By Sheldon Needle
In the broadest sense user friendly software is something you or anyone else might find appealing in terms of how particular software looks and the ease of navigating the menus, entering data and accessing information.
But behind this simple explanation lies many subtleties that escape most users when evaluating software for its user friendly characteristics. Keep in mind that user friendly is something that can vary from person to person.
Here are 10 of the issues to look at in determining whether the manufacturing software you are considering for your operation is really designed to be user friendly. Once you have nailed this aspect down of the software you are considering, you have performed a very important component of the mrp system selection evaluation process.
- You are a universe of one – No two people are going to rate everything they see the same. What one person finds easy, another may find confusing or counterintuitive.
- User interface – Does the screen seem to flow logically from step to step or is it cluttered with a lot of information not relevant to you?
- Numer of clicks – how many mouse clicks are needed to see all relevant data information screens, for say part information? It’s nice to have lots of detail to look at but only if it germane to your operation.
- User documentation – this aspect of the software is often overlooked by prospective buyers. Is there comprehensive, easy to find content that explains how the system works with eas- to-follow examples. Does the documentation look like it was written by someone who knows how to explain things or by a programmer or technical person? When was the documentation last updated?
- Process flow – Are the menus organized methodically in a way that relates to the way you do things, e.g. from quotes to sales orders to work orders to tracking work in process?
- Ease of entry, void, correction of transactions – The meat and potatoes part of the system. How fast and fluid is data entry, how easy is to correct a prior field if you entered something wrong. Is there a one step void capability to reverse transactions or do you have to do a manual adjustment? When does the program validate data, field by fields or only after running a batch report?
- Search, find functions for transactions – Can you do a simple table query to grab data from multiple files for special purpose lookups, can you create and save and name these searches for subsequent use?
- Search and find documents – Can you file documents, associate them with transactions (e.g. an invoice with an inventory receipt) and do a keyword search to find them or do you have to know exactly where you saved it?
- No. of steps to post – How many steps are involved in posting a transaction from accounts receivable or payables to customer/ vendor files and then to the general ledger?
- Personal customization – Is it easy personalize user menus to just show functions they need. Can it be changed subsequent to initial setup?
User friendly is a term used frequently when talking about software and justifiably so. It tells you not only how easy or cumbersome the software might be to operate, but also about the vendor and their care in developing the product.
Proper training can make unfriendly more friendly. Bear in mind that no one learns how to use a spreadsheet or complex word processing program in a day or two. All software requires proper training and a ramp up period to become completely comfortable using it.
The difference between friendly and unfriendly can also depend on attitude on the part of the user as well as the quality of the training and the environment used to deliver the training.