It is about the USER

While at Sapphire in Atlanta I had the opportunity to sit in on a user testing session.  For a number of years at Sapphire the usability testing team has invited customers to test applications that we currently have in prototype. 

The way to build more usable applications is through user-centric design, and testing process is an important validation and checkpoint in the process. This links in strongly to the design led innovation stuff going on at SAP. (See what Martin had to say about that experience here

You can find more about usability testing here.  It worthwhile spending sometime on the design guild site, there is lots going on at SAP on the usability side.  The story of the work on Analytics is also worth a look.

To work effectively, the testing process needs to be thorough. It should probe the users concerns, and dig deep to find out what works well and what doesn’t.

(photo from the design guild site)

The sessions are recorded, and there is some clever software from Morae that  tracks user reaction times and behaviours. Apparently it can even record eye movements and facial expressions.


The session I sat in on was a test of the prototype for simple buyer in Duet.  This scenario is aimed an the occasional user, perhaps someone ordering a new laptop or mouse.   The person running the test normally isn’t the product manager for the solution,  to ensure open feedback.  The tester is encouraged to “think aloud”, and every click and entry is carefully monitored.  The team uses a structured questionnaire to gather feedback  allowing the responses of several users to be analysed meaningfully.

The room was busy, with lots of sessions going on. 

I wish more folks could experience this, as it gives a real insight into the challenges of building applications that work for the user.  I recorded a brief chat with the folks involved in the test. 

Thanks to Kim and Sandesh for the opportunity to watch the session.

I’m also pleased to see SAP actively involved with external usability endeavours, such as CHI 

The work going on with accessibility is also vital. Building a tool that alienates partially sighted or blind people is simply not on. Software developers, even those building the latest hip 2.0 product have a responsibility to build applications that give everyone the chance to use them.

The more I think about usability the less it has to do with programming languages and pretty GUI paradigms  and the more it has to do with listening to the user.

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Climate change and software.

I’d like to move the discussion on GRC away from the section 404 of the the Sarbanes Act of 2002 on to something more important. When the coast is clear I’ll probably return to the PCAOB As5 standard, that is, if I have any readers left. Today SAP announced it is joining the 3C initiative to combat climate change. This is serious stuff. I’ve just read the 9 principles

1. A switch-over to a low emitting economy is a necessity

2. A global solution is needed

3. A common, global goal limiting climate changes is needed

4. Greenhouse gas emissions must have a global price

5. A well laid-out combination of short- and long-term actions is needed

6. No options should be excluded

7. A global emissions market is needed

8. The developed countries must lead the way and the developing countries should follow as soon as they are able

9. Fair and sustainable global burden-sharing must be reached

Seems logical and sensible to me.

It is also good to see the German Government taking a firm line on the climate issues for the G8 meeting. 

I’m convinced that companies that take climate issues seriously will have a longer term advantage over those who don’t. Consumers are taking environmental and social issues seriously and will factor them into their buying decisions. I do, as do most of my friends. Increasingly, investors are also reflecting sustainability into their investment portfolios. Have a look at FTSE for good, for instance.

The FTSE4Good Index Series has been designed to measure the performance of companies that meet globally recognised corporate responsibility standards, and to facilitate investment in those companies. Transparent management and criteria alongside the FTSE brand make FTSE4Good the index of choice for the creation of Socially Responsible Investment products.

This means that the burden on companies to analyse, report and manage issues beyond traditional financial reporting will grow. Investors are beginning to demand a far higher level of transparency, this will require systems support.

I was speaking to a friend of mine recently. He explained that some supermarkets are planning to trial carbon emissions on product labelling. This would enable you to look at compare products based not only on price and sugar levels, but also on their environmental impact. This has significant supply chain implications. Before you laugh, remember that only a few years ago, organic produce was a tiny portion of supermarket sales.

SAP’s software solution for sustainability will be moving into rampup shortly, so I’ll be watching this closely. I’ve blogged before on SFDC carbon-neutral position and Lawson’s efforts, so SAP is not alone in taking this seriously.

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Wiki explained.

Courtesy of the Atlassian blog,  I saw this neat video explaining Wikis on the commoncraft blog.



What impressed me?

 1. The presentation itself. The metaphors and images work really well. Beats a powerpoint anyday. Learning stuff can be fun. To all those folks in marketing departments in enterprise software companies: Watch this. Can you explain your products as simply, coherently and with this sort of pizzazz? If not, why not?

 2. The distribution method. The authors, Lee and Sachi LeFever, posted it on their website here and also on youtube and On youtube it has already been viewed 7,000 + times. And it was only posted 5 days ago.  They also produced the video RSS in plain English.  80,000 + views.


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an emergent lesson for HR systems thinking

If you are interested in HR systems you really ought to read systematicHR.  It is a great mix of HR technology stuff and more general HR pondering.  He posted the other day about networks and web 2.0 and the implications for HR.

It reminded me of a post that Leendert wrote linking to something I’d written about Harmony, the social media tool that is in internal pilot in SAP Palo Alto.  Don’t worry this post won’t be a thinly veiled attempt to sell Harmony. I do wish whoever was developing it would get a move on though and ship the damn thing.

A conference plug and an experimental presentation.

I’m giving the keynote at the IHRIM Global Conference. In Amsterdam. 21-22 June. (mention my name and you get a discount, honest)  Nice agenda, and no sales pitch, promise. 

 I’ve decided that I’m going to go off on a major tangent. Dennis Moore at SAP said something at Sapphire and I think I going to spend the best part of 45 minutes expanding on it. I’ll paraphrase:

HR systems today are all about capturing what the company wants to store about me. (grade, performance, salary and so on) HR systems in the future will capture what I want to tell the company about myself.

Andrew McAfee, Maggie Fox and Dennis Howlett are experimenting with Facebook, and I joined up too.  (Incidentally I bumped into an old school friend on Facebook who is doing design strategy work  in Cape Town. )

 It then made me think of James Governor’s comment about the divide between consumer and enterprise no longer being that relevant.  Facebook and many other of the social networking tools slot comfortably into the slates framework that Andrew McAfee uses to describe emergent solutions.  Facebook as a development platform is an intriguing concept

The reason though, why I’m writing this post  is not to rave about the latest cool 2.0 thing.  I heard of a colleague’s promotion via linkedin before it was communicated internally.  


This is so far away from a discussion I had recently about a skills catalogue. The customer wanted to have a three step workflow where the employee filled in what programming languages they knew and this would then route to the manager and then the training department for approval.

I was going to talk a lot about how complex global payroll is, but I think I’ll mainly talk about 2.0 stuff instead.  Perhaps I’ll even do a twitter demo.  I’ll talk about how wikis, blogs, tagging and social networking are radically changing human resource management.   Maybe even if the HR department are blissfully unaware of it happening.   


In other event news, I’d love to be at this session in Boston. McAfee and Davenport discussing 2.0  (good move Susan for organising this) As much as I respect Tom Davenport-I’ve even given over hard earned money to his publisher on more than one occasion, I think the 2.0 wave is already lapping at the leavy of entepriseydom. 


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