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Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes

The Fifth UI?

The wandering mind

Earlier today I was answering a question on groupware integration for CRM, which made me pause and look at the answer in deeper fashion.  If you are interested in the actual question take a look Re: Groupware Synchronisation and Mobile Phones

Like a jazz musician picking up a riff, I realized that for CRM my view of mobility is all wrong.  I realize that mobility is what I will call the “fifth UI”.

Now I’m not going to give the CRM webclient UI, the “kiss of death”, but let’s first look at how we got here:

  1. SAP CRM was a SAP GUI application with a thick client mobile off-line solution
  2. Next came the PCUI while keeping the thick client mobile off-line solution
  3. Third we got the IC webclient while keeping the thick client mobile off-line solution
  4. Most recently we got the SAP Webclient UI, without a clear successor to the mobile off-line solution at first.

Here is where I’m going to bold and say the following:  The Mobile UI interface of SAP CRM needs to be the primary interface for all scenarios that don’t involve someone sitting at the same building on a daily basis.  In other words, unless you are dealing with fixed call center employees.. mobile is primary.  Yep the heartburn of having to redo my CRM UI yet again within the last two years is not a great thing, but lets face it: Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows 7 Phone basically have changed the game.

The fifth UI!

Yes for CRM mobile is not an alternative access method anymore.  Mobile must be the primary user interface for CRM period.  It just makes sense and any CRM application should support “ALL” scenarios via mobile and provide extensibility to those mobile scenarios.  It no longer matters how easy the desktop web browser application is cool or easy, the mobile interface is what matters now.

Back to reality

Let’s face it, personally I don’t have an end-to-end mobile CRM solution implemented yet.  However I realize that the problem with CRM is that when people want to use CRM they need to “face away from the customer”.  What I would expect to see in the near/immediate future is how the quaint web browser application of SAP CRM will be tranformed to a fully mobile solution.  Fully mobile means all scenarios/processes with full customizing and extensibility support.  Yes I don’t expect this happen today, but I do see some day in the future where most consumption/update of CRM date is via mobile device.

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      Author's profile photo Shankar Agarwal
      Shankar Agarwal
      nice blog , however this stands true for almost all the SAP modules.Mobile apps is no more an option but client wants it be an integral part of the solution.Also with "Project Gateway" due this year ,SAP has also shown its full support for mobile developments.
      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes
      Blog Post Author
      My issue is that the trend right now is to "mobilize" applications and not build "mobile applications.  In other words the application is really a mobile application that has desktop access.  Ultimately we want full applications rather than DIY kits for getting data out of your system on a mobile device.

      A perfect example is twitter where the mobile access/versions are not "mobilized versions", but rather full applications that in some cases are better than the desktop web application. 

      I think until the "mobile suite" rivals "desktop suite" especially for CRM it's not a true application designed for the mobile user.

      Take care,


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Fifth or first?

      i don't think mobile will ever become desktop, so we shouldn't try to stuff too much into the hand held, even if it's the smartest one in the world. i also agree that writing an app which is only a backdoor launchpad for a browser is not a real development stretch. works fine for sales types and some accountants, though.


      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes
      Blog Post Author
      The problem is that certain types of business applications such as SFA, really do not need the overkill of a desktop based application.  Tablet/smartphone factors can present handle most of what is needed.

      I honestly think a tablet with the right applications could replace the need for a laptop for someone doing field sales. 

      Fifth UI refers to that the mobile UI replaces the webclient UI as a primary user interface for CRM instead of being just an "add-on".  Very similar to how the SAP GUI was phased out in favor of the PCUI and then CRM webclient UI.

      Take care,


      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes
      Blog Post Author

      It's weird reading this knowning that I wrote this before Fiori was "the approach" for everything.  Even SAP competitors have made their CRM platforms mobile native.