Oracle Fusion Supply Chain Management (SCM) Designs May Improve End User Productivity
By Applications User Experience on Mar 10, 2011
Michele Molnar, Senior Usability Engineer, Applications User Experience
The SCM User Experience team, in close collaboration with product management and strategy, completely redesigned the user experience for Oracle Fusion applications. One of the goals of this redesign was to increase end user productivity by applying design patterns and guidelines and incorporating findings from extensive usability research. But a question remained: How do we know that the Oracle Fusion designs will actually increase end user productivity?
To answer this question, the SCM Usability Engineers compared Oracle Fusion designs to their corresponding existing Oracle applications using the workflow time analysis method. The workflow time analysis method breaks tasks into a sequence of operators. By applying standard time estimates for all of the operators in the task, an estimate of the overall task time can be calculated. The workflow time analysis method has been recently adopted by the Applications User Experience group for use in predicting end user productivity. Using this method, a design can be tested and refined as needed to improve productivity even before the design is coded.
For the study, we selected some of our recent designs for Oracle Fusion Product Information Management (PIM). The designs encompassed tasks performed by Product Managers to create, manage, and define products for their organization. (See Figure 1 for an example.)
In applying this method, the SCM Usability Engineers collaborated with Product Management to compare the new Oracle Fusion Applications designs against Oracle's existing applications. Together, we performed the following activities:
- Identified the five most frequently performed tasks
- Created detailed task scenarios that provided the context for each task
- Conducted task walkthroughs
- Analyzed and documented the steps and flow required to complete each task
- Applied standard time estimates to the operators in each task to estimate the overall task completion time
Figure 1. The interactions on each Oracle Fusion Product Information Management screen were documented, as indicated by the red highlighting. The task scenario and script provided the context for each task.
The workflow time analysis method predicted that the Oracle Fusion Applications designs would result in productivity gains in each task, ranging from 8% to 62%, with an overall productivity gain of 43%. All other factors being equal, the new designs should enable these tasks to be completed in about half the time it takes with existing Oracle Applications. Further analysis revealed that these performance gains would be achieved by reducing the number of clicks and screens needed to complete the tasks.
Using the workflow time analysis method, we can expect the Oracle Fusion Applications redesign to succeed in improving end user productivity. The workflow time analysis method appears to be an effective and efficient tool for testing, refining, and retesting designs to optimize productivity. The workflow time analysis method does not replace usability testing with end users, but it can be used as an early predictor of design productivity even before designs are coded. We are planning to conduct usability tests later in the development cycle to compare actual end user data with the workflow time analysis results. Such results can potentially be used to validate the productivity improvement predictions.
Used together, the workflow time analysis method and usability testing will enable us to continue creating, evaluating, and delivering Oracle Fusion designs that exceed the expectations of our end users, both in the quality of the user experience and in productivity.
(For more information about studying productivity, refer to the Measuring User Productivity blog.)