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Software Designed For Your People

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Business Portal

Many people participate in some business processes only occasionally and for these users we use the customer model to design a portal based user experience that supports their requirements. Consider the following two domain examples

Human Resources - Unless you are in an HR specific role you only touch HR processes occasionally, either when you want to obtain or update personal information or perhaps when you are a part of a larger HR process such as recruiting. With the business portal functionality in Microsoft Dynamics, employees can access their own information in seconds. They can review vacation, pay, and benefit information; enter and approve vacation requests; submit expense reports and timecards; and much more.

A simple example: An employee wants to know how much vacation he or she has available. The HR department has this information, but there's no easy way for the employee to find it, short of searching for their most recent pay stub. If he or she needs the information now, often the only option for the employee is to call or send an e-mail message to HR, who then must switch tasks, find the information, and communicate it back. The employee wastes time looking for and requesting the information. The HR person wastes time locating and relaying the answer. Don’t you want to explain how portal functionality addresses this problem like you do for the expense reporting example?

Expense reporting - All transactions start with an individual, but often it will take two, three, or more people to actually record that transaction and make it actionable. An expense report is a good example. The originator gathers up the receipts and fills out a paper form or a spreadsheet template. This form is then mailed internally to the supervisor, who must take time out of each week to sift through the reports, sending them back for clarification or approving them. When the report has been approved, it's forwarded to the accounting department, which may have its own questions to answer before approving, after which the transaction is finally ready to be entered into the accounting system. This process can take days or weeks, eating up small but valuable bits of time and lowering productivity and job satisfaction for everyone involved.

Business portal functionality within Microsoft Dynamics eliminates confusion by allowing you to set business rules for various types of expenses and by automatically routing the expense report to the approving manager. Once the transaction is approved, the data can be automatically sent into your payables system, eliminating data reentry costs.

Progress and Roadmap

The previous content of this document outlines a vision and approach for building software that empowers people by being tailored to the specific work they do. The solutions that make up the Microsoft Dynamics line are all working toward making this vision a reality over the next few years and the following is a high level view of current and in some cases, planned progress toward that goal:

Microsoft Dynamics GP

  • RoleTailored Home Pages for 21 roles

  • RoleTailored Business Portal experience

Microsoft Dynamics SL

  • RoleTailored Business Portal experience

  • RoleTailored Business Intelligence experience (BIO)

Microsoft Dynamics NAV

    • 28 different RoleTailored Home Pages

Microsoft Dynamics AX

    • RoleTailored experiences

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft Dynamics SNAP

  • Currently available Microsoft Dynamics Snap solutions include:

      1. Business Data Search Snap-in

      2. Business Data Lookup for Microsoft Dynamics AX

      3. Business Data Lookup for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

      4. Custom Report Generator for Microsoft Dynamics AX

      5. Custom Report Generator for Microsoft CRM

      6. Timesheet Management

      7. Vacation Management

      8. Expense Management

      9. Customer Journal for Microsoft Dynamics AX

      10. Customer Journal for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Appendix 1 – Microsoft Usability Research

As aforementioned Microsoft Corporation as a whole invests significantly in understanding our customers and designing and building great solutions for them.5 Over the course of every year in the 43 Usability Labs on the Microsoft campuses we conduct 1100 usability and research studies per year involving 10,000 participants.

Lab Studies

Most of our research is conducted in Usability Labs based in Redmond, WA. On average, approximately 900 participants per month evaluate our software. A database of 60,000 people in the Seattle area helps us find the right person to match the profile required for each given study. Once an individual has enrolled to participate in the Usability Research program they are entered into this main database.
From this database, we will look to match the participant with an appropriate study or product evaluation. If we find a match, we will then call to arrange a mutually agreeable time to participate in the study.
On the day of the study, when the participant arrives at Microsoft, they are greeted by the Usability Engineer, and given a brief tour of the lab. The Usability Engineer has the participant sign a non-disclosure agreement, which asks the participant not to discuss the products he or she is about to evaluate. The reason for this is due to the fact much software we test in the labs is proprietary and not ready for public release.
Once the participant is settled into the Participant side of the lab, the Engineer will then explain the technique of thinking aloud. This allows the Engineer to understand the participant's opinions, expectations and thought processes. These perspectives help us to design products for people. Once the study begins, typically the participant is given a series of tasks to complete. While he or she is working on these tasks, the Engineer notes the participant’s actions and opinions. Each study is unique based on the study he or she has been asked to participate in.
Once the tasks are completed, the participant fills out an online questionnaire to record his/her opinions and preferences.

Site Studies

As part of our Nationwide Site Visit Program, our product design and development teams go out into the field to observe users in their own work or home settings throughout the United States. By meeting with people in their own unique environments, we are better able to understand the "real life" needs, expectations and circumstances behind today's dynamic software users.
We’re interested in meeting with a mix of people who work with all types of products and who have varying levels of computer experience. In fact, there’s no need to be using Microsoft products to be eligible to participate. The visits themselves are designed to be as non-disruptive in nature as possible.
They typically last one to two hours in the participant’s own office or home. We watch, we listen, and we learn while the participant works. As a thank you for involvement in our program, each person who participates in one of our Usability Site Visits receives his or her choice of a software gift from our Usability Gratuity List.

Usability Labs

We have over 25 labs on the Redmond campus. Each lab is separated into two sections: the Observer side and the Participant side. Our Usability Engineers sit on the Observer side, while our participants are on the Participant side. The two sections are separated by a sound-proof wall and a one-way mirror (image below).

For studies using software, a scan converter provides a direct feed from the subject's computer screen to tape recorders and monitors on the observer side. The scan converter allows us to record a much higher quality image than what we would get from pointing a camera at the subject's monitor. We also have the ability to put a free-standing camera in the lab if an additional camera angle is needed for the study.

The engineer can control the camera orientation and zoom from the observer side. This flexibility is especially useful when we are doing a paper prototype or documentation test where the participant typically moves around a lot.

A video mixer allows us to quickly switch among the video sources, and to put multiple sources of video on the screen at once. Normally, the main source is an image of what the participant sees on his or her computer. A reduced image of the participant's face and mouse movements usually appear as a small picture within that main picture. We can move this small picture around on the screen if it gets in the way of an important action on the screen.

The Observer Side

The Observer side is where the Usability Engineer and other observers may view the study. The one-way mirror allows observers to clearly see the participant side during the study, while minimizing any distractions for the participant.

The wall and the one-way mirror are sound proof so observers can discuss design ideas in a normal tone without disturbing the participant. We have several tools in the observer room to collect the usability data and efficiently analyze it. All of our tools have been designed to help us quickly get usability data back to the software team.

The engineer can communicate with the participant via the microphone on the desk, which is activated by a button on the microphone's base. The participant can only hear what is said on the observer side when the engineer activates the microphone. This reduces the likelihood that participants will be distracted from discussions by the engineers during the test.

The Participant Side

The Participant side of the lab is designed to simulate a normal office environment. We can easily change the layout of the participant's side to fit a variety of study scenarios.

There are two cameras that can be positioned at virtually any angle by the engineer on the Observer side. Cameras are used to record the participant's facial expressions and mouse movements while evaluating software. The participant and the observer can communicate easily using microphones and speakers within the rooms.

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