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Lately I've been to several training sessions for new company-wide software applications for payroll and customer service [plus my regular job--can you say "insanely busy"?]. SAP/BTS on the one hand and Peregrine Service Center on the other. Coming up soon: MAA and Welligent. [By the way, BTS is often referred to by an acronym which drops the "T".]

I love learning new computer systems. I've always been what is known as an "early adoptor" always willing, nay eager, to try out new software programs. So I've had a lot of experience with the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

These new programs come under the last rubric. I do not know how useable they will be, since they are still in development and yet to be rolled out completely, but they are definitely in the "ugly" category. As in non-intuitive.

They have cluttered screens, convoluted interfaces and are cursed with acronyms of the sort beloved by mainframe programmers who cut their programming teeth in the days of 8-bit words and restricted memory. So I find myself looking at something like ZCATS_DA or ZTMEMPWS and wondering why on earth it was necessary to be so cryptic, when half the display screen remains unused.

Would it have been so difficult to have used plain English? Evidently the answer is yes. The outcome is that users have to have at their elbows a cheat sheet (paper) to refer to. Low tech and unnecessarily abstruse. My recommendation: Eschew obfuscation and spell out the code words in simple language.

This is particularly important given the number of technophobes who will be required to use these systems. The more user friendly they are, the easier it will be to get them past their fear and repugnance. Cluttered screens and recondite acronyms only make the situation worse.


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