Easy ERP is NOT an Oxymoron: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is Powerfully Simple

We've all heard the horror stories of costly ERP implementations that result in an application that very few in the company can actually use. This is no longer acceptable. Usability-how easy the program is to learn and use-has a dramatic impact on productivity. In the world of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, this impact is magnified because usability influences both the speed at which you can get work done, and thus the efficiency of your entire organization, and adoption, which has a strong influence on your return-on-investment (ROI).

A major theme in the development of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 was simplicity. For the user experience team, this meant focusing on the people who use the product. We worked hard to understand how they use it and how we can make it as easy as possible for them to navigate, to find relevant data, and to complete tasks quickly and effectively. We call this approach RoleTailored Design: an approach that focuses on the person doing the work, so that we can get rid of the noise-what you don't need-and make it easier for you to do what you need to do. This resulted in some major enhancements to the user interface and the user experience, making Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 what we think is the most familiar, easy-to-use business application yet to hit the market.

Watch this short video with Senior UX Lead, Kevin Honeyman or read on below for more!!

Understanding your pain

We conducted extensive research studies focusing on two groups: existing users - those of you who work with ERP on a regular basis and who've used previous versions of Microsoft Dynamics AX; and new users - those who have never used Microsoft Dynamics AX before. Our findings helped us identify the challenges you deal with when trying to learn the systems for the first time and how we can make things simpler for those of you who rely on it as part of your job. We ran about 150 studies with about 1,000 participants, and we got lots of feedback from our Technology Adoption Program (TAP) participants that we have incorporated into our design, so we're pretty excited for you to experience this release.

Balancing simplicity and power

One of the biggest challenges we faced was trying to balance the idea of simplicity and ease of use with the need for rich functionality and all of the cool features that we wanted to pack into the product. Microsoft Dynamics AX is a sophisticated application. It needs to support more than 60 roles in five industries and 38 countries and meet the needs of very complex businesses, including ever-more-stringent regulatory requirements, performance requirements, and customer expectations. With this inherent complexity, our challenge was to make it simple for you to perform routine tasks while still providing the more powerful capabilities that you require.

When designing features for Microsoft Dynamics AX2012 we relied on our research to understand what tasks a user performs most frequently, and then optimized the experience to allow the user to easily complete those tasks.  The tasks the users perform less frequently are still supported but may require a few additional steps. Our goal was to get the less frequently used functionality out of the way, so it doesn't interfere with the frequent day to day work. 

Here are some of the cool features of the new user interface:

  • Fact Boxes. We've introduced the concept of "Fact Boxes" to present information in the context of the task. For example, for someone processing a sales order, when they type a customer name, we filter the list of customers and then use Fact Boxes to display contact information, open orders, quotes, and recent activity for the selected customer. The display is optimized to give you the most relevant information in the moment that you need it; if you want additional information, you can easily click in to that.

          

 

  • Activity Ribbons. Anyone who has used the latest versions of Microsoft Office is familiar with the Ribbon at the top of the screen, which makes it much easier to find commands related to a specific activity, such as editing, formatting, or reviewing a document. The user interface of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 adopts the Ribbon paradigm, but we've organized commands based on the types of activities you need to accomplish, for example, making a sale or processing invoices. This ensures that we present commands and functionality in the context of a particular task and that you benefit from consistency with other Microsoft desktop applications.

     

 

  • Streamlined interface. Sometimes, the best way to simplify is to remove features you don't need. The more features you have, the more complex your user interface is. In Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, the typical user only sees the commands that relate to their role or their security permissions. So, for example, a warehouse worker who's doing "pick and pack" processes may see only a single tab, whereas an accounts receivable clerk might have access to customer information and credit history.
  • Fast Tabs. Fast Tabs are another way we've reduced information overload. By organizing the information into regions in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, users can expand or collapse sections as needed. With the tabs collapsed, the solution presents a very concise summary of the information needed at a glance. And then, if you want to, you can expand specific areas and scroll through the more detailed information. Fast Tabs also support hyperlinks so that you can quickly access related forms.

 

 Share Your Thoughts

What do you love about the applications that you use on a daily basis? 

Luke Shave
Sr. Industry Marketing Manager