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Mediating between user requirements and software complexity – SAP’s UX design principles in context-aware IT

Recent trends in emerging user-centered technologies led to a reformulation regarding the stance and concept of good.The latest issue of HORIZONS by SAP, SAP’s annual innovation magazine on topical technology trends, focused on context-aware IT and includes perspectives and insights from respected thought leaders at Mozilla, Microsoft, BigID, VMware, the Technical University of Munich and others, including SAP’s Head of User Experience, Alex Lingg. In his article Lingg discussed his vision of what user experience (UX) at SAP may look like and how it makes a difference in the interplay of technological achievements.

Read on and learn why UX plays an important role in the development of interoperating software and how it may support our aspiration of future-proofing SAP and our customers’ businesses.  

 

 

Voice and gaze – the future of software

What once used to be a far-off scenario, nowadays has become state-of-the-art in technological development: context-aware IT and an equitable human-machine-interaction have become the leading edge of IT. The future of enterprise software lies straight ahead of us. One main demand is to close the gap between user expectations and actual program operation: “Software should […] anticipate what employees need so they can work faster, more efficiently, and more productively,” wrote Christian Klein, CEO of SAP SE, in the magazine’s pre-face. Technology trends in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – such as gaze control and conversational interaction – foster this evolution. In software development and design tasks, the individual and flexible requirements of users get into focus and replace old-fashioned approaches.

Previously, customers had to adapt to the limitations of programs, but now they can utilize voice or gaze-controlled software to simplify recurring tasks and processes. Bots and humans can also enter into a dialogue to bring in their best skills. The purpose of design in this context is to reduce the complexity of operation and to keep the communication between human and machine always balanced.

“Designers must support a seamless collaboration between humans and machines, […] – but humans [must] retain control,” Lingg said.

For Lingg, this is where great potential lies: today, software is capable of reacting to individual user environments and we are here to form a bridge between requirements and feasibility through design.

Form follows function

Successful UX brought on by context-aware IT is not without its challenges. Emerging technologies in enterprise software become increasingly complex as they develop. Design needs to address this progress with solutions that fulfill users’ demand for intuitive and simple operation. The mediation of possibilities and desires between developers and customers, therefore, is the purpose of UX design.

According to Lingg, SAP UX design focuses on five leading principles that ensure that designers don’t lose sight of the big picture when pursuing these design goals:

  1. User and use cases should always stay in focus regarding decisions of design.
  2. Limitations within the product can be used as drivers for future innovation.
  3. The environmental conditions must not be disregarded. Individuals live in different circumstances, so design should always appeal to diversity and be flexibly adaptable.
  4. Users must stay in control of the software and be able to understand the reaction of machine or program.
  5. Stretch-fit solutions enable individual users in their business role to adapt standard solutions to their specific needs.

 

 

“Our role as designers is to make sure that our products make the best use of our design system, are constantly optimized to fit user needs, and can be implemented in a scalable technology framework.”

Alex Lingg, Head of SAP User Experience

 

Best practice: SAP Fiori UX

The key to approach these tailor-made solutions lies in modularization and contextualization – two conditions that require a smooth connection between technical specifications and design. To develop and maintain long-term success and client satisfaction a balance of two challenging factors is most important.

On the one hand, individual modularization is pivotal to detect business contexts. On the other hand, this should be accompanied by a user-friendly and complexity-reducing interface.

One step in this direction is to segment complicated processes into smaller ones that can be built as apps and even be used on mobile devices.

A success story following this method has been SAP Fiori’s UX. SAP’s go-to design solution provides a consistent, innovative experience for both creators and users – while supplying a whole string of tools and guidelines for the best run applications and design experiences. By tagging and allocating certain recurring figures that users need frequently, it becomes a cinch to adjust those components for individual purposes and to follow the implied five principles of sustainable and scalable UX.

 

 “The art of our profession is creating a design system built on components and patterns that are simultaneously stable and reusable in various business contexts, work with long and short texts in different languages, are accessible, and can efficiently be used across different devices.”

Alex Lingg, Head of SAP User Experience

 

A fast-paced technological setting can be challenging both for developers and users. But a well utilized UX design, which addresses increasing software complexity and includes the possibilities of context-aware software, will support a product’s run and customer satisfaction in equal parts. It also ensures transparency and contributes to a company’s purpose. All these factors reflect the value of user experience design in a software environment dealing with emerging technologies. With our five-principle strategy, we give you a glimpse on what is possible if we adapt to both: user-focus and almost limitless options in conformable software solutions.

If you want to get more insights into thought-leadership topics regarding current and emerging technology trends around context-aware IT, check out our magazine HORIZONS by SAP and read the full article by Alex Lingg.

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