Tuesday Jul 15, 2014

Portrait of a Technology Artist: Smart Cropping

By Joe Goldberg, Ph.D., CPE, Chief Research Scientist, Oracle Applications User Experience

Sometimes it’s the little things that make or break a user experience.

Consider a common scenario: You’ve just found the perfect image of yourself and uploaded it to your employee profile page. After a page refresh, your headshot is cropped to fit the vertical aspect ratio of its container frame. The only problem: The right side of your face is now missing because the technology cropped the upper left of the image. Unless you want to be mistaken for a Cyclops, you now must manually re-crop in Photoshop, or whatever’s handy, and upload again, hoping for better results.

U.S. Dept of State Online Passport Application Picture Cropping Tool

Personal images are used widely in applications on the web, from social media profiles to human capital management portraits and public sector IDs. Note this tool from the U.S. Department of State’s passport application website.

What’s needed is a way to crop headshots so that faces remain fully intact.

Smart Cropping does just that. This Oracle Applications User Experience prototype feature automatically finds a person’s face in an image and then pads and crops the image to a desired aspect ratio so that the face is at the center of the cropped image. The technology that underlies Smart Cropping is OpenCV, an open-source computer vision library now being used extensively in consumer applications, such as cameras and cars.

OpenCV uses Haar Cascades from previously trained decision tree-based classifiers to rapidly find the coordinates of any faces in an image. This computer vision technology is transparent to the end user, who now enjoys perfect face cropping.

Smartcropping feature correctly detects and centers the image for the optimal portrait

The image on the left shows a headshot that is horizontally centered, but vertically above the image’s center. The image on the right shows the output of the Smart Cropping feature, where the image is both horizontally and vertically centered.

OpenCV is a great example of how the energies of the open source development community, scientific UX insight, and consumerization of technology come together to meet user expectations about how things should work in an easy and familiar way to solve a common problem. This alignment of the social and scientific stars underwrites the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) design principles.

Visit the Usable Apps website to find out more about how you can participate in shaping our UX and how to build great solutions using the same techniques and science that OUAX uses.

Interested in discovering more?

Monday Jul 14, 2014

Oracle Social Network: Enabling Employee Engagement with Oracle Cloud Services

Julien Laforêt (@julienlaforet), Procurement Sales Consultant, Oracle Social Network Business Leader, and User Experience Sales Ambassador tells us how the Oracle Social Network Cloud Service enables employee engagement and helps attract and maintain talent.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that 70% of employees surveyed disliked their jobs or were so completely disengaged that even incentives and extras were not sufficient to improve how they felt about work.

Disengaged employees means trouble for businesses in many areas

Can't contribute, won't contribute. Disengaged employees means the entire business suffers.

This statistic is important because we know that employees who are disengaged:

  • Do not exceed growth goals 
  • Rarely contribute to innovation  
  • Frequently limit their productivity 
  • Often share their thoughts and feelings on social media internally and externally, which contributes to negative publicity about the company 
  • Sometimes, they leave the company, meaning a loss of investment, incurred cost of replacement, and so on 

But, engaged and happy employees participate in ways that often yields more opportunities for the company itself to be successful, and opens the door to other talented people who are attracted to similar  high levels of work satisfaction.

Social media is a key that may help improve employee satisfaction and engagement. In this blog, we look at how to use it to enable positive employee engagement and results.

Communicating Internally

For any employee, growing their skills and knowledge, promoting their expertise and their successes, and collaborating across teams and networks in the company are important activities. These foster community and collaboration, a feeling of belonging to something larger than their current projects.

Most of the time, these kinds of growth opportunities and acknowledgements have only been possible in small social circles, for example, direct-line managers and immediate colleagues. How do you promote your employees to people in other regions or services?

Oracle Social Network allows people to connect and share in scalable, effective ways. It allows employees to create networks and:

  • Showcase their value and share their successes and expertise  
  • Participate in the life of the company: create, innovate, participate, share, improve  
  • Reduce the time spent managing emails and performing administrative tasks

Oracle Social Network Cloud Service

Showcasing Value and Sharing Successes

With public conversations on Oracle Social Network, an employee can create knowledge communities where all employees can contribute. Participating is easier than ever as employees uses the Oracle Social Network global search to quickly find people and conversations that align with their areas of interest, and then follow those people or join those conversations at any time.

Creating and Innovating

Oracle Social Network makes collaboration easy, reinforcing employees, their knowledge, and contributions as assets to a company. With employees creating, innovating, or proposing ideas, companies are more successful, employees feel valued, and unique talents of contributors are showcased in teams engaged in product innovation and competitor-killing ideas.

Nike, Inc. follows a similar model for their customers. Customers can propose designs for shoes, and the best “liked” designs might be awarded and launched in production, encourages customer engagement. Applied to employees, the model reveals that creative thinking and innovation is not limited to the R&D department in your company. Developing better products and refining processes and innovation through collaboration social process is game changer in a competitive business world.

Reducing Time Spent Managing Administrative Tasks

Oracle Social Network allows contributors to publish information to their walls and in conversations dedicated to a topic, where only followers and conversation members interested in the conversation participate. Unlike email notes distributed widely, using Oracle Social Network to publish information on walls instead allows employees to manage information overload and flooded inboxes. Information is published in dedicated identifiable conversations, easily located by employees who are empowered to join in. The conversation history is accessible to newcomers so that they can find everything that has been said earlier, a practice that prevents knowledge from being lost when employees leave a company, and it enables new employees to ramp up quickly.

Only Oracle Social Network allows private, secure conversations to be initiated directly from business applications and enables two-way tracking: from Oracle Social Network conversations to the original transaction and data in the application, and from the application to conversations related to a transaction or related data.

Initiating an OSN Conversation from an Application task flow

Initiating an OSN Conversation from inside an Oracle Applications Cloud task flow 

This practice removes the administrative overhead of exchanging information outside of the application's transactions, which occurs in disconnected silos, such as conversations between the requester and the buyer, project or transaction summary emails, reminders, and so on. Conversations in Oracle Social Network are contextual.

Employees can participate in business transaction-related conversations securely, too. Conversations may be private and information can be exchanged securely and in confidence among members of those conversations authorized to have such access.

OSN on simplified UI

Oracle Social Network is a great solution for tablets too. Oracle Applications Cloud Release 8 simplified UI shown. 

When you start using Oracle Social Network, you just might find yourself asking, “How did we run our business before Oracle Social Network?” Just like smartphones revolutionized our everyday lives, Oracle Social Network will revolutionize your everyday work-life for the better.

Monday Jul 07, 2014

Designing a Naturally Conversational User Experience for the User Interface

By Georgia Price and Karen Scipi

Think about the software applications you like most. Why do you like them? How do they make you feel? What is your experience like when you use them? The most successful user interfaces—those that delight users—focus equally on the intersection of visual, interaction, and language design.

Visual and interaction design get a lot of play in the enterprise software development environment. Yet language design directly impacts a user’s ability to complete tasks. The use and arrangement of general words, specialized terms, and phrases on the UI promote a naturally conversational voice and tone and inform and induce user actions.

Simply put, the words, terms, and phrases that we promote on a UI either facilitate or hinder the user experience and either delight or frustrate the user.

As Oracle Applications User Experience language designers, we took this message on the road last month as featured speakers at the Society for Technical Communications Summit, where we presented two papers: Designing Effective User Interface Content and The Unadorned Truth About Terminology Management: Initiatives, Practices, and Melodrama.

Society for Technical Communication Summit logo

If attendance is any indication, our message resonated with many. More than 115 people gathered to hear us talk about how designing language for the UI is just as important when building effective, simplified user experiences as creating the right interactions and choosing the right images, icons, colors, and fonts. Dozens lined up after our talks to ask questions and to learn more, making us realize that many others who build software applications  are also grappling with how to design language to enable more simplified user experiences.

Perhaps we can pique your interest! Over the coming weeks, we'll share our thoughts and experiences on language design. Stay tuned to the Usable Apps blog to learn more about what language design is and how we use words, terms, and phrases, as well as voice and tone, to help build simplified user experiences and easy-to-understand UIs.

Saturday May 31, 2014

General Availability: Simplified User Experience Design Patterns eBook

Karen Scipi (@karenscipi) writes:

The Oracle Applications User Experience team is delighted to announce that our Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service eBook is available for free.

Working with publishers McGraw-Hill, we're making our eBook available in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF versions.

Simplified UI eBook

The Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service eBook

The eBook illustrates the same user experience (UX) design patterns and page types and components guidelines that Oracle uses to build simplified user interfaces (UIs) for the Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud.

Click to register and download your free copy of the eBook

UX design patterns and guidelines offer big wins for applications builders because they're proven and reusable solutions applied using Oracle technology. Our eBook enables developers to build a compelling user experience consistently, boosting developer productivity, and shortening the overall time to put a modern user experience into the hands of users.

Developers use the eBook to build their own SUIs
Developers use the eBook to build their own simplified UIs with Oracle Application Developer Framework (ADF) and Oracle JDeveloper

Oracle partners, customers and the Oracle ADF community can now share in the Oracle Applications User Experience science and design expertise behind those awesome simplified UIs in the Oracle Applications Cloud, and begin to build their own great simplified UIs too!

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Oracle Applications Cloud Release 8 Customization: Your User Interface, Your Text

Introducing the User Interface Text Editor

In Oracle Applications Cloud Release 8, there’s an addition to the customization tool set, called the User Interface Text Editor  (UITE). When signed in with an application administrator role, users launch this new editing feature from the Navigator's Tools > Customization > User Interface Text menu option.

See how the editor is in there with other customization tools?

User Interface Text is launched from the Navigator

User Interface Text Editor is launched from the Navigator Customization menu

Applications customers need a way to make changes to the text that appears in the UI, without having to initiate an IT project. Business users can now easily change labels on fields, for example. Using a composer and activated sandbox, these users can take advantage of the Oracle Metadata Services (MDS), add a key to a text resource bundle, and then type in their preferred label and its description (as a best practice for further work, I’d recommend always completing that description).

Oracle Composer used to change field labels

Changing a simplified UI field label using Oracle Composer

In Release 8, the UITE enables business users to easily change UI text on a much wider basis. As with composers, the UITE requires an activated sandbox where users can make their changes safely, before committing them for others to see.

The UITE is used for editing UI text that comes from Oracle ADF resource bundles or from the Message Dictionary (or FND_MESSAGE_% tables, if you’re old enough to remember such things).

Functionally, the Message Dictionary is used for the text that appears in business rule-type error, warning or information messages, or as a text source when ADF resource bundles cannot be used. In the UITE, these Message Dictionary texts are referred to as Multi-part Validation Messages.  

If the text comes from ADF resource bundles, then it’s categorized as User Interface Text in the UITE. This category refers to the text that appears in embedded help in the UI or in simple error, warning, confirmation, or information messages.

The embedded help types used in the application are explained in an Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience (UX) design pattern set. The message types have a UX design pattern set too.

Using UITE 

The UITE enables users to search and replace text in UI strings using case sensitive options, as well as by type. Users select singular and plural options for text changes, should they apply.

Searching and replacing text in UIT

Searching and replacing text in the UITE

The UITE also provides users with a way to preview and manage changes on an exclusion basis, before committing to the final result. There might, for example, be situations where a phrase or word needs to remain different from how it’s generally used in the application, depending on the context.

Previewing tech changes before saving

Previewing replacement text changes. Changes can be excluded where required.

Multi-Part Messages

The Message Dictionary table architecture has been inherited from Oracle E-Business Suite days. However, there are important differences in the Oracle Applications Cloud version, notably the additional message text components, as explained in the UX Design Patterns.

Message Dictionary text has a broad range of uses as indicated, and it can also be reserved for internal application use, for use by PL/SQL and C programs, and so on. Message Dictionary text may even concatenate at run time, where required.

The UITE handles the flexibility of such text architecture by enabling users to drill down on each message and see how it’s constructed in total. That way, users can ensure that any text changes being made are consistent throughout the different message parts.

Multipart messages in UI

Multi-part (Message Dictionary) message components in the UITE

Message Dictionary messages may also use supportability related numbers, the ones that appear appended to the message text in the application’s UI. However, should you have the requirement to remove these numbers from users' view, the UITE is not the tool for the job. Instead, see my blog about using the Manage Messages UI.

Sunday May 25, 2014

Oracle ADF and Simplified UI Apps: I18n Feng Shui on Display

I demoed the Hebrew language version of Oracle Sales Cloud Release 8 live in Israel recently. The crowd was yet again wowed by the simplified UI (SUI).

I’ve now spent some time playing around with most of the 23 language versions, or the NLS (Natural Language Support) versions as we call them, available in Release 8.

Hebrew language Oracle Sales Cloud UI Release 8

Hebrew Oracle Sales Cloud Release 8

The simplified UI is built using 100% Oracle ADF. This framework is a great productivity solution for building tablet and mobility-driven apps in the cloud for users in countries and regions that use natural languages other than English.

Oracle ADF’s internationalization (i18n) relies on built-in Java and Unicode,  packing in such i18n goodness as Bi-Di (or bi-directional) flipping of pages, locale-enabled resource bundles, date and time support, and so on.

Spanish and Hebrew Simplified UIs Bi-Directional Components Compared

Comparing Spanish (left) and Hebrew Bi-Di (right) page components in the simplified UI.
Note the change in the direction of the arrows and alignment of the text.

So, developers who need to build global apps don’t have to do anything special when using Oracle ADF components. That's all thanks to baked-in UX Feng Shui, as Grant Ronald of the ADF team would say to the UK Oracle User Group.

Find out more  about  ADF i18n from Frédéric Desbiens (@blueberrycoder) on the ADF Architecture TV channel and check out the details in the Developer's Guide.

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Oracle Voice and Oracle Applications Cloud Simplified UIs in Israel

Just back from the Israel Oracle User Group (ilOUG) Business Day 2014 held near Tel Aviv.

I delivered a keynote on the Oracle Voice mobile app for the Oracle Sales Cloud. Later, I showed how to customize the Release 8 simplified UIs (SUIs) and how to build similar SUIs in the Oracle Applications Cloud with UX design guidance.

Israel is an inspiring location in which to talk about tech, leading the way with awesome mobile voice innovations such as Waze, so I empathized easily with the local audience.

Oracle Voice App Mobile UI

Oracle Voice Mobile App

My keynote began with an overview of advances in voice user experience, and how the technology has become a very hot accelerator to closing more sales deals. This lead to my live demo, performing typical sales tasks using the Oracle Voice mobile app in a Siri-like (and fun) way with  sales data in the cloud. I then shared the Oracle UX principles for designing a great voice user experience (VoX, anyone?).

Later, I also showed how business users can customize the Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle HCM Cloud Release 8 simplified UIs using composer tools, without writing a single line of code. My live show included the Hebrew language version of the Release 8 SUI, a first time demoed, I believe.

Hebrew Oracle Sales Cloud Simplified UI

 Hebrew Simplified UI Oracle HCM Cloud

Hebrew Oracle Cloud simplified UI

Hebrew Simplified UI Oracle Sales Cloud

I kept the SUI session short and simple (that’s the idea!) and then showed how Oracle ADF developers can go further and build their own SUIs in a few hours by using our free eBook on SUI UX design patterns, Oracle ADF components and page type guidelines.

Oracle UX eBook

Figure 4: ebook in Use. Got Yours

I ended the session by offering more resources for ilOUGers to explore, including how to get involved with the Oracle Usability Advisory Board, now active in the region.

A great event, and I was sorry I couldn’t spend more time in Israel. But, I was pleased with using live demos and with using lots of local Israeli and Hebrew examples. I think the Business Day attendees were happy with the performance too.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m back in Israel doing live app, local-flavored, outreach to another eager and engaged audience.

Special thanks to ilOUG’s Rami Margalit and to Ami Aharonovich for organizing the day and providing helpful local insight.

Saturday Apr 26, 2014

Conferencia OWL: Día Internacional de la Mujer

Our How to Get Started in a Career in Tech piece was well received worldwide. As a follow-up piece, I asked Sarahi Mireles (@sarahimireles) to share more about an Oracle Women’s Leadership (OWL) event held in Mexico to inspire more women to explore and excel in different roles in the information technology field.

Sarahi writes:

El pasado 10 de Marzo, Día Internacional de la Mujer se llevó a cabo un evento para todas las mujeres de Oracle por parte de Oracle Women Leadership (OWL).

La visión de la fundación OWL es crecer y llegar a las futuras generaciones, así como desarrollar mujeres líderes y tener un mayor alcance a la comunidad de mujeres en el ramo de TI.

Leticia Moguel Paz, directora de vantas de Mary Kay

Figura 1. Leticia Moguel Paz, directora de ventas Mary Kay

Leticia Moguel Paz, directora de ventas de Mary Kay, nos dio una conferencia muy amena a todas las mujeres Oracle en la que nos retó a: creer en nosotras mismas, tener iniciativa, prepararnos, practicar para ser mejores, perseverar, nunca dejar de aprender, ser mujeres de carácter, rodearnos de personas positivas, y tomar nuevas responsabilidades que nos impulsen a crecer.

“Lo importante no es lo que te sucede sino como reaccionas a lo que te sucede.” Estas fueron las palabras de Lety al hablar acerca de la toma de decisiones. En cuanto a ser mujeres exitosas, Lety dijo “Tenemos éxito cuando nos vencemos a nosotros mismos.”

Todas las mujeres del MDC Oracle en el evento

Figura 2. Todas las mujeres del MDC Oracle en el evento 

Fue un excelente desayuno y sin duda una excelente conferencia que a mí me dejó con muchos retos. Si quieres saber más acerca de OWL, puedes leer aquí una pequeña reseña de sus comienzos.

[English Translation]

Thursday Apr 17, 2014

The Drive To Visualize Data: Dashboards

Introduction: Cars and Context

Like many people of a certain age, my first exposure to the term dashboard was when I heard my dad using it when driving the car. He referred to it as “the dash”.

Dad’s “dash” was an analog affair that told him the car’s speed, the miles traveled, the engine oil level and temperature, if he had enough gas in the tank, and a few other little bits of basic information. It was all whirring dials, trembling needle pointers on clock-style faces, switches to toggle on and off, a couple of sliders, and little lights that blinked when there was trouble.

Drivers in those days needed to pay attention, all the time, to their dashboards.

Ford dashboard from the 1970s

Old school car dashboards: quaint and charming. And a lot of work. (Source: WikiMedia Commons)

Dashboards in cars, and how drivers use them, are different now. The days of a dashboard with switches to flick or dials to turn are gone.

Today, a family car generates hundreds of megabytes of data every second. Most of this data is discarded immediately, and is not useful to the driver, but some is and may even be life saving. Technology makes sense of the surging data so that drivers can respond easily to important information because it’s presented to them in a timely, easily consumed, and actionable way.

Car dashboards are now closer to the “glass cockpit” world that fighter jet pilots experience. Cars have tiny sensors, even cameras, and other technology inside and outside the vehicle that detect and serve up striking digital visualizations about the health of the car and driver performance. Drivers are empowered to be “situationally aware” about what’s going on (what us UXers would call “context”), as they listen to or watch for signals and cues and respond to them naturally, using voice, for example.

Some car dashboards even use heads-up displays, projecting real-time information onto the windshield. Drivers know what’s going on with their car without taking their eyes off the road.

Chevrolet Camaro Heads-up Display

Chevrolet Corvette Heads-up Display (Source: www.chevrolet.com)

Dashboard design itself is now the essence of simplicity and cutting edge technology, and stylish with it too, arising passions about what makes a great interface inside a car. It’s all part of creating an experience to engage drivers for competitive advantage in a tight automobile market.

Tesla Model S Dashboard

Tesla Model S Dashboard (Source: www.teslamotors.com)

The Emergence of Digital Dashboards User Experience

When it comes to software applications and websites, dashboards are around us everywhere too. We’re all long familiar with how such dashboards work and how to use them, beginning with the pioneering My Yahoo! portal that popularized the use of the “My” pronoun in web page titles, right through to today’s wearable apps dashboards that are a meisterwerk of information visualization, integrating social media and gamification along the way.

Fitbit Dashboard (Author's own)

FitBit Dashboard (Source: Author)

An enterprise application dashboard is a one-stop shop of information. It’s a page made up of portlets or regions, chunking up related information into displays of graphs, charts, and graphics of different kinds. Dashboards visualize a breadth of information that spans a whole range of activities in a functional area.

Dashboards aggregate data into meaningful visual displays and cues, using processor horsepower at the backend to do the work that users used to do with notepads, calculators or spreadsheets to find what out what’s changed or in need of attention.

Dashboards enable users to prioritize work and to manage exceptions by taking light-weight actions immediately from the page, or to drill down to explore and do more in a transactional or analytics work area, if necessary.

The dashboard concept remains a core part of the enterprise applications user experience, particularly for work roles that rely on monitoring of information, providing reports on performance, or needing a range of information to make well-timed and high-level decisions.

Developing Dashboards

In work, we now also have to deal with that other torrent of data we hear about: big data. Dashboards are ideal ways to make sense of this data and to represent the implications of its analysis to a viewer, bringing insight to users rather than the other way around.

To this end, Oracle provides enterprise application developers with the Oracle ADF Data Visualization Tools (DVT) components to build dashboards using data in the cloud, and with design guidance in the form of the Oracle Fusion Applications, Oracle Endeca and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition UI patterns and guidelines for making great-looking dashboards.

Fusion Apps Desktop UI Dashboard

Typical Oracle Fusion Applications Desktop UI Dashboard (Source: Oracle)

Beyond Desktop Dashboards…

Dashboards’ origins as a desktop UI concept obviously predated the “swipe and pinch” world of mobility, today’s cross-device, flexible way of working with shared data in the cloud. Sure, we still have a need for what dashboards were originally about. But, we now need new ways for big data to be organized and visualized. We need solutions that reflect our changing work situations--our context --so that we that we can act on the information quickly, using a tablet or a smart phone, or whatever’s optimal. And, we need new ways of describing this dashboard user experience.

Enter the era of “glance, scan, and commit”, a concept that we will explore in a future Usable Apps blog.

Twilio: Democratizing Communications to Build a Better User Experience in the Oracle Cloud

Oracle has a powerful partner ecosystem in the Oracle Cloud, adding value to our applications in many areas. Enabling partners to integrate with our cloud applications is key to Oracle’s “Extending SaaS through PaaS” approach. Sharing our expertise with partners, which helps them to productively build a great user experience (UX), is a major drive of Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) outreach.

One of the latest additions to the Oracle PartnerNetwork  is the very cool and happening Twilio. Followers of the AppsLab know the OAUX team loves exploring the UX possibilities of Twilio-based voice and SMS integrations. I took a trip to Twilio's San Francisco HQ to ask David Wacker (@dlwacker) of Twilio Channel Sales and Partnerships to find out more about the whys and hows of integrating in the cloud and simplifying user experience...

Being in the cloud offers the potential to make a major difference with a superior UX. The days of cumbersome, on-premise installations and horrible UX are gone. Now scalable, cloud-based applications, customizable and reflecting each customer’s business, are changing the UX across datacenter management, CRM, marketing automation, and ERP, all driven through how we power communications.

Twilio is a cloud-based communications platform that offers a powerful, open API for building communications applications, what Twilio refers to as "democratizing access" to communication in a traditionally complex and expensive world of telephony.

Using Twilio, developers can easily access the means to create robust communications integrations, fundamentally changing the UX landscape for applications users in the cloud. Twilio’s open API framework means developers can utilize prebuilt solutions in the Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, and Oracle Sales Cloud. Developers can build such UX integrations productively, without the cost and effort normally associated with such projects.

David pointed out a few ways how Twilio enhanced the user experience for Oracle application users, such as the Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, and Oracle Sales Cloud.

Twilio’s seamless integration to the Oracle Marketing Cloud (Eloqua) means that users can just drag and drop the Twilio Cloud Connector onto a marketing campaign canvas to provide for outbound SMS, MMS (multimedia messaging), and voice calls. This delivers a great multichannel user experience, such as for mobile marketing campaigns with pictures or QR coupon codes.

Twilio Cloud Connector

Dragging the Twilio Cloud Connector onto a campaign canvas easily adds Twilio SMS, MMS, and voice to marketing campaigns.

Twilio's embedding of SMS and voice capabilities right into the Oracle Service Cloud (RightNow) means a superior customer experience built in a scalable, flexible way. A service agent can use click-to-call to phone an end customer, automatically creating the event on their system and then recording the call, for example. An SMS capability can also enable customers to chat with service agents using SMS on their phones instead of web chat, if preferred, and more.

Twilio Click-to-Call

Click-to-call for customer engagement, which allows customers to call inbound more effectively.

Twilio's integration into the Oracle Sales Cloud, drives efficiency by simplifying the UX. Twilio uses the Oracle Sales Cloud native CTI toolbar to track and record phone calls, allowing for seamless conference calls, and all integrated to drive sales productivity. For example, a sales rep can use Twilio’s click-to-call to contact opportunities, automated dialing, or conference line bridges powered by Twilio, creating events and logging activities easily within the Oracle Sales Cloud.

Twilio integrated with Oracle Sales Cloud

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) toolbar for easy access to inbound and outbound dialing in Oracle Sales Cloud powered by Twilio.

David tells me that “Twilio’s integration possibilities are endless. That's the best part about working with developers in the Twilio and Oracle communities; finding new ways to solve user problems, unconstrained by technology or traditional project limitations. I’m excited to explore new and unique ways that the Oracle developer community and Twilio can change the UX landscape in the Oracle Cloud.”

Those are some great UX insights from David, and there are more to come. The OAUX team will be working with Twilio over the coming months, so stay tuned to your usual outreach and communications channels for news and events.

Twilio is also exhibiting at, and sponsoring, Oracle CloudWorld in Chicago on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Stop by the Twilio booth to learn more (or to just say, Hi!), and give the Usable Apps blog a shout-out.

Thursday Mar 20, 2014

Oracle Developer Diversity Realized
How to Get Started in a Career in Tech

Oracle takes very seriously the pursuit of creating a diverse group of people who work in technology. We have the Oracle Women’s Leadership (OWL) and Women in Technology programs, for example. Externally, the Oracle user group community has Women in IT (WIT) initiatives, such as the ones run by RMOUG and UKOUG.

I’m always on the look out for smart people, of all types, ages, cultures, and experiences, who are shining examples of how a diversity of people working together in tech means we all win.

Jeff Caldwell and Sarahi Mirelese

Oracle is committed to diversity. Oracle Product Management VP Jeff Caldwell with Sarahi Mireles at a Building Great-Looking Usable Apps workshop in Mexico City, D.F.

After reading a great online conversation about women in tech, I checked out Rails Girls, Black Girls Code, and Girls Who Code. I wanted to know how young women start to pursue a career in tech. So I chatted with Sarahi Mireles (@sarahimireles) in the UX team who shared her experiences.

Sarahi is a front-end developer based in the Mexico Development Center in Guadalajara, working on the Usable Apps website. Sarahi is a key part of communicating our UX messages and enablement to Oracle ADF developers, partners, and customers, worldwide.

Sarahi knows about the importance of role models as examples and getting people talking together about diversity. "Talking about my work and interest in tech helps change the way coworkers and others see women in tech and clears up misconceptions. The conversation encourages other women to become interested in IT, too."

What does Sarahi recommend to others like her who are interested in technology?

"Technology is awesome! It lets you be creative, it’s a great challenge for the mind, and it encourages you to explore new areas. I would recommend a tech path that takes you into the visual and practical areas first, like animations and photo and video editing. Checking out a simple course on robotics can be incredible fun, too. Then, if you think you’ve got a good feel for tech and what you can do with it, develop that interest with programming, math, and science study options in school."

What kinds of interests do you need to have to work in tech?

"There are lots of other skills that lead to jobs in tech: design, arts, music, video, photography, as well as web development and mobile app development. If you’re into solving problems or have crazy thoughts about apps for your phone that will be useful for your daily tasks, well there’s an opportunity to turn those ideas into a great career in technology, too. What you need is already in your head."

So what got Sarahi started on the path to her career in tech?

"I got interested in tech when I was in elementary school, trying to record songs in Windows ‘95 with a friend. I then discovered web design through Myspace; it came with lots of possibilities for personalizing the way your pages looked by using HTML and CSS. By the time I was ready for high school, I knew I was heading for the tech world, so I chose a science and math-focused school."

What tech impresses and inspires Sarahi?

"I'm very impressed by apps I can use everyday to help me to save time or get something done quickly. Mobile apps like Waze, for example, let me get somewhere faster, whether I'm here in Guadalajara or in San Francisco."

Ultan O'Broin and Sarahi Mirelese

Sarahi is interested in wearable tech. Seen here with Ultan O’Broin (@ultan) getting ready for a wearables design jam.

"I like apps like Dollarbird to track monthly expenses, WhatsApp to stay connected, and Foursquare to find a place to hang out–it works just great in Mexico. I'm interested how wearable tech makes life easier too, such as how Google Glass translates text automatically by looking at it or takes pictures or videos of what’s right in front of you."

"For exercising, a combination of MapMyRide and PowerTap is great for cycling. I like VocalizeU because I can use my iPhone to warm up my vocal cords for singing class. And then I can use recipe apps like Epicurious to discover how to make tasty stuff from what I have left in the fridge."

Thanks Sarahi! What an inspiration to others! You’ve given others some great ideas for getting started on the path to a career in tech. What a a great example of diversity in action in the technology industry.

Watch out for more information about WIT and OWL, and catch up with Sarahi and the rest of the UX team at outreach events by following @usableapps on Twitter and checking in regularly on the Usable Apps blogs and website.

Thursday Feb 20, 2014

Taking Steps to Innovate: Walking Meetings at Oracle

User experience (UX) is about more than pixels on the screen. UX covers all the areas that workers crisscross on their way to getting their jobs done. It’s an appreciation that what happens offline can be as important as what happens online. It’s about exploring the established ways of working and emerging trends, and understanding how people connect and communicate. Even the smallest, stickiest job aid offers an opportunity for UX innovation in the workplace. Sometimes inspiration is right under your nose. 

Watching my Oracle co-workers, a diverse crowd that spans a wide range of ages and cultures and with a myriad of skills and experiences to share, gives me a window into modern ways of working that others have to pay to observe. Sure, we don’t have a beach volleyball court on the Oracle HQ campus (works for me, as I don’t do shorts). But we do have a beautiful lake.

Plain Sailin' at Oracle's Lake Larry. Where shorts are not needed to be cool.

Oracle’s Redwood Shores HQ campus is clustered around a spectacular lake, affectionately referred to as 'Lake Larry' by the locals.

It’s around that lake that David Haimes, a Senior Director in Oracle Financials Applications Product Development, changed the way he manages his team by introducing walking meetings. I caught up with him to learn more. 

A reasonably active chap to start (by U.S. standards), David was already swimming in the evenings and running at weekends. Then, his wife gave him a FitBit. With that little sensor on the wrist recording his daily activity stats, one glance at the FitBit dashboard analytics revealed those workdays when his activity levels were flatlining. Now, there was an opportunity to put some peaks back into those charts if he could figure out a way to merge work and play.

David recalled hearing about walking meetings on NPR and being impressed with the health and work benefits delivered. He read the good things Kaiser Permanente  (disclosure: an Oracle customer) shared about the practice, and saw the YouTube video about it too. 

So, come January 2014, David introduced walking meetings for his directs, walking around Lake Larry for their one-on-ones. The results are pretty impressive. 

Keepin' it simple on Doctor's (Pepper's) Orders. David Haimes and Floyd Teter.

Keepin' it simple. David Haimes (@dhaimes), and Oracle partner UX champ Floyd Teter (@fteter) of IO Consulting, walk the walk and talk the talk of today’s applications at Oracle HQ.

David’s blogged about his experiences to an eager audience, explaining how walking meetings enabled higher rates of problem solving and creativity in the team. Freed from the confined atmosphere of a building or office and out in the (usually) sunny Silicon Valley environment, he’s found that “meetings are more productive…we can actually talk through those issues we need to discuss, think about them clearly and agree on actions”.  And, those ‘let’s-take-a-walk’ moments are also a perfect way to broach tricky subjects that might be harder to bring up across a desk or on email.

Not only that. His daily mileage has gone from 2 to 3 miles a day to 4 to 6 miles a day!

Inspired by David’s initiative, co-workers in Oracle are starting their own walking meetings, too. Fans of this new “mobile” approach to workforce management name check Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg as early adopters, and there’s even a walking meetings hashtag. But, walking meetings are not just a cool thing to do. They come with business benefits.

So, what could this mean for applications UX?

David records ideas and actions during his walking meetings using iPhone apps and voice technology. Plenty of mobile tools are out there already to choose from, and we will surely see new wearables emerge for unobtrusively capturing notes and ideas as people move about. 

However, I don’t think it’s the technology foot that we need to put forward first. It’s the context—people at work connecting with each other across traditional boundaries to creatively solve shared challenges. That is the opportunity—how to enable people to connect and collaborate even more effectively—that we might look to enhance. The best wearable technology fits the user, and not the other way around. That’s the step we need to take to start innovating from how we observe how, such as taking walking meetings.

FitBit Dashboard
FitBit dashboard: Work-based opportunities for such data are emerging.

Then, there’s that FitBit (and similar devices). There are rich possibilities for what we might do with such data gathered seamlessly by sensors and then served up as dashboard analytics on a smart phone for immediate action or on a desktop for more in-depth analysis. Think about what this sort of aggregated data might mean for how we measure and manage corporate healthcare, wellness programs, employee availability, productivity, and so on.

Walk this way!

Thursday Feb 13, 2014

Learning to Build a Wearables User Experience from Mickey Mouse

Using wearable technology in work is a hot topic, offering possibilities of increased productivity for businesses by augmenting and automating the tasks of the wearer. 

The Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team recently ran a wearables design jam at Oracle’s HQ in Redwood Shores. This pilot event was for Oracle employees to learn how to design wearables for the enterprise and to develop an outreach program for customers and partners to share in the lessons learned in building such solutions.

Wearables at Work: Pebble Ideas Fuel Innovation at Oracle

Wearables at work: Use cases are emerging that add real business value 

Design jam teams were given an overview of the latest on wearables technologies and uses in the consumer and enterprise space. Cool apps already developed by OAUX for Google Glass heads-up display and the Pebble smart watch where demoed, live.

To power the teams understanding of wearables fundamentals and to inspire quick results, teams watched videos about the Disney Glow with the Show technology (yes, that's the Mickey Mouse angle) and about how rapid prototyping using household items lead to a game-changing, heads-up display device.

Currently popular wearables are built using different technologies, but use design concepts that work well across devices and make for productive building, such as the small screen card paradigm for information display.  Design jam teams were provided with UX guidelines that reflected enterprise build methodologies and usage requirements, a reminder that UX is now not just about how you wink; it’s about how you work. So, with this wearables learning in mind, the hands-on design began!

DIY Wearables Design Kit

You wear it well—design jam DIY toolkits being put to good use

The design jam was a non-coding event. Instead, teams were equipped with DIY toolboxes and given free reign to design a wearable that was as innovative or as “out there” as they wish with just two caveats. Firstly, it had to solve an identified enterprise problem and secondly, it had to be buildable with, or integrated with, Oracle technology. The result was amazing creativity quickly shown by teams, reflecting the diversity and talent of Oracle employees worldwide.

Team Air Glove Design Jam Wearable Creativity!

Oracle design jam team Air Glove solution featured heads-up display glasses, sensory gloves, and a special “Skunk Works” sensor (indicated by a WiFi-enabled skunk stencil). 

The design jam approach is a great way to learn about wearables and for newly hired employees to connect socially and professionally with co-workers in a fun way. And, there was a business focus too. Teams nuanced their wearable designs for the enterprise world, exploring how to integrate solutions with other applications and data in the cloud, for example. 

All designs were outstanding. After OAUX VP Jeremy Ashley gave an update on the latest wearables technology and opportunities, the team with the most promising design was rewarded by each member receiving an inexpensive, yet tasteful, wearable technology prize. 

The lessons from the wearables design jam and other user experience insight will be used refine our wearables enablement and expertise. That knowledge will be shared with our customers and partners to build wearables solutions too.

So, watch out for wearables enablement events coming your way! Stay tuned to the Usable Apps website and VOX blog, and follow @usableapps on Twitter.

Tuesday Feb 11, 2014

How to Chat Up an Accountant Safely: Social Networking in the Finance Department

Seems that baby boomers are now Instagram-ing, WhatsApp-ing and SnapChat-ing just like younger Digital Natives do. How widespread those apps are in the enterprise is another matter, but it’s a reminder never to make assumptions about apps users. Yet, certain job titles do sometimes conjure up a mental picture of how we think some people actually work.

Mention “accountant”, and you might visualize a gray picture of quiet, introspective types, heads down in books and spreadsheets, papers flying, calculators working overtime, phones to their ears begging cash from customers and wiring funds to suppliers, while accounting for all the money. Not terribly social, then? The polar opposite of those freewheeling “Mad Men” sales rep CRM types, out meeting and greeting, getting their message across to make that sale, perhaps? In fact, the finance department is a hive of social activity.

Accountants: Does the image we have reflect the reality?

Accountants. “Life in the fast lane” is contextual. But social activity in the finance department happens at a pace few other jobs experience. And they use applications too… 

I spoke with David Haimes, Senior Director in Oracle Financials Applications, about the social side of the finance department. David understands the reality of his applications users. “Their most critical time is the 5-10 days after period close when everything has to be closed out and reported”, David told me. “There’s a huge amount of effort and social interaction going on”.

During the close process, David said teams need to exchange information and make decisions as quickly as possible and still satisfy business and legal requirements. Accounting teams were early adopters and heavy users of instant messaging, email distribution lists (with Microsoft Excel spreadsheet attachments), wikis, file sharing workspaces, and of course, the old fashioned telephone. But these tools were external to the financial application and data. The user experience was disjointed. Who works well in a silo? And, there was no audit trail. David has seen accounting teams copying and pasting emails into documents and attaching them to meet that audit requirement.

“The finance department has to make sure everything is correct and legal,” David said. “They’re reporting not just to internal management, but to Wall Street, to tax authorities, and to other legislative bodies. And, since the Sarbanes-Oxley act, CEOs are legally responsible for the correctness of the accounts,” David reminded me. That’s pressure.

Things are even more hectic when you consider the nature of the enterprise financial department today, with its distributed team members with shared service centers offshore and everyone working in different countries and time zones. Everyone needs to communicate and collaborate efficiently, yet securely and transparently.

That’s where Oracle Social Network is a financial department win.  

  • Oracle Social Network conversations are tied to business objects and transactions, enabling finance teams to easily share and collaborate in a role-based way.  
  • Oracle Social Network conversations are auditable (which is “usually the first question I’m asked,” says David).  
  • Oracle Social Network conversations are searchable
  • Oracle Social Network is secure, with users with the right permissions working together on information stored in an Oracle database.  
  • Oracle Social Network is integrated with Oracle Financials applications, so the user experience is  streamlined.

“[Oracle Social Network] is a game changer in the finance department,” says David, not just for the closing period but also for daily financial activity. And, Oracle Social Network is available as a cloud service, with iOS and Android mobile apps versions too.

Financials close process using Oracle Social Network

A close process conversation using Oracle Social Network integrated with Oracle Fusion Financials—an enterprise social user experience for the finance department that’s secure and efficient.

With the Oracle Social Network user experience in the finance department, Oracle also satisfies today’s workforce that expects social networking tools to be as much a part of their work lives as their personal lives. Said David: “Younger users are already familiar with how social networking sites work and how they’re easy to use, and that’s the sort of user experience we need to reflect. It’s demanded.”

Having a social networking application as part of the job makes hiring and onboarding easier too, offering benefits right across the enterprise. And it’s not only Digital Natives or Millennials who easily take to integrated social networking in work. Even senior users now see the benefits.

Socializing the finance department with Oracle technology is an example of how a great user experience can engage workers, accelerate performance and efficiency, deliver productivity for business while meeting the consumer technology demands of end users, and satisfy the requirements of stakeholder user groups such as other departments, auditing and security teams, tax authorities, reporting agencies, shareholders, and so on.

Read more about socializing the finance department on the Oracle Applications blog and David’s blog (a bookmark must) too. And, check out what the Oracle Social Network Cloud Service now offers and how it benefits your users and business.

Thursday Jan 09, 2014

Oracle Applications User Experience and AMIS: Applied Vision and Strategy Together


The folks on the AMIS team have always knocked me out whenever they cross my path at conferences, user group meetings, and events such as Oracle OpenWorld. Their participation is always in demand. With their deep know-how about Oracle technology and a commitment to the business benefits of user experience, AMIS really “gets it.”

AMIS is a leading powerhouse when it comes to building solutions using Oracle Applications Development Framework (ADF) and is always eager to learn more about how to expand its possibilities and offer more. For these reasons, it was no surprise to see AMIS at the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) expo held at OpenWorld 2013. Oracle ACE Director and AMIS Services CTO Lucas Jellema commented after the event:

“The expo provided out of the box thinking and inspiration with regards to the interaction between business users and computers and IT systems in general. It suggested approaches that are both realistic as well as fun. It also instilled a certain confidence that Oracle is really onto something with UX, and we are betting our money on the right horse.”

This March, OAUX and AMIS will take their relationship to a higher level, bringing a user experience and technology expo event to Nieuwegein in the Netherlands and sharing with others the latest thinking and concepts on user interface design and user experience.

Learn about simplicity, mobility, and extensibility at the UX event.

Simplicity, mobility, and the extensibility of applications, all built with Oracle technology, along with the latest device trends and integrations in the cloud will be some of the innovations that demonstrate the OUAX vision and strategy at the AMIS-hosted expo.

Oracle customers, partners, industry experts, and invited guests will get to see the latest user experience innovations built using Oracle technology that provides modern and compelling applications to enable today's workers to be more productive than ever.

This event is about engaging with, and inspiring, a broad set of stakeholders in the enterprise information technology ecosystem by showing off the result of Oracle’s investment in UX and the thought leadership, passion, and vision that drives the simplicity, mobility, and extensibility of applications used in today’s enterprises.

AMIS will also share what it takes to be a leading Oracle knowledge partner, what this partnership means for partner business and for clients seeking solutions with Oracle ADF, and what it takes to be a respected voice in the enterprise methodology world of applications development.

See you in the Netherlands. Who knows what secrets will be revealed about the future of UX and Oracle technology!

Details of the event, including registration, are on the AMIS website. (Dutch version)


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