Paas For Saas Luis Figueira

Luis Figueira talks to Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team about Boxfusion’s success with PaaS for SaaS

Today, it’s possible to tailor SaaS applications like Oracle Sales Cloud to go way beyond the core product...

Nearly a year ago, Boxfusion Consulting worked closely with the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team in an intensive, three-day design workshop. This workshop was designed to help one of our longstanding clients form and develop a solution for Oracle Sales Cloud using the Oracle Applications Cloud UX Rapid Development Kit (RDK).  Now that our client has had time to familiarise themselves with their solution, the OAUX team reached out to our Cloud Lead, Luis Figueira, to get a better understanding of the design, build and benefits of the customisations.

This article was originally published by Kathy Miedema (Senior Market Research Analyst, Oracle) and can be accessed here.

You’ve used the OAUX team’s ADF RDK before to build PaaS4SaaS extensions for your customers. How big of a role has the RDK and OAUX enablement held in helping you with particular projects? #

We’ve used the ADF RDK to accelerate development of custom solutions in PaaS4SaaS scenarios where it’s necessary to go beyond the core SaaS product and extend it to cater to specific business needs. As I mentioned in our Beyond SaaS piece, the Cloud plays a significant role within the bigger ‘digital transformation’ picture because of the opportunities it brings in terms of agility. However, sometimes some of the features you’re looking for won’t be available as SaaS, and customers will need to go beyond SaaS and look at building solutions using PaaS components. What the RDK ensures is that, when using ADF on Java Cloud Service, we are able to deliver better and future-proofed solutions to our customers, that blend in seamlessly with the SaaS applications we’re looking to extend.

Overall, I think the assets and the format are really useful, particularly the mock-up tool, the design patterns and the skinning artifacts — the OAUX enablement more so because of the interactive and iterative sessions, where ideas could be discussed with the team (Ultan, Julian and Lancy). It was really good to have a customer there providing input and being a part of the discussions, as design constraints could be discussed there and then.

We have used the assets again a few times and the enablement workshop fits with the Discovery workshops in our delivery methodology quite well, which means we can roll this out again and again, with less of a dependency on the OAUX team whilst naturally keeping in close contact with them. I'm a member of the Oracle User Advisory Board (OUAB), an OAUX initiative to foster collaboration around enterprise software usability, which helps facilitating these relationships.

How do your customers feel about the user experience that you built using the RDK? #

They see it as a natural and seamless extension of the underlying Oracle CX Cloud application (Sales Cloud). We often joke about when Oracle will take the eLearning product we built in this instance and make it part of the core product!

In what ways were you able to increase the efficiency and participation of your customers’ users? #

In terms of the extensions that add new functionality not existent in the core Oracle CX Cloud applications, the fact that the UX is seamless and uses the core OAUX patterns of ‘glance, scan, commit’ really helps. Training was very easy and the customer was able to pick it up and roll out the training to their users (internal and external) independently. Most of this is down to the UX patterns, that users were already familiar with, thereby easing adoption.

We have done other work that changes the way users interact with core CX Cloud applications, because of usability changes in the specificity of their requirements. We still make use of the same patterns, but the idea is to make certain tasks easier or work around constraints in the underlying products. In these cases, we make it clear to our customers that these are interim solutions, whose need should be reassessed with every new core product release.

How did the RDK enablement help Boxfusion learn to design and build reusable solutions with a focus on UX? #

A lot of our company culture revolves around UX. Some of our consultants are members of the Interaction Design Foundation, we are deeply involved in UX work in a few Oracle products and we have an ongoing relationship with OAUX, via the OUAB. The enablement however was a step up, in that we had an opportunity to use the RDK and the related knowledge and tools and jointly work with Oracle UX experts in building a new UX-driven reusable solution that, as far as we could see, did not exist in the market. Having those tools and the close collaboration was crucial to the speed in which we were able to deliver a new product on Oracle PaaS in around five months, from design to production.  

In Beyond SaaS: Extending Oracle Sales Cloud, you mention a first-time-right approach to your work. How does this fit with the goals of Oracle’s user experience team, as you understand them? #

Our approach involves committing considerable effort at the beginning of a customer engagement. We do significant amounts of preparation prior to any engagement and then start with a number of workshops with key users to understand the needs underlying their requirements and how the Oracle CX Cloud solutions can help address those needs. The workshops are anchored on our knowledge of the Oracle CX Cloud solutions and we normally drive the workshops by exploring those needs in live instances of solutions we believe help resolve them, where we may already have done minimal configurations to discuss certain aspects of the requirements. If you are familiar with the Design Thinking methodology, this might be vaguely similar to an early prototype. We do this because this helps reduce uncertainty already in earlier stages of the engagement, but also to expose customers to the Oracle CX Cloud solutions early, to explore the out-of-the-box options before the need arises for custom work.

As you can see, part of this methodology aligns to what a UX researcher might do. Whilst in pure UX, an expert might ask how well a certain task can be accomplished, we take that a step further and ask our customers whether their needs can be met using out-of-the-box (or minimally configured) Oracle CX Cloud-based solutions. This activity might result in a series of gaps being identified in those few cases where our customers' needs cannot be met using CX Cloud solutions with only configurations applied to them. In those cases, by being familiar with the UX patterns designed and implemented by the usability and product development teams and making use of the tools at our disposal and our internal UX knowledge and expertise, we are able to still address any customizations whilst keeping in line with the product direction.

By maintaining our relationship with the Oracle user experience team and knowing what the future has in store for our customers in terms of user interaction patterns, we can help our customers onboard more seamlessly to Oracle solutions, get their work done more easily and make their lives simpler.