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You have probably experienced the journey from desktop computers to the era of smartphones and tablets, and how it has dramatically changed the way you work and behave. But what’s next? Will the next user experience be incremental improvements of today’s traditional devices or will there be something completely new?

With an increasing amount of data available, there will be a need for smarter ways to visualize, and benefit from, enterprise application intelligence to sharpen your competitive edge.

Since the very early days of IFS, we have had a clear focus on always improving the user experience in our products to make the software easier and more fun to learn and use.

We do this in an incremental way to ensure that our customers can benefit stepwise, without disruptions, from new technologies and user experience innovations. We even go so far as to say that you should “love the application” and be proud to use the product, pretty much the same way you love to use your tablet and smartphone.

This post explores what the future might offer when it comes to new technologies and behaviors, and the impact they have on the user experience and productivity of enterprise software.

True digitization offers limited need for a user interface

The simple reason for an ERP system to offer a user interface at all is to let users manually register and visualize data.

However, in a world where everything is online, data should more instantly be updated without even touching the system. Equipment, products, production facilities and logistics processes are becoming more intelligent with respect to communicating their status, and will be able to feed the processes with data without manual disruptive procedures.

For instance, a pallet that is received through the warehouse doors will be equipped with sensors that automatically identify the pallet, and when you move it from one location to another, sensors will make sure the transaction is automatically entered into the business system.

Why should a person register that manually?

As the future user experience of business software will require less manual interaction, users will get more time to focus on activities that add business value instead of administrative tasks.

The focus for us as a software vendor will be on data interpretation and visualization.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality is a view of reality that is supplemented by computer-generated sensory input such as data, graphics and GPS data, presented through a device in real time on top of a physical thing you are looking at.

IFS partner XMReality enables engineers to use tablets and digital glasses with augmented reality that allows them to get audiovisual guidance from a remote expert. Everything the expert shows or points at appears in the engineer’s field of vision.

Another example might be to look at a wind farm through digital glasses that visualize live data such as wind speed, power generation and related maintenance data on top of the windmill in real time as you look.

Today, augmented reality is at an early stage, but is available through smartphones, tablets and smart glasses. IFS has already showcased the user experience using Sony Smart Eyeglass and Google Glass, and these types of user interfaces will become more common for certain processes and industries in the future.

Ralph Rio, ARC Advisory Group, says:

“Augmented reality has the potential to combine the user’s specific location, role and skills with business processes in a way that vastly improves visibility and shortens a person’s response time from awareness to positive action. IFS has a track record of innovation with user-friendly and configurable screens that include communication and information sharing.  When people see the same data, they look beyond their silos and transparently collaborate with others.”

Intelligent personal assistant

The evolution of software user interfaces has seen a shift from desktop computers to mobile devices, but consistently we have been using screen and keyboard in different formats and sizes.

As users, we are getting used to navigating by using our voice, such as for the GPS device in your car, to operate your smartphone, to browse data on the internet or interact with a switchboard. This might still be an unexplored user experience for many people, as talking to a machine doesn’t feel natural, and so far, the quality and enabled languages have been limited.

But this will change.

Using your voice to browse data in your enterprise software will be very natural. IFS has developed a solution to showcase how you can search for information, and check and update statuses in IFS Applications.

Predictive analytics

Much of what you do in business software is repeated or performed by your colleagues over and over again. It will be possible to use this intelligence in a more proactive way in the future.

Assume you are in the project business and your company has run hundreds of projects. The enterprise software has captured all the budgets, forecasts, timesheets, expenses and other costs related to the project, so the system should be able to predict the time and cost of the next project more proactively.

When starting a new project, you should just register a number of critical project constraints, and the software will start processing the historical data to work out the best project plan and propose the best resources available. Based on system proposals and predictions, you will be able to draft the first versions of the project much faster.

IFS already has solutions for so-called ‘what-if analysis’ where you can, for instance, explore a scenario where you want to improve service levels by X%. The system calculates and proposes how many new field technicians you need to meet that higher service level.

These software tools for predictive analysis facilitate decision-making and make it more accurate.

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