What is RoleTailored user experience in NAV 2009? Part 2/2
Dear visitor: Please keep in mind that this post is originally from Vibor Cipan's personal blog, the name of which we eventually adopted as our company name together with its conveniently-named URL. We're keeping the posts on our official company blog for all the subscribers to Vibor's blog who have read and commented on his previous posts. Please be aware that this post represents Vibor's personal thinking few years ago and doesn't necessarily represent the opinions of the UX Passion as a company today.
In first article on RoleTailored User Experience I’ve shared some basic information and explained how RoleTailored UX is based on extensive research and I’ve discussed Customer Model. Now I will go through major RoleTailored UX elements – Role Center, List Places and Task Pages.
First of all, I want to stress out that RoleTailored UX was conceived with several goals in mind and today they are achieved through the RoleTailored UX implementation in Microsoft Dynamics 2009 system. Some of those goals, and think it is fair enough to say that we can consider them as features are: showing the relevant information to users, put the emphasis on most critical information and draw attention of users to important and relevant actions they might need to execute, make commonly used commands more visible and easier to access (just a click away), employ the existing UX concepts seen in Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office System (rationale for this being the fact that most users already have experiences working in these systems and therefore they will be able to utilize their pre-existing knowledge while working in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009).
If you remember form first article I’ve explained Customer Model and typical roles… Quite honestly – Microsoft Dynamics 2009 system has never had an idea to cover each and every imaginable role that might be represented in real-life Company. Let’s just give it a thought – and we will figure out that it would not even make too much sense, right? Instead, somewhat different approach has been taken and investments have been made into ensuring that we are building powerful, flexible and solid platform which enables additional adjustments of user roles and even building new ones. By creating platform like this Microsoft has empowered its partner companies to apply all those innovations and use investments made by Microsoft in RoleTailored UX. Partners are now able to adjust Role Centers (I will explain it in next paragraph), add new or configure existing ones and to tailor Dynamics NAV 2009 to specific industries and user’s needs.
Overview of RoleTailored UX elements
There are three main elements of RoleTailored User Experience that are really easy to spot in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 system – they are Role Center, List Places and Task Pages.
Role Center can be considered a home page of your Dynamics NAV 2009 application – it is first window that you see when you run Dynamics NAV 2009 and it is your starting point. It is comprised of several parts: Navigation Pane (concept that has been inherited from Outlook with main goal of reducing complexity and easing getting around in, usually, very complex structure); Activities part (offering quick overview of typical user tasks tailored and items that are most relevant to their work. It is, of course, tailored to current user role.); Outlook part (enabling you to see your e-mails, tasks, appointments – exactly the same ones you will see in your Outlook client); Lists (sets of lists such are My Items or My Customers – they are enabling you to create personalized clients, products and other types of lists with information that you are using on daily basis); Notification part (its collection of different notifications and warnings that are requesting users’ immediate reaction) and Chart part (offering the graphical overview of key performance indicators – KPIs and other typical values related to your business).
Role Center will have different appearance depending on users’ role. For example, our Sales Order Processor – Susan will have different information in her Activities or Chart part than Prakash (our Project Manager persona). Of course, as I have stressed out earlier – Role Centers are configurable so partners are able to tailor them to their specific needs, depending on, for example, different industries, and types of users and so on.
Second type of “pages” is List Places. As you might conclude from their name they are focused on working with lists. For example, that can be list of Sales Orders. Again, we can go through some typical parts of user interface – on the top there is Address bar (Breadcrumb bar) which is concept taken from Windows Vista and it is enabling users to quickly navigate into various parts of application. Same as in Role Center, Navigation Pane inherited from Outlook is visible on the left side of UI. Just below the address bar we can find Action pane – it resembles Ribbon user interface in Office 2007 system. Idea was to put most commonly used command and enable users to access them quickly without wasting too much time trying to find them on other places. Central part is occupied by List. Content of this List is dependent on selection made in Navigation pane. For example, we can have list of Customers, Journals or Sales Orders… Right side is populated with elements which are called FactBoxes and their content is contextually dependent on the current selection made in List. Idea of FactBoxes is to provide users with zero-click access to information relevant to currently selected line in List. Just above the List there is Filter pane which, as its name is suggesting – gives you capabilities for filtering the content of List. For example you may want to see Sales Orders just from specific customers and so on.
Third main page type is called Task Page. It represents central place where users are executing their tasks – editing sales or purchase orders, posting or some other type of task. Generally, you will get to Task Page by clicking on line in List Place – for example on specific Sales order. Of course, creation of new Sales or Purchase orders is possible and they will also appear in the form of Task Page. General UI elements are Action pane (already described in List Places) but central part of Task Page is somewhat different. You will find number of elements which are called Fast Tabs. Header, Line Items and other Sales/Purchase order elements are organized into number of Fast Tabs – they are simple, yet very useful concept. Even when they are collapsed – you are able to see specific information contained within them by just taking look at their header area – number of so called Promoted Values can be shown there offering you brief overview of contents.
Again, on the right side you will find number of FactBoxes offering you relevant, contextual information, and if you click on their values you will be given even more information and insights.
What is next?
By implementing Customer Model and building the Role Tailored User Experience job is not done and all challenges ERP users are facing in their daily work have not been completely solved. Truth be told – great job has been done and RoleTailored UX can be considered as one of the most prominent hallmarks of Microsoft Dynamics products. For the first time we can say that ERP solutions are looking aesthetically pleasing, useful even interesting. Also, users are happy with new UX, but still number of challenges is ahead of Microsoft Dynamics User Experience Team.
Adding additional flexibility, more contextual filters, closer integration with Office / new Windows are just some of possible directions that might be explored for future improvements. Stay tuned and let’s see what will happen in future…