SAP Fiori has come a long way since its introduction to the marketplace over half a decade ago. Because of this journey, there are some misconceptions out there about what SAP Fiori is exactly. When we talk about SAP Fiori today, we are referring to a comprehensive design system for enterprise software.
SAP Fiori provides a set of components and patterns that can be reused in different combinations and includes descriptions and guidance regarding usage, visual design, copy, tone of voice and how to integrate into the product portfolio. Although the design system spans multiple technologies, platforms, and interaction modes, it is important to remember that everything within SAP Fiori adheres to the same design values, principles and practices.
But how did we get to today’s SAP Fiori? Did SAP rally the troops and begin one day on a huge project to create this extensive design system? The short answer is no. The long answer is in the paragraphs below. It is an enterprise design story of solving a big problem step-by-step, taking a pragmatic approach, and evolving what works.
1, 2, and 3
If you recently heard the term SAP Fiori 3, you might have wondered what it is and what happened to SAP Fiori 1 and 2. At its inception, SAP Fiori was a collection of applications with a specific design, so there actually never was an SAP Fiori “1” per se because we did not know at the time that it would prove so successful. It was “just” SAP Fiori and was a pragmatic way to start solving a very big problem, namely that the user experience of our software was too complex and the number of applications and technologies daunting. With dozens of technologies and hundreds of thousands of screens, this was indeed a big, hard-to-solve problem. Because the initial applications of SAP Fiori focused on mobile-first scenarios, the aim of its next evolution, SAP Fiori 2, was to apply the SAP Fiori design to full-blown, hard-core ERP scenarios. And now, we are moving to the next stage, SAP Fiori 3, which is the application of the SAP Fiori design system to all SAP products across the intelligent enterprise.
To support the development and adoption of SAP Fiori, we provide many resources for designers and developers, such as the SAP Fiori guidelines, SAP Fiori elements, SAP Fiori fundamentals, the SAP Fiori apps reference library, online educational “nuggets” known as Beacon, as well as SAP Fiori makers, a virtual community call series for design-minded SAP partners to showcase their SAP Fiori app designs and present their insights.
SAP Fiori “1” – First a few, then many
The quest to redesign and redefine the user experience of SAP applications began with four user roles and included 25 of the most widely used SAP scenarios, things like approving leave and travel requests, creating sales orders, and tracking purchase orders. Every beginning is difficult and what today might seem like baby steps, was in fact a huge undertaking. In retrospect, the remarkable thing is that SAP Fiori did what it was intended to do — begin a user experience revolution for SAP and for enterprise software.
In a press release on May 15, 2013, SAP announced the launch of “a collection of apps that are simple, easy-to-use and provide an intuitive user experience for broadly and frequently used SAP software functions, across a variety of devices — desktop, tablet, smartphone — to help easily get the job done.” One year and one week after the initial launch, SAP announced the availability of over 300 SAP Fiori apps. The following year, the number of SAP Fiori apps would grow to over 500. The excitement about SAP Fiori was spreading throughout the company and, most importantly, among our customer base.
SAP Fiori 2 – And then something unexpected happened
During the process of evolving the SAP Fiori user experience to accommodate more complex scenarios (a main goal of SAP Fiori 2), the design team made a video which showcased how SAP Fiori 2 simplifies the creation of a sales order entry (a classically complex ERP scenario). They then submitted it to the 2015 Red Dot Design Awards, the gold standard of product design awards. To everyone’s delight, the team won the design concept award! Winning the award was welcome confirmation that SAP was headed in the right direction.
As we built SAP Fiori 2 into our flagship product, SAP S/4HANA, we were able to show our customers at Sapphire in 2016 how it brought the power of ERP together with a modern and simple design. Better use of space, improved page types and navigation mechanisms as well as a more flexible homepage were introduced to better support the needs of our enterprise users. SAP’s digital assistant also made its debut with SAP Fiori 2 as did notifications that were embedded in the beautiful animation of the viewport. Other design concepts that provided contextual and proactive support of users like “situations” were born, but made their way to prime time only with the new version, SAP Fiori 3.
SAP Fiori 3 – Consistent, integrated, and intelligent
Because from the beginning SAP Fiori applied modern concepts and design principles that delight users and enable them to more easily get their work done, the SAP board made the decisive move to elevate SAP Fiori beyond being just a discrete set of apps alongside our core software. In the fall of 2016, SAP announced that SAP Fiori would be THE design system for all our products going forward. As SAP Fiori evolves and expands its reach, our aim continues to be to support users with the best experience possible. To do this, SAP has crystalized three priorities for the UX: consistency, integration and intelligence.
Over the years, SAP has acquired a number of best-in-breed solutions. This process was imperative to maintain our position as the market-leader in enterprise software and to become a leader in the Cloud business. Now that this transformation process is fully underway, the time has come to focus on making the user experience consistent.
A consistent user experience makes good business sense for many reasons. Users need less training, get up to speed faster, make fewer errors, produce higher quality data, and are more motivated. Guessing about unfamiliar icons, hunting for buttons, speculating about terminology, and relearning color semantics slow people down and make the experience frustrating. When a UI feels and behaves the way users expect it to, this leaves them with a feeling of mastery and expertise. This increases their willingness to use the software in the first place and to further explore new applications that might help them to get their jobs done better and faster than before.
To get to a consistent suite experience, we are taking a phased approach to harmonize the look, feel, common functions, controls and floorplans of the intelligent enterprise. To start this effort off, SAP made the new Quartz theme and the redesigned, simplified shell header bar available on April 25th with SAP UI5 1.65. Further consistency innovations will be released to customers as soon as we can make them available.
Traditionally in IT, the word “integration” meant data integration, process orchestration, and single sign on. But today’s users expect and deserve more. We understand that when customers use SAP software, they expect to move seamlessly throughout our product portfolio. Users don’t and shouldn’t care if it is SAP Concur, SAP Fieldglass, SAP SuccessFactors, SAP S/4HANA or another SAP product in the background which is helping them to get their work done. Other ways in which we are delivering on an integrated experience is with a central inbox and launchpad with cards. There users see content from different SAP products, but they only see that which is relevant to them. This gets rid of a lot of needless clutter and navigation, allowing users to concentrate on what’s important for their job.
Another plus for integration is conversational UX. That means that users can express what they want to do in a natural way with a digital assistant, either by speaking or typing. The system continues by doing the hunting and gathering for them so that they can work across products in one continuous conversation – all in a single screen.
SAP Fiori 3 also provides users with a new search experience, including improved search previews, results page, and result visualizations. This is, of course, fully integrated into the digital assistant.
In addition to consistency and integration, SAP Fiori 3 makes using enterprise software more productive by leveraging machine intelligence. The more information users have, the better they can do their work. But the amount of information available today is overwhelming. It’s too much for even the smartest human mind to analyze. Using machine intelligence, our UX paradigm called “situations” gathers important information from different parts of the enterprise system and informs users about business situations which deserve their attention. It then provides recommendations and learns from the user’s decisions. By proactively bringing relevant information together for the user in a sequence that is understandable, the system can also advise the user about the best action to take. In time, users can, gradually and confidently turn over some tasks to the system. This support helps users to do their jobs better and frees them to concentrate on more strategic and creative tasks.
Moving forward and keeping what works
As you’ve seen, between 2013 and today some things about SAP Fiori have changed, evolving from a set of apps into a wide-sweeping design system for all SAP products. But some things have stayed the same. From the outset the SAP Fiori design principles of role-based, adaptive, coherent, simple and delightful remain constant. And our commitment to bringing the best possible user experience to enterprise users also remains unchanged.
Also, in this 2-minute video, Thomas Reiss, VP SAP Design Product Management, explains how SAP Fiori provides a great user experience for SAP S/4HANA.
This article originally appeared on the SAP User Experience Community.