The Structure of SAP Fiori 2.0 Apps: From Work Centers to Overview Pages
In the past, applications focused on very large transactions covering many functions for a single business object. Multiple users would have to work in one of these large transactions, and each user had to identify the parts that were relevant to his or her task.
SAP Fiori marks a paradigm shift in the way we design and develop applications. With SAP Fiori, apps began to concentrate on specific use cases for specific role. Design and development now revolves around roles and the tasks that users needed to accomplish, with the ultimate goal of providing an app that’s optimized for a specific task.
With this change, we were forced to rethink the way we deliver, manage, and navigate apps in a more modular and flexible environment.
First Assumption: We Need to Manage a Larger Set of Applications
Designing and developing specialized apps that perfectly suit the requirements of a specific role leads to a larger number of apps. This, at least, is the assumption we made based on our experience offering the original transactions in addition to the new SAP Fiori apps.
However, we don’t know if this assumption holds true over the time. There are also factors that might counter that trend by reducing the fragmentation of scenarios over multiple transactions. For example:
- By being more targeted, these apps might combine the functionality that was previously covered by a number of individual transactions.
- The modular nature of SAP Fiori apps caters to the fact that the same app can be used in different user flows.
- Some transactions that are available in existing systems might become obsolete and might then not be distributed via new apps.
Even if there were a larger number of individual apps available in the system, the number of apps used by the individual user doesn’t necessarily increase. If anything, the use of role-specific apps will see this number actually decrease for users. Therefore, any additional complexity will mainly be on the side of the administrator, who will have to ensure that a larger number of apps are configured, managed, and distributed.
Figure 1: The home page of the SAP Fiori Launchpad with the personalized set of tiles representing the applications the user accesses frequently.
From a user experience perspective, it is crucial that this additional complexity is not exposed to the user. Administrations should therefore:
- Avoid placing every app on a user’s homepage by default. Instead, let users add apps themselves if something is missing.
- Focus on selecting an appropriate minimal set of apps.
- Avoid showing apps to the user that are not designed for his or her role.
- Invest in optimizing catalogs to better match the business roles of the company.
- Make sure the user can personalize the home page to his or her needs. This point is crucial and can’t be emphasized often enough. The home page is the place for the user and should be as personal as possible. Administrators give away control here, but it should pay off, at least for most users.
- Make sure app search works.
When you are migrating an existing system into SAP Fiori you should consider the following:
- Make use of your knowledge about users’ favorites: you can take the user favorites from the user menu or the portal favorites as candidates for the user’s home page.
- Don’t overwhelm the user: avoid pushing all role contents (or even only subsets) to the home page. This will render the home page difficult to use. Keep the role contents in the catalogues and allow the user to discover these through the AppFinder.
- Keep the user in control of the home page: keep all personalization features for the home page enabled. The home page should be the place the user designs.
With SAP Fiori 2.0, we plan to introduce a number of enhancements that will help users to manage a larger offering of apps:
- The home page will be able to display more apps with improved navigation, smaller tile sizes, and a link area that only displays the app name as a link, which uses less space.
- The navigation menu will offer a set of enhanced navigation options, such as hierarchical navigation to step upwards in the information hierarchy of the app, cross-navigation to related apps, and a full structured hierarchy of all assigned apps.
- Personalized navigation lists in the Me Area will offer access to recent apps and frequently-used apps.
All of these options should help the user to navigate within a larger set of applications without creating a large, fixed structure navigation on the screen that would force the user into static hierarchical menus and side navigation panels of an L-shape navigation.
Second Assumption: We Have to Ensure That We Assign the Right Apps to the Right Users
Figure 2: AppFinder target design offering the possibility for the user to discover required apps or apps that are suitable for his role. For IT this offers a way to control and manage access and roll-out to apps for specific user groups.
Since apps are designed to fit a specific user role, care has to be taken to assign the correct apps.
In enterprise environments, administrators assign applications to user roles. In general, roles are used as a vehicle to manage authorizations and content at the same time. These roles are primarily administrative, if not entirely technical. In many cases, these roles are broadly configured, containing more apps than needed in order to avoid too many roles and secondary work to assign additional access rights.
Either through a portal or another client, these applications are offered to users in a predefined, often hierarchical structure. If roles are configured in such a way that they contain many applications, the structure can become comprehensive containing applications that the user doesn’t need.
With SAP Fiori, SAP delivers apps in catalogs that are based on business roles. These are the roles that are defined as part of the initial design process in the discovery phase. Catalogs are primarily used by users to select applications that they need and to place them on the home page in case they need the applications on a regular basis. With SAP Fiori 2.0, we plan to introduce an option to structure and organize larger sets of applications (navigation menu); however, this should remain a secondary and complementary option to the home page.
This approach is designed to cater to the role-based paradigm that we follow with SAP Fiori. The administrator assigns catalogs based on a user’s business roles. Users refine this assignment by selecting those apps that they actually use by placing them on the home page. The user can also organize the apps in groups that are meaningful. This way, we can ensure that the apps really fit the user.
In SAP Fiori, we ensure an optimal fit between user and apps by combining catalogs that are based on business roles and the personalization of the most relevant apps on the home page.
For users, this means that they can define a personal set of apps and arrange them according to their individual needs. For administrators, this means that they should make sure that catalogs are defined in a way that they provide a reasonable selection for the user, but, for fine-tuning, administrators can rely on personalization of the home page. In general, administrators should make sure that:
- Catalogs represent the needs of the business roles in your organization. Ideally, you can work together with the business areas to define them.
- Users can benefit from the personalization capabilities of the home page and avoid unnecessary restrictions (e.g. locked groups).
- Users can leverage the “save as tile” functionality to even further optimize the usage of the homepage by creating personalized worklists and sets of navigation targets.
Finally, with Fiori 2.0, we will also start offering a tool that helps to further improve a targeted delivery of the right apps to the right users. The AppFinder relies on the established concepts of an app store to make apps discoverable to the user. Even though users will not download apps, they will be able to learn more about apps that are available to them and start apps from there (for single usage) or put them on the home page (for frequent usage). Today, the AppFinder still is in an early stage and offers basic catalog functionality. But, for the future, it holds the potential to serve as a vehicle for IT to do targeted rollout to specific user groups, provide recommendations and features, capture and share best practices, as well as gather user feedback.
The AppFinder might become the tool that can help administrators optimize the management of user roles driven by users and their needs that get captured in usage statistics, recommendations, and ratings.
Assumption 3: A flexible navigation structure is more powerful and content-driven than a fixed menu
Figure 3: The declarative navigation structure will be exposed in the navigation menu. This complements the personalized navigation paths through the home page, overview pages, or search that avoid complex navigation structures in favor of task-driven navigation (product design might vary from this visualization).
In a typical enterprise environment, users have access to many transactions, reports, and apps, usually, way more than they need. To structure the huge amount of apps, apps are organized in categories and subcategories. These categories are in most cases determined by the roles and the system landscape that usually is hidden by portal installations.
Since the 2000s, the navigation structure of SAP systems is organized around roles and work centers (see an explanation of roles and work centers or the design evolution of work centers in SAP Business ByDesign). A role is used as a folder to bundle content (e.g. applications, reports, tasks) that can then be assigned to people. Within a role, several work centers can be included, each of which represents a specific area of responsibility. For example, the role of a C-level manager might contain work centers for corporate performance, area management, fixed assets, and so on.
Work centers usually have a fix set of possible content elements such as an overview, worklist, references to apps and reports that are arranged in a consistent way. The navigation structure of the user’s environment therefore is constructed out of a hierarchy of roles, work centers, and content within the work centers, and it is visualized in comprehensive navigation menus either on the top and / or on the left side on the screen.
This structure is extremely logical and predictable and allows the user to form a mental model of the complex environment. So, why have we decided to not follow this model with Fiori anymore?
- Complexity – the work center navigation concept makes the entire complexity of the environment part of the experience. To get access to required functionality, the user has to find his way through a lot of information that is not needed in that situation.
- Segmentation – work centers might split scenarios that belong together and place them into two different silos. In many scenarios users cut across multiple work centers without users even knowing.
- Rigidity – work centers have a very rigid structure in order to achieve consistency. This structure sometimes leads to the situations where functionality is offered because of consistency and not because of the user needing it. Also, this structure is superimposed on the user without being able to alter it much.
- Space – the entire fix navigation is available on the screen either permanently or on demand, but, due to its complexity, these hierarchical structure require space, which is rarely available on mobile devices or could be used differently.
In SAP Fiori, every navigation is rooted in the user’s personal home page. On this home page, the users can place apps that they use on a regular basis. They also get an immediate overview of specific KPIs that alert users to action when needed. According to the research that we did with a number of our customers and the usage statistics in their portals, most users don’t actively use more than 30-50 apps on a regular basis. With the enhanced features of the SAP Fiori 2.0 home page, it will be even easier to accommodate and scan 100 apps in an easy way. The home page is a simple and content-driven entry page to the user’s work environment; it is simple, responsive, and fully personalized. Apps from any role, area, or system can be combined in groups, overcoming the classic segmentation into work centers.
However, in some cases, users need structure and content that is richer than the launch tiles on the home page. To provide users with such a place where they can get an overview of all information about a specific bundle of tasks or a domain, we have designed the overview page.
The overview page is very similar to a work center but way more flexible in the types of content it can support. As with every aspect of SAP Fiori, the overview page contents are driven by the user’s role and the tasks he or she has to accomplish. Therefore, the overview page can contain different information from different apps that supports users in their specific tasks. This might include parts of reports, work lists, links to apps or contents, analytical visualizations and KPIs freely arranged and defined by the user. Each overview page can focus on a specific context so that all content is restricted to that context. From the overview page content, users can directly navigate to individual items or full reports or even take immediate action in place.
Users can have as many overview pages as they need, and there is no structural implication of these. This means that in order to reduce the number of tiles on their home page, users can have the references to the apps on the overview page and then navigate to the individual apps from there. If they don’t need the overview page, they can place the relevant tiles for the apps on the home page and directly navigate to them from there. There is no hierarchical relationship or structure superimposed on these apps. In the same way, users can create variants of the overview page and store them individually on the home page.
Figure 4: Typical navigation path from the home page into an overview page and further to the applications. An overview page can bundle the access of multiple apps into one context.
In addition to that, some roles might have specific apps that serve as an entry point or dashboard for specific bundles of tasks, such as work lists or dashboard applications that combine information and action into a powerful tool for that specific user.
The combination of a personalized home page and role-specific overview pages, work lists, or other optimized overview applications provides a personal and content-driven navigation structure that is simple, coherent, flexible and responsive.
With Fiori 2.0, not only will we offer additional content types and layouts for the overview page, but we will also offer additional, structural navigation possibilities like the navigation menu and the AppFinder that will provide the user with the option to browse and discover specific apps in a larger portfolio of apps.
With SAP Fiori, we have not only changed a design or technology, but we have fundamentally changed the way how users work with business software.
Instead of excessive navigation menus and content structures, SAP Fiori gives users the freedom to select only the contents and the structure they need while avoiding unnecessary complexity and rigid structures (or at least leave them optional).
This also requires more attention to the way content is predefined, packaged, and assigned to different user roles. The more individual apps are tailored to specific roles and use cases, the more critical the assignment of the apps to the right people becomes. This is more crucial than with the generic, multi-purpose transactions in classic environments.
Although we are introducing slightly more structure with some of the new features of Fiori 2.0, such as the navigation menu, the Me Area, and the AppFinder, we are maintaining the philosophy of simplicity and responsiveness that makes SAP Fiori so appealing to our new generation of business users.
Thank you for sharing this here on SCN. I have to say my favourite line in the post was this:
For me that really shows that SAP is doing user research and making design decisions based on research and not just based on personal opinions or design trends. I keep reminding myself that "I am not the user" and try not to fall into that trap.
I have to say I am still skeptical about how much personalisation users will do and of course this will differ from user group to user group and from country to country etc. but it is also great to see that in Fiori 2.0 other more "traditional" navigation options will also be available.
SAP is facing the innovator's dilemma, how to innovate for the future and still support and bring along a legacy that has been built over decades. That's not an easy job but in my opinion the future looks bright.
Thank you Simon for your comment.
Indeed we are trying to back up our design decisions as much as possible with user research data. Our customers and partners are very helpful in this by attending the usability test centers at conferences or joining our co-innovation and customer engagement activities. A big thank you to all of those who help us understanding their needs.
As you mention the inventor's dilemma. This is really one of our biggest challenges. We are often navigating between two worlds: the world of the experienced SAP GUI user who got trained over many years and the world outside, from where more and more of the new workforce joins the enterprise world. Two worlds apart.
With Fiori 2.0 we have taken many efforts to accommodate more of the requirements from the existing customer base and translate it into the new paradigm without sacrificing what people love about Fiori today.
Thank you for such an informative blog. We are just implementing Fiori. I am very interested in the concept described above:
'Users can have as many overview pages as they need, and there is no structural implication of these. This means that in order to reduce the number of tiles on their home page, users can place the tiles on the overview page and then navigate to the individual apps from there.'
Can you advise on the release of this functionality and documentation around achieving this functionality.
I have to apologise for the vague formulation in the text above. I figure that it reads as if you were able to place tiles on the Overview Page, which is not correct. The Overview Page contains cards, which are richer in information and means of interaction.
The actual possibilities that you have to refer to apps on the Overview Page are the following:
You find more information about the Overview Page here: SAP Fiori 2.0: The Ideal Overview
I hope that helps. I am excited to hear more about your experience with Fiori and our new designs.