SAP Fiori : UX Strategy driven by User Expectations
The advent of computing technology shifted many (if not all) business operations from being manually done (e.g. physically jotting down notes, using pens to fill out paper forms, using typewriters to do reports, etc) to being accomplished through a hybrid of manual effort and automated processing (e.g. usage of software to create reports, usage of printers to come up with one or more copies of an executive report, usage of programs to handle data management, etc).
As the computing technology matures and as its engineers boldly explore plausible technological abilities that were once contained in theories stemming from imaginations, the world history has witnessed, as well, how businesses gradually fuse in their operations what the computing technology can offer to lessen (if not totally eliminate) manual processing : an attempt to spawn another type of “automation,” one of the approaches the industry took to be efficient.
Automation is the utilization of technology by which a process or procedure is performed without human assistance. Humans may be present as observers or even participants but the process itself operates under its own self-direction. 1
Admittedly or not, the corporate world has became arguably dependent on the technology in handling its day to day operations. Certain business operations can be fully automated but many corporate processes, though already tied up with computer automation, still need human interventions. These business operations that fuse human interventions with automation, normally, revolve around sales transactions, supplies delivery processing, decision making, and the likes. Each of these operations will need an interface or more so a human (or a “user”) can instruct a computer to do the database update (automation) or to retrieve the data (automation) and submit these through a series of formulæ before presenting on a screen a result after synthesizing these data (like generating a key performance indices report; another automation) to help that “user” decide on certain matters.
From the first computer invented, during the early 19th century, by its father, Charles Babbage 2, to the latest gadgets, servers, appliances, in-memory-enabled hardware, and the likes, all generations of “computer users” have one thing in common : interacting with this technology, more often than not, will necessitate a program or an app.
During the first few generations of computer programs, as mentioned in one of my blogs, the users’ primary expectations generally revolve around usefulness and performance. 3 As years pass by, from “computer programs,” users are exposed to a new “breed” of these programs : apps.
Upon exposing the users to apps, their expectations from the new apps that will be given to them were re[de]fined. The usual questions that they are considering in evaluating a new app are :
- Is it useful; will I be able to accomplish my tasks with it?
- Is it [reasonably] it fast?
- Does it look nice?
- Can I use it on my mobile phone? Does it have a tablet version?
- Is it simple? 3
These questions are, essentially, derived from their benchmark on their experiences utilizing the different apps or programs. Aptly, that concept is best termed as “user experience” or UX/UE.
In the software engineering community, a new role arose : UX/UE Designer. This role aims to ensure that prior to the building of an application, the users are presented with a wireframe or a mockup that will give them the closest (if not the exact) experience upon simulating the interaction on an app using the corresponding wireframe or mockup. For cases when the UX/UE designing tool is not capable of enabling the user to experience the simulation, at least, the user will see a clear picture of an anticipated user experience.
In the software development and user experience designing, like any other disciplines, most (if not everyone) have been accustomed to expect a set of standards to adhere to. The definition of “standards” may have different phrasings. Taking one of them from the Business Dictionary, it has this general definition :
“Written definition, limit, or rule, approved and monitored for compliance by an authoritative agency or professional or recognized body as a minimum acceptable benchmark. Standards may be classified as (1) government or statutory agency standards and specifications enforced by law, (2) proprietary standards developed by a firm or organization and placed in public domain to encourage their widespread use, and (3) voluntary standards established by consultation and consensus and available for use by any person, organization, or industry. Once established, standards (like bureaucracies) are very difficult to change or dislodge.” 4
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) defines “standards” as the technical specifications contained in a document that lays characteristics of a product such as levels of quality, performance, safety, or dimensions. 5
The phrasings may vary from one source to another but considering the mutually accepted interpretation of what “standards” is, essentially, it is a set of guiding principles. These principles serve as the baseline of what is acceptable and what is not.
There are different brands of software. Each corporation might have apps developed in-house, as well. The designs for these apps will have to adhere to the defined standards. True, there may be varying sets of standards but, definitely, there are common ones across different companies and solutions. These common sets of standards (at times, called “design principles“) were, normally, laid out to :
- Respect the platform;
- Focus on the customer benefit;
- Think device first; and,
- Keep scalability in mind. 6
However, though there are common (mutual) design principles across different brands, design is still (by nature) a subjective thing. Designers need to ask questions like “how do you decide what ‘good’ is for your product?” 7
Good design happens when a good user experience meets a solid brand identity. There are a lot of published “best practices for design” available. Great design happens when you define what “good” means specifically for your product, and, then, nail it. 7
SAP is very well aware that the era of “desktop programs” is slowly winding down and the industry is transitioning to embrace the mobile platform. With this awareness, SAP expanded its set of products and, even, started to lay out a plan to decommission very old products that will not cut through anymore in the latest industry trend. SAP is very keen on bringing great products to their customers.
To be at par with the latest industry expectations, SAP began to introduce a user experience (UX) strategy. This is built upon the foundation of their users’ goals : efficient and easy-to-use software, packaged with the optimal user experience. 8
They call this UX strategy as “Fiori.” The concept and design principles of SAP Fiori are key components in SAP’s design-led development process which ensures the delivery of SAP Fiori innovation through all SAP products. 8
“SAP Fiori” is, essentially, a UX strategy but practitioners refer to the solution provided by this strategy using the same nomenclature. By association, the product of this solution is generally referred to with the same name, too.
The first version of SAP Fiori (the product) was released in 2013. SAP News broadcasted that Fiori simplifies the enterprise software experience with consumer-style apps. 9 Wikipedia documented that the actual release of SAP Fiori is on 29 November 2013. 10
In order to ensure that the apps that will be developed for the Fiori solution will adhere to the UX strategy, SAP has laid out the Fiori Design Principles and Guidelines. The design philosophy of SAP Fiori is based on five (5) core principles. SAP Fiori user experience is role-based, adaptive, simple, coherent, and delightful. 11
Summarizing the points above :
SAP Fiori aims to provide products that will be at par with the expectations of the users; expectations that are reasonably balanced with what the business requires in order to handle its daily operations. Automation of the daily operations to address the business needs will require apps that use the available technology at the time; apps which were designed based on the defined SAP Fiori Guidelines.
1 – Groover, M. (2014). Fundamentals of Modern Manufacturing: Materials, Processes, and Systems. United States of America : John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
2 – Halacy, D. S., Jr. (1970). Charles Babbage, Father of the Computer. Crowell-Collier Press.
3 – Bugarin, R. (2018, April 4). User Experience : Re[de]fining User Expectations https://blogs.sap.com/2018/04/04/user-experience-redefining-user-expectations.
4 – Standards . Business Dictionary. Retrieved April 7, 2018, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/standards.html.
5 – Standards . Business Dictionary. Retrieved April 7, 2018, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/standards.html.
6 – So, Y. (2017, May 12). Designing for Mobile Apps: Overall Principles, Common Patterns, and Interface Guidelines. https://medium.com/blueprint-by-intuit/native-mobile-app-design-overall-principles-and-common-patterns-26edee8ced10.
7 – Rutter, K. Deciding What’s Good: Design Principles. https://hackdesign.org/lessons/20.
8 – SAP’s user experience strategy. Taken from https://experience.sap.com/ux-strategy. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
9 – (Author not listed). 2013, May 15. SAP Fiori™ Simplifies the Enterprise Software Experience With Consumer-Style Apps. SAP News. https://news.sap.com/canada/2013/05/15/sap-fiori-simplifies-the-enterprise-software-experience-with-consumer-style-apps.
10 – SAP ERP. In Wikipedia. Retrieved Mar 16, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAP_ERP.
11 – Design Principles. https://experience.sap.com/fiori-design-web/design-principles. Retrieved April 7, 2018.