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Principal theme of my work within the last months was UI technology and user experience. This was challenging because you it is not only a technological topic. One of the best presentations of SAP’s UX strategy and UX strategy in general is published here and explains that design innovation is in the intersection human value, business value and technological feasibility as seen here:

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At an DSAG meeting Jürgen Jakowski Jürgen Jakowski explained it very well:

  • adopt
  • adapt
  • develop

From my understanding “adopt” means that you implement an SAP solution (think of Fiori for example). Adaption means extending this solution or reducing existing pain point with and technology like Personas. And In this blog entry I will discuss the last aspect of development and I will look at SAP’s technology portfolio and I want to show how this can be used to create beautiful solutions that have business value. For the creation of those solutions ABAP developers have to change their mindsets: they have to learn new frameworks, new paradigms and sometimes programming languages. Yesterday it was normal to learn about the R/3 styleguide for ABAP dynpro, to create solutions whose UI was stateful tightly integrated into the application logic – but this is not state-of-the-art any more.

“Redefine Normal Every Day”

The motto “Redefine Normal Every Day” is part of an ALS awareness campaign by Zumba Fitness in the US. In Germany this is campaign wasn’t branded and I learned about it at a sports event last weekend – and in fact as a consequence I decided to write this blog entry. I found this motto very inspiring because of the following reasons:

  • In the last decades as SAP consultants / developers we told the end users that the UIs of SAP Business Suite are standardized and so “normal”. And of course custom dialogs have to fulfill these dialog standards as well because of consistency reasons. As a consequence many ABAP developers are experts when it comes to build dialogs exactly this way and this often means according R/3 dialog standards.
  • The second aspect why this motto inspired me is that UI5 is completely different from other UI technologies of SAP: it is Open Source and you can develop application with a completely unique and extraordinary look & feel and new user interaction patterns.

Especially JavaScript and HTML5 offer many possibilities to create an extraordinary (= far from normal) user experience. In my opinion everyone should know the following visualization which I usually show every single UI developer in our UI development projects:

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In my opinion the four visualizations are absolutely amazing because it uses positions, size and colors to display different dimensions of entities. With cross over you can display detail information. The different patterns and diagrams encourage the user to explore the data and graphical effects remember me of computer games which makes the whole visualization fun.

Improving Man-Machine Interaction

Above visualization not only beauty – it can promote curiosity and encourages the users to explore and understand a data set. This is a perfect example how an optimized and extraordinary UI can lead to better understanding and decision support which can be also used in business applications.

Visualization and to some effects gamification are only one example who a UI can improve man-machine interaction. But I think there are more examples which I explain in the following.

The speed of the UI can have a significant effect on interaction patters. It is absolutely necessary for exploration of huge data sets but also necessary if data from different systems are collected. This is absolutely common for call-center and front-office users who need all information about a certain customer. Traditional stateful UIs like CRM Web UI or Floorplan Manager are sometimes slow and we need AJAX-like techniques to access the necessary data.

Decision Support = Analytics + Rules + Visualization

Another interesting aspect of new UIs is enabling of decision support. What does this mean? The application shows a visualization of a business object (and perhaps context data) and applies business rules. The result is a precise message for the end user – think of following traffic light symbol for example:

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Using NWBC sidepanel you can display of context information of a certain business object, apply business rules and even visualize the result using graphical representation. The decision support tool can be added to any ABAP dynpro and WDA screen using configuration (wiring) and you don’t need to enhance existing ABAP dynpro tools.

Slicing Processes and Realtime Alerting

In this subsection I would like to introduce two interesting technical features: with Configuration Framework as part of Floorplan Manager framework you can create configurable UIs. This allows to develop applications that can flexibly adapted to the skills of a specific user team. With these techniques you can develop applications that are customized to specific skills and task of a certain group of users. This can be profitably if much of work can be performed efficiently by the staff and only very complex business transactions can be assigned to expert users who work with expert UIs.

Another interesting capability of SAP’s technology portfolio is the support of ABAP Push Channels via web sockets which allow bidirectional communication between client and server.  This can lead to realtime applications and alerting which will be topic for a future blog.

Differentiation

The examples above showed that new UI technologies as part of SAP’s technology portfolio have outstanding properties and allow to develop completely new UIs which can help you to differentiate from competitors. And this should be besides simplification (using SAP Fiori apps & Personas) a possible cornerstone of UX strategy: develop outstanding UIs which to innovate your business. Therefore you should do the following:

  • Identify pain points in your business. Try to find out whether new UI can lead to better man-machine interaction and improves the business process?
  • Are the business processes where a new UI can lead to a huge improvement so that you are better than your competitors?

Dealing with Different Speeds

With UI5 and some parts Floorplan Manager SAP separated the UI from the backend – it is exactly the Vishal Sikka’s concept of “timeless software”. One core principle is that you can change the UI independently. This is a huge advantage even in the development phase: one the OData  service is stable you will make any changes without changing the backend. So the UI frontend has a different development speed compared to the backend.

When developing business applications it is often necessary that the business logic can be changed quickly. In our development projects we decided to use the chance to renovate the backend and to control the backend process using rule systems created using BRFplus since this is very easy and agile to change. With solutions like DSM you can even perform hot deployment into production.

I think this a general best practice: usually we have best of breed systems landscapes and the backend systems are not that agile compared to systems at the “edge”. Today you can put edge innovation systems as well as backend systems into the cloud which gives you more agility. But the speed of the slowest systems (and in many cases they will we onPremise) dictates the speed for changing the system landscape. So it is a wise decision to get more agile in the backend and separation of business processes and business logic is the right step since the latter can be changed very easily. In the last year I wrote many blogs about this topic and even on a very detailed technical level so feel free to read some of them if you are interested in this topic.

Summary

So let me come to a conclusion:

  • In the center of SAP’s UI strategy is UI5 and can use it to develop Fiori-like Apps and use it even in Web Dynpro in HTML islands. So this technology is a cornerstone of SAP’s UI technology so UX strategy.
  • Besides UI5 the SAP technology portfolio offers many interesting technologies which can help you to differentiate from your competitors. In my opinion the combination of different technologies is most important since you can benefit from synergy effects: HANA can speed up the OData services and so the UI tremendously using search functions. And another very promising technology are business rule frameworks since you can need them also to enable decision support but you can also use them to make the backend more agile.

So the synergy of all mentions technologies in the blog entry can help you to differentiate from your competitors and you makes it possible to “redefine normal every day”.

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