The Technology Choices
Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: August 27 2005
Microsoft's Uncontested UI Supremacy
In the battle between Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) and the UK-based the Sage Group plc (LSE: SGE.L) for the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) market segment, technology choices will be a major factor. The previous parts of this note detailed the strategies of these two major vendors and analyzed how the market would respond.
But, going a mile further, there are some important areas where the synergy and a bridge between MBS and the rest of the "classic" Microsoft world could take place, such as the previously mentioned "user experience" mantra. The basic ...view middle of the document...
Both vendors said they will sell a complete solution, which means that SAP will resell Office, and Microsoft will resell licenses to SAP's upcoming business process platform.
While the battles over applications, databases, middleware, and operating systems (OS) remain important (and Microsoft is far from abandoning these and thereby even competing with SAP on that front, and for a detailed discussion in this regard, see SOA-Based Applications and Infrastructure—The Next Frontier?), the UIs and ease of data entry really force how users feel about software.
Applications that integrate with Office applications or have a steady familiar appearance are easier to learn and easier to use. For the people who use these products on a day-to-day basis, that can make up for a lot of lack in functionality (albeit to a degree). The vendors should also bear in mind that users are also more productive if they are provided instructions and documents in their native language. Given that in the US the Spanish-speaking population has become the largest minority group, the truly user-friendly software should allow different users to work in different languages while being in the same application.
The end user alwasys has to be kept in mind, as the UI has to be pleasingly simple, perfect for masses of even casual consumers with potentially no technical experience to operate. With one of the most significant impediments and costs of application deployment being the training of users, the more process-friendly an application can be, and the more pluggable with its surroundings it can be, the easier it will be accepted. User resistance is a major reason that software installations either fail or fall short of being truly effective. On the other hand, a chief cause for user resistance is the time it takes to learn an application and the lack of comfort with the way different products may look.
To date, the predominant means of improving usability and interoperability has been portal frameworks (subsequent to simple Web interfaces), and these have proliferated both within organizations and within vendors' products. However, this is merely the start, because the ability to support context (giving the user the relevant information and services, regardless of geography, device, etc.) improves through emerging technologies and standards. Initially, many have liked the above mentioned MBS' idea of a role-based UI, particularly if it would be possible to have, for example, a Word 2003-style task panel as a front-end to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) package. This would mean that when the users go to, for example, a customer card/master file, the common business processes that they carry out with a customer would be shown in a task panel with an option to show more options.
By making the system process-oriented for the users, one would be removing the need to memorize a series of steps to achieve a business process and instead be able to guide them through...