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Usability … Call For Action !!!

Everybody talks about usability, you can google usability and you’ll find 25,100,000 hits. Very impressing …

In my experience usability is one of the buzzwords if something feels wrong or if someone is not feeling comfortable, hence there is a call for action: we need to improve usability. Whenever you hear about issues with usability in the context of your product or project … listen carefully. Someone is calling for action …
Some perceptions of bad usability I came across and I’m sure you can add much more examples:

  • The system needs a better usability, because I don’t like the user interface
  • …, the functionality I need is not available
  • …, the functionality is hard to access
  • …, the performance of the system is not acceptable
  • …, the performance is good, but I need to enter much more data than before

There are so many flavours how individuals define and perceive usability that you will never find the silver bullet with one new feature – sad, but true.
Let’s have a look at the international definition of usability provided by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards. You can find a standard for Ergonomics of Human System Interaction – ISO 9241 and there I would like to emphasize especially part 11:

ISO 9241 – Part 11 Usability:
The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use. (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_9241#ISO_9241-11)

 

Keeping this in mind usability discussions should clarify upfront

  • Which user groups/roles are we talking about?
  • What are their goals?
  • What’s the context of use?

 

You may think this is fundamental, that would be great!

 

So as stated before, there is no silver bullet, but there are ways to improve usability of your product and project. If you look at the features available with CRM 2007 (see Trade Promotion Management with SAP: CRM 2007 makes the difference (#3)) consider these as a toolset to increase usability, but be aware that

There is No: One size fits all.

 

Some thoughts/conclusions from my side

  • Know the capabilities of your product and leverage them in the best way for each user group/role
  • Implement user role specific screens
  • Allow personalization (train the users, what they can do, and when personalization is useful)
  • Default data where it makes sense
  • Allow multi-select where multiple items can be added
  • Reduce clicks, but only as a guiding principle not as a law …
  • Think about the sorting of tables and search results 
  • Think about user’s hardware e.g. higher resolution allows more information to be arranged, more records in table and more attributes on the screen without scrolling

 

Again you may think that this is fundamental … 🙂

What are your thougts? How do you tackle the usability challenge? How can SAP software improve usability?

 

In this blog I did not talk about Trade Promotion Management, at least not directly. If you are interested in other blogs I wrote so far you can click here (/people/timo.wagenblatt/blog).

Thanks for reading – like always feedback and thought sharing is appreciated!

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8 Comments

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  1. Vijay Vijayasankar
    I have not worked in an SAP project where users have not asked me – why can’t SAP be like Excel?.
    CRM 2007 has a really great UI – but there are lots more features needed before users will take to it big time. For example – ability to cut and paste from a spreadsheet into a table on the UI, ability to tile the assignment blocks etc.

    So why is excel so cool? pretty much because it gives complete flexibility for a user in arranging and manipulating data, and it also allows a lot of offline work.

    It is very good that CRM UI allows download to excel from tables on the screen. If we could also upload to these tables from a table without programming – that would be awesome.

    just my 2 cents on the UI part of usability

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    1. Victor Garcia
      I think in excel like an “all in one” tool, but the usability concept refers to simplicity too (it’s just like Google) and we cannot forget the context and the goals involved.
      SAP offers ALV grids which offer that kind of behavior and make it usable
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    2. Ingo Deck
      Hi Vijay,
      thanks a lot for the concrete examples and both topics are on the ‘short list’ for our next improvements, the copy from XLS to CRM tables as well as the possibility to ’tile’ assignment blocks.
      Please keep posting such comments as this helps us a lot identifying the real needs that are named more and more often.

      Best regards
      Ingo

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      1. Vijay Vijayasankar
        Ingo, first off – thanks for listening to our feedback.

        There is actually one more feature my users have asked me often – can the UI convert a table into a chart without downloading to excel? Basically, they want to personalize a table to certain fields they are interested in – and then maybe right click and say “display as barchart” or “display as piechart”…similar to how BEx can do it in BW. It would also be very cool to do this on search result pages.

        Cheers
        Vijay

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        1. Ingo Deck
          How did you find that out? funny… actually we will deliver exactly that functionality in the next release, exactly how you described it.. available for every table control in the UI.

          So your wish was granted 🙂

          Cheers Ingo

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          1. Vijay Vijayasankar
            This is brilliant – sounds like it was my lucky day ! This is very heartening that SAP has been collecting such requirements and proactively including them in the product. Way to go!

            I will try to organize other comments from my user group and send you periodically going forward.

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            1. Timo Wagenblatt Post author
              Hi Vijay,

              Thanks for your contribution! Just alittle appetizer, if you think CRM 2007 has been a significant improvement you should be keen to see CRM 7.0. There is more to come …

              Thanks,
              Timo

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  2. Anonymous
    When you design your application, UI whatever. Just imagine yourself sitting with your board member as a user. Try to explain to him how to use your new development. If you imagine too many questions, than your usability is not so good.

    Noam Tamarkin
    Senior Architect SB BU

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