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Author's profile photo Esther Blankenship

SAP’s UX Strategy


Now more than ever people’s expectations are shaped by intuitive touchscreen devices and the software they use privately such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Pinterest, raising the bar for the applications they use at work. Customers are increasingly telling us that user experience (UX) is the differentiator, not features and functions.

With such a large product portfolio, any SAP UX strategy cannot be a “boil the ocean” approach; it has to target the areas that will have the biggest impact. So, instead of closing themselves off in a meeting room with like-minded colleagues, SAP user experience and product leads invited customers to tackle the challenge together as one team. Driven by SAP’s Sam Yen, Andreas Hauser, Gerrit Kotze, Nis Boy Naeve, Jörg Rosbach, and Volker Zimmermann, these were not high-level-sit-around-a-long-table-sipping-mineral-water meetings. Instead, all participants rolled up their shirtsleeves, got out markers and post-its, brainstormed, exchanged, debated, and analyzed. The workshops and iterations started in the spring of 2012 and concluded several months ago in Walldorf.

The result is pragmatic, yet innovative. Here’s the big picture of the UX strategy that the customer / SAP team co-developed:

  • Provide consumer-grade UX for new applications
  • Renew existing applications by improving the UX of software supporting the most commonly-used business scenarios
  • Enable customers to improve the UX of the SAP software they use to perform their own mission-critical business scenarios

Download this short pdf outlining the strategy (8 pages, but about half are pictures, disclaimer stuff, etc.) to find out more!

Additionally, check out SAP Fiori, a major step forward in executing on the “renew” pillar of the strategy, and the SAP User Experience Community for more about design and user experience at SAP.

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      Author's profile photo Paul Hardy
      Paul Hardy

      I have been following SAP's user interface "strategy" with great interest, looking at all the latest presentations like the one above and I have come to the following conclusion.

      SAP has tried to be ll things to all people for so long they do not HAVE a strategy, no matter what they say other than the bland "do what works best for you" which means nothing.

      The main example is CRM having a different user interface technology than any of the myriad UI tecnologies available for ERP. Any plans to unify this - don't be silly!

      Leaving computers and IT out of the equation my experience is human beings don't like vagueness and multiple answers to the same question - especially in business wher money is at stake.

      If you have 500 million solutions to the same problem and you have a customer with that problem, then is it REALLY the best way forward to throw all 500 million solutions in their face and say "you choose - by the way we have a consultant who can choose for you at a huge price".

      Maybe I am the lunatic but for so many years SAP got attacked beacuse the GUI looked horrible. Instead of fkining the underlying problem the focus seems to be on selling people things to fix the problems in the product they origianally paid a huge amount for...

      Author's profile photo Tom Van Doorslaer
      Tom Van Doorslaer

      I also notice that SAP is focusing on the UI.

      But UI is only a small part of UX. User experience starts with a meaningful process that adds value. Because SAP software is so versatile, the processes are not tailor-made for each company.

      Making a small time company, where purchasing is only used for pencils and paper, go through a complex release process for purchase orders, is madness.

      Sticking a nice UI on top of that is not going to help. (be it WebUI, WDA, SAPUI5, or whatever)

      not that I don't like the new UI-technologies, but too often, a new UI technology is sold as the solution to the user acceptance and efficiency problem. It's not.

      I think that SAP-consultants (working for SAP or partners) should not just restrict themselves to implementing the standard transactions and processes, but must asses what the customer actually needs. (which immediately brings the cartoon of the swing to mind)

      Author's profile photo Ingo Deck
      Ingo Deck

      I really like your argument Tom, too often and too fast technologies are seen or regarded as the miracle to solve any UX problem.. whenever we present this topic we integrated one phrase very prominently:

      "Choosing the right tool or technology is one important step. However, in order to achieve a high level of user experience, it is neither the first, nor the most important step."

      There are many other steps needed first to achieve a UX success from a user's perspective - whatever technology you use.

      Author's profile photo Gerrit Kotze
      Gerrit Kotze

      Hi Paul

      I think the nature of an ERP solution that offers configuration capability means you should expect that there will be more than one way to construct a working solution.

      However, I do want to point out that SAP GUI is more than 20 years old. Same for the underrlying Dynpro technology.  To use a metaphor, if you are driving a V8 petrol engine car that is 20 years old, what would you expect from the manufacturer who have since moved on to hybrid and electric vehicles?  Would you consider a product that greatly increased fuel efficiency of the old petrol engines as a 'fix' to an error?

      SAP GUI was exactly what was needed in those years for the mainly professional user base.  Even in 2011, Gartner research shows professional (full time) users rate SAP GUI as 'Good'.  The fact is, the user base that uses SAP have changed.  But so have SAP.  If you continue to stick to SAP GUI, then to use the car metaphor, your fuel economy will remain an issue.

      In this light, I commend SAP for offering SAP Screen Personas as an official SAP product that is coherently integrated into the new UX Strategy.

      Author's profile photo Paul Hardy
      Paul Hardy

      I am a big fan of electric cars. I ahve a frined here in Australia who has a business on the side making batteries, and I was sad to see "Better Place" go down the gurgler the other day.

      The point about electric cars vs 20 year old ICE cars is electric cars are still fundamentally cars, and they still travel down the road.

      in the UI analogy the Web Browser is more like a flying car, and much as I might want to drive in one, especially if it had laser guns as well, really it's not a replacement, the means of delivery are different. That's not to say it isn't better.....

      Author's profile photo Ingo Deck
      Ingo Deck


      I understand your point and also somehow the frustration in your lines and I really like controverse discussions on this platform, as they always help to understand different points of views.

      But I want to come back to your ""do what works best for you" which means nothing"-statement. Here I honestly would disagree. Understanding UX from a holistic and a user (human being) perspective the phrase "do what works best for you" says nothing else than "listen to your users, understand your users, understand what your business goals are, where your key processes are, define your own path towards improved UX".. and this is something I can completely underline. No company is like the other from a UX perspective, no human being is like the other... in times where UX was no big topic maybe SAPGUI was the right and best "one size fits all" solution, but nowadays, with all the movement in the software world, all the options a human being has, I would disagree that a customer specific approach towards UX is wrong. From my personal perspective this is the only thing that can really work at the end, of course always keeping aspects like business viability and feasibility in mind, and not only focusing on pure users wish lists. But it has to be a conscious decision, a conscious mix between those elements... and I would not agree that there is one mix that suits all customers. So the recommendation can only be, that customers have to find their own approach to this topic, where SAP for sure will support wherever possible.

      Of course this does not cover all your arguments. And I agree that SAP has to and will deliver better "starting points" where customers can adopt new applications more easily and go from there (see UX strategy document).

      Regarding the "500" solutions I see the UX strategy as a clear statement and committment from SAP to focus on 2 main UI technologies, that SAP uses and that are also recommended to customers: SAPUI5 and Floorplan Manager/WDA. Both with its own toolset, sometimes (UI theme designer) even one tool for both technologies, so even if not perfect, for me this is a significant step towards simplicity also in the messaging towards customers. and for those customers with concrete pain points in dedicated SAPGUI screens, SAP screen personas really is a valid option... and the feedback tells us, that lots of customers really embrace this offering.

      You mention CRM as prominent example: and you are right. The underlying technology is the WEBUIF. So far there are no plans to rebuilt this with FPM/WDA or anything else. But regarding "unification" there are again multiple POVs you should consider (just naming three prominent ones):

      • User
      • Admin
      • Developer

      And from a user and admin perspective the experience is already pretty unified. The UI interaction paradigms, screen layouts are unified already. The theme will shortly be unified to CORBU also in CRM. The tooling for admins are pretty close to each other reg. screen changes in the UI Config tool in CRM or the FLUID tool in FPM. Regarding the developer perspective you are right, there different technologies reside even though they build up on the same development paradigms.

      So several aspects already seen and solved, some more to go... I would say.

      Author's profile photo Paul Hardy
      Paul Hardy

      I was thinking about this earlier today.

      I have to agree in going out and listening to the users - I am lucky enough to work in a company where the IT team is compelled to do just that, site vists and the like - and that every company most likely will have a different need as to what the screen should look like, what the process flow should be etc

      You note that the user interaction paradigm is getting more and more unified e.g. CRM / SAP GUI / Web Dynpro all going to CORBU.

      So if the user experience is going to be exactly the same (in an ideal world) why do you need dozens of ways - technically - to achieve that same thing?

      At the moment indeed SAP recommend two main UI technologies, but all the others like Web Dynpro Java and CRM and indeed the GUI never really die, they may be in "maintenance mode" but they constantly keep jumping out of the grave to eat the brains of the living.

      With the non-stop explosion in technology how can you be sure that in six months time SAP won't have locked onto a new UI technology and put WDA into maintenance mode, for example? I'm not saying that's a bad thing, you have to move with the times, but if you keep adding new technologies, and never take away the old ones, then you have more and more options as time goes on, unless I am mistaken?

      And I didn't say there were 500 different solutions, but 500 million! 😆

      On the train this morning I read a blog on SDN about SAP UI entitled "SAP Highlander" ....

      Author's profile photo Ingo Deck
      Ingo Deck

      Good to hear that you are in the lucky situation to have the chance to be close  to the users.. as this really is key.

      Regarding the technical topic, I know exactly what you mean.. and it feels like being caught between two stools. On the one hand side you are right, technology moves on, new things will come up also in the ui technology space and of course our customers expect also us to adopt those trends to further increase user experience, usability and their options.. that is simpy a fact, on the other hand side almost all of our customers also rely on our already delivered software, they count on SAP as a trusted partner, on us securing their investments... which also is true for the UI technologies they use currently.

      So the situation we have to deal successfully with is that we have to satisfy both needs. But also here the UX strategy makes a clearer statement with its NEW; RENEW, ENABLE.. where the amount of existing user interfaces based on older UI technologies will be reduced over time.

      So overall I understand and for sure see your point.. but as almost always the world is not black and white, there is not this one solution that fits all needs. We have to live with the boundary conditions as described above and try to make the best out of it for our existing and future customers (little philosophic I know 😆 )

      will check the "highlander" now... and sorry about missing the million.. wasn't there a peanuts statements some years ago 😉