SAP has released its latest Product Road Map for User Interface Technologies last week and as a UI consultant I'm eager to learn SAP's path with regards to UI technologies. I thought it would be interesting to compare the latest released UI roadmap with the UI roadmap of 9 months ago. Below are my observations, assumptions and remarks. It is by no means meant as a full comparison between the two and you can only tell so much about the progress that has been made in the areas just from the roadmap slides. Nevertheless I think you can find trends if you compare the two.
The key technologies have not changed since April 2014. They're still SAPUI5, FPM / WDA (Business Suite minus CRM) & WebClient User Interface Framework (CRM). For key tools we now have - besides SAP Screen Personas and the UI theme designer - the SAP Web IDE. The SAP Web IDE was launched last year at SAPPHIRENOW under the name of River RDE and it has gained momentum since. It is good to see that SAP is focusing on developer productivity (and let's pray for not another rename this year). It is good for a number of reasons: apps can be prototyped and developed much faster than before, lowering the barrier for companies to start with UX improvements and/or mobility. It also helps "grey-haired developers" to start with new UI development more easily. Instead of having to learn a new language from scratch you can generate an application, look at the generated code and start modifying and expanding it from there.
The UX Strategy
SAP is still going by the "NEW - RENEW - ENABLE" mantra but a couple of tweaks have been done since last year. What immediately shows is that SAP Fiori is renamed to Fiori UX therefore emphasizing that Fiori is more than a set of standard apps. It is a set of design guidelines that is not just used to revamp existing functionality but can be used to design completely new applications upto improving the UX of custom apps (hence why it now spans the entire diagram). Another big change is the addition of UX Design Services on the bottom, also spanning the entire diagram. With this SAP emphasizes the need for a good UX design in order to increase user adoption and productivity. Obviously Design Thinking plays a big role in this. More information about UX Design Services can be found here.
SAP Key Tools & Technologies
What immediately shows is that the diagrams are almost the same BUT they are horizontally flipped. What is up with that SAP?! I guess it makes more sense to have 'older' technologies on the left side to show some kind of evolution. What's more important is the addition of 2 parts: The Fiori launchpad (FLP) on the top and the dotted square named SAP Mobile Platform Services. FLP is now also one of the entry points to access applications built with the mentioned technologies. We´ll get back to this later on. The dotted square with SAP Mobile Platform Services indicates that SAPUI5 apps can be served through the SAP Mobile Platform and consumed in the Enterprise Portal (EP), NWBC and FLP. In EP 7.4 actually FLP is incorporated into the EP framework. On NWBC the Fiori apps can be launched from the index page but on the longer term the NWBC for HTML version will be merged with FLP whereas the NWBC desktop version will have FLP integrated with it.
If you look at the UI5 roadmap 9 months ago (SAPUI5 version 1.20 vs 1.26) and check out the "Today" column there are no resemblances, everything is different. Even the Planned Innovations of 9 months ago are not reflected in the Today column. I guess the Today column is too small to reflect everything that has been changed since 9 months ago. In any case it shows that SAP puts a lot of effort into developing and improving the SAPUI5 library and its features (and rightfully so). What you can derive from both roadmaps is that there was, is and will be an emphasis on increasing developer productivity. That not all topics in the Future Direction of 2014 are moved to the Planned Innovations is probably due to feedback from customers/implementation partners. Seeing the developments at my current client I had hoped that more progress was made with enabling SAPUI5 for transactional applications but it still appears to be on the long-term roadmap. I'm curious to learn what progress has been made and what the bumps on the road appear to be.
Floorplan Manager / Web Dynpro ABAP
If you thought your Web Dynpro skills would be obsolete in the near future don't worry. Web Dynpro ABAP is here to stay and it is going strong. Seeing the rapid innovations in the area of SAPUI5, WDA/FPM is more mature and can be considered more of a safe bet. There are still UI elements added and they worked on Fiori launchpad integration. The Personas-like premium features are still in the Planned Innovations column so I guess this costed a bit more effort than initially thought. Tablet support has been moved to Future Direction so they lowered the priority on that one. I assume this is because when talking about tablets you're talking (enterprise) mobility and there are other - better suited - technologies for that, like SAPUI5. Still I think that for data-intensive (e.g. ALV) apps WDA can fill a void here. Also because transactional apps on SAPUI5 is still something for the future. They keep aiming for tighter integration of SAPUI5 in the future so I guess these two worlds will collide at some point, hopefully inhereting each other's strengths (mix the data intensive capabilities of WDA with the responsiveness and mobile-readiness of SAPUI5).
WebClient UI framework
For me it's a puzzle as to what is the future of the WebClient UI framework. It's still being developed as some bullets are moved to Today and new features are added to the Future Direction column. And in the Future Direction there are plans for integration with Fiori and to have responsive UI elements. But this seems quite late if you compare it to WDA where Fiori launchpad integration is already available today. I'm not working with the WebClient UI framework anymore in my new role but I'm still curious as to what the future of this framework is. Right now it seems to be lagging a bit behind (which is ironic because the WebClient UI framework was implemented on Web Dynpro design concepts even befóre Web Dynpro itself was implemented; presumably because they couldn't wait).
SAP Screen Personas
Screen Personas 3.0 entered rampup in August and its GA release is expected anytime now. With that SAP removed the Silverlight dependency for Screen Personas. The 2.0 version (the Silverlight version) is still being improved and supposedly at the end of this quarter SP3 for 2.0 will be released. This is independent of the upcoming 3.0 release which will be based on HTML5. The enablement of Screen Personas features for Web Dynpro ABAP is a Planned Innovation and responsive design is also on the roadmap now. I'm curious how this will work together with Web Dynpro ABAP, especially because tablet support for WDA is pushed back priority-wise.
SAP NetWeaver Business Client
For the NWBC the tighter integration with SAP GUI and SAPLogon has been realised And now for the future the emphasis is on bringing the Fiori UX into the NWBC for Desktop and even merging the NWBC for HTML with the SAP Fiori launchpad! The side panels for the HTML version are now gone from the roadmap. Curious to know why this is, because the side panel is a great NWBC feature in my opinion.
SAP UI client consolidation plan
This is a new slide and quite an important one if you ask me. When the Fiori launchpad came along I thought this would be the portal of the future but all questions about merges and consolidations were always avoided. Good to see that this portfolio will be simplified in the long term. It's good to see that proven assets of the EP and NWBC will be incorporated in the Fiori launchpad, thereby using the best of both worlds.
Renamed from SAP NetWeaver Gateway and now has a Java-counterpart: GW Components, meaning you can expose SOAP, JPA and JDBC as OData services. This is used in SMP. More information can be found here.
So far my observations. I'm not going into the exotic UI technologies as I know very little about them. One thing I found note-worthy is that Duet Enterprise seems to have fallen off the UI roadmap.
If you've read this blogpost so far let me know what you think and what your observations were. Also if you're from SAP and can clarify some of the doubts I have, that would be great!