Introduction: Competitive ERP systems can’t even begin to come close to infinite Answers for ease of use. Ease of use ultimately effects the final quality of virtually everything that people do, especially what happens in an ERP. When tasks become difficult to perform, procrastination, even complete ignorance to the task tends to occur. This article is about ease of use and its importance to ensuring good clean data. We hope you enjoy it.
Personally, whenever I encounter situations requiring my attention, I am almost always presented with three options, (a) immediately attending to the matter, (b) ignoring it for a period of time or, (c) ignoring it completely. If it easy to resolve, it always seems to get my immediate attention. On the other hand, if it appears complex, deferral will frequently be my immediate response, maybe permanent. Unfortunately, I am not alone. I have noticed that the same is true for almost everyone I have had the pleasure of working with.
Obviously, working smarter makes amazingly more sense than working harder because, continuing on our present path, working harder only serves to hasten our demise. Attaining improved results can only come out of improving process and behavior – quite simply, how we do things. Working smarter is being able to make things happen in an instant and being able to make quick business decisions based on both accurate and timely information. Working smarter means working both faster and easier and consequently means information systems must represent a remarkable ease of use.
So, the question is: “How do we achieve ease of use in seamless workflow information and accounting systems?” Lots of little things support the phrase “ease of use” in iNfinite Answers, but there are three major factors. running on a high speed data server, having instant access to all data and having instant access to your data tools.
All factors are equally important to achieving ease of use but these factors are not all available in typical ERP systems.
So, how does it work?
The first requirement is met by employing the IBM power6 or power7 server, designed to handle large amounts of data at extremely high speed. Admittedly there are still thousands of typical ERP systems running on Power6 series, soon to be power7 servers, but, they remain highly underutilized in terms of true capability due to the constraints imposed by the module concept of traditional ERP systems.
The second thing is make data “Virtual RAM Centric”. This means employing an all inclusive, beginning to end, fully integrated transaction database containing all source, all active and all historical records, for recording every movement of goods and services and/or dollars, which in turn, makes all transactions instantly accessible at any point in time regardless of their status or age. When this feature is combined with the extreme speed of the IBM Power6 Series i server, combined with some very smart programming, the effect is very close to that of actually having all the data in RAM – thus we say “Virtually Ram Centric”.
The third requirement, unique to seamlessly integrated workflow, and only possible by its intrinsic design, is to also be able to create “Virtual RAM centric” user tools. That way, when the user signs onto the system, there is a strong possibility that he or she will spend the entire day working within a single menu item. Not only does that person no longer have to wander from menu to menu, but, based on their profile, security level, and current activity, virtually everything the user needs or wants to do is dynamically presented to the user by the system as a single character selective option or single mouse click function.
In short, the system monitors the user’s position and presents logical options accordingly. There is no wondering about going from menu to menu.
When access to the data, any data you might want regardless of age or status, as well as all the frequently required user tools are virtually RAM centric, “Ease of use” becomes a natural spinoff of iNfinite Answers.
Other spinoffs of ease of use provided by seamlesly integrated information systems are a natural workflow process and the ability to be able to perform multiple activities with a single function. For the clerk or common user, one example might be in having the ability to print any type of document with a command that is common to all documents. For more sophisticated job functions it might be updates to inventory, payroll and general ledger which are transparent to the user but they are all done with the exact same program, regardless of the origin of the transaction or its position along the workflow process. There is very little that the user has to do to actually “run the system” in a seamlessly integrated workflow system. This is normally not the case in the typical ERP system. The seamless workflow system pretty much runs itself from the act of users simply creating and updating data at logical points throughout the natural workflow process.
There are no programs to specifically update data from module to module because modules as such do not exist.
There are no programs that must be executed to perform a month end – all your typical reports still exist but here is nothing mandatory that has to be done before the next month can begin.
There is only one program that has to be executed to perform a “year end close” in the general ledger. It can be run at any time and as many times as one wishes and takes only seconds to execute.
There are no edit programs that have the specific function of just editing keyed source data.
There are no programs to move source data files to active data files unless source data is imported from another computer system and there are no programs to move active files to historical files. Ironically, iNfinite Answers has about 20 percent of the number of programs found in a typical ERP.
I mention all these things because a seamless integrated database containing all transactions naturally creates an easy to use environment. In sharp contrast to the typical ERP whereby when more modules are added, the more complex it becomes; in iNfinite Answers, the more functionality added, the easier it gets. There is no duplication of data. All data, wherever it is, is shared across the entire system.
Ease of use is not a term I use lightly. Making software that truly makes life easier for the end user takes design skill, programming skill, persistence, experience and a great deal of time. When a new process or routine is developed, it is essential to ensure it fulfills the requirement for which it is intended, that users will be able to use it with very little or no erp training on a web erp ppt and that it will not break. These are all very tall orders, especially the last, but, logically, much easier to accomplish in the seamless workflow environment.
One of the key requirements to developing good software is to know and understand what end users are apt and not apt to do as human beings, what they like and what they don’t like. Regardless of how good the designer or programmer thinks their application is, if the user doesn’t like it, if it is confusing, not easy to use, the probability of achieving the desired objective with the application becomes extremely low. One of the keys to developing good applications is ensuring that the system,ie: the program, does everything it, and you as a programmer, can possibly do to make the user’s life easier. So much so that the users truly know and understand there is an extraordinary ease of use.
The need to increase revenue and margins, cash flow market share, return on Investment and net present value has probably never been more acute than it is in North American business today. There is no doubt. We have to work a lot smarter! Our future depends on it! An unprecedented “Ease of Use” is essential in getting there.