Monday Apr 23, 2012

Customizing FND Message Numbers in Oracle Fusion Applications: Manage Messages UI and UX Stakeholders

I am often asked about removing the numbers that are shown with error messages in Oracle Fusion Applications. In fact, this can be done easily using the Manage Messages user interface (UI) Message Number field. A Manage Messages task flow is integrated into the Oracle Fusion Functional Setup Manager, and access to this is documented in the Oracle Fusion Applications Developer's Guide 11g.

Manage Messages UI in Oracle Fusion Applications

Manage Messages UI in Oracle Fusion Applications

But before you do, let’s explore what these numbers are for, and if and when you might want to remove then, and what the process should be.

Message Numbers Explained

These message numbers are assigned to error messages and warning messages stored in the FND messages table. Each product has a message number range assigned and the number itself takes the format of a product short code followed by a unique number. For example:

The message number in Oracle Fusion Applications FND messages is shown after the message

Message number in Oracle Fusion Applications FND message shown after the message text

For customer extensions too, a reserved number range for FND messages is provided: 10,000,000 to 10,999,999.

Unlike the Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) FND messages, these numbers appear after the summary message and not before. There is no Oracle Fusion Applications user preference to turn such numbers on or off or to hide or disclose them when a message is shown. They’re either there or they’re not. The numbers can also be on FND messages used for warnings at times.

Oracle Fusion Applications also uses ADF messages stored in resource bundles, and not just the FND messages ones. The ADF error messages are usually provided for native validation (such as for required fields, validators and converters) or navigation between ADF components. These types of messages do not have the numbers. Neither do any of the so-called common FND messages.

The Oracle Fusion Applications Developer's Guide 11g is your friend for understanding the message types.

How Are FND Message Numbers Used?


The numbers are used as reference indicators for Oracle Support to look up knowledge base information about reported errors or incidents. Because the message numbers are the same regardless of the language translation means that Oracle Support teams do not actually need to have a translation of the message text itself and can cross-reference resolutions from English if necessary.

The numbers are also used by AppsLogger when an incident is created and are included in the text output for logs.

Generally, Applications User Experience (UX) research shows that only internal help desk personnel or other enterprise support representatives want to report issues or message numbers to Oracle Support. Help desk operators do not like apps end users searching for their own solutions externally (apps user profiles are different to DB admins who might Google ORA numbers, for example). Instead, the help desk prefers their users to report issues to the help desk directly (or in the case of app failure by way of an implicit or explictly-raised incident). Frankly, even when end users do look up these numbers on the Internet (assuming they can), there is little they can do with the information anyway.

All said, you may find that some end users are irritated by these numbers and can consider removing the numbers on user experience (UX) grounds.

Which Messages Numbers Could Be Removed?


When might you want to remove the FND message numbers? In my UX opinion, the following types of FND messages are worth considering for customization in this regard:

  • Messages for simple client-side, individual ADF component validations.
  • Messages used for navigation or other UI rules.
  • Warning messages with questions that require confirmation by users before proceeding.
  • Common messages created in a product area that might or might not raise an incident.

I recommend that you never remove a number from an error message, warning or information message that is used for an application failure, or for an incident or log creation (AppsLogger won’t work unless there is a unique number there). Complex business rule messages, at EO level, for example, are also best left with message numbers.

You can use these guidelines when creating new FND messages too. If the message number is not in the FND message table, the message will still display. The number does not have any impact on the rendering.

Removing Numbers: Who Needs To Be Involved?


Successful implementations and customizations require the engagement of end users but also other stakeholders in a requirements and change management process to agree what the user experience will be.

So, if you are considering removing these message numbers, then you need to understand the context of use and identify appropriate stakeholders. These stakeholders may be internal and external to your organization. I suggest the following stakeholders for deciding about message numbers: end users, development teams or consultants who know about incidents and validation, internal help desks, internal training groups, Oracle Support, or other support representatives that you use.

After that, then you can make decisions about numbers changes. Do not just remove the message numbers without stakeholders, or without gathering your use case, assessing the real UX impact of their presence (users just don’t like ‘em or are they actually consuming time dealing with complaints about them and adding no task completion value?), and determining which numbers are really important to your help desk, support representatives and also to Oracle Support.

By the way, FND messages are seed data so changes are patch and upgrade survivable just like in Oracle EBS.

Questions or UX advice needed on any of this? Find them comments.

Sunday Mar 11, 2012

Oracle UKOUG Ireland Conference 2012: Applications User Experience In The House

I will be attending the UKOUG Ireland 2012 Conference in Dublin in March 2012. I have to say the organizers have put together a superb line up which you can read about here (PDF).

UK Oracle User Group Ireland conference details. All rights acknowledged on image.

Officially, I will be speaking twice. Firstly, about the new standard in enterprise applications user experience: Oracle Fusion Applications. I will explain how scientific research and design expertise artfully enables users to transform insight into action. I believe that I may be joined by a "special guest" in this too! So, come along, as I will also be showing the Fusion Apps themselves.

Later, I will be presenting with Richard Bingham (@richardbingham) about how the Fusion Apps user assistance and support management tools work together to create a produce experience ecosystem to keep end users, help desk, support and senior management delighted with your investment.

I will also be available to answer any questions you might have about the Applications-UX team's work, how you can contribute, and to explain more about our building blocks of the user experience in Fusion Apps: design patterns.

Looking forward to catching up with the usual suspects--and some new ones--too!

Saturday Nov 20, 2010

Conversation with Chris Warticki about Communities

I chatted recently with Chris Warticki, Senior Principal Regional Customer Advocate from Oracle Software Support--he's our best-known "spokesmodel" for community support in Oracle.

Chris, being the guy in touch with customers all the time knows exactly what's going on in the community support space, and gets to hear it all from customers. He helped me navigate through the different Oracle support communities out there. And he told me succinctly what the essence of the community approach is. It's about connecting people to people, not people to a portal. Wow, what a great line (I'll use that elsewhere)!

We first looked at My Oracle Support communities. These are moderated by Oracle and are for supported, licensed customers (so if you're not one of those, there's no point in me providing a link). Some super communities there, and collaborative approaches such as forums and patch download ratings and reviews too. Next, we explored the hugely popular and massive Oracle Technology Network (OTN) forums. The OTN communities are self-moderating, for all products, with downloads of products, documentation and other materials available. You can check it out yourself--a very rich resource indeed!

cwarticki_otn.png

Oracle Technology Network

After that, we checked out the Oracle Wiki (I have signed up to be a writer). Again, essentially a self-regulating community with some ground rules, members can contribute and edit content. I was especially delighted to see non-English language content there too (see this Consortium for Service Innovation presentation if you think translation of community-provided or official support content can be ignored).

cwarticki_oraclewiki.png

Oracle Wiki

Continuing the theme of individual contributors I mentioned in a previous post about Oracle's rich community conversations, we stopped by Tom Kyte's Ask Tom site. I was amazed to see how questions asked years ago are still being updated!

cwarticki_asktom.png

Ask Tom

Then we went to Oracle Mix, a community where "blending" is the order of the day: members create blended groups of product, technology, industry, interests, you name it! I've created a few groups myself on Oracle Mix--for Arbortext, arcolinx IQ, and user assistance.

cwarticki_oraclemix.png

Oracle Mix

Finally, we had a great exchange about the role of Twitter. Oracle, too, cannot ignore the power of microblogging, with its huge uptake and real-time nature, and we have a strong presence on Twitter. Twitter clearly offers tremendous potential for support, but also customer relations generally. And of course, we didn't miss out the key role that our communities of user groups play too.

There is no greater change agent than the collective voice of our users, Chris tells me. I agree. In terms of community generally, we've moved past the notion that the official corporate web site and marketing efforts will completely form the reputation of Oracle. Loyalty and user experience generally is all about listening to the community conversation and responding to it the right way. Personally, I think we need to really look a lot more closely at what wikis, self-regulating communities, and microblogging offer in the user assistance and customer support space, as user-generated content explodes (70% of the digital universe, say IDC) and the age profile of customers changes. But, as for Facebook in that space? Forget it.

These are exciting times, and it's great to have people with initiative and vision, people like Chris, driving the model forward, and harnessing its power. I want to be part of that too!

Thanks Chris for talking the time to talk with me.

Sunday Nov 14, 2010

Irish Innovation and User Experience: The CNGL. Beyond Translation

I attended an "innovation showcase":http://www.cngl.ie/localisationinnovationshowcase.html of the work being done by Ireland's Centre for Next Generation Localisation.  

The Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL) is a dynamic Academia-Industry partnership with over 100 researchers developing novel technologies addressing the key localisation challenges of volume, access and personalisation.

Localisation, or localization, is generally conflated with good, culturally-sensitive translation for a target domain (quite reasonably) and the code support for date, time, currency and other regional settings in your software. However in the enterprise software space the term is used to refer to functionality that meets the needs of businesses to comply with different statutory requirements for financial reporting, employment law, and so on. Essential for global operations. Oracle applications localization support is either built in or added on to the base product (example).  

Oracle E-Business Suite provides localized payroll so that you can manage local inputs such as earnings, statutory deductions, time and labor, flexible work rules, and taxes. With regular jurisdictional-tax-rate updates from Oracle, your organization is always in compliance with local regulations.

The showcase was extremely impressive. Besides the compelling case made for the use of machine translation in the customer support arena by Chris Wendt of Microsoft, I was really impressed by how the CNGL have taken on board the importance of personalization. But, what really got me was the richness of the demos of technologies in the customer support area so that users can create, find and relate themselves and others to the information they really need, regardless of language.

xliff_personalization.png

There are, of course, enterprise-level constraints to generalized research. For enterprises in the ERP and CRM applications space, the issue of personalization on mobile devices is one thing, but there are others relating to extensibility that must be accommodated, such as data security, user roles, and so on. So too in the area of customer support; there are differences in how different enterprise communities react with the enterprise, far beyond loyalty - for example, there are issues of authenticity, reputation, complexity, revenue generation, and others.

It's important that enterprises work with bodies like the CNGL so all that research finally comes to fruition as a product or service that a range of enterprises can actually use. One thing is clear: localization, oops translation, needs to move far beyond the simple source-target translation paradigm if it wants to survive as a business and add real value to users. Localization is a user experience issue. If the CNGL comes to a site near you soon, please visit. In the meantime, check out the CNGL website.

Friday Oct 15, 2010

The Community Support Explosion

Not convinced of the power of community support, eh? Then I urge you to check out this presentation from Greg Oxton of the Consortium for Service Innovation (CSI). Incredible. A very important statement about why enterprises need to be aware of--and harness--the power of their user communities.

csi_community_support.png
(Image copyright CSI 2010) Oracle is a member of the CSI.

Saturday Aug 14, 2010

Frequently Published Questions

We're all familiar with the concept of the Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) type of user assistance. But I have a question of my own, infrequently asked: "If it's a frequently asked question, then why?"

Frequently Asked Questions, to me, may indicate that it wasn't possible to execute a completely intuitive user experience, this time, for some categories of users. However, if a question is "frequently asked" then it also makes sense to treat it as a requirement gathering exercise; an opportunity to improve the usability of the interface as quickly as possible using the information in the FAQ itself.

FAQs are about performing tasks directly, of course, but they go beyond the straight "how-to" procedure. Some may explain the meaning of something, the consequences of a decision in advance, or the downstream consequences of a task that a user may need to know before acting, and so on.

EBS R12 Procurement FAQs

Oracle Applications Help System (EBS) Procurement FAQs 

There's a need for these sorts of orientation and affirmation/confirmation topics during task usage, but any notion that "What's this for?" "Or how do I do that?"-type FAQ topic should persist for very long in the age of agile development, or in any great numbers, makes no real sense to a user experience professional.

Let's be clear here. I am not saying that FAQs never need to be written and published. They do reflect the reality that you can't design and build everything you want all the time. Some operations may have to remain complex, some things may note be so easily learned or remembered, or there may be other reasons to write about.

But ask yourself: How often are FAQs refreshed? And what process is in place in your organization to review and eliminate existing ones? Every task-based FAQ should immediately trigger an associated enhancement request or product backlog item added to remove the need for the FAQ topic through superior design, testing, or development. Indeed, FAQ topic value should be measured through reviewing webserver logs, feedback, ratings, and user conversation, too

Plus, If you find that your customers are writing FAQs and distributing them across in the community, without reporting issues to you, then you need to do some real thinking about your user experience methodology and how you obtain feedback on user assistance or approach the notion of information quality.

Otherwise, frequently asked questions are just perpetually published answers.

About

Oracle applications user experience (UX) assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps community, helping to design and deliver usable apps.

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

See my other Oracle blog about product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), user centered design, design patterns, tailoring, BYOD, dev relations, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.

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