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The SAP CRM UI – Go in with your eyes wide open

Since 2008, I’ve had the pleasure of introducing hundreds of SAP customers and consultants to the new and rapidly evolving CRM User Interface (UI).


I recently ran a five day SAP CRM User Interface Development workshop (part of SAP’s CRM Deep Dive Workshop Series) for a group of consultants and developers at one of the world’s largest oil & gas companies. The workshop was based on CRM 7.0 and covered everything from the set-up and configuration of a Business Role through to the creation of a brand new UI Component. On the way, we looked at the Application Enhancement Tool, the Easy Enhancement Workbench, Design Layer customizing and Component Enhancement.


The first half of the workshop was a great success and the participants loved the UI Configuration Tool and the Application Enhancement Tool (AET). I remember the first time I demonstrated the UI Configuration tool to a group of experienced SAP consultants. It was 2008 and we were on CRM 2006s. There were audible gasps from the group as I showed them how easy it was to change a field label, hide fields, add fields and change the position of fields on a screen. You would have gasped too. I did, and I was performing the demo.


The CRM UI is a complex beast and SAP have done a good job of masking this complexity with these tools. If you haven’t tried them yet I would urge you to do so as they showcase just how good SAP can be and with SAP CRM 7.1 they are even better!


Let’s get back to the workshop.


The User Interface (UI) Component we created used standard SAP objects and comprised a search screen, a results screen an overview page and a data entry form all integrated into a Business Role. This part of the workshop took three of the five workshop days and was in the words of one of the participants, “excruciating”.


Adjective: Intensely painful.
Mentally agonizing; very embarrassing, awkward, tedious.


I had to agree. “Excruciating”, describes the experience of creating a new UI Component very nicely. I would also add the words, “costly”, “time consuming” and “complex”.


This will come as a surprise to many SAP customers who have invested in CRM and are about to undertake an implementation project or upgrade to CRM 7.0 and above.


The core UI configuration of Business Role, Navigation Bar Profile etc is simple and straightforward as is the UI Configuration Tool and AET. SAP have done an exceptionally good job here.


However, the moment you want to do something that is not supported by these tools you are looking at potentially costly, time consuming and complex enhancements and developments.


Your consultants and developers will require a deep knowledge of the CRM UI framework and UI architecture including the Presentation Layer, the Business Object Layer (BOL), Generic Interaction Layer (genIL) and API’s which make up the CRM UI. They will also need to be able to use the Component Workbench and be comfortable with ABAP OO.


Are these skills in plentiful supply within your organization? No, I didn’t think so.


Here are a few examples of the types of UI changes that require component enhancement and development. They may surprise you.

  • I want to create a guided procedure to walk my users through the process of creating a Service Order. That’s a development.
  • I want to remove the “More” option on the menu bar. That’s a component enhancement.
  • I want to change the structure of a UI Component View. Another component enhancement.
  • I want to include attributes from one UI Component View into another UI Component View. You need to add a new Context Node to your View. Can you guess? You got it, a component enhancement.


It is important that you understand this. If you don’t you are going to be in for a big shock once those time and cost estimates come in for the CRM UI work stream of your project.


The following diagram summarizes my thoughts on the effort and complexity associated with the different CRM UI tasks that need to be undertaken as part of an SAP CRM implementation.

Feel free to agree or disagree but make sure you go into you project with your eyes wide open.


This blog first appeared at The SAP CRM UI – Go in with your eyes wide open..

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      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes

      Nice blog.  I would agree that if you want to make major modifications to the user interface then yep the complexity jumps up much.  However if I compare the complexitity between CRM 52 and CRM 70 EHP1 it is a lot less complex now.

      Guided Procedure -> agree completely

      Removing More Menu -> A much simpler component enhancement

      Change Structure -> it depends, but this is work

      Add fields between views -> Once you learn BOL programming this is very easy.

      You also fail to mention that component enhancement doesn't require you to create all the objects manually.  Instead the system "prepares" everything for enhancement by creating the subclasses and then you begin your work.  Compared to the IC Webclient in CRM 4.0/5.0 where you had to build everything manually to enhance it is a lot less work.

      Another great point is that the training resources available along with the reference materials on SCN can accelerate most enhancements if you can search and follow instructions.  I would agree is this was 2008/2009 when the new UI was release the time to implement would be much longer.

      In terms of skills not having ABAP knowledge OO available is failure to allow your people to learn and grow.  The other parts of learning of CRM technical can be achieved through training, self-study and mentoring.  I will admit it took me about a month to get comfortable with all the technical concepts of the CRM Web Client.  I already understood ABAP OO, BSP and the general CRM data model.  I can imagine the learning curve to be much higher if you haven't worked with ABAP or CRM before.

      Take care,