In this blog post, I continue to interview John Moy. See the first part of this blog here. John is co-founder of boutique advisory Blue T, SAP Mentor Alumnus and all round SAP mobility and UI guru. In May John presented on MMG’s use of SAP NWBC (NetWeaver Business Client) to offer a seamless UX for users of their newly implemented SAP systems. Here John tells us whether NWBC lived up to expectations post-implementation and what his top tips are for anyone implementing the solution.
Did NWBC live up to expectations? Did it do what it said it would do on the packet?
I’d say it did, but it was probably more the case that we wouldn’t have had a good alternative. Note that the real benefit of NWBC is to end users. I’ve noticed some support team members are still more comfortable with SAPGUI simply because that is what they are used to (and they know all their transaction codes because they’ve been using them for the past 10 years). However for most of the end users, NWBC is the first time they experienced SAP, and they can’t possibly be expected to remember all their transaction codes. I remember when the initial rollout of SAP with NWBC to the first MMG site occurred. I overheard one of the team leads being asked how the go-live went – his first response was that ‘they really like NWBC’.
Some of the other benefits we encountered at MMG …
1. Context Sensitive Help
There are some really good features that we also implemented along the way – context sensitive help is one of them. NWBC has a side panel concept that you don’t get on GUI or Portal. You open up the side panel and whatever screen you are on, you get the context sensitive help. That’s really good for users. Previously if you were using SAPGUI you would access help one way, and if you were accessing SAP Portal you would access it another way. With NWBC it’s now unified.
2. Enriching existing SAP screens with additional content
The other thing is that we use the side panels to display workflow history. We have one which is SAP’s classic display requisition transaction code. If you wanted to look at the workflow that’s under the requisition, it’s just awful, because it hasn’t changed in two decades. We put a custom feature in where you can open up a side panel and you launch a HTML5 flow view which graphically shows that ‘this person approved it on this date, and this person approved it on this date’ along with people’s photos.
NWBC gives you all these different features – for example, you can just type a description in the box at the top and you’ll instantly find all the menu items that match that description. That discoverability we’re giving users is really important.
In summary, the business couldn’t really go back. In terms of the rollout, most of the users were not SAP users to start off with, so they wouldn’t have known any better.
What are your Top tips for anyone considering implementing NWBC?
1. It’s not about technology
You have to recognise that NWBC is not a technological push – that’s not the main thing, although that’s part of it. You’re deploying a change for your desktop SOE, but that’s not dissimilar to pushing out a new version of the GUI.
In terms of the way you view how you’re delivering these role-based menus – that’s really important because the classic way of delivering SAPGUI is ‘here’s SAP’s view of the world’ – you keep clicking on these options but it keeps saying you’re not authorised. This is a usability construct that is in my mind unacceptable today – in any organisation. It’s a fail from the very beginning – to say you can give someone an SAP login but most of the time they can’t actually run the transactions. We talk about usability, and this is usability– let’s give people the menus that they should have that are relevant to their job. The challenge with that is constructing the role based menus, although I’ve implemented approaches that make that easier.. It’s something that you need to be aware of, but from a user experience perspective in the year 2015, it would be unacceptable to do it any other way.
2. Single Sign On
Be aware of how you want to achieve things like SSO with NWBC. Again, putting user experience first, you should always deliver SSO as people shouldn’t have to remember additional passwords beyond logging into their workstation. There are a few different ways that you can achieve SSO – I won’t go into those now, but you need to be aware of that.
3. Other requirements
Be aware that you need to package SAPGUI before you deploy it. SAP now offers SAPGUI with NWBC in a unified deployment. Also make sure you know what the support requirements are – which operating systems etc. At the moment it’s Windows, but you need to check – SAP doesn’t support XP anymore. All those types of thing.
Any final thoughts on NWBC, John?
Really, the whole mentality of delivering role-based menus is one of the big issues – and it’s a mentality issue, it’s not a technology issue. When you’re deploying NWBC, you’re deploying an enabler to leverage new functionality that you have in your system. If you’re not using it, it’s because you’re bound to your SAPGUI. Make sure you’re using more of that investment that you already have in your system.
And don’t forget that both Fiori and NWBC are complementary in helping you to craft your UX strategy. NWBC is the only tool that enables you to elevate a native SAPGUI alongside web content such as Fiori screens. Whilst Fiori is the next generation UX that is your enabler for a multi-channel experience (via tablets, smartphones etc). To the extent that Fiori doesn’t cover all your needs and your users still need to access SAPGUI transactions (which is likely to be the case for several years), then NWBC has an important role in delivering an improved UX for your end users.
A HUGE thank you for John for allowing me to interview him and publish his wise words on UX. John presented for us at the Mastering SAP Technologies earlier this year. The next Mastering SAP Technologies event will be taking place in Melbourne, Australia 25-27 May 2016. Stay tuned for more info!