Traditionally, one of the major challenges facing any implementations of ERP systems is the poor user experience. In other words, users hate ERP UIs. The reason is rather historical – since so much focus was placed initially into making ERP software robust and reliable, very little thought was dedicated to the end user. That created a generation of frustrated office,warehouse and shopfloor workers, making the lives of CIO rather miserable.
Attempts to solve this issue included web interfaces that were built on top of ERP systems, enterprise portal pages containing small ‘portlets’ or worklets or widgets, and custom made interfaces. Changing the core user interface was often too difficult, expansive and error-prone, and many ERP systems haven’t made any change to their core UI components in years.
The Openbravo team recognized this issue early, and took the best approach – listen to what your users are saying. They initiated a project called Openbravo’s User experience lab, where input from the community helps the user experience team redesign the user interface. I think one of the major differentiators between proprietary and open source ERP vendors is that due to cultural differences, open source vendors are much more transparent and are doing a much better job really listening to what their users have to say. This is another great example on how important listening to your customer is.
Some of the changes the Openbravo team is considering:
- Goodbye left navigation bar – if you ever used Openbravo you are well familiar with the left navigation bar, which contains shortcuts to the different functionality provided by Openbravo. OB found out that most users are just distracted by that bar.
- Improved search – one of your biggest productivity killers is poor search. ERP users are always searching for something (customers, vendors, products), and providing them with meaningful and relevant search results is something Openbravo is looking to improve.
- Personalized user homepage – similar to iGoogle, the new design offers users the option to build there own personalized entry page. That page will include useful shortcuts to views, reports and frequently used functions. It will also enable user to add special modules that were written by 3rd party software vendors.
- Process centric interface – most user interfaces you will find in ERP systems provide a tree-style list of functions, providing access to discrete functionality. Openbravo understands that most user interactions are process oriented. When a user creates a new customer order, for example, he might have additional steps he needs to complete within the process – perhaps allocate stock or initiate a requisite request. The new Openbravo design provides logically sorted shortcuts, based on processes the user initiated or is part of.
Once we have access to more information regarding release schedules or a demo system for the new user interface we will let you know. In the meantime, you can visit this page for recorded demos of several new user experience concepts, some of which might find their way into upcoming Openbravo releases. You can also help Openbravo by providing your own feedback on their current user experience.