The function of user experience in ecommerce is an increasingly desired capability that is verging on a necessity for online stores.
This demand for better digital experiences for users has now broken the barriers of ecommerce and flooded all things digital – from HCMs and SCMs to CPQs, ERPs, and EPMs (and all the other acronym-fueled business categories in-between).
Today, there is no area of business out of bounds for elevated user experiences driven by consumers and users – customers and staff.
One EPM (enterprise performance management) platform that has laid out its reasoning behind its user experience is Planful Enterprise Performance Platform – let’s call it Planful for simplicity.
Before we get into Planful’s UX in particular, let’s take a step back to look at the industry in general.
EPM platforms enable the entire cycle of performance management: 1) planning of resource allocations, 2) consolidating financial and operational performance results, 3) reporting results and outcomes compared to plans and objectives, 4) analyzing the reason behind the outcomes, and 5) modeling the potential business options and outcomes.
So where does the UX come into play?
Ecommerce has opened our eyes to the benefits of stronger digital user experiences. It simply makes our lives easier by facilitating the ease of use of online platforms. They’re faster, less complicated, and increasingly personalized.
The Planful platform is a member of the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Strategic CPM and Financial CPM.
“In 2015, we added resources and focus to upgrade, clarify, and streamline how this platform is presented to those who use it,” said John Armitage, principal product designer at Planful. “We first focused on the product’s appearance and are now moving more into its behavior, content, and functionality.”
The platform provides single-source access between the five points of the performance management cycle noted above. As one example, their solutions differ from older PC operating systems as they reflect the software design trend known as flat design, which is partly a response and solution to the limitations of bandwidth, performance, and rendering of web and mobile products.
Flat design facilitates the bringing together of software user interfaces with leaner traditions in graphic design – and driving distance from simulating the 3D world of product design. This is an appropriate response, because most software content is based on words and images rather than physical objects and spatial orientation.
The influence of flat design can be seen in Planful’s set of icons, buttons, and navigation indicators, aspects of the platform that the company have looked to develop to boost the appearance – through more easily identifiable navigation and improvements based on common interaction behaviors.
“Now that they [appearance changes] are mostly complete,” added John, “we’re shifting our focus to behavioral improvements across the platform. We’re also adding significant net new functionality in the areas of modeling, process and workflow management, and charting.”
As for future plans, Planful is set on improving its user experience further by adopting advanced component library for the construction of its user interface.
These libraries are used by major organizations including Google and Microsoft and are collections of pre-configured parts that are used to build a UI.
Their purpose is to accelerate the development of the user interface – through icons, buttons, toolbars, window frames, error messages, and so on.
Using a library framework can help free up time to focus on deeper areas, such as the following:
Configurable library components to suit specific needs. If you think of page layouts as a kitchen plan, which can be designed to optimize access to storage, the sink, oven, and the fridge, you can arrange pages and connect them to make the use of a software task as seamless as possible. Absolutely core to the UI experience is the page layout, what is presented, and what they do.
Render the best representations for content. The use of icons to represent specific objects, like reports, dashboards, plans, users, formulas, etc., makes it easier to locate I the UI. Equally important are inspection views, which are specific screens for showing and editing properties of an EPM object.
Create components specific to EPM. This is something that Planful are doing. “We are inventing new features and forms that show content and relationships in powerful new ways,” said John. “These innovations will break new ground in providing insights and efficiencies specific to EPM.
“In general, we see opportunities to make the modeling experience much more intuitive and visual, to make the design and execution of workflow processes much simpler, and to make business status much more accessible through the graphic visualization of data.”
When it comes to digital designers and architects, they built and shape the virtual spaces that we inhabit to make sense of the work we are doing. And while the EPM landscape isn’t home to the frontier of UX, each day that passes brings more and more UX which we are used to in ecommerce entering newer spaces such as with EPM.