In part 1 of this series, I wrote about the churning that’s occurring in the SAP HCM landscape with camps of cloud early adopters, on-premise hold-outs, hybrid adopters, and those of us who just aren’t sure what to do.  In part 2 of the series, I covered the cloud. Now I’ll cover the technologies that are catching the attention of primarily those in the on-premise camps of the HCM community.

Fiori Apps – Fiori is very exciting stuff for everyone using an SAP system, not just HCM.  These pre-built apps cover a variety of functions across modules.  Highlights for HCM users include a view paystub app, my timesheet app, approve timesheet app, and Employee lookup app.  You can see the full catalog here.  The highly configurable Fiori Launchpad unifies all of these apps into a single tool where users can launch all sorts of Fiori and non-Fiori (even non-SAP) applications.  This becomes increasingly important as SAP steers customers from Netweaver portal into newer technologies and still needs a friendly way for users to navigate where they need to quickly.

HR Renewal – we all love our precious tcodes pa30, pa40, and ppome.  But these tcodes have been around a long time and don’t really get a warm and fuzzy reaction from new users.  Enter HR Renewal.  HR Renewal gives HR professionals, employees, and managers a nice web-based interface to perform many job functions that traditionally were accomplished with these tcodes or legacy ITS and web dynpro apps.  You can read about some of these features in a great blog here.  For a more comprehensive listing, you can check out the sap help site here.  With two major releases and a total of 7 feature packs, you can tell SAP has been seriously investing here.  There’s also a great FAQ that covers some of the differences between HR Renewal 1.0 and Fiori.

Payroll Control Center – Using SAP Payroll?  Need a great way to figure out what went wrong in that last payroll run?  Want to do it without digging through multiple tcodes in the SAP GUI?   If you keep answering yes, then check out the Payroll Control Center!  This is technically a subset included in HR Renewal, but it often gets mentioned on its own because of its depth of features.  There’s a great blog covering the exciting features and strong value proposition of the payroll control center here.

What do these new offerings have in common?  They all utilize SAP’s UI5 technology.

Where did UI5 come from?

In late 2010 I had the privilege of being a guest speaker at SAP TechEd.  My presentation was on developing custom applications on Web Dynpro Java and ABAP – this being a newer technology at the time.  Someone asked me after the session what I meant when I said it was SAP’s “Latest Presentation Layer”.  I gave him a brief history of SAP’s different user interface technologies. I remarked that in 1992 SAP had “Dynpros” (Dynamic Programming) which were basically a way to program SAP GUI pages using UI controls.  Then as web pages became increasingly popular SAP came up with business server pages (BSPs) which are basically dynamic html pages that could access SAP.  Then after they bought into Java in 2001 with the purchase of TopTier software and the launch of Netweaver, they invested largely in developing in JavaServer pages (JSPs) since the portal ran primarily on that technology. Adding their own flavor on top of web-based Java, SAP came up with Web Dynpro Java (WDJ) to make SAP development in the Java world a bit more standardized and rapid.  They then made an ABAP flavor of it that would run directly on a SAP ABAP server called Web Dynpro ABAP (WDA). I did not know it at the time, but the next User Interface technology (UI5) was going to be a few short years away.

Ironically, while attending that same conference, I also stumbled up an interesting presentation about “Project Gateway”.  The presentation was about a new and very flexible way to access SAP data from any devices such as mobile that was based on JSON and OData protocol.  I had no clue at the time how important that technology would later become for SAP.

A few months later in February 2011, the W3C declared “Last Call” for the new HTML5 standard, thus entering a more solidified state for the new official language of the web.  I remember writing a blog about this speculating how many years it would take SAP to catch up to the new standard as websites and new releases of web browsers at the time had already started to adopt the new version of HTML.

So why am I blabbering on about the history of these technologies?  These two technologies – HTML5 and Gateway – converged at the right time to set the stage for SAP UI5 to emerge as SAP’s latest user interface platform.

What is UI5?

UI5 is a standard library of Javascript that SAP maintains under an Open Source model to render HTML5 and connect it to SAP using JSON and OData.  UI5 follows in the tradition of Web Dynpro and the other aforementioned UI technologies where SAP takes existing UI technology in the marketplace and wraps their own standards on top of it to allow it to communicate with their back end technology.  You can see now why the experimental “Project Gateway” became pretty important pretty quickly and evolved into simply “Gateway” as a new SAP offering since it provided the key to getting the technology to communicate with the backend.

SAP has also done a lot of things right with this latest UX standard where prior SAP technologies fell short:

  1. UI5 is free to developers – you can download, the SDK and get started developing today.
  2. It is open source – you are encouraged to participate in its evolution as a standard / library
  3. It uses more up-to-date technology –HTML5 is still relatively new and rising in adoption, not predicted to hit peak usage until 2022
  4. Fiori is free for SAP customers – if you are going to get customers to adopt the new standard, you need to give them an incentive to do so – and releasing powerful set of new apps are a great way to let people see the light
  5. It works on any device – desktop/laptop, mobile, tablet.  It will work on any of these without the hassle of re-coding to compensate for the ongoing Android vs. iPhone battle.
  6. It isn’t terribly ugly – this has been a long time complaint of many SAP technologies
  7. It plays on-premise and in the cloud – customers can install gateway and start connecting UI5 apps to their on-premise system.  Or you can develop on the HANA Cloud right away and connect to cloud systems or on-premise systems

I consider UI5 a very strategically important technology to keep an eye on – and you will find out why in my last installment of this series.

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3 Comments

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  1. Kevin Swann

    Excellent post Michael, and part of an interesting series. Thanks for contributing.

    Like any good SCN’er, i’d like to pick up on a point:

    “as SAP steers customers from Netweaver portal into newer technologies”

    It’s implicit on this statement that the SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP dropped the NW part of Portal recently) is “old” and UI5 is new. Whilst UI5 is definitely the new unifier for UI/UX in SAP, i’m not sure I agree that kills the Portal proposition, and i’m sure the hard working guys at SAP Israel in the Portal team would have a thing to add as well!

    I’d say that the best deployment scenario for things like Fiori Launchpad is the Portal – it’s that same case for a consolidated, aggregated hub of content that allows you to take a user-centric view of things, rather than a system silo approach. You’ve got a HR self service scenario with on-premise, but also want to give some BW reporting and add talent on Success Factors? Let your Portal handle the SAML SSO, consolidated FLP, UI theme designer… etc. The Portal will always be your point of access for delivering joined up, cross system business processes designed for the user experience.

    Let’s not kill off the Portal with statements like that yet 🙂 It’s been around a while, but with 7.4 SPS10 and Fiori Launchpad (not to mention HANA Cloud Portal), it’s more relevant than ever.

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    1. Michael Wellens Post author

      Hey Kevin,

      Thanks for the post!  I am a long time portal fan as well – started with portal 5.0 and have worked in every version since.  I agree its a great technology and provides customers with a lot of options for centralizing the user experience that other technologies like UI5 launchpad do not offer.  I am sure I’ve enjoyed some of your work!

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