You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.

Steve Jobs

When it comes to user experience, becoming simple takes focus and effort 

Becoming simple involves gaining a deep knowledge of your people and their UX needs; and making some complicated UX technology choices. That’s why SAP’s UX strategy includes New, Renew, and Enable options; and also why SAP is now providing UX advisory services as part of  a suite of UX Design Services to help customers focus their resources where they will derive maximum business value.


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Conversely, staying complex is easy – at least from a technology viewpoint – and that’s where most SAP customers are right now. Think of it this way: Once upon a time, SAP provided a one-size-fits-all user interface – aimed at the expert user. Sure it was a complex UI, but from a software viewpoint it was also a comparatively easy strategy – just make everything available and let the expert decide what’s relevant to him or her.  After all, the user is the expert so they know best; and certainly if you are the expert having everything at your fingertips is great.

But as we now realize, the growth in personal technology devices, changes in technology expectations, and the sheer volume of information bombarding us all mean one-size-fits-all UIs no longer ensure productive and motivated employees.  For most of us there’s just no time to be the expert in any but a very small number of the user interfaces we deal with each day.  Maximizing user satisfaction and business productivity over all the other UIs we deal with daily means providing something simple: the right-sized UI on the right device for the right role.

Introducing right-sized UIs, while minimizing disruption and avoiding large change management costs, is not a trivial challenge.  We know this because SAP has been on the UX journey with over 150 of our top customers over the last few years.  We have seen the challenges, we have shared the pain with them, and now we want to share the learnings with all our customers.

What we know now is this: effective UX improvement involves more than just implementing a Fiori app or a few Personas screens. Successful UX improvement only happens when UX is targeted strategically.  Choosing the right scenarios to improve with the right UI helps not just to improve user productivity; you also improve employee retention, delight your customers, decrease training and support costs, and revitalize the business/IT relationship.  Choose the wrong UI, and you risk your UX efforts being written off as “just another Proof of Concept”.

UX strategy means being very deliberate about where, when and how UX improvement efforts are focused.  Done right, amazing business impacts can be achieved in remarkably short time-frames.  For example at Shell, they were able to evaluate a major improvement in their search capability within a few days. This is quite an important area as some users may spend up to 20% of their total time in SAP on searching.

Based on our early customer experiences with customers on the UX improvement path, SAP has released 14 UX Design Services to pass on those learnings and help shortcut the UX journey for all our customers.

Last week I was privileged to be on the first SAP UX Advisor training, run in Sydney, and to spend some time with two very special SAP colleagues:

  • UK colleague Gerrit Kotze, one of the co-authors of SAP’s new UX strategy, and global lead for the UX Advisory Service for business value based on his experience of leading UX at Shell, and;
  • German colleague Gerhard Gellner of the Design and Co-Innovation Center where UX strategy and principles are daily workshopped with SAP customers at SAP’s Heidelberg Apphaus to create delightful user experiences.

It was a great chance to chat with them about the thinking behind these new UX Design services and SAP’s UX strategy.

How did you get involved in UX strategy?

Gerrit: For me it all started in May 2012, when I took the role to lead the UX work stream as part of the VPS engagement at Shell.  Shell has about 90,000 SAP users globally and improving UX became increasingly important across the whole company.

When we looked hard at SAP’s UX Strategy at that time, our perception was it was not much more than a compilation of UX related topics, not something you would really recognise as a strategy. We were not alone in that view.  SAP set up the the Executive Advisory Board for UX mid-2012 and Shell was one of the small group of key customers to join alongside Nestle, Unilever, Bosch and others.

At the very first face to face meeting, hosted by Nestle in their Head Office in Vevey, the top feedback point back to SAP was the need for a coherent and easy to understand UX strategy. Customers need clarity about where SAP is fundamentally heading to better inform their own investments and priorities.

Fortunately SAP was willing to listen and under the supervision of the then newly appointed Head of Design and UX, Sam Yen, (now SAP Chief Design Officer) we formed a small working group to rewrite the SAP UX strategy. I was very fortunate to be a member of this small group together with Andreas Hauser, Nis Boy Naeve and Volker Zimmermann and supported by several other experts. 

That change in SAP’s UX strategy also led to establishing the Design and Co-Innovation Center (DCC) in 2013 – bringing in a lot of designers and design thinking skills. These skills are considered key capabilities at SAP for delivering on our ambitions in terms of UX and design.

In parallel to working on the SAP UX Strategy, I worked with Shell to shape a UX exploration phase where we started with Search and then looked at SAP Screen Personas.  I utilized the newly formed DCC and we designed and built 2 Proofs of Concept for Shell.  The outcomes are still reflected in our services as this was the very first major PoCs after SAP Screen Personas became publicly available in December 2012.

What are the UX Design Services?

Gerhard: There are 14 services in the UX Design Services portfolio. They cover the New, Renew, and Enable offerings, such as implementing Fiori and Personas, designing your own custom Fiori or SAPUI5 app but they add something more than just technology – they add UX advisory services.


We have 2 advisory services – UX advisory for business value, and UX advisory for technology.  These were born out of our experiences in dealing with key customers of SAP. 

There’s an enormous momentum in evolving UX strategy and a high demand for SAP to provide UX advisory services. Over the last couple of years, SAP has recruited a lot of new blood in the UX design space, and is actively training others. Because of the current state of UX, and the urgent need for UX direction expressed by our customers, we believe SAP needs to lead on UX strategy to give direction to customers and partners who are grappling with UX right now.

As a customer, why would I want to leverage SAP’s UX Design Services?

Gerhard: A real UX strategy is something that few companies have, but those that have are realizing massive benefits.  We find lots of customers have developer skills but not necessarily design skills, or at least not dedicated and experienced UX design skills. If you don’t have those you might not get the benefits you want. So we bring those design skills to our customers as part of these services.


[BTW one of the SAP Community Network’s SAP Mentors Jon Reed was talking about this need in his recent blog How do we solve the Enterprise UX skills gap? ]

Gerrit: SAP built up a very credible portfolio of UX solutions and we continue to improve and drive this portfolio forward.  It is actually quite fast moving and that makes it hard to scale the ability to give advice to customers and partners.  This is always a lot easier to achieve in times of relative slow change, but much more challenging when the driving technologies and available solutions are changing faster.

So at this stage, direct advice from SAP is paramount due to this high degree of change.  We see a lot of opportunity for partners to get involved in helping customers on their UX journey.  But when it comes to developing a UX strategy that is aligned with SAP’s strategy, and with SAP’s product roadmaps, you really want to get advice direct from the source – and that means customers working directly with SAP.

Once you move past the sales and marketing pitch, it is key to help our customers with the details of these solutions.  It may sound easy, but more often than not it requires a bit more effort.  For example you need to validate functional completeness and technical pre-requisites.  Good advice up front can save a lot of effort trying to make something work only to discover it won’t work in your system landscape or won’t suit your business process or end user requirements.

Gerhard: Oh, and did you know that thanks to our success with our customers, SAP’s Design and Co-Innovation Center is now being approached by

completely non-SAP businesses to help with their UX design?  That’s a huge endorsement of the design skills and the design thinking skills we have built over the last couple of years.

From your experience, what are the essentials for a successful UX strategy?

Gerhard:  For me the non-negotiables are:

  1. End user involvement:  If you don’t get in touch with real users at their real workplace you just don’t see what the real problems are, and what’s a part of that user experience.  It’s often not just about the UI, it’s about the whole user experience: like how do I work on a mobile device if my job involves wearing heavy safety gloves; or if my desk is covered in post-it notes reminding me of entry codes, maybe that’s a sign of insufficient search helps or poor navigation between UIs
  2. Business involvement: To understand the process, so you can challenge things that end users take for granted; like asking why this field is mandatory and what’s the business impact of not filling this field correctly
  3. IT involvement: Because IT will ultimately deliver and support the UX, so they need to understand where the real business needs are and be able to discuss pros and cons of different UX options with stakeholders.  Often IT brings technology options to the table that business never knew existed.

Gerrit:  And of course SAP involvement – because SAP customers need to align their UX strategy with SAP‘s if they are to deliver user experiences that work well with SAP solutions.  This is more than just general UX strategy – it’s thinking about what solutions, technology, values, and architectural principles are parts of your UX strategy, and how that affects your choices.  This includes deciding if a BYOD policy is part of your base requirements, because if you need to support multiple devices and releases your technology choices can make a huge difference to your development costs, support costs and testing volume.

What are the traps to avoid when setting up a UX strategy?

Gerhard: You really don’t want to approach it as just a technical exercise – you might have fun doing a proof of concept, but it takes more than that to build commitment or momentum to push it through to Production.Just starting with a Fiori or Personas POC might be a waste of time if:

  • The app is not valuable to the business
  • There’s a lack of business commitment
  • It doesn’t fit the needs of the end user in their work environment

Gerrit: To me the big traps are:

  • Jumping into solution mode before understanding what is required.
  • Not considering the business value you want to get from UX.
  • Not involving the right audience in the discussion – It has to involve both IT and business; and it needs to involve the people at the coal face – real end users, not interpreters.

It’s not enough to just go on the promises of a presentation; or to do a proof of concept in a SAP sandpit environment.  If you are serious, you really need to try it out in your own landscape and get your own experience of UX technology and challenges – like the impact of bandwidth or proxies or single sign-on certificates, performance, firewalls, maintenance etc. That’s the best way to avoid unwanted surprises, and avoid letting down the business and your project sponsor.

And you really need a clear strategy.  Because without being clear on your driving principles you will not be in a position to make proper choices when you need to decide what you want to target with which solution.


And don’t limit your thinking to just the cool “in Vogue” answers or to a single technical tool.  After all, users don’t particularly care what technology you use – they just care that it works for them! Often you can derive a lot of additional value out of your existing landscape – and that makes executive management happy to sponsor your UX improvement project.


So that’s why the starting point is the UX Advisory service?

Gerrit: Yes that’s right… the UX Advisory service helps the customer refine their UX strategy. The service comes in two main types – a UX technology advisory and a UX business value advisory. The UX Advisory for Business Value comes in three formats, based on the primary purpose. These are:

  1. UX Advisory for Fiori and Personas (7 days) – Purpose is adoption of either SAP Fiori App or SAP Screen Personas solution for a single scenario.  This is the service we announced at Sapphire to support the adoption of Fiori and Personas.
  2. UX Advisory Focused Assessment (14 days) – Purpose is to shape a holistic UX strategy and UX roadmap that considers all SAP UX solutions.
  3. UX Advisory Extended Assessment (Circa 90 days) – Purpose is to help typically a larger customer who has UX as a priority over a period of time to adopt a SAP UX Strategy, learn through PoC’s and UX Pathfinder projects and develop a detailed UX Roadmap.

The shorter services include a set number of days effort, but these are spread over a few weeks to allow for data gathering before we analyse and advise. We also gather information about the landscape, use of SAP and feedback about pain points. We spend off-site time during assessment and validation to ensure we can check back with SAP solution owners and designers to confirm which apps will work in your environment.

The UX advisory for Fiori and Personas is a 7 day service designed to get you live with one version of a solution – your first experience with either Personas or Fiori.  It also helps clarify what the first target should be for Fiori or Personas.  That gives your IT folk a chance to understand something of the technology and business to get a taste of how it looks and feels. This 7 day service is currently included with SAP UX Adoption Service Kits for Fiori and Personas, such as:

  • Fiori Launch Service Kit for Transactional Apps
  • Fiori Launch Service Kit for HANA
  • Screen Personas Launch Service Kit

The UX advisory focused assessment service for business value is a broader 14 day service where SAP works directly with your stakeholders to build agreement and motivation to move forward; and give guidance on strategy and roadmap.  The outcome is an outline UX strategy and roadmap that works for you; and includes feasibility assessment of your preferred first targets to confirm they will suit your business needs and system landscape.  We don’t just limit this service to Fiori or Personas – we consider the full range of SAP’s UX tools and technologies that might meet your specific needs – often these are under-utilized solutions – “hidden gems” – that are already in your landscape.

What’s the one thing you wish every customer new about UX Design?

Gerhard:

  1. It only works if you engage with the REAL end users! No proxies! No go-betweens!  
  2. Everyone talks about UX but few people are clear about what it actually is. User Experience is far more than just the user interface itself.
  3. It’s a change process – a change in methodology but (more importantly) mindset. 

Why do you use Design Thinking in UX Design?

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Gerhard: We find it’s the best way to achieve a delightful user-centric solution – using a multi-disciplinary team to get the best balance between business, technology and the human values that make the UX usable and desirable.


If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

Henry Ford

You can’t just ask people what they want directly – especially if they are not used to being creative. Plus we find people just don’t read functional specifications – they find that really hard.  But low fidelity prototyping such as sketching makes it real to people in a way that encourages them to give good feedback and that reduces risk!


Designing thinking is a really effective way to get people to think first before they implement.

Gerrit: I’d say it is also a great way to get good ideas from a range of stakeholders quickly and come out with an agreement.  It really works for getting people to collaborate rather than each pushing their own agenda.  I like the way it allows for creativity to be a part of the process – and for a broad engagement of different stakeholders who might find it difficult to raise ideas in a traditional meeting. 

In our experience, design thinking is successful in getting everyone engaged and motivated to actually follow up.  So you don’t end up with a workshop and nothing happening afterwards – with design thinking people are more fired up to follow through.

What’s the best way to get some quick wins in UX?

Gerhard: The best quick wins we have seen come from starting small, but as close as possible to where you will get the most business value.   The UX advisory for business value is aimed at uncovering the top choices by looking at usage statistics from your real system data, adding qualitative data from the business, and then running Design Thinking workshops with key stakeholders to bring all of that together into a roadmap. 

Sometimes technology or functional pre-requisites get in the way of your very top choice – and that’s another reason why we have the UX advisory services – as part of the service we do feasibility checks on how top choices will work in the customer’s own landscape.  That really minimizes the risks of choosing a particular app or transaction to focus on, only to find it won’t work with your industry solution or your custom enhancements.  We won’t recommend a UX option that we know won’t work, and we help work through alternatives.

Gerrit: I’d also say to remember that major improvements can come from unexpected places – and we have built that into the advisory service.  We don’t limit the service to only considering the latest UX offerings like Personas and Fiori. One of our big lessons learned was that there are certain topics not often considered up front that offer tremendous business value; and there’s a range of technology solutions for those topics that like Personas and Fiori are often licence-free – just under-utilized.   Topics such as:

  • Search capabilities
  • Restructuring role-based navigation, e.g. using NWBC or Portal
  • Improving user effectiveness and system automation through using side panels
  • Visualization of data
  • Business suite renovation available through enhancement packs
  • Commonly known pain points e.g. approvals that customers bring up over and over again, that have simple but not always well-known solutions

Where can customers get more information about SAP’s UX Design Services?

Gerrit: We’d really like customers to look at SAP’s UX Explorer website.  We are actively and regularly adding UX content for customers to help them build their UX design skills here – Skill Up on Design and User Experience – plus some more detail on our UX Design Services and when and how to take best advantage of those services.

To engage with local UX experts and arrange support in your UX journey, contact your local SAP office or email design.services@sap.com who will put you in touch with the right support team.

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4 Comments

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    1. Russell Martin

      It was announced at Sapphire that both Fiori applications and Screen Personas are now bundled in user licenses.  This is a significant investment in SAP’s “New Renew Enable” strategy to transform the user experience for its customers.

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    2. Jocelyn Dart Post author

      That’s right! Thanks Russell.  The Fiori apps themselves are free.  And of course you can always build your own SAPUI5 apps using the Fiori design principles. 

      Btw – we have UX Design services to help you with the build-you-own app scenario too – i.e. get your stakeholders together to work through what the app should look like and what features it needs to support, and help you put the app together.  And the UX advisory Assessment services will help you work out if a custom UI5 app is part of your near term UX journey or something for later down the track.

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