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Author's profile photo Stefan Weisenberger

Learnings from the SAP Conference for Metals, Mining, Building Materials and Forest Products – Part 1: The return of the human

Obviously, there was a lot of buzz around the intelligent mill products enterprise, machine learning and advanced analytics embedded broadly in SAP’s product suite. No surprise here, still an impressive breadth of vision.

What caught my attention were three customer presentations that talked about human-centric design, user experience – how to get it right, and even more interesting, how to get it wrong. I love failure stories. Everyone boasts about success but you can learn a lot more understanding why something went wrong.

We usually design things that no one wants

PanAust’s Steven Ivanovski made me smile and think. He talked about their journey of user-centric design, or – more to the point – building custom SAP Fiori apps that users love. And he also talked about what went wrong when building their version 1: They designed it involving the wrong users, the had technical connectivity issues that broke their use case, and all this resulted in a delayed delivery. Not good, but massive learning, and great to see how they evolved to success.

This was very much a lesson on design thinking, and the human nature.
Or how Steven has put it:

Remember that people

  • do not always think what they say
  • do not always say what they want
  • do not always know what they do
  • do not always do what we expect.

Just coming back from observing a key user enter sales orders at a customer myself, I have to say this is painfully true. My client had a solid business process in place, some customizations on top, customer IT has build a custom app to simplify – that is not used. It made me cringe to watch how the user clicked & clicked, wrote on paper, remembered and looked-up…

PanAust’s approach to get it right was based on design thinking, engaging the right users, and building the UX together. No, design thinking is not the universal remedy for all problems. For human centric UX and process design, it is hard to beat, though.

Steven’s final recommendations that stuck with me – beyond involving users and use DT?
Pick high value items, start with minimum viable scope to deliver fast value, and consider using SAP Cloud Platform for more complex requirements.

How to use SAP with zero training

UPM’s Timo Parantainen was the second presentation on SAP Fiori, or rather on fine-tuning and simplifying user experience. His example was a custom built mobile maintenance app that impressed me a lot – for a number of reasons.

First, as an engineer and architect, I loved the app’s tech specification including NFC tag reading, bar code and QR code reading, mobile device camera integration, and offline support. Plus, the app was custom built with SAP Fiori on the SAP Cloud Platform using only SAP-standard backend APIs. Elegant.

Secondly, when I saw during the demo how all this worked together so smartly towards one goal: make it simple for the user. Making best use of the smartness of todays devices and platform, anything that the app could know through scans, locations, camera scans & OCR reads from documents, does not need to be entered manually.

One button process

This culminated in what Timo called the “one button process”. Their app to create a maintenance notification has one (!) input field. Everything else is provided by the app and Fiori tags that know the functional location, priority and pre-fill this information to make the user’s life simpler.

Smart. isnt’t it?

My recommendation: Check out Timo’s presentation and especially their take on the smart Fiori tag. I would love to see this embedded in any operations-centric app.

Expanding beyond Minimum Viable Products

The third conference presentation on SAP Fiori from International Paper’s Nathan Maloney underlined the same “start simple” and “iterate with users” principles we heard before, plus emphasizing the need for interactive wireframes and early testing – especially when application speed matters.

Noteworthy in International Paper’s presentation is the integration of multiple sources of information including CRM and BW through Lumira.

A bridgehead towards the intelligent enterprise

SAP S/4HANA with embedded machine learning, SAP Fiori 2.0 including search, and lots of new simplified standard apps & processes, is the logical foundation for the journey towards an intelligent enterprise.

As companies get ready for this, SAP Fiori proofs to be a very tangible encounter with a next gen user experience – even while still on ECC. All three examples above still run against a “classic” SAP solution like ERP or CRM – but they already build a bridge into the future.

With SAP Fiori on SAP Cloud Platform you have a fast track to simple intuitive UX for your users, plus you are already well underway towards the new SAP S/4HANA. The SAP Cloud Platform plays an essential role for many other use cases, from next gen product configuration to connecting internet of thing applications to your core processes.

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      Author's profile photo Steve Schneider
      Steve Schneider

      Hello Stefan,

      Great article! Thank you very much for the informative coverage of the conference.

      I do agree with you.. AI\ML and all the other cool buzzword technologies are great... But they are nothing without someone using them to deliver value.

      One other piece of the user pie is demographics. For example, how many users giving input are digital natives versus digital immigrants?

      In my experience, a digital native has a much different perspective on UX design than the "typical" digital immigrant..

      Sadly, what I see the most is design for the digital immigrant.