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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We just returned from Alliance 2017 in Las Vegas and the room was abuzz with talk about Campus 9.2 being the last major version of the PeopleSoft Student Information System (SIS). Many schools are completing their upgrades to 9.2 this year, but the obvious question is: what is next? There are no more big upgrade projects, so how will you continue to innovate for students, faculty, advisors, employees and more? User expectations won’t stand still and the bar keeps getting higher. Universities are recognizing that they can’t stand still either.

The next major version of your SIS is very likely to be in the Cloud. Oracle is building the Student Cloud as we speak. The challenge is that PeopleSoft Campus is the standard in our industry. It is the most powerful, feature-rich option schools have had for a SIS. For international institutions (especially Australia with TAFE and EU with SLCs and non-US education models), PeopleSoft offers the customization capabilities needed for that market. Replacing PeopleSoft will not happen overnight so you need an approach to improving the user experience that accommodates this reality.

Don’t Stand Still

Student Cloud has just begun development. The initial focus will be on continuing education while the traditional undergraduate experience isn’t expected until next year. The solution will continue to add features in a typical cloud delivery model after that. The question is, can you afford to wait and go with a big-bang switch approach?

It is important to recognize that the Cloud train is moving full speed in our industry. Every software company is investing mostly in the Cloud and Oracle is no exception. It is time to get on that train and get ready for your future today. We have developed a methodology called Usability First to help you board the train in three easy steps:

  1. Provide a superior user experience now
  2. Begin to use Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  3. Include Student Cloud (SaaS) into the experience seamlessly

This strategy will allow you to improve the user experience today, and continue to build momentum for many years to come. Instead of waiting for the Student Cloud, you can improve the experience for your users and be ready for the Cloud when modules that fit you are available. Your investment in this strategy is going to add value for a long time. Your users will see a better, more integrated experience that just keeps getting better. Instead of slowing the pace of improvements you provide to your users, you will jump start it.

Usability First

Usability First is the methodology we have carefully crafted to help our customers take their first steps into the cloud while also future-proofing their IT investment. Learn more in our video below.

Where does Fluid fit in?

Some of our clients ask us, “Isn’t Fluid the answer?” Fluid is a user interface (UI) technology. It doesn’t address the overall student/faculty user experience. It also doesn’t get you closer to your eventual Cloud future. We see Fluid as an aspect of the user experience, but it isn’t the user experience itself.

Contact us below and we would love to show you what the future looks like and discuss how we can help get you there at your pace.

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IntraSee is excited to be a part of a PeopleSoft Interaction Hub discussion panel at the Upper Midwest RUG meeting on April 18, 2017. The panel will be made up of members from Oracle, IntraSee, Capella, Hennepin County and the University of Minnesota. The session will cover various topics related to the Interaction Hub including user experience, one-stop portals, integration, search, unified nav, branding and more.

DATE & TIME:
Tuesday 18 April 2017 8:00 am CDT
VENUE:
U of MN Continuing Education and Conference Center
ADDRESS:
1890 Buford Ave
St. Paul, MN 55108
United States

Learn more: https://www.questdirect.org/events/item/181/108