I’ve found myself hitting a bit of a point in my career where I am seriously consideration shifting out of my core skill or at least diversifying. When User Experience (UX) became the latest buzz word, I found myself naturally gravitating towards these topics. How well security is designed and provisioned has a huge impact on user experience. Not quite the User Experience that most people might consider. And the more I read up on these topics, the more I realised and accepted buzz words was an unfair categorisation.
Now think about “user land” in my design as I come down from my sterile project ivory tower. Keep provisioning simple so a user can get up and running as soon possible or frustrate your user base as they are idle (no access = loss of productivity = $$$$). Make passwords rules too restrictive = user circumventing rules = keys to the kingdom = fraud = $$$$. Restrict access too much = unable to do job = frustrated user = more $$$$. Yep – it’s amazing how much of it all comes back to the bottom line of money – a language business representatives comprehend.
You can see I’m on this “journey”. But really it’s a journey we all need embark upon. It doesn’t matter if you are the technical architect, developer, functional analyst, business analysis, business strategist or even me: the security administrator. Our roles and approach in designing solutions all contribute to the user experience. And in this new world, UX trumps everything. We all need to consider the user upfront as to how they need to interact with the systems we build and support.
This week, I was in the fortunate position to attend a UX Strategy Workshop organised by the SAP Australia User Group (SAUG) in Brisbane. It’s this session (along with a professional acquaintance encouraging me to leave the dark side that is security and come join in with UX and design). To put it simply: I LOVED IT!! I’ve written this before but I’m your typical nuisance participant in meetings and training courses. If I have to sit still for more than 20 minutes I’m either doodling on scrap paper, playing with my phone or working on something else instead of listening. But this workshop – I was engaged and intrigued the whole time.
SAUG managed to convince SAP’s Experts in UX and UI to make the trek down to Australia and run a session relating to Fiori, Personas, Splash/Build and a few other tools. For anyone new to UX and UI, this was a great introduction session to set the scene. In a single day, the guys were able to explain SAP’s motivation to improve UX and explain the roadmap/approach as customers eventually transition to S4/HANA.
We were very lucky to have three SAP International UX experts – otherwise known as the guys – on hand for the day. A great opportunity to get first-hand thoughts on SAP’s roadmap for UX.
Vice President, Products and Innovation Team,
SAP Development Organisation [Technical lead and main presenter]
Mr. Mark Schenecker
Senior Director, SAP Imagineering Team,
SAP Development Organisation [SAP Screen Personas expert]
Vice President, Products and Innovation Team,
SAP Development Organisation [UX Strategy and Roll-out]
The Day in General
Intros kicked off with the usual round the table. Fortunately it was name and skills. No forced expectation to explain why we were there and what we hoped to get from the day. Mark did do the obligatory ‘I love this beautiful country’ speech and now worries he’ll need to fund a trip for his daughters to visit when they see the photos.
What I did notice were the participants were mostly technical backgrounds. I did chat with Mark and Johannes later in the night to see if there was ever a session targeted towards business people. My thoughts is as a technical person it is hard to sell the benefits of this technology to the business. After years of IT being prescriptive to business… well… they don’t like us that much.
The guys made a valid point that it might be a bit hard to fill the chairs of business leaders to explain how cool UX and UI is. It’s up there with Mark’s valid point that few users ever head home and say ‘hey honey, I totally rocked ME21N today’. It got a laugh (although, my inner nerd was the exception but I didn’t want to admit that I sometimes head home and talk transaction codes to hubby).
We could have easily have kept going with the content but pauses were taken for lunch. Always a good sign when people aren’t clock watching for the next coffee or food break. Active participation from then audience along with honest feedback by the guys had us powering through the afternoon without formal breaks. Our session went past the formal finish time and continued on through to network drinks arranged by a Consultancy firm.
My Key Takeaways
One Size does not fit all
SAP traditionally built SAP out based on how SAP ran business. We all got to hear quite a few interested stats and opportunities to guess how many screens, transaction codes, have been created over the past 40+ years. Learning that the IDOC definition of a sales order had over 3500 fields as it tried to cater for 24 vertical industries. Each industry having its own specialities that other industries would never have a reason to use (uranium field information is unlikely to ever be required for a supermarket).
Transactions were traditionally designed trying to cater for different people. Several users accessing the same transaction with information and a bunch of fields they don’t need to see. It’s inefficient was the key message. And back to logical conclusion: inefficient = $$$$
No More TABS
System limitations and approaches to building had SAPdevelopers adding Tab after Tab to transactions to group fields together. This design and build approach resulted in the creation of Tab Hunters. I imagine David Attenborough narrating: This not so rare breed of user launches the suspect transaction as they scan their data prey. Tab after tab they methodically click through picking and choosing the key information whilst they discard irrelevance. They then input this valuable data into spreadsheets and share with their team. The Tab hunter repeats this steps many times throughout the course of their workday only to return the next day ready to tab hunt again.
Tabs were put there by developers to try and meet the one size fits all. But so what? Well turns out TABS = Times = Productivity = you name it: $$$$. Simplifying screens and reducing complexity reduces time. Customer examples were provided to provide this point: customer service transaction times of 8 minutes per phone call were reduced to 2 minutes when screens were simplified and tabs were removed (both personas and Fiori were examples of achieving this). That 6 minutes reduction resulted in improved customer service (less time for the customer on the phone) as well as increased throughput in the day with existing people. Already, here’s the business case as to why these technologies can benefit the business.
The Power User is not your first target
Most users dislike SAPGUI screens. The power user is the exception. They know their shortcuts, screen layouts and can churn work through. They are the master tab hunters. Even if you make the screens more aesthetically pleasing or improve some usability there’s still a high chance you’re going to annoy them. They’re the same users who have resisted Enterprise Portal and are unlikely to want to use SAP Business Client (was NWBC).
Choose your target
Right we’ve learned it’s not the power user. We also learned we can’t do everything at once. As the guys put it – it took SAP 40+ years to get to the complex user interfaces and screens (including those tabs). It’s not going to be an easy overnight activity to “Fiorise” it all. But you have to start somewhere. Again, the $$$ comes into play and part of the prioritisation is figuring out what will get you a good return on investment. As a chance for IT to once and for all absolve themselves of their techy-sins, pick a high volume activity which the business can see immediate benefit in.
S4 HANA is Fiori (but not 100%)
I’ve read up on S/4HANA and seen the sales brochures. Everything Fiori is the key messages – it is the strategic approach for UI. But then there are the exceptions. It was great to hear the guys admit that SAPGUI is still around even though the direction is Fiori. It also means Personas still has a future too. At first I saw it as an interim measure until customers can move to HANA. So from what I can see, GUI has its place for:
- Not everything can be on HANA straight away. It will take time for the industry solution and other functionality to be rebuilt.
- Customers who migrate to S4HANA will have custom programs and transactions. They can still be accessible to users as SAPGUI transactions
- The Power User won’t easily give up transaction codes
- S4HANA is built on an ABAP stack. The focus has been on business user experience and guided configuration. The tech teams will still find themselves on the ABAP stack navigating like they do now.
Although, it’s not 100% Fiori, the screens can be setup with Personas and embedded into Fiori Launchpad to achieve a cohesive design.
Training will change
Millennials were eventually cited – they are the future and will make up a majority of the workforce. Cringing aside (I’m a Gen Y myself and hate when my generation is discussed), the guys go to the point that technology is second nature and part of culture. These users want to consume information as they need it.
In putting UX first and simplifying, users should be able to intuitively know how to use an application. If a manual is needed to explain how the application will work then it’s unlikely it meets the Fiori design standards. Training tools (e.g. KNOA) can be used as part of the strategy to identify training needs. To me, it then means training can be more focused on business practices as opposed to system activities.
You’re not alone
Although these technologies are relatively new, there is a wealth of knowledge and people out there only ready to assist – including the presenters. There was a shout out to the community as a key source of information as well as SAP’s free online training (open.sap.com) for Personas and Fiori courses as well as design thinking. Add to that, there’s also style guidelines and documents available to help you on your journey and strategic approach for UX.
Those were just some of the highlights and key messages. For a single day workshop, it was amazing how much information we covered. With exception to Personas, from a technical point of view I covered most of the tools in joining the Open SAP Build your Own Fiori App. However, it was the business rationale and positioning of why UX needs to come first that made the day for me.
Invite the guys to your part of the world
If you’re out there and want to learn then call up your local User Group and beg them to convince the guys to make the trek out your way to present. You won’t be disappointed as you get a mixture of history, strategy, roadmaps and practical advice to kick start your UX/UI journey.
You might stand a better chance if you have a cute and furry or ferocious animals for the guys to get their picture with. Their trips through Africa resulted in photos with a Cheetah. Out in Australia they managed to find the time to pose for a photo with a Koala. They ran out of time to make the trip north to Steve Irwin’s zoo to cuddle a crocodile so perhaps that can be the motivation to get the back out here another time.
Sales Pitch time
For any other SAP international expert out there, this one is directed at you. If you’ve got a topic that getting spotlight and feel like a visit to Australia, I can imagine our User Group will welcome you with open arms. We have customers, independents and partners out here who are willing to take a day out of the office and come learn (this event was sold out in 3 cities). It’s not easy to hop on the place and travel to the other side of the world for SAPPHIRE and Tech Ed. So please, come visit us.
I’m sure the guys can let you know what a fun time they had, how keen we are to participate and that when it comes to Australians we get right to the point, love a joke and have great beer. We’re not a tough crowd even though we are quite good at getting to the point and calling a spade a shovel.
So thanks to Mark, Johannes and Phil. I finally get the point of UX and am convinced of its future. SAP’s UI tools are not just shiny toys for tech teams. We have a great opportunity to change how business performs and witness measurable return on investment.
These tools are not just for the technical teams either. Personas is something a business analyst or functional person can easily pick up in a day and configure without having a development/coding background.d am convinced of its future. SAP’s UI tools are not just shiny toys for tech teams. We have a great opportunity to change how business performs and witnes
And finally, thanks to Presence of IT for continuing the day with a Pizza and Personas night. It gave a chance to show the guys what Brisbane customers are doing in the Persona space and compare notes on furry animals, the weather (I don’t winter is coming), how big our country really is and heap of other random topics as the night went on.
Time for me to get back to building my Fiori app and reading up on UX. Soo much to learn but after this session, I’ve got a better idea of where to start 🙂