Enterprise Apps User Interface – the Wrong Discussion

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by: Sigurd Rinde

Imagine an Enterprise App with UI design lifted from World of Warcraft?A tad gothic?

But games work, kids dive into them in droves and never seem to scratch their heads.Electronic games now being a bigger industry than the film industry must mean that their user interfaces work as well.

So it would be safe to assume that the UI issue is not about what it looks like.

It’s about what happens in the interface.

Dynamic works, static does not:

A game is always a process, it delivers next task without delay, and more, it’s a process where the participant chooses what next – i.e. the perfect BRP (Barely Repeatable Process) and quite like reality. Ah, yes, forgot, games are indeed (fictional) reality models are they not?

When in a game, or in reality, what matters is that you are given complete and relevant information for that particular task so you can make up your mind and proceed to action. Monster to the right, monster on the left. Then, at the same time, one single tool or click to get the task done, now. Shoot the monster on the left. One activity at a time. Few and logical choices, just do it and get on with life (eh, game) now delivered by the process engine in the form of yet another gruesome monster walking into sight.

And this is the process that happens in WoW and at your office every day, every hour, very BRP:

A temporary activity or sequence of activities initiated by an issue, an idea or a request, with multiple participants where the sequence of activities are directed by human knowledge to act according to the current situation and related circumstances.

Now the typical Enterprise Software: Basically it’s not a process engine that simulates, or models, reality. It’s mostly an organising tool, delivering all options at once, no simple yes/no decision based on relevant information restricted to task at hand.

Last time I counted buttons and choices in a simple CRM UI I found 150 links or buttons to click. And under many there were countless more options.

Process? There is no process delivery/automation in most software systems for use in Enterprise BRP. Any process is strict DIY. You create your own process, so claiming that the system "have process" would be a gross overstatement.

Proper automation and delivery of process is what matters. No layout, colours, rounded boxes can rectify the lack of such.

Hence, a discussion about what Enterprise Software should look like and how to present functions, would be a waste of time. The well-meant design efforts as well. Waste of time, save it for later. There is only one way to attack the issue – fix the source and build everything on top of a process engine.

[Thanks to @vendorprisey, @dhinchcliffe and @bitterer that suggested Enterprise Apps UIs should learn from Games. Then @yojibe and @mrinal who piped in with a good discussion.]

[Update March 10: And Marc Benioff of Salesforce (the 150 buttons organising dashboard thing with DIY process mentioned above) is at it again: Facebook is the thing, linger away and create your own process as we’ve done for the last few thousand years. A quote that tells all – "time to transform the business conversation". What about process structure, why not automate the flow/process? Ford did it 100 years ago for Easily Repeatable Processes (ERP) and increase the organisational effectiveness 8.5 times, now time to do the same for Barely Repeatable Processes (BRP)! More of the wrong discussion again.]

Original Post: http://blog.thingamy.com/sigs_blog/2010/03/enterprise-apps-user-interface-the-wrong-discussion.html