Monday, May 23, 2011

Where to start when creating end user trust

Although increasing ERP end-user productivity could be a complex undertaking when building RIA's there's a lot to gain by paying attention to the user interfaces when creating them. In a study done by Forrester they concluded that poorly designed user interfaces can profoundly affect the bottom line. The expenses associated with a bad UI, over the course of the application’s lifetime, may end up being many times the cost of the application itself.”  In my case I’m at the moment focusing on how to increase end-user productivity when creating rich internet applications (RIAs) using Microsoft and SAP technologies.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a solid foundation when wanting to create RIAs that are intended for increasing end user productivity. You need to gain the trust of the end user and it all begins with a solid foundation. The problem is that the foundation is of low interest to the business or so they think - they want to see something that they can click on with nice colors, graphics and features. I strongly advise you to stay strong and start with the foundation and not with the nice colors, graphics and features. Make sure to address the foundation first and identify the requirements for creating end-user trust.

So how do you do that? Well of course it differs from project to project. But it begins with your end users and the environment they reside in. Based on my experience I have created a checklist that can be used when identifying what basic requirements you need to have in place on your way to gain end user trust. We all know how quickly we loose trust in an application if it performs badly on a number of parameters. Go through the list and pick the topics that are relevant for your organization. If your RIA is not intended for mobile devices then leave the subject out. The important thing is that you address each subject of relevance and create your foundation based on them.

To some the list might seem obvious but never the less here it is. And remember, to get increased end user productivity requires end user trust. We want smiley faces from our end users. Smiley faces equals increased end user productivity but is a complex thing to get if you don't build on a solid foundation. Remember that the list is about the end users, so the more you know about the users the better. Think people-centric. Guidelines can be found on the internet with industry standards and up to date statistics if you want something to benchmark against.

Focus areas and UX Requirements
  1. What kind of Web browsers do your target group use?
    E.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.
  2. What kind of Mobile browsers should you aim for reaching out to your users?
    E.g. Opera, Safari, Blackberry and Android.
  3. What about Availability? Remember your decision here can have a huge impact on your infrastructure. 
    E.g. 24/7 updated information – worldwide. Personal service in local office hours.
  4. Screen resolution.
    1024 x 768 – when reaching a global market you should seek the lower middle, not the top users of hardware. People with a lower screen resolution will not be able to see all content and functionalities on the screen.
  5. Device requirements.
    The requirements must consider all functionalities of the system: e.g. document handling, tables, list pages, search functionality.
  6. Mobile guidelines.
    The requirements must consider common updated mobile guidelines.
  7. Load time responses.
    E.g. A delay of 0.2-1.0 seconds is acceptable.
  8. Graphical layout.
    Less is more: each screendump should only display the content and functionalities that the user finds necessary and the specific time.
  9. Design principles.
    The design should follow the company’s corporate CVI (Corporate Visual Identity for digital media)
  10. Languages.
    E.g. the system should support the use of Danish, English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Indian English and Dutch.
  11. Personas.
    All scenarios and requirement specifications should be based on personas covering the target groups in question.
  12. Usability principles.
    The system should respect usability guidelines and involve user testing.
  13. Communication.
    The system should respect the company’s corporate communication strategy.
  14. Help.
    The system should respect every best practice help for FAQ, customer service (chat, telephone, and mail), iHelp, links and manuals).
Every element of the list could of course be debated in detail so feel free to comment on the matter or contact me for further dialog. I’m always happy to share.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spending too much time navigating content and systems.

In the post “The Business Agility equation” one of the factors is Process Inertia. This post is a more detailed description of Process Inertia.
[Focus on added value]
The company’s employees are also a part of the equation.  They are met by ever increasing demands for efficiency and productivity and it is crucially important that the time used on non-value adding activities be minimised.  This does not only refer to the time used on implementing non-value adding processes (e.g. travel reports); time used on the implementation of value-adding processes (productivity) is just as important.  Regardless of the type of process, it would be best for the employee (and thus the company) if the individual stages of the process could be implemented without wasting time on navigation between different systems and information.

The complexity is further increased by the fact that access to the various different systems and types of information varies, and that these systems are all at different stages of their life cycle.  Thus, in spite of the fact that it may be appropriate to implement the process, the actual execution of the process takes a disproportionate length of time and results in a reduction of the quality of the output of the process in question.  This form of inertia is defined as process inertia.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Are you a victim of Change Inertia?

In a contribution I did to Børsen’s Management Handbooks concerning ERP systems, together with a colleague of mine, I described the Change Inertia concept as follows.

A productive company consists of a number of employees and machines which interact to produce one or more services or products for sale on a market. The structure of this value-adding activity is supported by a range of processes, made up of both core processes and support processes.  These serve to ensure efficient implementation of work procedures, to ensure a high level of productivity and to support the business model.

[The probability of success is proportional to the ability to change]
The employees, on the other hand, shall be able to act within the framework of these processes and a large part of the interaction is conducted via various IT systems. The interaction between a company’s need for processes and structure on the one hand, and the employees’ involvement in these processes and structures on the other, must be optimal if the company as a whole is to develop in a positive direction.

A company’s ability to implement changes to these processes in answer to changes in the market is actually proportional to its probability of success (this can be likened to a “super tanker” which runs aground because it was not able to change course in time).

Many companies find themselves in a situation in which process changes are impeded by technical complications but they choose to implement the changes anyway.  As a consequence, the work of the employees becomes more complex resulting in non-value adding overheads.  Quite simply, it becomes more and more complicated to implement process changes as the underlying systems cannot be changed and adapted at the same speed.  This form of inertia is defined as change inertia.

Change inertia can have serious consequences at a tactical and strategic level.  Therefore, it is of increasing interest – but also increasingly necessary – for a company to assess the potential for collecting all information and applications on a common platform, a platform which can provide simple access to processes and information and which can be adapted quickly and easily to facilitate the desired process changes.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Business Agility equation

I have been working with the portal concept and building people-centric Rich Internet Applications (RIA)s in both a SAP and Microsoft environment for more than 12 years and have participated in approx. 20 major portal projects. Some of the arguments for doing the projects were to enable a platform that over time could help provide process consistency and overall process visibility. Other arguments were the desire to include new user groups and provide a rich user experience or to achieve extensive collaboration within and outside the company or organization. These were just some of the arguments and I'm sure you could add additional ones from you interaction with various customers.

Phase one for these projects normally included some news functionality, collaboration either being Collaboration Rooms, Team Sites, Taxonomy folders or document folders with collaborative features etc. in addition to this, some vendor-developed RIAs were added and finally some custom development provided as webparts or iViews or other elements. Normally this first phase only covered about 5-10 percent of the platforms potential. In real life the vision was very hard to fulfill. So why was this so difficult to achieve?  This is the question, which made me wonder and finally ended up in a concept I call the Business Agility equation. The equation itself has evolved over the last 5 years as a result of many interesting discussions with customers and colleagues. It took its beginning after I did an article with the title ‘Portal and ERP Systems’ together with a brilliant colleague Hans Christian Ove. In this article we defined two concepts ‘Change Inertia’ and ‘Process Inertia’ these two concepts have become part of the equation and will be explained in this post.

 If you want to achieve increased business agility by utilizing the potential in a portal platform or people-centric build RIA whether it is a composite application or mash-up you need to take a number of factors into consideration. This is where the agility equation comes into play.

The equation gives you an indication of how effectively and speedy you are able to meet the business challenges in an agile way when providing content or functionality in an IT environment. Let me walk you through it.

The Business Agility equation

Business Agility

As describe above the Business Agility factor is an indicator of how effectively and speedy you are able to meet the business challenges. The higher value the better it is.


The Skillsinv factor is an indication of how skilled the business is when it comes to innovation and how well the business understands the IT tool box available.


The SkillsDEL factor is an indicator of how skilled the organization is in delivering the project meaning technical, conceptual and associated skills.


This factor is an indicator of how high the quality of the information or data is, available for the desired solution. The higher value the better it is.


This factor is an indicator of how fast relevant information becomes available. The closer to real-time the better it is.


This factor is an indicator on how much relevant information or data is available. The higher value the better it is.


This factor is an indicator on how accessible the information or data is though one or more devices, infrastructure and how well the information is orchestrated and put into the right context also covering user-experience(UX) and user-interface(UI).

Change inertia

The change inertia factor refers to a situation in which changes become cumbersome, or are avoided completely, due to the fact that the underlying systems cannot be changed or adapted without the allocation of significant resources. The lower value the better it is.

Process inertia

The process inertia factor refers to a situation in which the actual implementation of a process results in the use of a disproportionate amount of time on navigation between the systems and information which are integral features of the process. The lower value the better it is.

The skills factors impact on the equation and the Business Agility

In short if there is no or very limited Business Innovation skills available in the organization the factor will be very low and this will have an impact on the skills expression in total. You can have as many as any skilled developers, infrastructure people, process integrators, conceptual people etc. but with little impact since the skills are limited or non existing on the Business Innovation side. No requirements will flow to the delivering side of this expression.

This part of the equation defines the maximum size of the business information potential. First adding up the information factors the quality, the updatespeed and the quantity. The higher these values are the better. After adding up the information factors we multiply them with the accessibility factor to determine the final size of the cake. It shows us that although the three information factors scores high the end result of the numerator become very low if the information or data is hard to get at.

Finally the denominator is a sum of the change inertia factor and the process inertia factor. The lower this sum is the better.
So in brief,

To maximize your agility as a company or organization, you need:
  1. Better quality, updatespeed and quantity on your information or data.
  2. Easy access to it.
  3. Low values on change and process inertia.
  4. Better business innovation and delivering skills.
I hope you got something out of this article. I often use the equation when I'm in a manageable way having to assess and explain the potential of a particular business idea. It can also be used for a comprehensive discussion of an IT strategy in a SOA scenario or as a basis for dialog on where you can use you limited resources and still maximize the overall business agility

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Welcome to my blog

I feel privileged to be in an organization where I have the opportunity to dig deep into matters that is also a hobby to me. In this Blog I will try to address and debate on matters regarding change and process inertia and on how to overcome this from a people-centric approach using the “Portal thought” as the platform.

By decreasing the change and process inertia we increase agility and faster decision making based on higher quality in data. We will look into how a Portal platform and a people-centric approach can help us.

We will look at tools, platforms, Techniques for User Centered Design, debate strategies and much more. Anything that can make a difference when it comes to creating content from a user-centric approach is of interest. It is my wish that you all get something to take home and that you will comment on postings diligently. I officially welcome you all.