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February 28, 2014

Creating User Experience - a Trivia OR a Necessity...!!

How monotonous it is to work on a boring dull ERP with hardly or no interactive interface..! Most of the ERP's being in use today fit to this definition. They render work mundane and day stretched. Won't it be interesting to work on an ERP customized to your specific needs rather than being general, if there is software, you actually look forward to lay your hands on. And that's what probably INFOR had in mind, when they started working towards making their ERP a complete user delight.

Since the beginning of my professional carrier, I was longing to work on something that would keep me on my toes, something to take my mind off from Monday morning blues, and I never thought such a thing really exists until I got the opportunity to work on INFOR's ERP and to get myself familiarize with it.

More I learned about it, more I got engrossed. What grasped my attention was the thoughtfulness and consideration put into creation of an interface, which registers as soon as you start working on it. It reminds me of few lines I read in an interview of INFOR CEO Charles Phillips, which can't be described in better than his own words - "For most of our competitors, the model was to build a product once and sell it to all industries -- write it once and sell many. We don't do that. We really write it once for an industry. We're willing to have focused, last-mile features for a particular industry that may not make sense for other people"

If you are willing to create a User Experience (UX), what could be a better start than captivating the user from the beginning of work itself..! Having a workspace, which is a plethora of all the important information needed in a day, will not allow one to switch to another screen. The INFOR workspace is the homepage which can get customized as per needs. It engages the user from the minute they come into work. User can mark their KPI's, can put in news feeds, reports or any other important information so as to have a glance every now and then. The major investment done by the company in improving the look and feel of applications is not meant only to be seen but also to experience when one works on it.

Another important aspect of INFOR, which gives life to whole user experience, is their Design team which is named as "Hook & Loop". The team consists of writers, developers, designers, filmmakers-all working towards the sole purpose of making customer experience more meaningful and better than ever before. User experience is the most neglected field, in designing of an ERP, which can give an enterprise competitive edge over others in the market. The team work towards UX objectives. They study, research, test their customers' requirement and create an experience that people love.

In the world of social networking, where we seek for our thoughts to be universally acknowledged, where everything said and done needs to be posted, where we like to remain connected with someone or other everytime, what would be more remarkable than having an application, where opinions of other can be sought on a particular task. Where if stuck somewhere, user can call out to people working on same application or can seek someone's help by just a ping. The option of social media widget being embedded into dashboard will surely work towards this. Perhaps that's the reason INFOR has released Ming.le, a social platform which not only collaborates a core system like ERP and financials but also allows to follow people and other objects. It is embedded as a part of an application, and can be accessed while working on an application alone. The communication is instantaneous and is stored at a centralized location which can be referred at a later stage also. The documents, photos, videos can also be shared amongst all employees.  In this era of smart phone users, where it's easy to capture the problem in a frame rather than entering it in words inside a box, a user might feel expedient to upload the video and share it with like-minded people. How convenient will it be, if rather than typing every need or problem, it could just be shown to the concerned person..

But is user interface really that important? Do users really give a thought to the interface before buying a product? Or is it just something that I have been fascinated to? I couldn't help myself but to ponder over this.

My question was best answered by the below statement:

"As far as the customer is concerned, the interface is the product." - JefRaskin, Interface expert at Apple Inc (circa 1970).

And this might be the reason for INFOR's new advertising campaign "Work is beautiful", a campaign beautifully conceptualized by their designing team - Hook and Loop, and is featured on the cover page of Wall Street Journal, Feb 5. After all, who doesn't like to work on a beautiful, easy to use and simplified software.

The company has done a lot in the field of giving customers an experience to get addictive to.  The approach of focusing on enhancing the user experience by designing the look and feel of ERP as close to daily working routine of user is different, refreshing and certainly innovative. This, I believe, will indeed bring a change into business software arena around the globe. 

February 10, 2014

Infosys partners with USC Marshall School of Business for Supply Chain Excellence

 

With economic slowdown, triggered by the recently witnessed recession, the global manufacturing sector experienced a drop in demand. This led to an unprecedented loss of employment in this sector. Today, this leaves us with a high demand for highly skilled resources. The industry demand for skills that meet their specific job requirements seem to be the hardest to come across, especially in the supply chain sector.

To add to these woes, globalization, increasing customer expectations, and stringent local and global regulations have added risk and complexity to the supply chains of today. In order to regain ground, we need to think of reforms that would help us get back on the growth bandwagon. As a starting point, it would be great to see investments in the field of education that would lead to the creation of educational programs to help meet the growing job demand in this industry.  Institutes that create such focused training programs need to be cognizant of what the sector really needs and be abreast of the latest developments in the industry and the best practices to be followed in order to augment its growth. Unfortunately, the research and insights, that are currently available for working employees and students, do not draw a parallel with what the industry wants. We are looking for quality education that can help engage our ignited minds and flare up the innovation quotient. We certainly would not want redundancy.

The recently formed partnership between Infosys and the USC Marshall School of Business is a classic example.Infosys will be closely associated with the curricular and research activities of the University's Global Supply Chain Management center.  The specialized post graduate degree on Supply chain management, from the university, will be the first officially integrated Master's program on supply chain management strategies that meets its mission of Education, Networking, and Advanced Research. This course will focus on advancing global supply chain management for a sector which is vying to employ over a million qualified professionals by the end of 2016, in the US alone.   

As part of the team from Infosys who have partnered with the university, we will be running several programs on thought leadership, industry relevant education and co-ordinate with industry experts, organizations, trade bodies and local authorities, for the center's activities. Infosys's supply chain practice would gain immensely, from the advanced research and networking activities of the USC's supply chain center. In line with its corporate social responsibility commitment, Infosys will also actively contribute to the humanitarian projects undertaken by the center.

This specialized program, will be perceived as a saving grace in the supply chain industry, and is also seen as the educational sector's proactive response to demand that's driven by the industry need for leaders who can drive growth.

February 3, 2014

Celebrating Entrepreneurship and Innovation- USC Marshall School of Business

 

Today Entrepreneurship and innovation are considered to be the key drivers in sustainable growth of an economy. In light of same there is a need to encourage youth and adults alike to take the leap into new ventures and more importantly empower them to be successful. Economies can no longer let innovation restricted to "Eureka moments" of a few inspired souls. A systemic intervention is the call of the day and hence the emphasis on entrepreneurial education. Many universities have pioneered this cause and today we celebrate the success of one such esteemed business school, the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of business.

 

The Marshall School started as the College of Commerce and Business Administration in 1920 and renamed in 1997 following a huge grant of $35 million from Gordon S Marshall, an alumni of the university. The school was the first to offer an Entrepreneurship program in US and the innovation culture continues even today. More than 90% of the faculties are entrepreneurs, lending great credibility to the program. The program is now renamed The Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. U.S News & World report ranks the center as the #2 center in the country focused on entrepreneurship. The center offers both graduate and undergraduate programs to help students develop the skill to start and manage new ventures. It also organizes business plan competitions to provide the seeding capital to the top teams so that they can realize their business idea.

Some of the distinguished alumni of the Marshall Business School are Chris DeWolfe -Cofounder and CEO MySpace; Marc Benioff - Founder and CEO of Salesforce.com; Dan Bane - Chairman and CEO of Trader Joe's. The Marshall has one of the most widespread alumni networks in the world. The members are known as being part of the "Trojan family". The family becomes stronger with the culture of Trojans supporting and recruiting fellow Trojans.

Apart from the program in entrepreneurship the Marshall school of business offers undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting, full and part time MBAs, short term executive courses,  business certificate programs and masters in specialized topics and a PHD program. Further information on the courses offered, scholarships and admissions can be availed from http://www.marshall.usc.edu/students. As part of its commitment to advanced research the Marshall school of business also operates many Centers of excellences in various innovative disciplines. Details about each of the centers are available on http://www.marshall.usc.edu/faculty/centers.

The school consists of 4 state of the art multistory buildings. The main building for MBA students is the Popovich Hall and is considered one of the most technologically advanced among the buildings of business schools in the US. Then we have the Bridge hall which holds the various administrative offices. The other two building are the Hoffman hall which is an 8 story building which also houses the library and the accounting building. One can experience the campus life by enrolling for the summer business program (SBP) a four week tuition program with on campus stay and meals included. Another way to experience the campus life is to join the Marshall MBA ambassador program where one can visit a class along with a first year student and enjoy a guided tour of the Popovich hall, the main building of the campus.  A nice video about the full time MBA course and some campus views is available on the USC Marshall Web link http://www.marshall.usc.edu/mba/admissions/visit.

Whether entrepreneurship and innovation can be taught, remains an unresolved question. But business schools like USC Marshall which are consistently churning our future leaders and successful entrepreneurs seem to be winning the debate as of now.

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