The new version of Macola’s software features a rethought design philosophy that simplifies the interface and makes it more mobile-friendly.
NEW ORLEANS – At their Macola Evolve event here, business software vendor Exact has released the 10.5 version of its mid-market focused ERP software. This release, which the company considers to be an extremely significant one, primarily focuses on improving the customer experience, which has been a dominant theme of the Macola 10 releases.
“Macola 10 helped you go beyond data by personalizing your own view of your own information, and allowing you to change your views as often as you needed with our workspaces,” Alison Forsythe, Exact, Macola Division’s Managing Director, told the assembled customers and partners in her keynote. “Usability is no longer an option. Users expect a good user experience.”
Forsythe then showed slides contrasting the cluttered Yahoo search page with the Google search page, with its single box surrounded by white space
“The power and simplicity of the Google home page wins,” Forsythe emphasized. We deliver the same powerful usability as that home page with Macola 10.5. What we have done with 10.5 will blow the socks off our competition. There’s such a massive change in complexity, in the change from old ERP systems, including ours, to where we have moved with this.”
Derek Ochs, Director of Software Development at Exact, Macola division, filled in the details for the conference attendees, with an emphasis on the design philosophy behind the changes.
“It’s important to understand that usability isn’t something that comes by accident,” he said. “It comes from good design. It’s important for ERP software because there has been an attitude that business software doesn’t need to be usable. It just has to do the job.”
Ochs said that once, usability was calculated simply by the number of clicks, but has now moved beyond that to ensuring consistency. With this version Macola has also borrowed principles from the philosophy of design.
“When you have something that’s cluttered, it creates discomfort and, over time, a poor feeling about the application,” he stated. “So the principle of design is to decrease cognitive friction, to increase efficiency.”
Another design principle in the new release is Progressive Disclosure.
“This means that you only show people the things they need when they need to see them,” Ochs said, referencing Hick’s Law, that states that the more choices you have, the longer it takes to make a decision.
Another key decision was to design the 10.5 interface with a tablet-first approach, rather than a design that will also work on tablets.
“People want to be able to do things when mobile, so we created a design that responds to different sizes of screen and different types of interfaces, that works well on both small and large devices, adapts to the device being used, and is touch friendly,” Ochs said. “We spent a lot of time on this in 10.5.”
Other design concepts include interfaces that learn, and a reduction in icons.
“Icons were great in the 80s and 90s, but today, the design principle is to reduce them,” Ochs said.
“To pull all this off, we had to rethink the architecture,” Ochs stressed. “This is the biggest change we have had in the last 20 years at Macola – moving from a closed architecture to an open one, which makes it easier to integrate and provides an unlimited amount of choices. Similarly, we are moving from the concept of running on a single device to running on any device, because that’s just the way the world is changing. We are also moving from assuming on-prem deployments to assuming flexible deployments, with hybrid or cloud.”
Macola 10.5 is admittedly only a start on this whole process, which will roll out over a lengthy roadmap, but Ochs said even the beginning of it here is significant.
“The changes to our interface are a radical departure,” he said. “We are starting the transformation to a completely new Macola product.
Ochs showed the new Item Snapshot screen, which consolidates 16 order entry screens into one.
“Most of the screen is grayed up, except ‘Select a Customer,’ and the new options appear as you enter data,” he said. “Right now, it supports two order types but will eventually support all the ones you know and expect.”
Ochs also highlighted a new Recent Search area, an example of the leaning capability, and the speed of the new interface compared to the old.
“This will allow you to be much faster, both for faster transactions, and faster onboarding of employees,” he said. “In addition, because it’s more usable than before, you are more likely to explore parts of the application you didn’t even know were there, overcoming a common problem in ERP systems.”
Jeff DeSchon, vice-president and co-owner at iPro ERP Consultants, a Calhoun, Georgia-based Macola reseller, said the enhancements in 10.5 will make Macola much easier to sell.
“10.5 is much more about the user experience, with usability being a lot easier, and compared to a few years ago it’s a lot simpler,” DeSchon said. “There is a big difference between the workspaces in Macola 10 and 10.5 as a result. It’s the exciting part for us as a reseller, because it provides the sizzle that companies are looking for in a new site sale.”