Monthly Archives: February 2014

Where is your IT department?

There are good places and bad places for an IT department in an organization.

Where IT doesn't fitSome organizations tuck the IT department away in some corner of the org chart, but that means that they miss out on IT as an engine of growth.

The above graphic is from my weekly “Technology That Fits” newsletter, where this week’s issue explains more about how IT fits into an organization. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

“I’m returning the BMW”

I just had dinner with a very successful consulting colleague, and he told me he was returning his new BMW because he hated the software. Instead, was getting a Porsche that has physical buttons for the controls instead the touchscreen in the BMW.

He was happy with everything else about the car, but a poorly designed interface killed the deal. Just because you can add fancy features like a touchscreen doesn’t always mean you should. Are you adding fancy features that get in your users’ way?

The Long Tail of Application Usage

A long tail is a distribution of some data point where a few data point have a high value, but most of the data points have a much lower value. When sorting the data points by value, there will be a large “head” and a long “tail”.

Application usage displays the “long tail” characteristic: A few screens are used much more than others.

Long tail of app usage

If you are re-developing your application, for example moving from Oracle Forms to ADF, focus on the head – the 10% of the application that is used 90% of the time.

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ADF Mastery newsletter is out

The February issue of the ADF Mastery newsletter just went out. If you are not on the list, you can sign up here.

This month, I’m covering the following topics:

  • Which version should I use?
  • A learning plan for the ADF basics
  • Best practice for good user experience

The first topic is often a matter of some debate. I recommend using JDeveloper for now – this is the stable version that the Fusion/Cloud Application team at Oracle themselves are using, and it comes with a complete middleware stack.

Nine Agrees and a Signature

If you have ever rented a car in the US, you will be familiar with the little LCD device on the counter where you sign your rental contract with a plastic stylus. On the same device, you’re also obliged to acknowledge other things. Since the text is written in 6-point font on a low-quality LCD device, it is for all practical purposes illegible. I assume I’m agreeing to things like that it’s not the rental company’s fault if I run someone over.

The girl at my rental company knew the procedure by heart. “Nine agrees and a signature,” she offered helpfully.

I’ve seen a lot of systems with superfluous dialog boxes that do not add any value and do not cause the user to actually think about the content of the dialog box – they simply slow the user down. I think I’ll call it “nine-agrees-and-a-signature syndrome”. Does any of your systems suffer from that?




Use vs. Usability

Until this month, I’ve never had to interact directly with the user interface of an SAP system. But now I understand painfully well what users mean when they complain about the usability of enterprise software.

There is an inflection point where usability gets so bad that people will actively try to avoid using the system. You do not want your system to be on the left side of this curve.

Use vs Usability

Measure how much your systems are being used, and work on the user experience to move towards the right.

This is an excerpt from my “Technology That Fits” newsletter. Sign up for this weekly newsletter for practical tips to use information technology to achieve your goals.

Dead Giraffe Syndrome

Last Sunday, the Copenhagen Zoo put down one of its giraffes. The did not have room for it and its genes were already well represented in the giraffe gene pool by several siblings. In cooperation with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), it was decided that the space in the one zoo that could take it would be better used for a giraffe with a different genetic makeup.

I’ve discussed this with otherwise rational people, and the sight of the (humanely euthanized) animal being used to feed the lions made them impervious to all logical arguments.

Emotion will trump logic every day. Sometimes, logical arguments are enough to carry the day. But often, they are not.

The IT museum

My son had finished his web application. He had actually thought about the hardware his users would be using and wanted to test it right. Dad, do we have an old Windows machine? Yes. First generation iPad? Yes. Old iPhone? Yes. I realized that I am unwittingly creating an IT museum in the basement…

What I also realized is how much harder testing has become over the last few years. We used to test our applications on the standard configuration that was on every PC rolled out to every employee. But today, our users are using a plethora of devices. And they expect all of them to work.

Do you have an IT museum in your testing department? If not, maybe you should start creating one.