Over the years, user experience has rapidly become a critical component in technology across the enterprises. In today’s changing world where people are highly tech-savvy, users demand ease of use and simplicity in the activities they perform and applications they use.
This teched, SAP announced their “UI and UX Readmap”. SAP is really going aggressively in this area.
What we see in the below diagram from SAP’s “UI and UX Readmap” is “ Screen Personas , SAP UI5 and WDA/FPM are now their key UI Technologies”,
SAP‘s Key UI Tools & Technologies : < from SAP TEC149 – SAP UX Strategy and UI Roadmap>
However as design architect, it becomes very difficult to pick and choose a right UI technology amongst these options. From all the various discussion forums and Teched documents, I have made an attempt to put all the various features of these three technologies together on a single paper. This might give you a starting point to your thought process while choosing a right UI for your business scenario.
- SAPUI5: The UI development toolkit for HTML5. SAPUI5 is a client-side HTML5 and Java Script based rendering library with rich extensible control set and a lightweight programming model. It combines openness and flexibility with enterprise readiness and product standard support. It is extensible regarding custom controls, application services, theming, or custom branding.
- Screen Personas: Screen Personas allows customers to personalize their SAPGUI (Dynpro) screens without any programming, allowing them to streamline transactions and improve user productivity. It provides the ability to meet business user needs for rapid screen changes, delivering improved user experience, and increased work efficiency. It is a Silverlight framework over the SAPGUI controls so the screen layout can be completely changed to provide an easy to use user experience.
- WDA/FPM : Floorplan Manager (FPM) is a framework for creation of User Interfaces. It is based entirely on Web Dynpro ABAP. FPM supports developers in creation of applications which are compliant to UI and Accessibility Guidelines. FPM is a set of tools, templates and classes, which ensures a more consistent look and feel to the user interfaces of SAP applications.
|Development Environment||We use Eclipse as a SDK. The application can be
deployed on any server like ABAP server or Apache server… ,
SAP would also be coming up with a drag and drop, web based SDK soon, which will ease our development efforts.
Browser-based software to personalize SAP GUI screens
Drag-and-drop interface that allows you to see the results immediately.
You can use Web Dynpro ABAP development environment and
Floorplan Manager (FPM) Workbench to develop FPM applications.
|Device Usage||UI5 apps run on Mobile & Desktop. These are browser based apps and run with almost all the browsers.||This is meant for Desktop usage only. Personas run on Windows 8 mobile devices. However, Personas is not designed as a mobile solution as it is.||FPM apps are for Desktop usage only however they provide a tablet support with restrictions|
Communication between SAPUI5 application and the backend database is done through secure oData services.
SAP Backend system’s business logic is exposed as oData services using SAP Netweaver Gateway as a middleware.
Personas is part of the NetWeaver ABAP stack. It is loaded into the ECC server.It is completely browser-based tool.
Personas 2.0 includes two separate Personas components, one based on Silverlight and one based on HTML Once installed, Personas Silverlight and Personas HTML run independently and do not interact. They solve different problems in different use cases.
Floorplan Manager (FPM) is a UI framework, that is, a set of tools, templates and classes.
FPM is based on Web Dynpro for ABAP and takes full advantage of its configuration framework. In an FPM application, the business logic is separated from the UI. The developers of an application take care of the business logic, and the FPM framework takes care of the user
|Backend Access||SAPUI5 consumes oDATA services and thus this can be used as a frontend for any SAP / Non-SAP Backend database.||Screen Persona’s are meant for ECC transactions and thus closely work with conventional ECC systems. They do not work with SAP CRM, SRM, PLM, SRM… systems and not with any other Non-SAP systems.||WDA FPM is closely connected with SAP and works only for all SAP stacks.
|Developer Skillset required||
To build SAPUI5 apps , you should have knowledge of Java Script,
|Building screens in SAP Screen Personas is fairly easy. It is mostly drag and drop along with some point and click. You do not need any HTML, Java,
or ABAP skills. This is more of end user tool to personalize their screens.
|To build FPM apps , you should have knowledge of FPM, ABAP OO, WebDynpro
|Theming and Branding||Supports theming and branding using SAP Theme Designer.||Supports theming and branding using SAP Theme Designer.||Supports theming and branding using SAP Theme Designer.|
|Backend Coupling||Fully Decoupled. To adapt your application UIs without jeopardizing the
integrity of the business logic, SAPUI5 decouples the business logic from the
user interfaces, even across platforms and business process lifecycles (timeless
|This is Just a simplified subset view of big and complex SAP Transactions. Tightly Coupled with Backed ECC.||
WDA/FPM provides Timeless software approach , as it separates the business logic and UI. Service Provider Infrastructure (SPI) is used by many applications to decouple UI and backend.
|Integration with other UIs||
The framework is lightweight and easy to consume, so that you can combine SAPUI5 apps easily with 3rd-party JS libraries to design an HTML page and integrate it into various application frameworks or server platforms.
Thus SAPUI5 apps can be called from any other SAP / Non SAP Web application.
We have a feature called shortlink that allows you to place a Personas screen into another browser-based application (e.g an iView). Shortlinks also allow integration of Personas screens into NWBC. Clicking/opening such a short link is what opens a connection to the target system and authentication is required.
|FPM apps can be integrated with other UIS like Portal , another SAPUI5 application.|
SAPUI5 provides lot of security features like Data Protection and Privacy, Browser Security, Cross-Site-Scripting, encrypted connections and session handling on top of using either cookies or URL rewriting .
Check SAPUI5 seuirity guide for more informtion.
Personas supports certificate based login. Personas also support security authenticaion to the ECC backend. As Personas sits on top of existing SAP transactions, ECC roles are used in Personas and Personas cannot bypass ECC security.
Security functions are available both for when you create Web applications as well as for when you operate them.
Quick points that we might think for before Choosing the UI/UX option : .
Business scenarios to be covered by the application.
SAP UI5 is meant for lightweight apps having few screen fields and less navigations. Good Example of SAP UI5 application is SAP Fiori. With SAP Fiori, SAP offers UI applications for the most frequently used Business Suite transactions to allow users the same experience across different interaction channels – desktop, tablet, mobile. Fiori is intended to address core processes that invoke the most commonly-used transactions. Use for the business scenarios with limited transactional character.
Screen personas is ideal if you have working SAP transactions in your existing business and you want to improve look and feel of these transactions and make the transaction screens easy with only required fields on the screen. (like skip pages, carry values over, combine tabs etc)
The Floorplan Manager provides a highly-configurable framework for easy and efficient application development and adaptation. FPM is now mandatory
for the creation of most user interfaces in the Business Suite applications. It is a key technology for SAP Business Suite.
Use FPM if you want SAPGUI robustness with tight ABAP Integration. FPM applications are best suited for transactional state-ful applications.
If your business wants to address modification in common/ daily used transactions, then SAPUI5 apps (e.g. Fiori) will probably be a best choice for you. However, If you want to use more specialized SAP transaction with tight coupling with ECC, then Personas or WDA FPM are the right solution.
The device range for the application
Screen personas and FPM applications work only for desktop however if you want web responsive application across variety of devices like desktop , tablet , smart phones then SAP UI5 is the ideal option.
Screen personas and FPM works with almost all the browsers however SAPUI5 have certain limitations like it does not go with browsers with lower version like IE8 and below… If you already have such lower browsers running, then you have to take a call of choosing UI.
Complexity of the application
SAPUI5 applications and WDW/FPM applications do require coding.
As FPM apps are fully transactional stateful apps they are good choice for large and complex apps like Order to Cash, Talent Management, Procurement, (PLM) Product Development where the demand is to cover full business cycle with lot of screens and lot of fields per screen. The apps may have lot of navigations and links.
SAPUI5 apps are lightweight aps and complexity should not be too much. Use UI5 for lightweight scenario based small apps with less navigations and limited transactional flow.
Screen Personas is a drag and drop, no programming approach. This can be used only for ECC transactions. You really don’t touch the conventional transaction logic rather you only change the look and feel of the transaction screen. What you can’t do with Personas is to change the screen flow across transactions or the embedded business logic. You can hide tabs, skip screens within a transaction and pass data between transactions. Personas allows you to modify classic ERP (Dynpro) to improve your users’ productivity by combining tabs and screens, automating keystrokes, and pre-filling fields.
With this what We can say is , None of these technologies are replacement to others.However we have to think deep before choosing a right option. Business might also choose multiple options running parallel for their different business scenarios.These technologies are rather complementary to each other and have their own distinct use cases where they excel .
Finally to add , while choosing the UI/UX we can also think for below checklist :
- Does a new UI/UX allow my business process to be more efficient ?
- Will the productivity of employees and users going to be improved by implementing this technology?
- Are we able to find the numbers for this efficiency increase? For e.g. Can I calculate the total time reduced by the end user in performing certain transactions after implementing this UI/UX.
- Will a new UI/UX allow the right business process to be followed ?
- Does the UI/UX helping me to reduce time for user training ?
- Will the new UI/UX reduce the number of clicks, tabs that user has to navigate?
- Does the new UI/UX helping me to increase Data Entry Compliancy?
These are the few points that I have thought of …the checklist can grow bigger… However I trust with this checklist in mind we can definitely succeed in providing right UI solution to the business.
<References : SAP SCN Discussion Forums
TEC149_v3 : SAP UX Strategy and UI Roadmap>