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Application Design – The other half of the brain

Recently somebody said Application Design (aka AppDesign) is a new feature in SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC). I am the development lead for it and I was quickly replying “no, it is a whole new world”. But, honestly, what is it exactly and how does it relate to SAC overall?

ANALYTICAL APPLICATION

An Application in SAC is an analytical Application, which visualizes data. It can range from a simple static dashboard showing static numbers to highly customized applications with many options to browse and navigate data, change the visualization, navigate across multiple pages or areas, extensively customized look and feel according to customer branding.

APPLICATION DESIGN

Application Design is the capability in SAC to create those Applications. There is a dedicated design environment in SAC in order to create such Applications. The word “Design” does not specifically refer to the Ux or UI design aspect of the Application. It is the entire process of creating an Application. Defining the data model, laying out the screen, configuring widgets and wiring all up with the help of custom scripts.
With Application Design we introduce an alternative or second way to create analytical content in SAC.

CAPABILITIES OF STORIES AND APPLICATIONS

An Application typically contains custom logic, which is expressed with the help of scripts. A Story is created in a self-service workflow and comprises potentially multiple layouted widgets and configured functionality. But the amount of customization is limited to the foreseen possibilities offered in the Story design time environment. With Applications there is a much higher level of flexibility to implement custom behavior. It also requires a higher skill level to create those.
The available functionality in Applications is (will be) higher than in Stories.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STORIES AND APPLICATIONS

From a consumption point of view there should not be any difference between Stories and Applications. The consumer should not be aware if the analytical content was created as a Story or an Application. The exposed widgets, the available functionality and the look, feel and behavior should be the same. However, Applications employ widgets which are specific only to this context. This implies that widgets in Applications may or may not live in the Stories as well. The central core of the Application is the custom logic brought to life through the scripting capability. And this is what makes AppDesign unique in regards to Stories – the ability to customize the content through scripting.

So, the bottom line is that to a large extent Stories and Applications share widgets and functionality. But in Applications the set of available widgets will be larger, but those also typically require to be scripted in order to be used here.

THE OTHER HALF OF THE BRAIN

If I were to project how Application Design is related to SAC, I would imagine the two halves of the brain. These are mapped to the Stories (right-side) and Applications (left-side).

Analytics Cloud started off as self-service tool for analysis and visualization of data. The tool is designed for business users to enable the easiest creation of Stories possible. In this way, they can visualize and analyze the data at a glance. Workflows and tool interactions are created with a UX first approach, a characteristic that is specific to self service tools. In this way, it is possible to create highly intuitive, understandable and convenient UIs.

Many features in SAC are exposed in Stories to be available in those self-service workflows. And this is what I consider the right-side brain. It is the part in SAC, which is associated with creativity, intuition, insight, holistic thought. All very important ingredients to create a tool, which has a strong business user, hence end-user focus. A very intuitive self-service analytics tool.
Because of all that it is really simple for business users to create analytic dashboards and visualizations.

The characteristics of the left-side brain are… analytic thought, logic, language, reasoning, science, math, numbers…
We are about to advance SAC into a platform, into an integral part of the intelligent enterprise. To extend it to a platform, we also need Application Design as a foundation providing more advanced features. These features have a higher level of flexibility, but will also impose more complexity onto the Application designer persona.

From a functional point of view, there is a huge set of features, which are exposed as well in Stories as in Applications. When we started with Application Design, we did not have all the functionality available from what’s possible in Stories. And that’s why the Story had been used in cases, where Applications potentially would have been more adequate. Also here very comparable to the two halves of the human brain. The question which tasks for the brain are taken care off by which half of the brain !

That’s one reason why we will see Applications being used in an increasing number of scenarios and usecases going forward.

Stay tuned for updates on Application Design in SAP Analytics Cloud !

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