ERP, Ease of Use, and Computer Literacy

ERP software is critical for many businesses. Computer literacy, and the ability to figure out how to use a mouse, retrieve email, and operate standard software are not optional in the workplace. Businesses that try to simplify (read “dumb down”) operations to coddle users that simply don’t want to learn are missing the power of software to generate ROI.

Ease of Use

Software publishers have been making software easier to use. This produced improvements like the “role tailored” user interface and Microsoft’s “ribbon bar.” The goal has been to make software easier to use. More detailed goals include putting commonly used commands together. An example is the ribbon bar for the Sales Order Processing screen in Dynamics NAV 2013 (shown below, click for a larger image).

Three views of the ERP software Dynamics NAV 2013's ribbon bar interface.

Ribbon Bar (3 views)

This ribbon bar shows three different views (surrounded in black lines). These allow the Sales Order Processing user to access the items needed for processing an order. The ribbon bar has been “loaded” with icons; the user can simply remove the icons that are not needed, leaving a clean and friendly interface.

This is all well and good, but in some companies, employees still have trouble figuring it out. Usually, it’s not a big issue. It’s small things like, “I can’t get my mouse to stay on the icon, it’s too small.” Employers sometimes blame issues like this on software: “The icon should be bigger.” Maybe.

It seems to me that business is becoming more complex. More skills are required at entry level, and employees need to add skills at an high rate. It’s like the boom in the use of robots in manufacturing years ago. Do manufacturers avoid robots because employees don’t have the skill set?

Dealing with ERP Complexity

It is perfectly reasonable for employers to expect employees to have enough skills to use basic computer software. It is also reasonable for employees to expect that businesses will design processes in such a way that they can be done with efficiency. Once business processes are in place, the employee needs to adapt.

So if there’s someone in your organization that can use web-based email, it’s reasonable to expect everyone to be able to use it. This means the executives of the company as well.

Simply put: in order to prosper in business we have to do more with existing resources this means that we have to learn to use the software to it’s capacity. Coddling users by allowing them to avoid learning basic computer skills is damning them to obsolescence and making them unemployable. It is damning the business to increasing costs that may drive it out of the market.