User Experience as a Service: An Introduction
If you attended SAP TechEd last week at Las Vegas, you might have heard about User Experience as a Service (UXaaS) – at Bernd Leukert’s keynote, Sam Yen’s blog post, any UX session or from one of the UX pods. Maybe some of you wondered if it is yet another hard-to-pronounce ‘XaaS’ moniker or a fancy name for UX consulting services?
It is neither. In a nutshell, UXaaS refers to SAP’s integrated cloud offering comprising UX-related capabilities on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) to help companies scale great UX. It brings together some new and exciting design tools, while building on the strengths of several existing products on HCP to offer customer centered, end-to-end scenarios.
What’s the problem UXaaS solves?
Most IT organizations understand that providing state-of-the-art user experience to end-users is a critical priority. SAP has been investing a lot in the last few years to provide simple, personalized, and responsive UX with SAP Fiori. However, the demand from business continues to rise beyond packaged apps.
Here’s when IT often hits a roadblock. Finding developer resources is hard enough, but merely churning out a large volume of applications quickly using cloud-based tools is simply not enough. A large percentage of apps that IT either extends or develops on its own still end up as ‘orphan apps’ with lukewarm user adoption. Why? You discover too late (when it’s most expensive to fix) that you were not even building the right app or solving the right problem, probably because most Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools focus on developer productivity alone. Another reason is the lack of design skills in development teams. You don’t usually have the budget to bring in high quality designer resources except for the most strategic projects. Hence, it becomes difficult to scale UX in your IT organization.
How does UXaaS help?
UXaaS makes user-centered design and development accessible to IT organizations. User-centered design is about iteratively identifying the problem and validating the solution during the early stages of innovation – discover and design – with end-user involvement from the start. SAP Splash, a critical UXaaS tool for the discover phase, helps non-designers learn design thinking best practices with easy-to-consume guided learning materials and inspiring app designs.
From SAP Splash, you can access BUILD, a collaborative design tool (currently in beta) in the UXaaS portfolio that helps any non-technical user to quickly create prototypes without coding – even from whiteboard pictures or by simple drag-and-drop of UI elements. You can validate the solution with users and collect detailed insights in minutes – something that would take you weeks, if you were to interview each user. Most importantly, BUILD can help jumpstart development by creating design guidelines-compliant UI code that can be further edited by a developer using the familiar SAP Web IDE tool on HCP. This process could even remove the need for a lengthy business requirements document as prototype design artifacts and user feedback are collected within the BUILD tool. You can then deploy the app to SAP Fiori Launchpad or mobilize with HCP Mobile Services. SAP Web Analytics can help you measure user interaction for insights to iteratively optimize the experience. Sam’s strategy talk at TechEd provides a great overview (replay here including a demo starting at 43:30)
What else can it do?
Building a new app is just one scenario. UXaaS can help you with other key customer priorities such as extending or mobilizing apps or adding collaboration features. A pre-built frontrunner scenario is SAP Fiori, cloud edition, which helps modernize your on-premise applications by deploying the Fiori UI layer on the cloud using several tools and content from the UXaaS toolset. We’ll continue to add more scenarios and deeper integration.
Why is it unique?
There’s no dearth of cloud-based development platforms, but hardly any have strong design capabilities that can up-skill project teams that comprise many non-designers and non-technical users. UXaaS helps non-designers (the vast majority of typical IT organizations) learn the fundamentals of design. It helps the non-technical users (e.g., business experts and product managers, who often set the project direction) get directly involved in prototyping and user feedback to avoid costly rework later. And for the developers and administrators, unlike standalone design tools, UXaaS connects the design tools with the critical development and deployment capabilities of SAP HANA Cloud Platform, reducing the typical ‘lost in translation’ risk from design to development handover.
In summary, UXaaS helps you build the right apps, with the right experience, at the right cost. While technology alone cannot solve a UX problem, we can leverage the power of technology to help scale and amplify best in class designs and build a design mindset in the organization to help more people think like a designer. In future posts, we’ll explain some of the tools and scenarios in more detail and how customers have been using them to realize better UX. Stay tuned!