E-Business Suite: Features and Capabilities for Global UX

There is excellent global user experience afforded to users of Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12, all based on solid internationalization (i18n) and out of the box multilingual support (MLS). The engineering and features were covered by Maher Al-Nubani, Director of Internationalization Development in his webcast about Oracle E-Business Suite Internationalization and Multilingual Features.

Maher covered such areas as single global instance deployment, Unicode, BiDi, regional preferences (locale), MLS architecture basics, international calendar and first day of the week support, currencies, and  multilingual reporting. Check out the presentation slides (PDF) for full details.

Bidirectional Support in EBS
Here's a few features and capabilities, amongst others, that I think are particularly well-grounded in meeting the user experience needs of Oracle applications customers who deploy globally.  These are the kind of usability areas that the Oracle Usability Advisory Board (OUAB) members address through the Globalization UX working group. EBS implementors, take note.

  • Lightweight MLS support: New in EBS 12.1.3, by using OAM, multinational companies can activate languages without applying NLS (translation) patches. This means the user interface (UI) remains in English but setup, data and reporting is in the customer's language.  This is a customer requirement often missed. Combined with localizations functionality, an English UI with language data entry and printing is a powerful and effective solution that enables enterprises to work globally while using and sharing information according to local conventions. Full translations can be later easily added if required, for extra flexibility and evolution of the user experience.
  • Complete Excel data exchange: Business users just love Microsoft Excel! And, in EBS 12.1.3, customers can export data using comma or tab separated values (commas, of course, can be other kind of delimiters in other countries/locales). Plus, a choice of Unicode UTF-8 or UTF-16 export options means users can safely use Microsoft Excel to handle their data's character set encodings.
  • Cultural calendars: EBS 12.1.1 added support for the Arabic Hijrah and Thai Solar calendars. EBS 12.1.2 allows users to specify their first day of the week (it's Sunday, and not Monday for some). These UI features allow users to work in accordance with their local customs and conventions, but without impacting business logic or data.
  • BI Publisher global reporting: BIP's excellent internationalization foundation enables customers to communicate with other parts of their organization, suppliers, vendors, and other agencies easily. Without any dependency on installed languages or the DB character set, customers can create a report template for their language, country or region, and translate it easily themselves using XLIFF. For apps customers, reporting in the local language using customized templates and flexibility in how they work is a very big deal.
  • More Unicode support: Been there for a while now through Unicode (UTF8) introduced in Release 11i, EBS 12.1 uses the AL32UTF8 encoding, based on the latest Unicode standard to support more characters and languages. AL32UTF8 is is the default Unicode database character set for EBS 12.1 installations for multiple languages. AL32UTF8 is the default in Oracle Fusion Applications Release 11g R2, by the way.
  • Additional language translations: EBS 12.1  is now translated into 34 languages, adding Indonesian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. The myth that  every enterprise apps user speaks English has long been exposed as just that, a myth. It is also important to realize that not only do local users demand UIs in their own language, but the domain specific aspects of enterprise apps means that it is easier for them to understand and use translated versions, even when they do speak conversational English. Better productivity and user satisfaction in the workplace is the result.

Great features and support for our global customers! Refer to the resources at the end of Maher's presentation for availability, implementation details and more information. Watch out for some news about OUAB activities globally soon, too.

Saturday May 07, 2011

Notes from the Oracle Usability Advisory Board Globalization Working Group

I am really happy with the outcome of the inaugural globalization (internationalization, localization, and translation) working group sessions at the Oracle Usability Advisory Board Europe in the Oracle office's in Thames Valley Park, near Reading in the UK.

A large number of customers and partners from EMEA were in attendance, and representatives from Oracle Apps-UX and development flew in from the US and Ireland (i.e, me), along with participation from local Oracle teams.

The translation part of the event opened with a great presentation by Bettina Reichart, Director with the Oracle Worldwide Product Translation Group (WPTG). Bettina explained the importance of translatability as part of the product development effort, the WPTG language quality process, about terminology development, and how customers can participate in translated applications assessments.

Customers and partners are always interested to know about internal Oracle processes and how they can interact with them, and I intend offering more of such sessions at future meetings, covering localization, internationalization, and other topics too.

Pseudotranslated Oracle EBS screen (Pseudotranslated environments and testing are central to internationalization in Oracle. We will cover this topic and other Oracle apps processes in more detail at a future OUAB)

The data gathering exercise I designed for board members, asking them to identify their top internationalization, localization and translation issues and how they  impacted usability was a big success too. We discussed the findings and the possible follow ups in a lively, fully attended working group session that seemed to take on a life of its own! We addressed issues such as lack of space for expansion of text, partial translation issues, the importance of localization (in the Oracle enterprise apps space this means support for statutory and reporting requirements for countries and regions - VAT, for example) and questions about terminology and language style. I will follow up with each customer and partner.

But there was more. I was delighted that the board members astutely exposed more complex areas about international versions such as the need to cater for connectivity and bandwidth issues,  and it was so encouraging to hear customers offer insights about the importance of language as a user experience topic, ranging from the more tangible aspects (productivity, and the need for extensibility and customization solutions, for example) to the more intangible aspects about how language it can impact employee loyalty and user perception. I firmly believe that as individual user expectations change we need to explore language aspects more and how we can allowing users to have the language they really want. Vanilla already doesn't cut it.

Finally, it was great to spend some time with my friends in the HCM Localization and information development teams too. And of course, to spend some time in Reading again!

About

Oracle applications global user experience (UX): Culture, localization, internationalization, language, personalization, more. For globally-savvy UX people, so that it all fits together for Oracle's worldwide customers.

Audience: Enterprise applications translation and localization topics for the user experience professional (designers, engineers, developers, researchers)!
Profile

Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @localization

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