Sunday Jun 21, 2015

From Tea 'n' Cakes to Tablets: Oracle ERP Cloud UX Bakes In Exceedingly Better Business*

Robots—software, really—continue to revolutionize enterprise finance departments. Automation is replacing traditional financial roles and transforming others, offering even more innovative opportunities in the enterprise.

Accounts payable clerks, accounts receivable specialists, inventory control admins, and more enterprise positions, are being automated completely, freeing up headcount for new roles to deliver more business effectiveness. The Oracle Applications Cloud user experience (UX) strategy reflects these kinds of trends and innovates accordingly.

And yet, the birth of such financial innovation was in the least likely, most un-sci-fi place, you might imagine: the teashops of post-World War II Great Britain. In 1951, British catering giant J Lyons & Co. kick-started ERP as we now know it by introducing the first enterprise computer: LEO (Lyons Electronic Office).

Computing was not new, of course. What was innovative was how Lyons used it in business. Starting with the replacement of dull, repetitive tasks performed by clerks collecting and entering data, LEO went on to manage the Lyons payroll, the catering supply chain, and more.

LEO led the world in business computing at the time, and gave rise to today’s systems engineering. And all because of a dream of one day being able to add up the receipts for Lyons's iced buns in the teashops of Great Britain.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) user experience (UX) is no longer just icing on the cake. It's central to user happiness and business productivity, satisfying that ever-ravenous appetite for consumer-like apps in the enterprise. UX is now that must-have item on the menu of enterprise cloud software adoption.

David Haimes glances across the Oracle ERP Cloud

Number-munching: David Haimes glances across the Oracle ERP Cloud UX over the best of Oracle HQ catering.

I chatted with David Haimes (@dhaimes), Senior Director of Oracle Applications Product Development and all-things Financials Cloud UX champ, about financial departments moving from cupcakes to computers and now to the cloud.

Over the best of Oracle HQ Building 300 bakery cakes, David explained:

“That mundane, day-to-day work of calculations has been transformed by enterprise software. Now finance departments do things automatically, faster, and with fewer errors. Oracle ERP Cloud enhances daily activities, enabling departments to analyze data for profit, revenue, and cash flow insights for business planning and financial forecasting, and to manage by exception.

For example, with the Oracle ERP Cloud visualizations of financial data, finance departments can easily spot trends and opportunities to run the business better. At a glance, a department can see those outliers and exceptions that may be threats and deal with them before they become real problems.”

What's going on here? Glance at Oracle ERP Cloud and the Finance Department's questions are answered

What's going on here? At a glance, period close, revenue, expenses, and more questions are answered for the finance department using Oracle ERP Cloud.

David demonstrated how the Oracle ERP Cloud user experience enables higher-value finance department activities using the Glance, Scan, Commit design philosophy. At a glance, from one page an analyst can see what’s going on with a company’s finances, what needs attention, and then scan for more detail and commit to act on it easily, if necessary.

Oracle ERP Cloud user experience is no amuse-bouche, but the main course for CIOs and decision makers, saving their businesses time and labor costs. With the median number of full-time financial employees falling in big companies by about 40% since 2004, there are now about 70 finance people needed for every $1 billion of revenue, according to consultants, the Hackett Group. It's all about ROI. Oracle ERP Cloud serves up a great recipe for user satisfaction (key ingredients: zero training, talent attraction, and retention) too. 

Oracle ERP Cloud watchface

Oracle ERP Cloud watchface on Android Wear smartwatch. With financial data in the cloud, the glance design philosophy enables finance departments to work seamlessly across devices.

We’ve already busted that myth that financial departments are far from social, and now another stereotypical view of accountancy is up-ended. Emerging financial roles have become sexy, the analysts required for today’s financial departments are hot talent demanding higher remuneration.

This is one sweet story about Oracle Cloud ERP and an awesome baked-in UX: automating the routine; enabling a eminently more interesting world of work for real people previously dismissed as being disinterested in such things; delivering benefits across the entire business; and being easily customized to suit any business taste.

Now, who wouldn’t want a slice of that action?

Time for Tea?

David Haimes takes the time to glance at Oracle ERP Cloud

Take some time to explore the Oracle ERP Cloud user experience more with our online resources.

Find out more about the Oracle Applications Cloud User Experience and Oracle ERP Cloud on YouTube and the Oracle VOX blog.

And, watch out for some tasty ERP Cloud sessions at Oracle OpenWorld 2015.

David Haimes blogs on the Oracle Intercompany Financials Blog.

* With apologies to Mr. K

Wednesday Jan 07, 2015

Fit for Work: A Team Experience of Wearable Technology

By Sandra Lee (@sandralee0415)

What happens when co-workers try out wearable technology? Misha Vaughan (@mishavaughan), Director of Oracle Applications Communications and Outreach, explored just that.

“Instead of a general perspective, I wanted the team to have a personal experience of wearable technology”, said Misha. So, she gave each member of her team a Fitbit Flex activity tracker to use. The exercise proved insightful, with team members providing useful personal and enterprise-related feedback on device usage.

Fitbit Flex Awaits

Your Fitbit Flex awaits [Photo: Sandra Lee]

Team Dynamic and Initial Reactions

It was a free choice for team members to wear the Fitbit device or not. Those that did were inspired and enjoyed comparing activities and goals. Shannon Whiteman, Communication Operations and Online Training Manager, loved the competitive aspect. “If I saw someone had 100 more steps than I did, I’d take the stairs and walk an extra 101 steps to beat them.” Kathy Miedema, Senior Market Research Analyst, noted that the Fitbit “really motivated and validated my personal fitness activity”.

Fitbit Dashboard for Ultan O'Broin

Example of recorded activity: Ultan O’Broin’s (@usableapps) Fitbit dashboard

The exercise also provided observations on team dynamics in the workplace. Some chose not to wear the device whether for personal reasons, set-up issues, or lack of time; a reminder that although fun to try, such devices are not for everyone, and that’s OK.

The Fashion Perspective

Sarahi Mireles, User Experience Developer in Mexico, tried the Fitbit, but it didn’t fit her lifestyle, saying that “the interest is there [for wearables in general], but the design attraction is lacking.” Sarahi feels the ideal fitness tracker for her world is one with interchangeable looks, so she can wear it to work and to dinner. This typical user need is where fashion designers like Tory Burch offer value to technology developers, in this case partnering with Fitbit to make devices look more like beautiful bracelets and necklaces.

Tory Burch bracelet for Fitbit

Tory Burch for Fitbit metal-hinged bracelet

The Enterprise Employee Investment

Fitness plays a role in work/life balance, and health, happiness, and productivity are intrinsically linked. Overall, wellness contributes to the bottom line in a big way. Oracle is focused on such solutions too, researching user experiences that best engage, promote and support employee wellness.

Oracle HCM Cloud Wellness Page Prototype

Oracle HCM Cloud: Employee Wellness page prototype

Externally, at HCM World for example, Oracle's interest in this space offered analysts and customers complimentary Fitbit Zip devices for a voluntary wellness competition; the winner receiving a donation to the American Cancer Society.

Karen Scipi (@karenscipi), Senior Usability Engineer, reflected that companies like Oracle, in facilitating the use of the fitness device, are placing importance on employee health and fitness as an “employee investment.” Healthier individuals are happier and therefore more productive employees.

Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley), Vice President of Applications User Experience, already leads his team in embracing wellness within the workplace, participating in the American Heart Association Bay Walk, for example. He explained how encouraging and measuring activity during the working day, whether through walking meetings or using activity trackers, is a meaningful way to identify with the Oracle Applications Cloud User Experience strategy too.  

Jeremy described how sensors in activity trackersalong with smart watches, heads-up displays, smart phones, and beaconsare part of the Internet of Things: that ubiquitous connectivity of technology and the Cloud that realize daily experiences for today's enterprise users to empathize with.

Your Data and the Enterprise Bottom Line

From the business perspective, employee activity data gathered from corporate wellness programs could lead to negotiated discounts and rewards for users from health care companies, for example; one possible incentive to enterprise adoption. Gamification, the encouraging of team members to engage and interact in collaborative and productive ways in work using challenges and competitions, is another strategy for workplace wellness programs uptake.

Ultan O’Broin, Director of User Experience, who travels globally out of Ireland, noted that although he personally hasn’t experienced any negative reactions to wearable technology, the issue of privacy of the data gathered, especially in Europe, is a huge concern.  

Data accuracy, permitting employees to voluntarily opt in or out of fitness and wellness programs, privacy issues, and what to do with that data once its collected, all need to reassure users and customers alike. Having HR involved in tracking, storing and using employee activity data is an enterprise dimension being explored.

User Experience Trends

Smart watch usage is on the rise, combining ability to unobtrusively track activity with other glanceable UI capabilities. Analysts now predict a shift in usage patterns as smart watches begin to replace fitness bands, but time will tell in this fast-moving space.

Regardless of your wearable device of choice, and the fashion, personal privacy, employee data, and corporate deployment considerations we’ve explored, wearable technology and wellness programs are enterprise happenings that are here to stay. It’s time to get on board and think about how your business can benefit.

Perhaps your team could follow Misha’s great initiative and explore wearable technology user experience for yourselves? Let us know in the comments!

You can read more about Oracle Applications User Experience team’s innovation and exploration of wearable technology on the Usable Apps Storify social story.

Tuesday Mar 05, 2013

Oracle Endeca User Experience: From Putting the E in E-Commerce to Magical Information Discovery

"Beer." Mark Burrell, Director of User Experience for Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, tells me the apocryphal story of the technology’s origins. “Some Princeton friends were struggling to find a commemorative beer on eBay. They concluded that humans should be able to easily find their way around messy, dynamic information." Using facets (or attributes) to navigate through self-describing, unstructured data, ones that could relate to each other, was the answer:

"Say you’re on a home repairs web site, searching for a washer. Endeca facets would let you discover if it is in appliances, in dishwashers, to find it by style, by size, and so on. Facets summarize the data and guide users in a way that makes sense to their world."

It’s been a rollercoaster ride since the founding "beer quest", with Endeca taking off as an industry leader in the e-commerce and information access world, followed by Oracle acquisition in 2011. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is a real game changer for the enterprise, now answering million-dollar questions:

Answering that Million Dollar Question with Oracle Endeca

Consumerization of Analytics

I was gobsmacked that Mark designed the faceted search for the Irish car website “Those horizontal sliders on price tested brilliantly. People even play with it” (I have!). Mark’s an evangelist for what user experience really means; his use of personal technology is one of problem solving in new, smart ways. He mentions using LinkedIn to discover professional relationships. Trulia’s faceted information for finding real estate by school district, commutes, and comparing buying and renting options impresses him. Pandora streaming Internet radio service is a fave for his music, with suggestions that are pure “serendipitous discovery”. And then there’s MIT’s Scratch, “computer programming made easy”. He loves the idea of snapping together components, enabling people to build cool stuff, fast.

This story of easily building magical experiences with stunning visualizations to make sense of a virtual world of information and discover new things is right there in the Endeca user experience, too. Mark tells me how Endeca technology explored a very large corpus of published medical data and discovered relationships between asthma and poverty and cockroaches when visualized as a tag cloud. I wonder how long such discovery would have taken, it at all, by manually poring over spreadsheets?

It’s “the consumerization of analytics. We’re in the age of insight,” says Mark.

How Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Works

At the back end, the Endeca engine indexes data, assigns metadata, and exposes salient terms and clusters of information as navigational facets. This provides for a layer of different visualizations and tools to let users easily explore the information.

Sure, traditional business intelligence, dashboards, analytics and so on, have been around for 20 years or more, but fundamentally they’re about the “how” – what formulas are used to show KPIs, for example. Endeca goes beyond that into the “why” of information, the “sweet spot” for decision makers, says Mark.

It’s the “magical” Endeca front end user experience with its visually compelling way of engaging the right users in the discovery of insight from the right information that enables great decisions and timely action, while measuring the results – conversion rates for example – and showing ROI.

For customizers, those great user experiences come easy. The Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Studio combined with a componentized architecture and baked-in best practices are the secret. Creating a geo-spatial visual UX, a cloud tag, or heat map for your data is simple.

Designing a Fully Functional Endeca Page in Minutes

Endeca user experience is based on some of the best interaction design patterns I’ve seen, informed by the power of their technology, design expertise and the consumerized expectations of users living and working in an increasingly mobile and social world of shopping and sharing on the go.

The Business of Information Discovery

Broadly, information discovery product use cases are everywhere. For example, with Endeca, a CPG company can understand what products are performing, in what markets, regions, and what users are saying and how they feel about products, vital in the social world of customer experience.

Oracle Endeca Information Discovery for Workforce: How a HR executive discovers the facts behind the rumors of workers leaving.

Endeca product offerings are represented by Oracle Endeca Information Discovery (for business intelligence and  discovery of any type of information), as well as great e-commerce solutions with Oracle Endeca Customer Experience Manager and Oracle ATG, for example. The ease of use and integration capability makes the experience of working with existing Oracle applications even better too. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is seamlessly integrated with Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.3 to deliver superior data discovery with killer usability, matched by high performance and mobile capability too. 

Introduction to Oracle Endeca and Oracle E-Business Suite

Big Data versus Bad Data

Clearly, Endeca is a Big Data sense maker, but I mention the problem of bad data and how analytics is this regard can become be lipstick on a pig. Mark counters that Endeca discovery “describes” data for users,  enabling them to multiselect from points of interest. This “amazes customers; they can still explore their data and select what’s important”, he says.

New Interactions for Discovery

Mobile is a big opportunity for Endeca information discovery, especially for tablets Mark feels because of their form factor and the gestures and other device capabilities possible. Exploring a heat map with your fingertips, for example. Those Minority Report movie customer experience (CX) references that everyone likes to use, and offer so much promise, can now be brought to life in your hand, if you like.

Start Discovering Endeca

Developers and user experience aficionados who want to get started with Oracle Endeca Information Discovery should go to the YouTube channel and to the learning information on OTN. To find out more about Endeca applications check out

Thanks to Mark for the magical insights, and for tell us how Oracle Endeca makes information discovery easy and fun. Watch this space…


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