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Right off the bat, I want to say that the new webclient UI is the cleanest and most user friendly UI that I have seen in an SAP product ever. Also, over the years the functionality in CRM has become richer. So, the following comments should not be percieved as a generalization of any sort.

 

The new UI is a big improvement over the older ones including PCUI, and it is certainly a step in the right direction. However, there are certain problems, that I feel ,needs some attention from SAP to make the user adoption more easy. I am hoping to get a discussion going on about this topic, so that SAP gets some useful input from the “field”, and can incorporate it into future releases. It would also be great if SAP architects and product managers can give their feedback.

 

1. CRM is not the only SAP solution that a user needs to do business

 

This is probably the biggest hurdle that I see in user adoption. CRM arguably has a better UI than other SAP products, but when a user logs on to the portal and goes through a business process, different parts of the process will have different look,feel and navigation options.

 

I would like to know why SAP took this approach, and what is the roadmap (if any) to unify the UI across the different products going forward.

 

2. Status management is very different across different applications within CRM

 

I understand that CRM uses different frameworks for different applications, like CGPL for marketing and 1Order for orders,claims etc. While there might be excellent reasons to fit things into an existing framework, this causes some problems to the users. The one that comes to mind immediately is status management – specifically system status codes.

 

In some applications, “released” is mandatory and in others “approved” is mandatory before a followup document can be created. In some others, “approved” is just a parallel status. Some objects function completely well with “New” status, and it doesnt matter whether we set it to a “released” status at all. This last issue is kind of bizarre, since every other object after this one in the process flow needs a “released” status.

 

Imagine the plight of a business user who has to get trained in all of these applications to conduct his job day to day.

 

Another hard-to-understand feature is what is refered to as “Sum status”, which is different from header and line item status. This reads like “Created, released, approved” in best case, and almost totally incomprehensible in complex cases. I am at a loss to see what value SAP sees in having this functionality.

 

3. Display of long line items in transactions

 

A good example is the claim transaction. A line of claim has several fields, most of which are useful to a business user. However, due to some limitation of the UI framework, the claim line item is crammed into the width of the screen in such a fasion that you cannot even see half the fields when you first come to the claim screen.

 

Claims are high volume transactions and involve external business partners in its lifecycle. Since all the fields in standard display are useful to a user, personalization of the line item by removing some fields from the display is not a good solution to this problem. What is really needed is an alternate way to display long line items.

 

You can click on the claim line and see details in a more organized fashion, but the limitation is that this overview of the line item does not provide an ability to edit any field – all you can do is display. I am very keen to hear what the UI experts at SAP have to propose to mitigate this problem.

 

4. Navigation from a search page, and back

 

I do like the new search features including saved searches. The one issue that I face as a user is the navigation from search results, and back.

 

Say my search returns 10 pages. I keep going through pages, and find the link to the object I want to display, say in the 8th page. After I finish working with the object, I hit the back button. Where do I expect to go? I expect to go to page 8, where I left off. But instead, I go to page 1 of the search. I have to start all over again and find the object I need.

 

I guess I will stop at this point, and invite other CRM folks to chime in with their views on usability.

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10 Comments

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  1. Prem Mascarenhas
    Hi Vijay,

    “, but when a user logs on to the portal and goes through a business process, different parts of the process will have different look,feel and navigation options”

    — Would you be referring to NetWeaver Portal?

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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
      Hi Prem,

      I did mean netweaver portal.

      However, a lot of folks use SAP portal to expose only SAP products, and then have another portal over it (say websphere) to act as common entry point for a user who needs both SAP and non SAP pages. 

      Cheers
      Vijay

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  2. Stephen Johannes
    I would agree it is interessting that the new CRM UI was developed in “WD-BSP” instead of WDA or WDJ.  The look and feel issues are really a very “old problem”.  The SAP GUI screens in CRM were always “one step” ahead of the enjoy screens in R/3.  The PCUI screens were different than the java iviews/WDJ.  The new UI while nice just adds to this long history of the CRM user interface doing something “different”.

    So is the problem that users want the interface to be more like CRM or they want CRM to be more like the other applications?

    Take care,

    Stephen

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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
      I agree – CRM UI was always different. However, now that it is “really nice” – it does pose a dilema whether rest of SAP should migrate to CRM or the other way.

      From a usability perspective, if SAP solves the kind of issues I touched upon, I would wholeheartedly vote for CRM UI to become the standard.

      I am also interested in your feedback on status management.

      Cheers
      Vijay

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      1. Stephen Johannes
        Vijay,

        I agree the status management is just too complicated.  However part of the mess is due to concept of data replication.  The fact you can create both a “system status” and “user status” with the same descriptions is definitely an area waiting for errors.  You also touched on a point that CRM basically has some subflavors of design at the basic ojbect level.
        – Marketing Module
        – One Order – Business Transactions
        – Product Master
        – Business Partners – BP

        I think this is why we see so much differences.  We have several different but related processes, all sitting together.  I won’t say the apps are as far apart as SD & HR, but there is some separation between modules that leads your problems.

        On a related note, is the whole concept of saving with “errors” for the business transaction.  This is another area where ERP and CRM differ in approach.  Yet part of this is UI driven, with a web pages that don’t do “hard stops” as easy as the SAP GUI.

        At this point it would be interesting to see how the new ERP ehnancement packs will “catch-up” the UI of ERP to the UI of CRM.

        Take care,

        Stephen

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        1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
          The whole idea of saving a transaction in error is rather odd – especially since some scenarios do not allow the document to ever get corrected.
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  3. Anonymous
    Vijay,

    First of all I would like to thank you for your feedback on those points. This is really helpful. Please let me also comment on some of the points you raised.

    1. CRM is not the only SAP solution that a user needs to do business

    – you are correct that CRM is not alone. Therefore we made the User Interface flexible. We used CSS-Styling in order to enable customers to adapt the UI to their own corporate identity if required and/or their own branding. This can be done via pointing to the respective CSS file in customization, so it is possible to influece position and look and feel of the UI (e.g. Icons, buttons etc.)

    3. Display of long line items in transactions

    -The answer to this from our point of view is that you need to make this table horizontal scrollable as you do not want to reduce the number of columns and at the same time they get to small on the UI without scrolling. There exists a parameter in the table tag for this, so my question would be if you already have tried this for the claims table and also if this would be a possible solution from your perspective.

    4. Navigation from a search page, and back

    – I know of this issue and I also agree to your expectation here. We are currently looking into this but it will take some time to get this done.

    Hope this helps you a bit and kind regards,
    Florian

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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar Post author
      Florian, I greatly appreciate you taking time to post a reply.

      here are my thoughts
      1. You are right – some pain can be eased by CSS etc, but it is costly to do this on a project basis. it would be a lot more cost effective if SAP unified UI paradigms across applications.

      3. I am not sure if I understand the tag table you mentioned. Can you elaborate on where i can maintain this parameter? The one option I know of is to change pixel settings on the view.

      4. Glad this is being worked on.

      It would be great to know from SAP on point 3 – the one on status management, and if there is any plan to unify the behavior across CRM components.

      Cheers
      Vijay

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  4. Volker Hildebrand
    I really like this discussion about the new CRM UI… and while I understand that there are different opinions about whether a “solo run” of CRM makes sense when users are faced with the challenge of using multiple UIs (SAP and non-SAP) I would like to draw your attention to a recent keynote address by Bob Stutz (who as General Manager of the CRM product line at SAP is resonsible for the UI change). In his speech he talked extensively about the need for a new user interface for CRM and how this was actually driven by our customers and the business users. Very openly, he talks about customer feedback and internal discussions at SAP around the CRM user interface. We have made this keynote available on BPX so check it out… you might find this very interesting

    https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/go/portal/prtroot/docs/media/uuid/f0f09e97-8ad8-2a10-7ea3-e47d5a260029

    or go to the CRM homepage on BPX and click on the link to the keynote under events.

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  5. Davy Pelssers
    Dear  Vijay,
    looking on SDN for CRM2007 security aspects I ended up at your blogs. Reading them al I also read this one, and admit that as a SAP CRM consultant finally I am pleasantly surprised by the efforts done by SAP to finally have one general UI approach instead of coping with IC Webclient ; PCUI and SAP Gui at the same time.

    I think that stretching the same UI concept into the R/3 (ECC6.0) area would be highly appreciated by customers.
    Also consider the fact that now you will get following scenario:
    People using and working 90% of their time in the new CRM UI will sometimes still need to access a sales order in R/3 for further processing from a logistical point of view. In that case we can call the R/3 system VA03 transaction from within our CRM application (WEB UI) but it’s not very pleasant still having to work with SAPgui look and feel and the great Webui screens in such a case.

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