SAP has released its latest Product Road Map for User Interface Technologies last week and as a UI consultant I’m eager to learn SAP’s path with regards to UI technologies. I thought it would be interesting to compare the latest released UI roadmap with the UI roadmap of 9 months ago. Below are my observations, assumptions and remarks. It is by no means meant as a full comparison between the two and you can only tell so much about the progress that has been made in the areas just from the roadmap slides. Nevertheless I think you can find trends if you compare the two.

SAP UI evolution.pngThe technology portfolio

The key technologies have not changed since April 2014. They’re still SAPUI5, FPM / WDA (Business Suite minus CRM) & WebClient User Interface Framework (CRM). For key tools we now have – besides SAP Screen Personas and the UI theme designer – the SAP Web IDE. The SAP Web IDE was launched last year at SAPPHIRENOW under the name of River RDE and it has gained momentum since. It is good to see that SAP is focusing on developer productivity (and let’s pray for not another rename this year). It is good for a number of reasons: apps can be prototyped and developed much faster than before, lowering the barrier for companies to start with UX improvements and/or mobility. It also helps “grey-haired developers” to start with new UI development more easily. Instead of having to learn a new language from scratch you can generate an application, look at the generated code and start modifying and expanding it from there.

The UX Strategy

UX Strategy before and after.png

SAP is still going by the “NEW – RENEW – ENABLE” mantra but a couple of tweaks have been done since last year. What immediately shows is that SAP Fiori is renamed to Fiori UX therefore emphasizing that Fiori is more than a set of standard apps. It is a set of design guidelines that is not just used to revamp existing functionality but can be used to design completely new applications upto improving the UX of custom apps (hence why it now spans the entire diagram). Another big change is the addition of UX Design Services on the bottom, also spanning the entire diagram. With this SAP emphasizes the need for a good UX design in order to increase user adoption and productivity. Obviously Design Thinking plays a big role in this. More information about UX Design Services can be found here.

SAP Key Tools & Technologies

SAP Key Tools and Technologies.png

What immediately shows is that the diagrams are almost the same BUT they are horizontally flipped. What is up with that SAP?! 😉 I guess it makes more sense to have ‘older’ technologies on the left side to show some kind of evolution. What’s more important is the addition of 2 parts: The Fiori launchpad (FLP) on the top and the dotted square named SAP Mobile Platform Services. FLP is now also one of the entry points to access applications built with the mentioned technologies. We´ll get back to this later on. The dotted square with SAP Mobile Platform Services indicates that SAPUI5 apps can be served through the SAP Mobile Platform and consumed in the Enterprise Portal (EP), NWBC and FLP. In EP 7.4 actually FLP is incorporated into the EP framework. On  NWBC the Fiori apps can be launched from the index page but on the longer term the NWBC for HTML version will be merged with FLP whereas the NWBC desktop version will have FLP integrated with it.

SAPUI5

SAP UI5 2014 2015.pngIf you look at the UI5 roadmap 9 months ago (SAPUI5 version 1.20 vs 1.26) and check out the “Today” column there are no resemblances, everything is different. Even the Planned Innovations of 9 months ago are not reflected in the Today column. I guess the Today column is too small to reflect everything that has been changed since 9 months ago. In any case it shows that SAP puts a lot of effort into developing and improving the SAPUI5 library and its features (and rightfully so). What you can derive from both roadmaps is that there was, is and will be an emphasis on increasing developer productivity. That not all topics in the Future Direction of 2014 are moved to the Planned Innovations is probably due to feedback from customers/implementation partners. Seeing the developments at my current client I had hoped that more progress was made with enabling SAPUI5 for transactional applications but it still appears to be on the long-term roadmap. I’m curious to learn what progress has been made and what the bumps on the road appear to be.

Floorplan Manager / Web Dynpro ABAP

SAP FPM WDA 2014 2015.pngIf you thought your Web Dynpro skills would be obsolete in the near future don’t worry. Web Dynpro ABAP is here to stay and it is going strong. Seeing the rapid innovations in the area of SAPUI5, WDA/FPM is more mature and can be considered moreof a safe bet. There are still UI elements added and they worked on Fiori launchpad integration. The Personas-like premium features are still in the Planned Innovations column so I guess this costed a bit more effort than initially thought. Tablet support has been moved to Future Direction so they lowered the priority on that one. I assume this is because when talking about tablets you’re talking (enterprise) mobility and there are other – better suited – technologies for that, like SAPUI5. Still I think that for data-intensive (e.g. ALV) apps WDA can fill a void here. Also because transactional apps on SAPUI5 is still something for the future. They keep aiming for tighter integration of SAPUI5 in the future so I guess these two worlds will collide at some point, hopefully inhereting each other’s strengths (mix the data intensive capabilities of WDA with the responsiveness and mobile-readiness of SAPUI5).

WebClient UI framework

SAP Web UI 2014 2015.pngFor me it’s a puzzle as to what is the future of the WebClient UI framework. It’s still being developed as some bullets are moved to Today and new features are added to the Future Direction column. And in the Future Direction there are plans for integration with Fiori and to have responsive UI elements. But this seems quite late if you compare it to WDA where Fiori launchpad integration is already available today. I’m not working with the WebClient UI framework anymore in my new role but I’m still curious as to what the future of this framework is. Right now it seems to be lagging a bit behind (which is ironic because the WebClient UI framework was implemented on Web Dynpro design concepts even befóre Web Dynpro itself was implemented; presumably because they couldn’t wait).

SAP Screen Personas

SAP Screen Personas 2014 2015.pngScreen Personas 3.0 entered rampup in August and its GA release is expected anytime now. With that SAP removed the Silverlight dependency for Screen Personas. The 2.0 version (the Silverlight version) is still being improved and supposedly at the end of this quarter SP3 for 2.0 will be released. This is independent of the upcoming 3.0 release which will be based on HTML5. The enablement of Screen Personas features for Web Dynpro ABAP is a Planned Innovation and responsive design is also on the roadmap now. I’m curious how this will work together with Web Dynpro ABAP, especially because tablet support for WDA is pushed back priority-wise.

SAP NetWeaver Business Client

SAP NWBC 2014 2015.pngFor the NWBC the tighter integration with SAP GUI and SAPLogon has been realised  And now for the future the emphasis is on bringing the Fiori UX into the NWBC for Desktop and even merging the NWBC for HTML with the SAP Fiori launchpad! The side panels for the HTML version are now gone from the roadmap. Curious to know why this is, because the side panel is a great NWBC feature in my opinion.

SAP UI client consolidation plan

SAP UI client consolidation plan.pngThis is a new slide and quite an important one if you ask me. When the Fiori launchpad came along I thought this would be the portal of the future but all questions about merges and consolidations were always avoided. Good to see that this portfolio will be simplified in the long term. It’s good to see that proven assets of the EP and NWBC will be incorporated in the Fiori launchpad, thereby using the best of both worlds.

SAP Gateway

Renamed from SAP NetWeaver Gateway and now has a Java-counterpart: GW Components, meaning you can expose SOAP, JPA and JDBC as OData services. This is used in SMP. More information can be found here.

So far my observations. I’m not going into the exotic UI technologies as I know very little about them. One thing I found note-worthy is that Duet Enterprise seems to have fallen off the UI roadmap.

If you’ve read this blogpost so far let me know what you think and what your observations were. Also if you’re from SAP and can clarify some of the doubts I have, that would be great!

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17 Comments

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  1. Sergio Guerrero

    this is a very good summary of what has happened in the different areas. I am personally positively affected by sapui5 and I am amazed of how much it has changed (for the good) since even longer than 9months ago. I am an active user of sapui5 since SP05 and I like the changes that have happened. Glad sapui5 continues to improve and even went open source to demonstrate of what SAP is capable of in new areas.

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  2. Tobias Trapp

    Hi Roel,

    your analysis makes me think. It is interesting to see the “renewal” (WDA for SAP Business Suite in SAP HCM, MDG…) seems over – new UIs are delivered in Fiori. This is also supported by the fact that UI5 will be enabled for transactional applications. So far WDA/FPM is necessary for complex transactional applications. It seems to me that in the mean time WDA/FPM will be put more close to Fiori and web applications in general. But the time for major WDA/FPM innovations is over – more effort is spent on the evolution of UI5. What do you think?

    The convergence of NWBC to FLP (former Unified Shell) makes me think. If only NWBC for HTML will be merged then there will be two entry points in the future: some customers will use NWBC the client together with Sidepanel and other will work with different web applications resp. Personas applications. To bring both worlds together NWBC for HTML should be enhanced by missing features – otherwise it would be the weakest link of SAP’s UI strategy. Is it your impression, too?

    Cheers,
    Tobias


    P.S.: Thank you for the great blog 🙂

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    1. Roel van den Berge Post author

      Hi Tobias,

      Thanks for your comments and I share both your opinions. The roadmaps definitely show more progress in the SAPUI5 area than in the WDA area. IMO This is for a great deal because of the maturity of WDA and the relative immaturity of SAPUI5. And seeing how SAP embraces ‘open’ it’s only logical that they invest more in SAPUI5 rather than in one of their proprietary frameworks. But I think that if they have trouble enabling SAPUI5 for transactional applications that WDA will stay important for quite some time, even longer than they had hoped for. So in order to bring the same usability and attractiveness to users, they will have to bring the two more together, one way or the other.

      As for the two NWBC versions: I guess SAP would want them as similar as possible (at least I hope so) feature-wise. But on the other hand the Windows client is more capable of doing heavy lifting than the web client, much like a native app is capable of more than a web app (higher speed, access to OS resources, etc). I’m – still – curious to learn why the side panel is removed from the NWBC for HTML roadmap. Maybe they reached the conclusion that a web sidepanel wasn’t possible or that it did not perform well or that customers don’t mind too much. I can only speculate. Hope to get an answer here.

      Cheers, Roel

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      1. Ingo Deck

        Hi Tobias and Roel,

        again very good interpretation where I just want to add some thoughts about the side panel. Actually this is one of the most liked features of the NWBC for desktop – at least based on the feedback we receive from all our customer interactions. And there is a big demand for “side panel in SAP clients” in general, so the topic is for sure not off the table rather even more on the table.

        The reason why we have removed it from the NWBC for HTML roadmap is mainly because this one gets closer and closer to the Fior launchpad topic (also being in its current version an HTML based client) and there we are for sure considering it (besides all technical obstacles 😉 ), while understanding and investigating even more for what exactly this side panel is used for, i.e. the concrete use cases as this will help us in providing the right capability in the right manner.

        Hope this little insight helps.

        Cheers Ingo

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        1. Tobias Trapp

          Hi Ingo,

          I consider the sidepanel as a very important cornerstone ofSAP’s UI technology. We use it for decision support and showed the enduser data calculated from HANA but also archived documents connected to the business object. I can present you many more use cases:

          • information about the stakeholders of a business process
          • analytical HANA content
          • integration of SAP NW Folders Management
          • integration of screen from non-SAP systems
          • integration of screens form output management system for print preview and editing

          CHIPs are a kind of “UI as a Service” that help customers to extend the UI especially in desktop applications – they gap the bridge between screens maybe on different systems, are an enabler for supporting processes and can improve the performance of the enduser by displaying additional information.

          It seems to me that SAP is focusing only on simplification but this is only one aspect: simplicity is no value for its own and no silver bullet. The UI must fit to the process and this can mean that I integrate another application, too. Sometimes I have even to combine both approaches to get a perfect UI.

          Best Regards,

          Tobias

          P.S.: If I am informed right we are taking part at the same event in Walldorf and I will talk here and if you are interested we can discuss it here.

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      2. Julie Plummer

        Hi Roel, Tobias, everyone,

        Ingo has given great feedback on most topics already, so I just want to say something briefly about NWBC for HTML:

        Our goal is ultimately to unify our UI client experience with Fiori Launchpad – that is, unifying : NWBC for Desktop + NWBC for HTML + Enterprise Portal client as one client, including access to both Web-based applications and SAP GUI for Windows native transactions.

        As such, NWBC for HTML will be maintained until 2025, but 3.6 is the last major version.

        Regarding the convergence of NWBC for Desktop with Fiori UX and Launchpad, I wrote the following blog:

        NWBC, Fiori UX, and UI Client Convergence: Roadmap Update

        HTH Julie.

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  3. Ingo Deck

    Hi Roel,

    It has never been easier to give a 5 star rating 🙂

    Collecting all the content and finally publishing that roadmap document, I have to admit, I really really really like your blog and seeing someone really going into details.. thanks so much.. you made my (fri)day 😉 as this is simply the best feedback one can get, an external reflection of what we have done.. so keep going.. next one please in 9 months from now 😛

    Can and will not comment everything, as the discussion here will take off anyway, just
    few remarks:

    • Because I really had to smile reading the “[…] BUT they are horizontally flipped. What is up with that SAP?!  😉” phrase… yes it is as simple as that.. working on the topic UX and usability for years you sometimes get blind reg. details.. and the human being reads from left to right and exactly as you assumed.. this is rather regarded as an evolution 😉 the reason for that change is really as simple as that 🙂
    • Regarding Duet Enterprise: with SAP Gateway for Microsoft we have a very flexible solution that helps to integrate SAP content via oData services into Microsoft products.  Thus we do not promote Duet Enterprise any
      more in the roadmap.

    Your observations and thoughts regarding the UX strategy and the Key UI Tools & Technologies are pretty good.. SAP Fiori UX is really more than a set of applications, also explained in the appendix of the roadmap document on one slide.

    Also your comment reg. “Another big change is the addition of UX Design Services on the bottom, also spanning the entire diagram. With this SAP emphasizes the need for a good UX design in order to increase user adoption and productivity. Obviously Design Thinking plays a big role in this.” could not be more precise… pretty often we get the question “which UI technology to choose to solve UX problems” but while it is important to know and understand your technology options, this is not what will solve the issue alone, it is more about the user centricity, how you understand users, how in general you work in UX projects.. where methods from Design Thinking for sure can help to have the right focus in the right phase of the project and ensure a real success i.e. better UX for the user. Thus we support our customers also with UX focused design services or emphasize the importance of working in a new manner on such projects.

    I better leave all the detailed topics reg. tools and technologies to our experts to
    comment.. I pointed them to your blog as it is really an interesting external
    view on what we published.

    Thanks so much again.. and please do more of that!!

    Cheers,
    Ingo

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    1. Roel van den Berge Post author

      Hi Ingo,

      Thanks for your positive comment! It definitely made ME smile during dkom 🙂 I will definitely try to make another UI comparison blog in the future. Your comment (and the positive feedback I got from others) certainly makes me want to do it again.

      A big THANK YOU to pointing the technology experts to this blog. I certainly hope they can clarify some things or answer questions I got.

      Cheers, Roel

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  4. Juergen Jakowski

    Hi Roel,

    I can fully sign what Ingo already said. Feedback is important for all of us to get better. And besides that, your feedback indicates that Ingo’s work to collect all these details is very valuable.

    There is maybe one remark which I actually got in mind after Ingo mentioned the availability of the roadmap information. Usually, some days after publishing the roadmap in SCN, we also import the information in the SAP UX Explorer per topic  (e.g. SAP Web IDE -> SAP UX Explorer). This time we were even 2 days faster than SCN. 🙂

    Have a nice weekend. And again: Very good post.

    -JJ

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  5. Peter Spielvogel

    Hi Roel,

    I really enjoyed your analysis here. Thanks for taking the time to apply the change detection algorithm on this to highlight what people should probably focus on.

    Regards,

    Peter

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  6. Ivan Femia

    Thank you Roel for your effort on comparing the roadmaps.

    Interesting to see that SAP is still focusing on his initial plan and embracing more the great vision in terms of UX.

    As you already mentioned, the SAP UI Consolidation Plan is a great input on the SAP strategy in terms of one point of entry for different technologies and I love the idea. I hope that this will not create an SAP Monster Launchpad.

    Regarding SAPUI5, I don’t see any reference to the offline (synchronized) scenario w/o the Kapsel Offline OData plugin and SMP, this will bring SAPUI5 technology to the next level. You can implement offline support by yourself, but I would love to have a framework that helps developer to easily implement this feature.

    Cheers,

    Ivan

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  7. M. Rabe

    Hi Roel,

    thanks for posting this great article. I like the idea to compare the roadmaps. The current state of available technologies vs what remains in the future is what keeps us busy nowadays. The S4HANA release kind of confirms what we heard back in November in Walldorf: Fiori all the way (whatever that exactly means) and exits scenarios for all other technologies including the SAP GUI. But for some reason I think she’s still around when I retire in 30 years…… 🙂

    Can we expect another revisit (or should I say “rebirth”) in 9 months time?

    Marcel

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  8. Guillaume GARCIA

    Hi,

    Very interesting blog!

    As we are watching future plans, I was wondering whether something as common as “printing” was taken care of in this roadmap. As far as I understand it, using media queries (as one the main tool for responsive design) was – initially and largely – used for printing. It then avantageously serves the purpose of adapting the layout due to tablets, smartphones (with the mobile fragmentation and so on…)

    Abstract Sequential –  Print Styles Are Responsive Design

    Yet, Fiori does not leverage it for printing which is a pity because it would have been a huge benefit (“1 application fits all need” kind of thing).

    Best regards,

    Guillaume

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