Why I believe in the power of ASUG Influence Councils Part 2 – The ASUG UI Influence Council
As the title states, this is Part 2. Part 1 described the first ASUG Influence Council I participated in and can be readWhy I believe in the power of ASUG Influence Councils Part 1 .
This blog is about my experience being the customer lead for the ASUG SAP NetWeaver User Interface Council. This Influence Council (IC) first started at the end of 2008. That was about the time User Interfaces (UI’s) were starting to be used by more SAP end-users in promoting productivity. I was approached to see if an ASUG Influence Council could be started as issues with the current UI’s were surfacing and companies wanted a way to provide feedback to SAP. As an ASUG volunteer, I have access to see who has submitted abstracts for the ASUG Annual Conference. I found one that had been submitted by Yariv Zur so I contacted him. He thought an IC would be an excellent way to get customer feedback and agreed to become the SAP sponsor. Yariv would lead the java side and he brought in Thomas Jung to lead the ABAP side. We then got 9 other SAP Customer Companies involved and launched the UI Influence Council.
We started having regular conference calls/webexes. Our first goal was to set the scope of what would be covered in this IC. It soon became apparent that there would need to be more than one council as UI covers a lot of different technologies. It was decided to split into 2 councils. Our IC would cover the UI related tools and toolsets and another council would be formed to cover the Portal related issues.
We then narrowed the scope down to 13 UI tools/toolsets. I created a document that we used to prioritize and rate them. This document contained questions such as:
- Do you use this tool/toolset? (as not all tools were going to be used by each company in the IC)
- If not using it now, are there plans to use it in the future?
- If not, why not?
- If you do use it, what works and what doesn’t work?
- What would you lie to see improved?
Each company also rated the listed tools on how important they were so we could decide which ones to concentrate on first.
Once everyone had sent in their information, I compiled it all and this was the outcome:
- ABAP Web Dynpro
- Visual Composer
- .Net – UI Interoperability
- Java Web Dynpro
- WPC – Portal Webpage Composer
- Adobe Interactive Forms
- Business Client
- Flash Islands/Flex
- PDK – Portal Development Kit
- FPM – Floor Plan Manager
- BOBJ – Xcelsius, Crystal, Voyager (those tools that interact with UI)
As 13 tools/toolsets would be too much to cover at one time, we chose to start with the top 5 for phase 1.
We then started meeting weekly and doing a “deep dive” per each of the top 5 issues listed above. During these discussions, other topics came up that were not necessarily considered issues, so, we created a section called “Strategic Concerns”. Some examples of these were:
- Improve Upgrade Paths of Technical Capabilites
- Dependence on Enterprise Portal (not all companies use the SAP Enterprise Portal)
- Browser Support
Examples of some of the information we provided to SAP in the Requirements Document for the top 5 issues were:
ABAP Web Dynpro
Very difficult to edit themes and change style sheets
- Need integrated styling tools for controlling the UI look and feel
- More freedom to apply style such as rounded corners, color gradients, etc.
- Have latest web features like placing the cursor will bring a small blob to display details
Option to develop stateless ABAP Web Dynpro
- End users are disconcerted when using SAP delivered WD and the browser Back button doesn’t work or causes unexpected results
Enable development of custom controls
- The SAP supplied controls may not meet the needs of individual company’s preferences
- Currently, there is not a way to carry out an event on value help (F4)
Migrating existing VC over to new/upgraded VC
- Allow power users to model their own dashboards using VC instead of Visio
Provide the ability to simplify the backend .api
- Have SAP provide off-the-shelf purpose built .api’s for consumption from VC
Limited UI controls
- Provide FrontPage HTML editor like functionality
Freestyle UI styling
Wide range of font size support
Creating a custom table to include set of controls with custom table layout
Limited styling options
- Need flexibility in controlling styles and themes independent of the portal themes
- Limited font sizes and color options
.Net – UI interoperability
Web Service Migration from ECC 5.0 to ECC 6.0 and SOA Manager
SSO between SAP and SharePoint web parts
Surface SAP BI data in MS User Interface
Ability to consume direct RFC’s from .Net instead of having to convert the service calls to ES explorer
JAVA Web Dynpro
Visual Styling Limitations (same as for ABAP Web Dynpro)
Difficult to find DC’s to include in linked libraries
- This is not just a web dynpro issue, but more of a java development issue
- Have SAP provide a cross reference so less time is spent looking for DC’s for a given SAP Class
Web Dynpro Flavor Parity
- Currently only available for ABAP Web Dynpro
Processing/Rendering Speed Limitations
- Performance has been improved in 7.2
Concurrent Development Complexities
Creation of Custom Controls
WPC – Portal Webpage Composer
- HTML based editors managing content
- Workflow based approval process of WPC content
- Ability to clear multiple content spaces in layout
- WPC workbench too crowded
- Improve ease of use for WPC
WPC Change Management
- Ability to check-in/check-out WPC content
- Version Management
Spell Check Capability within HTML Editor
Have an “undo” function within HTML Editor
Have the ability to expire content automatically
- Ability to expire content within the web page by a time period
All of this information was then compiled into a Requirements Document that was given to SAP. Each topic had the following information:
- Description of the issue
- A rating of Very High, High, or Medium (this rating was voted on by the whole council)
- Provided Additional Detailed Information
- Provided Business Case Examples – Providing business case examples is very important to SAP. They use this information to justify getting SAP resources to work on the issue.
Issues that were rated “Low” or had been described as “nice to have” were compiled into a separate document called “Additional Feedback Document” and was also given to SAP.
SAP then reviewed both of the documents given to them by the IC. After a period of time, they came back with a response. The IC found out that some of the issues were already being addressed. As Influence Councils are governed by NDA’s, we received advanced information and demo’s of new functionality.
This ended Phase 1 of the UI Influence Council.
The next goal of the IC was to put together a survey to gather information on what development technologies SAP customers are using. The results will be used to help put together best practises and UI usage information. The survey was fist sent out to members of the ASUG Technology Special Interest Groups. It was later then posted on SCN to gather information on a global scale.
One of the most interesting responses was:
It was now time to start Phase 2 of the Influence Council. We added some new members to the council and have started discussing the next 5 issues:
- Adobe Interactive Forms
- Business Client
- Flash Islands/Flex
- PDK – Portal Development Kit (collaborate with the ASUG Portal IC)
We will also be collaborating with the ASUG SAP NetWeaver Portal Influence Council on some overlap areas. This Influence Council started in Q4 2009. They are focusing on providing input to SAP on selected areas in the next major release of the SAP NW Portal Product. One overlap area was the WPC. While this issue was an issue more related to the Portal, we included it in the Phase 1 of the UI IC as the Portal IC had not formed yet and it made the top 5 issues.
Additional issues have surfaced with the original top 5 toolsets, so, we will continue to gather requirements on those and provide this feedback to SAP.
To find out more on the status of Phase 2, there will be an Influence Council Update session at SAP TechEd 2010 in Las Vegas. For all of the ASUG related sessions at SAP TechED Las Vegas, check here.
Some examples of how the ASUG UI Influence Council has actually “influenced’ SAP are:
This IC identified theming as a weak point in Web Dynpro ABAP. SAP listened to this feedback, and, now, in 7.0.2, we can now theme flash islands and SAP will continue enhancing the stand alone theme editor.
One of the Strategic Concerns pertained to Improve Upgrade Paths of Technical Capabilities. One particular example the IC referred to was concerned migration paths for Upgrading Visual Composer. So, SAP provided information out on SDN to help address some of our concerns (link).
This webpage includes:
- What’s New in VC for SAP NetWeaver 7.2
- VC Migration Handbook
- How to transport Visual Composer content from VC 7.0 to VC 7.11 or 7.2
- VC Veterans Guide
The IC was also able to provide feedback to SAP regarding the UI information in Chapter 5 of SAP’s Guidelines for Best-Built Applications.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in ASUG Influence Councils. If you ever get a chance to join one, I highly recommend it.