Let’s Get Engaged! The Marriage of UX and Industry 4.0

The phrase ’employee engagement’ – is something I hear a lot in my job. Everyone knows that employee engagement is essential for the successful implementation and utilization of ERP. Deloitte agrees and goes so far as to say that Poor user engagement with enterprise applications is a leading reason enterprise software fails to deliver the desired business results for organizations”.

Alas, for many companies, ’employee engagement’ appears to be a mythical object, like “unicorn” or “pot-of-gold at the end of the rainbow”. This is a shame, both for ERP users and for the companies they work for. Every day as workers clock in through the factory door, they put aside the comfortable, beautifully-crafted user experience (UX) that typifies modern consumer device software, and digitally downgrade to the work-a-day UX of the company ERP. Are they engaged? Probably not. Are they helping companies realize ROI on their ERP investment? Again, probably not.

Creating a Beautiful ERP Experience

I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way. A modern ERP user experience has no excuse not to engage its users. As companies move towards Industry 4.0, ERP UX is being forced to evolve, both to support new technologies and to leverage the potential of Industry 4.0 technologies within the user experience itself. It’s an exciting evolution, but the software and its experience, to be truly on the bleeding edge of technology, need to evolve together.

Take, for example, the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), into ERP UX. Gartner predicts that by 2020, most of the software on the market will leverage AI technology. And while AI’s most-vaunted factory functions (so far) have centered around R&D, Analytics and Operational Performance, it’s increasingly being seen as the new user interface itself, facilitating seamless interaction between humans and machines, while simultaneously surfacing insights and predictions that help to foster agile, profitable enterprises. In time, analysts believe that conversational AI may become the main interface between people and machines, not just at home, but also in offices and factories.

In my job at SYSPRO, I’ve been privileged to watch our ERP UX evolve in both form and function and to view first-hand how it engages and satisfies users. As a case in point, I’m very proud of one of our newer offerings, SYSPRO Avanti. Avanti is the Cloud-capable, web-based user interface that was introduced with SYSPRO 8. It is, in my opinion, a perfect marriage of function and form, providing SYSPRO’s Cloud offerings with an extremely attractive and flexible user experience (UX).

Unlike the interfaces of many of our competitors’ offerings, Avanti’s UI was designed to support Industry 4.0 technologies, such as the Internet of Things.

The Continuous Workforce Evolution

For manufacturers and distributors expanding into new territories, Avanti’s web browser makes it easy to link new business entities to the company ERP. And because its UI is reminiscent of commercial interfaces (it reminds me a bit of the Microsoft Surface Pro) and because Avanti provides a consistent experience on any device, new users are spared some of the hassles of learning a new and unfamiliar operating system. As you might expect, that minimizes training time.

The workforce is evolving, and, in many companies, becoming increasingly mobile. Avanti works beautifully alongside Espresso, SYSPRO’s mobile solution. For salespeople on the road, this can be a game-changing functionality. The power of being able to provide instant price and stock information can mean the difference between leaving a customer’s office with, or without, a sales contract. And for managers and execs who take their work with them, Avanti allows 24/7 contact – as long as they don’t wander too far off the grid. Being able to work anywhere, anytime, means that time previously wasted, such as long hours on a plane, or weekends at the in-laws, can be reclaimed for productive activity.

As Avanti demonstrates, a successful ERP is very much in tune with the importance of the user experience. To quote Phil Duff, our founder and CEO: “The age of the UX – the User Experience – has arrived and along with it, simplicity and beautification. Our roadmap, while embracing new features and functions to support its growing customer base, firmly puts the customer experience as a top priority.”

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