Historically, enterprise software had a reputation for “pig ugly” design tied to its mainframe-era roots. But in recent years, ERP vendors have tried mightily to overcome that reputation by modernizing the user interface, according to a report by Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC).
The report, titled “The Makings of a Great ERP User Experience,” says the user interface is one area where ERP software vendors are differentiating themselves. “Disappearing from system user interfaces are the long, nested menus of transaction codes for getting a user to the information they need. We now see data grids (based on Microsoft Excel), graphical reporting, and system search taking over as the paradigm for information access,” the report says.
Meanwhile, “transaction screens are more appealing and personalizable than they used to be,” writes Ted Rohm, a senior research analyst at TEC.
ERP vendors now provide a rich set of business intelligence features for drilling into the data and creating charts and dashboards, the report says. And although ERP vendors were slow to get on the social bandwagon, most now weave social networking into their software to enable collaboration that’s better than email.
Today’s users of tablets and giant smartphones can access and manage ERP information, the report says, now that many ERP providers have moved the front end to HTML 5 to support any browser and any device.
Without significant improvements in the user interface, today’s tech-savvy workerssimply won’t use IT’s clunky, desk-bound enterprise applications, says CIO columnist Adam Hartung. They want mobile access to corporate data via intuitive interfaces.
The TEC report says the next step will be ERP access from smartwatches like Apple Watch, and optical head-mounted displays like Google Glass. But ultimately some new user interfaces “need to be developed to make it possible to get complicated work done with a small form factor,” the report says. Examples include “voice recognition, automatic zooming on a database object to show details, or new interaction methods such as the double-blink on a wearable.”
TEC provides tools, services, and research materials to help companies evaluate and select the best enterprise software for their needs.