Why does all the cool stuff happen with consumer technology? It’s a question, or complaint, that is familiar to many people living in the ERP world. Everyone remembers when the iPhone first came out, but nobody can remember the day any ERP application was first announced. Today we live in a world where we can talk to devices in our home (even an oven!), and they do what we want them to do. Then we go to work and struggle daily with ERP systems that seem designed to never understand what we want to do. It’s frustrating, it’s time-wasting, and it costs organizations billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, bad data entry, and too many calls to the Help Desk (which we wrote about in our blog, “There’s gold in them thar hills“).

Today, IntraSee is announcing that the cool stuff is finally happening in your world. Better still, it’s available July 2017. After many years of development, we are now providing Chatbot capability with your entire ERP system. Cloud, on-premise, or both.

So, imagine this world (where a manager wants to initiate an employee transfer):

Manager: “I’d like to transfer Jane to a different department”

Chatbot: “Which Jane would that be, Jane Rogers or Jane Smith?”

Manager: “Rogers”

Chatbot: “Which department would you like to transfer Jane Rogers to?”

Manager: “I don’t know the name, but I believe David Chen works in it.”

Chatbot: “That would be the Finance department in New York, I would be happy to transfer Jane there. Will Jane still report to you?”

Manager: “Yes, she will”.

Chatbot: “Is there a salary change or promotion involved?”

Manager: “No, but I would like to add a performance note to say that I think she’ll do a terrific job”.

Chatbot: “Yes, I will add that to the Oracle Talent Management system for you. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Manager: “No thanks, that was so easy!”

Chatbot: “It was my pleasure”.

So, let’s explain what just happened. The manager initiated a PeopleSoft HCM transaction to add a new JOB row that now puts one of her direct reports into a new department in New York. The manager also created a new performance note in the Oracle Talent Management Cloud system. All of this was done via a phone, and the manager either typed in the conversation on her phone, or she spoke into the phone. Can you imagine how complex and time consuming it would have been if the manager had to login to multiple systems, navigate to the correct place, and fill in complex forms? Or imagine if the manager didn’t want to have her time wasted and instead called up the Help Desk and asked them to make the changes for her?

There’s a reason chatbots are so popular. People value their time, and people want things to be easy. In the ERP world people are surrounded by complexity, and things are rarely easy. This is your opportunity to improve the experience and productivity of every person in your organization.

At IntraSee, we have focused all our efforts on improving the UX of ERP systems. Whether they are on-premise or in the Cloud. We are also helping our clients slowly transition from a PeopleSoft on-premise solution to an Oracle Cloud solution. Plus, helping them with the UX integration of all the other Cloud and on-premise applications they have.

The world of ERP is not simple, so we have taken it upon ourselves to make it simple for you. Chatbot integration with your ERP system is, without doubt, a means to that end.

If you are interested in finding out more, visit our AI page or contact us below.

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The average high school student lives in a world that is tightly micro managed. If it’s not “helicopter parents” overseeing every aspect of their education, it’s schools with heavily structured curriculum, and a schedule that never changes. Then one day everything changes and they wake up in the middle of the campus maze. All they now know is that in two or four years they are supposed to make it out with a degree in their hands. Failure in higher education means failure in life. The stress for many can be suffocating.

UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that college students are suffering more from stress than in the previous 30 years – and they party half as much as the previous generation.

Meanwhile the stated goal of most institutions, and something that can also impact federal funding, is the successful completion of a degree within four years. As any parent and student well knows, higher education costs have never been so expensive, and therefore the stakes have never been higher. The failure of a student to graduate in a timely fashion is a failure that radiates across multiple strands of society. So what is the main roadblock that is causing students to struggle more than we’ve seen them struggle in decades? The answer is simple: the campus maze.

So what is the campus maze and what problems does it cause?

Pac Man Maze

Figure 1: The perils of the maze

The campus maze is an environment of processes and academic systems where a wrong turn can result in devastating consequences. There may be many paths to success, but an even greater number of paths to failure. In IntraSee style, let’s look at the top three wrong turns we commonly see while students traverse the campus maze.

Wrong Turn #1 – Student’s Waste Their Time

Often, none of the academic systems are connected and it is impossible to find anything. Sometimes there are awful redundancies where more than one system is used to achieve basically the same thing. We knew one university with over 60 help desks! The problem is that the student wastes so much of their time. Wasted time trying to figure out which system they need to use. Wasted time trying to learn new navigations and search engines for each and every system. Wasted time calling the help desk or asking friends/advisors when they get stuck.

All that time wasted does three things:

  1. It creates a tremendous amount of stress. Given that students complain that time management is one of the main things they struggle with, this is stress piled on top of the stresses students already feel. And this is no small problem. Stress is a huge concern area for universities.
  2. Wasted time is just taking away from their studies. Add up all the wasted time and that time not spent studying or researching can impact grades and degree progress. This is a real problem!
  3. Student’s perception of the university changes when so much of their time is wasted. They begin to ask how such a prestigious university could be ignoring these issues. They start talking publically and the whole problem spirals into negative publicity.

Wrong Turn #2 – Student’s Miss Deadlines/Indicators

The next big problem when you have such a decentralized environment with no centralized UX layer is that Students miss deadlines. Think about all the notices and alerts each of these systems can send. Your library book is overdue, your parking fine hasn’t been paid, you have an upcoming homework assignment, you haven’t met with your advisor to clear your enrollment, your student financials account is overdue, and on and on.

The maze leaves students having no idea what they need to do. The student misses these alerts because they are all buried in places they don’t frequently visit. What happens when critical notices aren’t read and acted on? Problems as bad as missing your graduation date can result. Stress levels spike when they are surprised to learn of the consequences of missing something they didn’t even knew existed!

Progress indicators are also all over academic systems even if in subtle form. Assignment grades, term grades, degree progress reports, advising notes, tuition paid to name a few. When students don’t have visibility at their fingertips into these indicators, they can miss the signs that trouble is on the way. Next thing they know, they are paying for an extra semester to graduate.

And one more thing, all this should be visible on the student’s phone, because that’s where they spend much of their life! Times have changed, and how students expect to interact with your university have changed too. Mobile access isn’t a nice to have anymore. It’s a requirement.

Wrong Turn #3 – Poor Progress Planning

In today’s higher education, students really need to be on top of their plan to graduate. They need to make sure they decide their major/concentration early enough and that they are taking the right classes, in the right order, to graduate on time. Given the maze of pre-requisites and required courses, sometimes there is only a single semester that can feasibly hold a class. You miss that window and now you are graduating late.

Some of the problems are related to not understanding the degree requirements, but increasingly there are issues around availability and capacity. If a student doesn’t realize a class is hard to get into, they may fall victim to no seats being available. It then becomes a chain reaction pushing back all courses, as the class in question is a pre-requisite for other classes. Problems can also be as simple as not understanding how long it takes to walk to class. Once a student realizes they will be 10 minutes late each day, they end up dropping the class which again sets the chain reaction in motion.

The Advisor has a role to play in navigating this maze, but we will leave that for a future post.

Given the highly negative impact to student success that the campus maze causes, the obvious question is why does it exist, and why are so few organizations focused on solving it?

According to the latest CDS Benchmarking report, 80 percent of higher education IT budget is spent on operations (run), 13 percent on incremental changes (grow), and 5 percent on non-incremental changes (transform).  No institution type spends more than 8 percent of their technology budget on transformative projects.

The sad truth is that transformative (UX) projects are not a priority in the higher education world, aside from some notable exceptions (Harvard University, as in many things, leads in this area). Instead, IT departments are almost entirely focused on maintaining the current maze of systems that are in place today. Somehow the goals of the university and the goals of the IT department are massively out of line.

The only way for schools to meet the needs of the students is to focus far more of their spending on UX (transformative) projects, and far less on the day to day running of multiple legacy systems.

This isn’t about spending more money, it’s about spending money more wisely (see our recent blog on this subject).

The first step in this transformation is to create your UX experience in the Cloud. The worst thing you can do is to try and shoehorn a UX into each of your campus systems. All this does is increase your maintenance costs, and creates a vicious cycle of ineffective IT spending. Plus it dooms your UX initiative as it almost inevitably entails trying to solve a critical problem with all the wrong tools (see this blog for an explanation on that)!

Simply by implementing your UX in the Cloud you get four immediate advantages:

  • Lower total cost of ownership (so now you don’t have to dedicate 80% of IT budget to maintenance)
  • Access to better tools in the Cloud to more easily provide a coherent UX solution
  • Protection of your IT dollars in your UX investment. Now that your UX is not tied to your legacy systems you do not need to rebuild your UX each time a legacy system changes
  • As you slowly migrate all your legacy requirements to the Cloud, the cost of doing so will be reduced because your UX already sits in the Cloud.

At IntraSee we would recommend using Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools to solve your UX problems (check out this short video on the subject). It’s something we are doing today and we know it works. And better still, it works with your current PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, your other legacy and Cloud systems, and also your future Cloud Student Information System. So why not make 2017 the year of transformation, and the year you finally start to focus on student success? It’s time to solve the campus maze problem. And to kick things off, let us know if you’d like to see a live demo of what this could look like for your organization. So contact us now.

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The Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, is a great, if underrated, movie that we would recommend anyone should see. The premise, for those who haven’t seen it, is that Tom & Shelley purchase a house, only to discover that they need to spend more, and more, money just to make it habitable. At the end of the movie (spoiler alert) the bickering couple go to extreme lengths to protect their “investment” dollars in the house of their dreams – which has now turned into a nightmare. However, because this is Hollywood, it all ends up happily ever after. If only life was like that!

Unlike a Hollywood movie script, it’s no joke to see your money disappear into a bottomless pit. For many organizations in the ERP world there is a strong feeling that their HCM system is a living and breathing money pit swallowing huge amounts of cash each year, and with no sign of ever letting up! Out of the box your HCM system wasn’t a money pit, so how did you get to this point? A large part of the blame may belong with how you’ve implemented it. And why this is relevant now is that it’s likely that in the next five years you will be changing your HCM system from PeopleSoft on-premise to a modern Cloud-based system. So, to avoid repeating mistakes of the past, now is the time to look forward to how you can spend your money wisely on your next HCM system.

And, because we are IntraSee, let’s go with the Top 3 ways people squander money in the ERP world (in no particular order). Next time around, avoid the following pitfalls and you’ll be on your way to a rapid ROI.

1. Bad Design/Planning

Traffic Lights

Figure 1: Result of not taking “human factors” into account

In a recent ROI blog we discussed the 1-10-100 rule as it relates to data cleanliness. Well, there’s a sister rule that applies to software cleanliness too. Basically, the rule is that $1 spent identifying an issue in design avoids $10 spent catching and fixing that issue during testing, which in turn avoids spending $100 fixing each issue in production that was not caught during testing. So, given this math and some laws of probability, the chances are that you spent upwards of 10 times more on implementing your ERP system than was necessary. Ouch!

So what exactly is “bad design”? To answer that question, consider this:

According to recent research, about 80% of unanticipated fixes during the development/implementation cycle are issues stemming from the UI/UX, while only 20% are actual bugs.

What this tells us is that any design that does not take into account “human factors” is destined to be a failed design that is massively costly to any organization. So why does this happen? There’s a whole host of reasons (and we’ll talk about them in a future blog), but the core reason is that most organizations that are implementing an ERP system use “configuration experts” to handle UX design. Unfortunately, just because someone has installed and implemented a certain HCM system hundreds of times, that doesn’t make them a UX expert. When you have a toothache, you go to a dentist for advice, you don’t ask your chiropractor just because you happen to be lay on the table. Engaging with UX experts, whether it is internal to your organization, or external as a vendor, is a good idea because it saves you a lot of money in the long run.  Oh, and be sure to bring them in at the start of the project! UX experts will allow you to pinpoint how to get the most out of your implementation during the design phase. And they’ll do it using tools that your user base can understand (hint: they won’t be handing out a 100 page requirements document and asking them to digest and sign-off). The bottom line is that a small investment in UX during the design phase will reap massive savings throughout the rest of the project.

2. Bad Testing

Jurassic Park Stampede

Figure 2: Results of bad usability testing

OK, so if your design sessions weren’t very good, and never captured the true requirements of your user audience, then it’s going to cost you ten-fold. But the good news is that if you catch things during the testing period then that will save you another ten-fold cost if you can stop the issues ending up in production. Because if it hits production it gets really messy. Lots of people need to get involved, requirements need to be properly gathered, design specs updated, developers/configurators engaged, and development and test cycles begun all over again. Yuck! No wonder it costs a fortune. And that’s not even taking into account the cost of wiping all that egg off your face.

Fortunately, that’s what usability testing is all about. The purpose of usability testing is to simulate what will happen in production when “real people” start using the system. Because it’s ten times cheaper to catch a bug during testing than it is to fix a bug in production, usability testing is a good idea. Organizations that don’t include good usability testing inevitably end up wondering why they have so many “little” bugs, and also wondering why maintaining their ERP system is so expensive. And, of course, the key with usability testing is “early and often”.  Why? Per, the 1-10-100 rule, the earlier you catch something the cheaper it is to fix. Have you ever seen bricklayer’s create the walls of a house? You’ll notice that for each layer of bricks a spirit level is used to check to make sure that the layer is perfectly level. This takes time, but it’s the smart thing to do. Imagine if you waited until the final layer of bricks was laid before you tested it. Yes, all it takes is one layer to be out of sync and the entire wall is a mess and you have to tear it down and start again. The 1-10-100 rule goes back centuries and applies to almost everything.

3. Solving UX Requirements with the Wrong Tools, and with the Wrong Platform

Huge Drill

Figure 3: Wrong tools, wrong platform

If we had 10 cents for every time we’ve seen this cardinal rule broken we’d have $246.70! This is a big one, so let’s walk this through and see where we land. Given the earlier fact that 80% of “fixes” are due to UI/UX issues then it becomes apparent that the majority of changes to ERP systems during implementation are done for UI/UX reasons (see this blog for an explanation of the difference between UI and UX). In the PeopleSoft world these “UX enhancements” are often done by:

  • Modifying delivered components (which now makes the ERP system costly to maintain).
    Note: we have known organizations that went from having thousands of customizations in the HCM system to having hundreds, purely by moving UX/UI requirements into the UX layer.
  • Creating “custom” components to create new UI/UX functionality (which locks your changes into a code-heavy framework, and locks you into a development platform that you’ll likely start moving off in the next 5 years).
    Note: Meeting UX requirements with configuration-based tools that the business community can use is far cheaper and more effective than having developers build code to create a solution.

The bottom line is that UI and UX changes to your HCM system, for example, should not be made inside your HCM system. They need to be made in a UX layer (the “single pane of glass”) that sits on top of your HCM system. That’s where you should be spending your UX dollars. HCM systems come and go. Even elements of your HCM solution can change from year to year. One day you’re using SuccessFactors for talent management, the next day it could be Oracle’s Talent Management Cloud. The one constant is the “pane of glass”/aka the UX layer. Investing in the “pane of glass” instead of building these custom components inside your HCM system future-proofs your UX investment as it is barely affected by changes to the underlying set of systems it is manipulating for the benefit of your users.

Pane of Glass

Figure 4: Tom Cruise dragging a PeopleSoft component into view, while he pauses his interaction with Oracle’s Talent Management Cloud

For many years, this UX layer was the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub. Going forward from today we would recommend that organizations look at Oracle’s Platform as a Service (PaaS) as an eventual replacement (in a time period you feel comfortable with). The reason we would recommend switching from one UX development platform to another isn’t just because that’s exactly what Oracle is doing. It’s because PeopleSoft has a finite life to it (kind of like a lease car that you need to return), and eventually the move to a development platform in the Cloud is inevitable for everyone (just think of it as your next car). So, investing your UX dollars in your future toolset is something that we would recommend organizations start to consider.  Making UX changes in core PeopleSoft HCM is not a good investment of dollars, as when you do move off PeopleSoft those UX dollars will be lost (just like putting a sunroof in your car four months before the lease is up), as they are not transferrable into the cloud (Special note: there are a number of things we can migrate from the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub into the Oracle Cloud, so don’t panic!).  We would recommend two different options instead:

A. UX changes are made in the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub, with a defined migration path to Oracle PaaS (Note: we’ll create a future blog on this, as we know many people are using the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub and will need that migration path).

Or

B. UX changes are made in Oracle PaaS enabled by integration between Oracle PaaS and PeopleSoft (Note: we are providing this integration, so this is an option available today)

The benefits are:

  • Your UX dollars are protected
  • The cost of running your HCM system (present and future) is reduced
  • The cost of migrating to the Cloud is reduced
  • The period of time you would have to run PeopleSoft in parallel with the Cloud is reduced (which in turn reduces your maintenance dollars).

Hopefully all this advice will help when you start planning for your next ERP adventure. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be a money pit. It is possible to implement ERP solutions fast, cheaply, and with a high ROI. You just need to take the right approach, which will in turn assure you of a high return on your investment, and many good night’s sleep throughout the entire implementation.

Please contact us to learn more

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As history has shown, money and riches can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Whether it is the Klondike mountains or the desert plains of Kuwait, vast fortunes can be found if you only take the time to look.

Such is the case with ERP usability. While Apple has built an empire out of making things easy to use, large organizations have been slow to realize how a simple thing like usability can manifest itself in not just happier employees, but also huge cost savings.

So let’s boil down the numbers and see why providing your people a great ERP user experience doesn’t just make you a nice organization. It also makes you a smart organization.  And let’s also look at numbers that quantify the precise impact that usability has by reviewing the results of extensive UX testing out in the real world, using Manager Self-Service as our test scenario. You will be astonished at how dramatic the impact was.

There are basically two core types of costs associated with poor usability, and two less quantifiable types. Here are the core types:

  • Cost of a Service Call
  • Cost of Bad Data

The less quantifiable cost types are:

  • Cost of Lost Productivity
  • Cost of Low Morale

Also, there is a hidden cost of not addressing usability issues properly. Yes, the big mistake that many organizations make is to try and shoehorn UX features directly into their ERP applications by customizing them. Anywhere from 50% to 90% of all ERP customizations are made for UX reasons, and most of those requirements could have been met more cheaply and with a better outcome elsewhere. Those customizations typically result in sky-high IT costs by ensuring that upgrades to your ERP system are expensive and time consuming. The correct place to meet UX requirements is via your PaaS platform. Doing so doesn’t just avoid the need to customize applications, it also future proofs your investment in the UX. The million dollar upgrade is a familiar beast in the ERP world, but that number drops dramatically if unnecessary UX customizations are weeded out, or not applied in the first place.

Cost of Service Call

When things don’t work the way people think they should, confusion ensues, and that often leads to a call to the help desk. Now, while the average North American cost-per-incident is around $48, in the case of ERP transaction tickets the cost is vastly higher. This isn’t like resetting a password (which is already a huge cost drain on your organization). No, an ERP transaction call will most likely entail a very complex service request. And while the cost for the standard service request is around $113 per ticket, manager service requests are almost always on the higher end of the range, because they involve the time and interaction with a relatively highly paid resource: the HR Professional. Because of that, the typical cost of a manager service request is between $300 to $500.  So, even at the low range, 5,000 manager service tickets would cost you $1,500,000. Ouch.

Cost of Bad Data

There are many metrics on this subject, just try Googling the subject to see how pervasive and costly this issue is! But here’s the generally accepted rule of thumb. It’s called the 1-10-100 rule.

  • $1 to verify a data record is clean
  • $10 to clean a data record
  • $100 to deal with the impact of a record that is not clean

There’s a methodology to describe how these numbers are calculated, but we’ll leave that to another blog. Suffice to say that your ERP database is enormous, and it is growing by at least 20% each year. The average % of data dirtiness is estimated to be 20%. So let’s look at an organization with 5,000 managers. Each manager has approximately 10 direct reports, and the average number of transactions per direct report is 1.2. This would therefore generate twelve transactions a year per manager, which would be a total of 60,000 manager transactions a year. Assuming that the 20% rule applies to those 60,000. Then here’s the cost numbers.

  • $1 * 60,000 to verify a data record is clean = $60,000
  • $10 * 12,000 to clean a data record = $120,000
  • $100 * 12,000 to deal with the impact of a record that is not clean = $1,200,000

As you can see, even a very small data set can cost an organization $1,200,000 per year to deal with the issues it creates. Multiply that by the size of your ERP database and you have a massive cost issue. Based on various studies, just for US companies alone, the cost of bad data is anywhere between $600 billion to $3 trillion a year.

Cost of Low Productivity

This one is much more difficult to quantify as you need to make a lot of assumptions to come up with a number. But the basic premise is that while your people are struggling with your ERP system then they are wasting time that could otherwise be spent performing productive tasks (there’s a reason you employed them in the first place).

Cost of Low Morale

Have you ever seen the movie Private Benjamin? It stars Goldie Hawn and it’s terrific. One of our favorite scenes is when Goldie is told she has to clean the bathroom in the military dorm – and is handed an electric toothbrush! The look on her face is priceless. But that’s not the look you want to see on the face of the people in your organization when you ask them to use your ERP system. Creating a great user experience means showing people that you respect their time, and that you made the effort to provide them with the best tools to perform the things you are now asking them to do.

Private Benjamin

Figure 1: Don’t try and fix your UX issues with an electric toothbrush

So, how does creating a great user experience change all this? Let’s look at the results of an actual usability test that took place across multiple locations worldwide.

Usability Test Results

Over a period of one year, two sets of tests were conducted comparing one “vanilla” ERP to the same ERP system but with an added user experience layer. Various scenarios were tested across multiple global regions. A representative sample of the results were as follows:

Scenario

“Vanilla” System
Success Percentage

“Vanilla” with additional UX Layer
Success Percentage

Transfer into my Team

79.25%

91%

Change matrix manager

59.5

87.5%

View Team Data

92.5%

100%

Address Change

62.25%

100%

As you can see, some transactions benefited hugely from an improved UX. In all cases where the subject did not complete the scenario the result would have been bad data entry (some subjects just started “guessing” what to do), or they became frustrated and said (during the post-test interview) that they would have called the help desk.

Subsequent testing of more complex scenarios, such as salary change and promotions, showed more dramatic improvements once a UX layer had been added to the transaction. Also, please note that once usability testing was complete, changes were made to the UX layer (based on lessons learned) to take all scenarios close to the 100% completion score.

How to properly add a UX Layer?

As mentioned earlier, the worst way to try and solve UX issues is to go into each of your ERP applications and start customizing the UI. Smart organizations have learned that by separating the UX layer from the application layer they can satisfy the criteria of providing an ERP solution that:

  • Is easy to use
  • Vastly improves the quality of data entry
  • Vastly reduces help desk calls
  • Speeds productivity of the organization by reducing the time people struggle with the ERP system
  • Improves the morale of the organization

The toolset by which to do this is called Platform as a Service. This is what any organization should be using in order to maximize ROI in your ERP systems.

At IntraSee we have been working for the past year on migrating from a pure PeopleTools technology stack onto the Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS) stack. So we’ve had the luxury of running all our use-cases on two different platforms to ensure everything works as desired. And it does. Because of that we would suggest looking into a Usability First approach that adds your UX layer today using the Oracle PaaS platform. This would then allow you to transition to an HCM Cloud solution at your leisure, as the platform would support UX for all your Cloud and on-premise solutions. It would also future-proof your UX investment.

So, you won’t just be making your ERP systems cool, you’ll be saving your organization a lot of money. Contact us below to discuss how you can avoid the hidden costs of poor usability.

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