A new approach to SAP UI
For some time, a few years now, I’ve been haunted by an increasing feeling about SAP UI. And what I mean refers not only to good old SAP GUI but also newer inventions like WD ABAP or SUP. I could sum it up roughly like this:
Data we work with are changing and mutating and transforming all the time – becoming more complex, in the first place – in just about any area you can think of, starting with core ECC components to industry solutions to analytics. This process has lasted for longer I’ve been in the IT business, and I’m not so young any more;). Yet, data entry capabilities we work with are still more or less the same as they used to be about 20-25 years ago. Yes, we have nice controls instead of rough holes to input data but is that really a substantial change?
This did not feel quite right to me. Common sense was telling me that data entry for SAP could have already been much further – just about in the same place where games are. All right, I realize that most games are not exactly data-oriented applications but does this mean that data orientation must make us give up all the wonderful intuitivity and user orientation, in deep sense? By user orientation I mean here “predicting what the user may want to do in any specific place and providing him with the right controls for the job”. This is what game designers have to do: design the world. Think ahead of their users. Provide options – only the needed ones – and make them available to the user in a clear and simple way. I was wondering, is it so difficult to create a data centric UI like this?
In brief, initial answer turned out to be clear: Yes, that is a very difficult job indeed.
At first we tried with Flex and FlashIsland. We tried really hard to achieve our goal, to create a game-like UI for SAP but despite deep involvement of our customer and ourselves, the results were not quite satisfactory. All in all, FlashIsland was only designed to be a part of data enrichment framework and not as a data manipulation tool. All the exchange between Flex and SAP WD ABAP was killing the performance and ruining the effect. Eventually, first version of the UI went live with SOAP-based backend which was the only acceptable solution. Acceptable, yes. Deep satisfaction remained still below the horizon.
Becoming an SAP Partner for Mobile Applications opened a new chance for us. Based upon our previous experiences, this time we went directly for a high-performance game engine Starling and used data controls framework called Feathers. All of that powered by Stage 3D hardware acceleration. That was good. Really good. When you read all the specs of new android smartphones you never realize what computing power rests in your hands. Our first experiences with Feathers opened my eyes to a new world of opportunities.
Another piece of puzzle was our experience with SAP backend and SAP integration which allowed us to create NetWeaver Gateway content the way we needed: slim, clean and fast. There were some glitches at times, mainly with manipulating deep entities but eventually we cracked it all very nicely.
Never forget the Users
The last, and most important bit was provided by careful listening to the end users, endless hours spent with people who actually work with SAP transactions every day and know exactly what their business is. There is absoultely nothing that can replace this kind of experience and no good UI application can be created by programmers alone. Or even designers – it is all too easy to overcomplicate or oversimplify things and when you strive for perfection, every single click matters.
Arcona Labs e-SES for SAP Service Entry Sheet is the first SAP Ui application of a new kind: simple, Bauhaus-like aesthetics, terrific performance but first of all, superior user guidance and “user-caring” logic in every detail, resulting in sheer comfort of use. The application is constructed like a game: There is no accidental element on the screen, every control has its purpose and is there only if it makes sense. The app thinks ahead of its users and provides for intuitive, mind-map like interface, always accessible from any place in the application, so that even someone creating Service Entry Sheet for the first time will never be lost. Entry validation in every possible place supplement the picture.
Oh, by the way: I failed to mention automatic resizing to current screen resolution as well as very good platform transparency of the solution. Since Feathers and Starling require only Adobe AIR to work, any platform featuring Adobe AIR will be able to run Arcona Labs e-SES – at the speed of a native application!
The aplication has been released and is available in SAP Store.
What we’ve started is just the beginning. Another Feathers application by Arcona Labs S.A., this time for SAP Purchase Requisition, is in SAP Store already.