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Customers provide feedback on extension to SAP Fiori tools in CEI program (customer engagement initiative project summary)

In June 2020, we released SAP Fiori tools. Our vision for SAP Fiori tools was to provide a way to streamline development of SAP Fiori apps, from idea to implementation. The starting point for the initial version was generating an app in one of the standard SAP Fiori elements page types. To extend the process upstream, into the design phase, we ran a Customer Engagement Initiative to solicit ideas from customers and partners about how they integrate user feedback into their design and development processes. This CEI ran from July to December 2020.

We ran this CEI to understand how IT collects feedback on early app versions

The purpose of the CEI was to obtain a deeper understanding of how our customers design and develop focused on the feedback loop between IT and the business at various stages of development and deployment. We were especially interested in the people, processes, tools, and technologies our customers use for gathering feedback. To collect this information, we spoke with participants from 15 companies across Europe, North America, and Australia, in a variety of industries, both customers and partners. Some participants were developers, some were designers, and some were business analysts. Due to Covid-related travel restrictions, all sessions were virtual.

We had several meetings during the CEI program

The overall CEI program included:

  • A kickoff meeting to discuss why we are running the CEI, our goals, and what information we want to collect from the participants. We also discussed how the proposed software fits with SAP Fiori elements and SAP Fiori tools.
  • Individual meetings with all the participants to discuss how they gather requirements for new apps, how they validate initial versions of the app, how they gain approval of the app, and challenges at each step of the process. These meetings provided a wide variation in how different organizations approach app development. See below for details.
  • A group meeting to share what we heard from all the participants and show some concepts based on what we heard. We also gathered feedback on our ideas and received some great suggestions on what to improve to make it more useful when (or if!) we ultimately release it.
  • A closing meeting to show updates of our prototypes and discuss some possible options that might end up on a product roadmap at some point.

Customers and partners use many different approaches

The participants used a wide variety of tools for prototyping, ranging from “old school” to modern. Some of the tools were new to our team and we were familiar with others. Examples included: Balsamiq, Mural, Miro. SAP Build. SAP Fiori elements (low fidelity with basic floorplan), Jira, Version One, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, wireframes, user stories, email, and paper.

For creating the specification for the app, we also saw a range of different approaches. People collected their requirements as a list of backlog items, list of ideas from users (whiteboard or paper), Excel worksheet, service desk tickets, and even a list of update requests to an existing app.

People also used many different approaches for validating their early apps with users. These methods ranged from sending around documents or images for review, to live workshops where the development team showed a demo of the app and sought live feedback. In some cases, the IT team built a prototype app and sent a link for people to try the app. Some groups used SAP Build to create app mockups and captured feedback in that tool.

We want to make it easier to build SAP Fiori elements apps

This CEI was focused on capturing user requirements that will drive development of SAP Fiori elements apps. The approach is a departure from the general-purpose prototyping in SAP Build. SAP Fiori tools is specifically designed to make it faster and easier to build SAP Fiori elements apps. We want to ensure that any early project can flow into one of the five standard page types used for SAP Fiori elements apps.

 

Some challenges of incorporating user feedback that the participants shared included:

  • The business process owner does not know what is possible in SAP Fiori elements, so they do not start moving in that direction.
  • The business analysts running the project need a way to translate what the business requests into language developers understand and can build into an app.
  • There is no formal feedback mechanism in place during development. There is also a strong cultural component; some organizations wait until app is live to provide feedback, increasing the costs of changes compared to making them earlier in the process, such as during the design phase.
  • Data is very important for creating a sample app. In many cases, the development team only received good feedback when the app contained some data. Even mock data works for many situations.
  • Users generally want to test a functional app. Ideally it will run and behave as it will in production. This means a clickable link, in most cases, rather than opening a development environment to do testing.

Starting with the right data is critical for gathering good feedback

Since SAP Fiori elements relies on an OData service to power the application, we spent quite a bit of time learning how people currently use data for prototype apps, and what tools and approaches would simplify the overall development process. As with most of the discussions with our CEI participants, there was a wide range of methodologies that people used. Some created mock data and used that to build their app. Some created an OData service. Some used an existing OData service with some modifications. Others pushed the data issue to the business side and had them provide a sample dataset (usually in Excel) to use for the app.

The CEI participants made a wish list

What people wanted was a way to have the design patterns integrated into the prototyping tool so that anything in the prototype can be built into an app that is compliant with the SAP Fiori guidelines. As early as possible, they want to validate what is technically possible. If offered the choice between having a more polished app without data or something lower fidelity with data (even mock data), people chose the latter. They want an app that people can interact with and get a feel for the flow, navigation, and some data appearing to provide the proper context for the application.

In short, people wanted a tool that provided three main functions.

  1. An easy way to build a data model quickly, create mock data, and integrate that data into the app.
  2. An easy way to mock up an app prototype so people have something to test. This prototype should have a real connection to a back-end data source. And, it should be easy to extend this prototype into a fully functional app.
  3. An easy way to share the app, have users test it, and provide feedback on what they like and what to improve.

We really appreciate all the great feedback we received during the CEI that validated our direction and provided some specific ideas for improvement.

We are planning our next steps

Based on what we heard, we plan* to add backlog items to our SAP Fiori tools development plans to create:

  1. A data editor that lets you create a mock data model, along with ways to fill it with mock data.
  2. A way to quickly create an app prototype based on the several SAP Fiori elements page types.
  3. A method for sharing a functioning app with users and capturing their feedback alongside the app.

* This is the current state of planning and can be changed by SAP at any time without notice.

During the CEI, we showed early versions of these concepts and received several suggestions from the community that we will use to make improvements to our initial ideas.

Learn more about building SAP Fiori elements applications with SAP Fiori tools at SAP TechEd

If this was a normal year, we would show some sneak previews at SAP TechEd of what we shared with our CEI participants. Since there are no opportunities to do so, you can see our other sessions on SAP Fiori elements and SAP Fiori tools:

  1. Yorkshire Water uses SAP Fiori Elements to build Fiori apps quickly. Learn how Yorkshire Water used SAP Fiori elements to rapidly develop analytical visualizations.
  2. Build SAP Fiori apps at scale using a repeatable process. Streamline SAPUI5 app development by using standard page types that cover scenarios for most SAP solutions, which is the same process that we use to build Fiori apps for SAP S/4HANA.
  3. Modernize SAP Fiori app development using SAP Fiori tools. Building amazing SAPUI5 apps for your SAP ERP system is faster and easier than ever with SAP Fiori tools that let you create powerful apps with minimal coding.
  4. Simplify Development of SAP Fiori Apps with OData v4. Using OData v4 will allow you to improve the efficiency of SAPUI5-based business applications and allow them to do more complex tasks with less programming.
  5. Create Analytical SAP Fiori Apps Quickly and Efficiently. Explore how different annotations can change the look, feel, and behavior of your SAP Fiori elements app to meet your business requirements and enable you to create impressive analytical apps rapidly

For a full list of all the user experience sessions at SAP TechEd 2020, please read this blog.

If this CEI topic interests you, please contact me and we can discuss how to incorporate your ideas in to what we are building.

For SAP UX Engineering, Peter Spielvogel.

 

 

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  • The data-model centric approach for prototyping is something that is required regularly in our customer projects. For example, this week we had the choice between mocking a proposal with a PowerPoint template or using a prototypical CDS View with a Fiori Elements app. We went for the CDS approach, have a better understanding of how and where we will get our data, but at the cost of higher effort. Efficient tooling would thus be highly appreciated.

    • Hi Nessim,

      Thanks for the comment. Our goal is to make it faster and easier to get to the point where you can share the app with users to obtain their feedback.

      Regards,
      Peter