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There was a recent Why “Out of the Box” UIs Miss The Mark about “Out of the box UIs” and that is what inspired this post.

I have had the chance to talk to many SAP customers recently about usability, about their interest in improving SAP usability and SAP user experience. As users continue to get exposed to iPhone and Facebook-like interfaces, their patience in dealing with the ERP user-interfaces seems to be diminishing. Customers are also realizing that lack of usability comes at a great cost to the enterprise, a cost which most businesses can ill-afford in this economy. Learn more about ERP Usability here.

Out-of-the-box UIs from SAP or any other enterprise application, for that matter do not really address the usability problem. It is the same UI for all kinds of users in all industries and all company sizes — not customized to their own business scenario at all.

I believe, that the solution to improving SAP usability does not even lie in custom coding new interfaces around the different business processes. The cost and the effort involved in choosing such a programming-based approach to improving usability can become prohibitive. The custom-programming approach may make sense for one or two business critical processes that are high frequency and affect a large number of users in the company, but it certainly does not make sense for all the business processes within your company. Users who participate in those processes continue to suffer. 

The solution to improving SAP usability lies in a non-programming tool that allows you to create alternative ways of interacting with SAP-based business processes. A variety of alternative front-ends to SAP should be allowed for different users. For some users, Office applications, e.g., Excel, Outlook, or Word might be the ideal front-end to SAP. For others, Sharepoint might be the ideal front-end. For some users, a PDF-based form might be the ideal front-end. And for some users a mobile platfom may be the best front-end. And ultimately for some users, the SAPGUI itself might be the ideal UI. But the key success metric for such a solution would be that it is business-driven and not IT driven.  See the magic quadrant below.

Usability Quadrant

This is what we define as an ERP Usability Platform at Winshuttle. Something that is flexible, has built-in support for multiple user-interfaces, is user-driven (no programming), and yet completely scalable and secure.

What tools or platforms do you consider as ERP Usability Platforms? Are Web DynPros it? Is Duet Enterprise a Usability platform? Are Adobe Interactive Forms for SAP it? Or do they all fall-in the lower right quadrant of extremely flexible, but ultimately IT-driven tools. 

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