What is an ERP system? Microsoft defines enterprise resource planning (ERP) as “a type of software system that helps organizations automate and manage core business processes for optimal performance. ERP software coordinates the flow of data between a company’s business processes, providing a single source of truth and streamlining operations across the enterprise.”
An organization can use enterprise resource–planning (ERP) software to meet many different corporate requirements, including accounting, sales, customer-relationship management (CRM), product management, and supply-chain management. However, without a unified UX design, users will struggle to use such systems to carry out their essential tasks. Regardless of your employees’ level of IT literacy, they should be able to utilize and comprehend the system quickly. Therefore, ensuring the success of ERP software requires its design using user-centered concepts.
ERP software works best when all employees use it, and its key features are in wide use. Examples of ERP software systems include NetSuite, Oracle Cloud, Scoro, Epicor, Sage Intacct, Odoo, Acumatica, and SYSPRO. In this article, I’ll discuss how to create an ERP system that can enhance and expedite your business procedures.
Is Investing in the User Experience of ERP Systems Really Worth It?
The last ten years have seen a significant rise in the importance of user experience in software development, which is now the key differentiator for success. When a product is very complicated or has a very diverse target market, creating a high-quality user experience generally becomes more challenging. Engaging people in the design process by conducting user research is crucial to creating a successful ERP product.
User experience varies from traditional usability by comprehending pleasing aesthetics, ease of use, task efficiency, accessibility, and more. Let’s consider a few critical aspects of the user experience, as follows:
simplicity—ERP software solutions can be complex. By providing users with access to tools that can help them complete their tasks more quickly and efficiently, a straightforward user experience can reduce that complexity.
personalization—Users should be able to personalize their experience for their role and their own preferences, including choosing their preferred colors, styles, structures, sorting, and indicators. An essential component of user acceptance for an ERP user experience is a platform with a pleasing, extensible user experience.
empowerment—An ERP user experience should provide users with the ability to proactively configure the system to generate rule-based content that is simple to consume. If the ERP user experience smoothly incorporates this capability into the user’s everyday use of the system, these capabilities and features can improve the user experience. Together, this capability and the user experience can produce an empowered ERP user.
How Can Design Improve an ERP System’s User Experience?
Because ERP systems are both intricate and versatile, creating a decent user experience is difficult. However, the convenience of an ERP system is crucial to its users.
The system’s intended users, managers, and other employees should have no difficulty in deciding how to use it. Because of the ERP system’s inherent complexity, a well-designed ERP system should speed up operations rather than slow them down. ERP systems must typically meet the requirements of several different stakeholders, including the following:
specific users—Support the use of the platform by a variety of workers in carrying out their daily activities, such as junior staff, accountants, sales representatives, and human-resources (HR) consultants.
functional supervisors—To create sales projections, marketing- and sales-department managers require a transparent platform. However, they typically lack a direct channel of contact with those who are responsible for UX design.
executives—These decision-makers have significant influence on the future ERP user experience even though they are unlikely to use it daily.
other users—Such software may also benefit clients, analysts, and business associates. Customers and business partners may utilize some ERP systems. Only the analysts, however, have the power to sway the decision-makers.
ERP System Design Best Practices
Since the release of the original ERP solutions, the design of ERP systems has changed. It is crucial that they satisfy the primary requirements of large corporations and remove any of the obstacles that frequently occur in commercial operations. The usability of an ERP system is fundamental to the success of that system.
If you implement the following ERP design best practices, your company’s everyday operations can attain a new level of ease, speed, and efficiency.
1. Ensure simplicity and effective design.
Creating an excellent ERP user experience can be difficult. However, despite the system’s inherent complexity, it is crucial that you create an easy-to-use software user experience. Some examples of ways in which you can do this include the following:
integrating custom dashboards—Depending on their daily duties and workflows, users have different demands for the precise information they need to gather, monitor, and forecast. To create the best user experience, their dashboard layout must display their most critical data and role-based metrics and let them keep an eye on key performance indicators (KPIs).
adding user-friendly tools—Include drag-and-drop user interfaces so people can interact with the system without needing to do any coding. This will streamline their learning process and make navigation simple and intuitive—perhaps enabling your organization to save money on training.
implementing a powerful search capability—Ensure that users can quickly identify and access critical information. Combine a robust search tool to make it easier and faster for users to locate whatever they are looking for.
2. Provide the option of training.
Ensure that your staff can receive thorough, role-based training so they can become system experts more quickly. Don’t underestimate the value of continual learning. Schedule training sessions for both new and veteran staff to inform them of the ERP system’s innovative capabilities and enable them to broaden their expertise.
3. Deal with errors immediately.
If issues arise because of the complexity of the ERP system, immediately contact the vendor’s customer-support representatives. Working with reputable businesses is essential to ensure their prompt and helpful response. Waiting too long to contact support can cause a decline in usability, affecting total productivity.
The Impacts of UX Design on ERP Systems
An ERP system’s UX design is an essential part of the system. A good, user-focused user experience makes the software more transparent and accessible. Plus, it improves the usability of the overall system. A complex, multilayered ERP system must adhere to fundamental UX design principles. It should also provide customized solutions that meet the specific needs of a particular business. The design of ERP software should simplify corporate procedures.
Updating Your Existing ERP Design
If your ERP software fails during usability testing or doesn’t satisfy certain audience demands, you should redesign the existing ERP system, improving the user experience. Determining the right goals for a redesign is essential to ensuring that the service will be valuable to users and effective in addressing their individual needs. Updating the software without improving its UX design would be a waste of time and money. Therefore, any redesign of an ERP system must aim for specific usability and accessibility outcomes.
The primary objective of an ERP system’s redesign should be to make specific business operations faster. Define metrics that can demonstrate whether your ERP design is performing better or worse when you’re attempting to improve the system’s user experience. Conducting in-depth UX research and analyzing the problems that surface is essential.
To assess whether your ERP platform needs an upgrade, follow these steps:
List the primary objectives you want your ERP redesign to accomplish.
Conduct user interviews to determine where the system is failing users.
Using KPIs, determine what aspects of the user experience require improvement.
Determine which UX designs perform best for particular workflows by doing results-driven testing such as A/B testing.
Building a Custom ERP UX Design
Whether you need to build an ERP system from scratch or upgrade an existing one, you can design bespoke software or use a ready-made solution. The latter choice is often more than sufficient to satisfy a company’s needs. However, you could create a custom ERP system to your own specifications if your internal operations are unique and call for a particular strategy. Although creating a bespoke solution requires significantly more time and resources, the effort ultimately pays off.
The long-term benefits of designing and developing your own ERP system outweigh the upfront expense and effort. To outperform your rivals and capture your marketplace, you must remain adaptable and be ready to innovate within the current technological environment.
Don’t undervalue the impact that UX-design factors can have on ERP performance. You should give the usability of an ERP system due consideration—both because of its sophistication and the need to build or modify it to meet an organization’s needs. Business operations should run more smoothly and effectively once you’ve fulfilled your company’s needs by creating a strong, personalized ERP solution.
Mrudul is Chief NetSuite consultant at VNMT, a NetSuite Alliance Partner, and has many years of experience in custom NetSuite development and implementation across diverse industry niches. He holds a Bachelors in Information Technology from the University of Ballarat. Read More