If you are currently shopping for an ERP solution, you’ve gone through an exhaustive effort of compiling your requirements — which is likely some combination of software modules, the lines of business you need supported, deployment considerations, incorporation of existing technology, partners, suppliers etc. But working with ERP software vendors, the one thing that I continually see at the bottom of shoppers’ requirement list is a really in-depth look at the “usability” factor, which is a direct result of the user interface.
Research is all over the board on how much money companies spend on new ERP deployments as a percentage of their gross revenue, as it really depends on the complexity of the business’s operations. If you do an internet search, you’ll see stats on the average cost of an initial deployment ranging from .75 to 10 percent or more of a company’s revenue. That’s less important than overall year-over-year spend to get to the total cost of ownership. What’s even more important is a tracking of cost savings tied to new efficiencies or opportunities resulting from the deployment.
Missing from many of the statistics is some sense of the importance of the speed of user adoption. According to Panorama Consulting Solutions in a 2014 survey of 192 businesses, less than 40 percent of the respondents were satisfied with the rate of user adoption. So let’s take a few minutes to discuss what’s important about the user interface (UI) and what you need to know when shopping for a solution. What are the triggers for gaining wider acceptance and how do you get employees to maximize use of a new system?
Here are five great usability tips to look for in your next ERP solution:
One of the most important things to know about usability is WHEN users should or shouldn’t have to interface with the system. Less is more! Users can and should be insulated from scheduled and/or routine tasks. This allows them to focus on analytical and decision making actions that bring real value and bottom line-results. Let the technology work for you.
Tablets and smartphones are here to stay. Employees are very used to performing both personal and work tasks on a mobile device. It’s the preferred method for most. You want to select a solution that has mobile screens optimized to the task at hand.
Businesses aren’t one-size-fits all and your ERP system shouldn’t be either. Look for a solution that offers a set of “Power Tailoring” capabilities which support a deep level of personalization to meet both the organization and user’s requirements or desires. If you are ERP shopping, ask about how user-defined views can be created to include graphs, list views, and forms. Personalization matters to usability — and turns new applications into self-evident “familiar” applications.
Microsoft Office Integration
Most business users today are extremely comfortable with Office products like Excel and Word. You want your ERP application to be able to access information directly and securely from your database using those applications.
One of the most common user actions is searching for data. Making it as easy and fast as possible lowers the user frustration threshold. This is particularly true if they can do that search in a familiar Windows Explorer interface.
Superior ERP capabilities from a vendor in all of the above areas can help businesses define their requirements, configure personal setup options and tables, format the look-and-feel, and seamlessly integrate to important applications that your employees already know. Don’t forget usability when you are shopping to help your business get the most out of your system.
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Joey Benadretti is the president and joint managing director of SYSPRO USA. He is a champion of U.S. manufacturing and is a strong advocator of the rebuilding of the U.S. manufacturing base.