Useful, Usable, and Desirable

Useful, Usable, and Desirable

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Today, I would like to tell you how the User Experience team for Microsoft Dynamics NAV does research to validate that our products are indeed Useful, Usable, and Desirable.

My name is Arne de Booij and I am a so-called User Experience Researcher working with the Microsoft Dynamics NAV team. That means that I need to understand on a personal level what your relationship to our product is. I support various development teams by answering their user related questions through performing all kinds of research activities with current and future users. Questions I get asked a lot are, for example:

  • Can people actually figure out what to do here?
  • What is someone trying to accomplish when they do this?
  • Does someone really want or need this functionality?

There are various ways to answer these questions, depending on, for example, whether we are getting ready to make software and therefore are looking at an early sketch of the user interface or whether we are out at a customer site where our product has been installed and have direct access to the users that this particular user interface has been designed for. The answers that we get from this research will help make our product better for our users by answering their needs and helping them work more efficiently.

Recently, we completed a quite extensive research project to answer some questions about the RoleTailored Client (RTC) that we shipped with Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009. This new client enables our users to “tailor” the software to their own unique needs in their own unique role. Delivering the product was the result of a very long design and development process and we wanted to know how our users are using this new client so that we can assess what adjustments, if any, we should make as we continue down the path of RoleTailored applications. We wanted to know things like:

  • Which new features of the RTC are people using?
  • Which aren’t they using and why?
  • How do users perceive the impact of the RTC on their productivity?

During late 2009 and early 2010, we conducted research with the help of companies that were using the Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 RTC product to run their businesses. We visited each company for an entire day. During the visits, we started with a 1- 1½ hour interview with a company representative, usually someone from the IT department, to get more information about the company and their setup of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009. After that, we sat down at the desks of the people who actually use the RTC for their daily work. We asked them to show us how they performed their most important day-to-day tasks. During this time, we took photographs, asked follow up questions and of course, took a lot of notes. For each task they showed us, we also asked a few questions to help us measure the satisfaction they had performing that task in the RTC. After the visit, we continued to gather information by sending participants a link to a post-visit survey used to measure the level of productivity a participant experienced with the RTC. Let’s look at the results.

In total, 53 participants, working for 16 different companies, participated in this research project. The companies were located in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. The companies where the participants worked were active in, for example, the Software industry, Wholesale and Manufacturing (19%), Distribution and Professional Services (13%), Charity, Retail and as a Dynamics Partner (6%).

62% of participants had not used a previous version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV before they started using Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009. 38% had used a previous version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV before.

Most participants (42%) were working in the Finance department of their company. Other main departments were Warehouse (13%), Customer Service (9%), Purchasing (8%), IT (8%), Sales (6%) and Operations (6%). Participants had used Dynamics NAV 2009 for an average of 5.4 months (range 1-24 months) and were using Dynamics NAV 2009 for an average of 5.7 hours per day (with a range spanning 2 – 8 hours).

Like any good research study, we learned a lot!

The results told us that there a lot of good things our users are experiencing when they use the RoleTailored client. For example, people on the product reported high satisfaction and productivity while performing the tasks that are most important to them.

But the results also shed a light on some things we need to improve. For example, there are still some tasks that require too many clicks or areas where finding the right information is still not immediately clear.

But the biggest takeaway for us, by far, was that a lot of companies and their users were not taking full advantage of the many ways they can configure and personalize their own experience. For example, for things that our users do every day—like accessing a customer record or taking an order—we have enabled them to add those actions directly to the Action Pane. Because our users weren’t doing that, they have to perform unnecessary actions every time they needed that functionality, which decreases their level of productivity. Same holds true for not having all of the lists a user needs ready and loaded into their navigation pane--a very simple personalization to do. That means that users are forced to go to Departments to find that information.

So what did we learn? We’ve still got work to do. Job security--they call it. Seriously though, there could be a lot of reasons that some users are not taking full advantage of the features in the product that allow them to tailor the solution to their specific needs, so we are continuing to investigate this.

Which brings me to you… if you are reading this and have seen something similar in your company, please help us help you! Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on why this is the case and what we can do to help you get the most from your user experience.

To learn more about RoleTailoring, try out these links:

- Thinking RoleTailored Presentation at Microsoft Convergence 2010

- Microsoft Dynamics is familiar to your people

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  • Hi Arne,

    very interesting blog.

    Your example with the action pane brings me to the lightning symbol - action for subpages. I've hold some trainings about the RTC for our customers and every time they ask why it is not possible to bring those actions to the Action Pane. For me this is the biggest disadvantage of the RTC and it would be very helpfull if this is changed in the next release.

    Regards

    Michael

  • Thank you for your comment Michael. I was on vacation the last 2.5 weeks to sorry for my late reply. We've heard this feedback a few times already and I believe we're trying to address this but to be sure we've logged a request in our internal tracking database to take a look at this.

    Regards,

    Arne

  • Hi Arne,

    i follow your blog for about a year now.

    I work as developer and product manager for a MBS partner who has two business solutions certified.

    Which brings me to the subject:

    Actually we do miss some functionality in the RTC which we are able to use with the classic client.

    One of the most important things in the business solution i manage are colors.

    This seems to be impossible with RTC when being used in list boxes.

    I only have 2 colors, in classic i have a lot more.

    Is there any hope something beeing done in R2?

    Best regards

    Martin

  • Hi Arne,

    Nice post.

    The users (and I initially) often confused with the Large Action and the Mini-Action in the Lines Fasttab, and even worse, the Mini-Action would be invisible if we are not in the Lines Fastab.

    A little bit tricky!

    Regards,

    Andwian

  • Thank you for your comment Andwian. I assume you are referring to the 'lightning bolt' that contains the menu for a FastTab. We are aware that there are issues with discoverability and usage of this menu and we are addressing this in our upcoming release. I can't provide details yet, sorry.

    Arne

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