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ERP Usability


									Improving ERP Usability
Through User-System

             Wendy Lucas
           Tamara Babaian
               Heikki Topi

           CIS Department
           Bentley College
          Waltham, MA USA

   Anecdotal evidence of poor usability
    of ERP systems
   Poorly designed user interfaces have
    negative impact on bottom line due to:
     Increases in new user training time
     Decreases in end-user productivity
     Poor user adoption rates

    (from Forrester Research studies of enterprise
       and business application usability - Ragsdale
       2004; Herbert 2006)
   Research initiative driven by lack of
    attention paid to addressing significant
    usability shortcomings of ERP systems
    by both manufacturers and the usability
   Focus on understanding ways in which
    users interact with ERP software and
    degree to which interaction model
    supports tasks being performed
   Address gap between capabilities of ERP
    systems and how they meet each user’s
       Categorization of Usability
       Problems from Field Study*
           Difficulty in identifying and accessing the
            correct functionality
           Lack of transaction execution support
           System output limitations
           Inadequate support in error situations
           Incompatibility between the users’ and
            the system’s terminology
           Usage-related problems arising from the
            overall complexity of the system

*Topi, Lucas, Babaian. Identifying Usability Issues with an ERP Implementation" in Proc. ICEIS’2005.

   Apply Collaboration Theory to
    design and evaluation of ERP user
      Collaboration between user and
       the system, with system acting as
       a collaborative partner helping the
       user achieve system-related goals
       • Note this is not CSCW
Collaboration Theory*
   Mutual responsiveness
        Parties behave “with an eye to the behavior of
         the other”
   Commitment to joint activity
         Mutually responsive behavior in pursuit of the
         commitment to the joint act – “doing one’s part”
   Commitment to mutual support
        If you’re having a problem with your part, and I
         can help, I must offer help.
   Meshing subplans
        Parties decompose tasks into mutually meshing,
         independent subplans that they coordinate as
         the need arises
    *[Bratman, 1992]
Research Goal

   Improve the usability of ERP systems by
    increasing the collaborative capabilities
    of their interfaces through:
       Development of design guidelines and
        interface evaluation techniques based on
        collaboration theory
       Implementation of prototype interfaces to
        validate design and evaluation
Related Research

   Human factors issues and usability
    characteristics of ERP systems
     Bishu et al. (1999)
     Calisir and Calisir (2004)

   User-centered design
       Maguire (2001)
   Activity modeling
       Constantine (2006)
Applying Collaboration Theory
to Enhance ERP Usability
 Field studies to identify and
  understand usability issues faced by
 Evaluation methods for assessing
  ERP system usability
 Alternative techniques for embodying
  collaborative principles in design
Interface Evaluation:
Cognitive Walkthrough*
   Will the user try to achieve the right
   Will the user notice that the correct action
    is available?
   Will the user associate the correct action
    with the effect trying to be achieved?
   If the correct action is performed, will the
    user see that progress is being made
    toward solution of the task?
*[Wharton et al, 1994]
Viewing Cognitive Walkthrough
Through a Collaborative Lens
   Based on the user’s overall goal, will the system
    recognize the next step in the process and either act to
    perform that step or, if the user’s input is necessary,
    present a set of alternative actions from which the user
    may make a selection?
   Does the system help the user identify the next action
    and present it in a highly visible manner?
   Does the system present a meaningful set of alternative
    actions based on the user’s overall goal?
   Will the system keep the user informed about the
    consequences of actions taken by either the user or the
    system, as they relate to progress made toward the
    achievement of the task?
Typical ERP task interface
            Improving System-User
            Communication Via Process Graphs

     Add Material
     Edit Material
     Add Vendor

Process Graphs Form

 Improves system-user communication
  of system-prescribed processes and
  progress through task
 Simplifies navigation to related tasks

 Enables preview of future steps and
  revisiting of previously completed
Improving System-User
Communication via Usage Logs

 Embed model relating user interface
  components, user input, tasks, and
  domain data
 Capture usage data via input-aware
 Apply resulting logs to
     Ongoing usability evaluations
     System enhancements for improving
           Data Model

Represents and links:
o   Domain data
o   User data
o   Task data
o   UI data
o   User input log
Pilot Test

   Compare user performance and
    satisfaction with interfaces that
    include/do not include the graph
       2 users with graph, 2 without
   Performance measures
     Time it takes to complete a task
     Portion of task completed correctly
     Number of changes to input in
      completing task
               Illustrative Findings: Task-Time
               Analysis for Creating Purchase Reqs

o   Figure shows results
    for 1 user
    •   Tasks listed in
        chronological order
o   Data from UI, Task,
    and Tracking
Illustrative Findings: Detailed
View for 1 User
    Aggregation of Log Data

o   Total Time = Data entry via keyboard + Difference
o   Difference = Selection of possible values and Transition times
Automated Usability
   Keystroke analysis
       Components that are prone to user entry
   Time to complete a task
       Subtasks that are more difficult to complete
   Time between tasks
       Navigation difficulties
   Number of times a task is revisited
       Tasks requiring additional support
   Collaboration theory can be applied to the design and
    evaluation of user interfaces
        Evaluate collaborative behavior of a system by applying a
         collaborative view to the cognitive walkthrough approach for
         usability assessment
        Process graph for addressing lack of communication from
         system to user about data and processes required to
         complete tasks and how different processes interact
   Embedding a data model representing users, tasks, user
    interface components and usage data in the ERP context
    yields rich usage logs for
        Low cost usability assessments at different levels of
        Defining system enhancements
Future Work

   Further development of collaborative critique for
    evaluating interface usability
   User studies with experimental collaborative
   Apply collaboration theory to addressing other
    problem areas
       Error handling, for example
   Extending approach to other domains
       Large-scale systems requiring user involvement in
        complex processes

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