Basic Input Interfaces
New data and commands. This is one of the two basic ERP user interfaces. These are used for many tasks such as new orders and purchase order receipts and accounting accruals. Whatever the particular function, the user wants exactly the fields needed for the transaction in a logical sequence and no other fields. Once they hit enter, the screen should input the command with no visible delay.
Basic Output Interfaces
Displays of information. This is the other primary ERP user interface. Users need to look up the status of a job or the address of a customer and a wide variety of other information. They want to easily select the exact information desired. Ideally, they can type in the beginning of a customer name or account number or a previous order and the system will identify quickly what they want to see and the screen refreshes immediately.
“A good user interface allows people to do their jobs effectively. Users are people with jobs to accomplish and they are experts at those jobs. They are not trained as programmers. While a programmer might enter a string of text and numbers very naturally, most of us want to find the status of a purchase order with only a click or two.”
Screens should be configurable. Two people might work side by side, each making similar accounting journal entries. But each has a unique background and so their ERP user interface should be configurable that each person is comfortable in their work. Of course, both screens need to have the same minimum fields, no unused fields and a control is needed to keep both transactions managed.
Tablets and smart phones are here to stay in this world of bring your own device. A screen that is perfect for a desktop PC is difficult to use on a small screen. We need apps to transform the big screen to one or more small ERP user interfaces, enabling work to be done from anywhere.
Portable scanners and bar code readers are used in many situations. The same rules apply as those for a desktop user. They are experts in their particular job and not programmers. Whether input or output, they need to see just what is needed and nothing else.
Dashboards are a very useful type of ERP user interface. These can be for both input and outputs. They are often designed for a very specific application within a business and might take the place of canned screens developed by the programmers. Dashboards secret weapon is configuration, users can mold their interface to their needs and processes.
When background information is needed, attaching a document to a shared ERP user interface is essential for collaboration within the ERP system. This allows users to see the context of work and collaborate when making the proper choice while still using a well-designed interface.
Command Line Interfaces
Command lines were the user interface of necessity some years ago. Remember DOS? Dir C:\\folder\ folder was a typical command then. Most interfaces moved to GUI formats with drop-down menus. But it is often useful to keep command lines too. In SAP, you can type MD04 to move to the MRP status of a part number. You can also select a string of menus and get there too. Having a choice is good.
GUI – Graphical User Interface
This is the most common interface today. Fields and tables expand and contract to fit the data and fonts. Typically has a menu bar at the top with pull-down commands.
Metro Style Interface
This is the tiles on Windows 8 and many portable devices. The day is coming when we might click on a tile to enter a new sales order. Just remember to prioritize substance over style during your ERP selection process.
The key requirement for any user interface is that the user is able to quickly and effectively accomplish whatever they need to get done at this moment.