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User Interface Technology

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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.

 

SAP UI evolution.pngThe technology portfolio

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

UX Strategy before and after.png

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

SAP Key Tools and Technologies.png

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.

 

SAPUI5

SAP UI5 2014 2015.pngIf 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

SAP FPM WDA 2014 2015.pngIf 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

SAP Web UI 2014 2015.pngFor 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

SAP Screen Personas 2014 2015.pngScreen 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

SAP NWBC 2014 2015.pngFor 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

SAP UI client consolidation plan.pngThis 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.

 

SAP Gateway

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!

Anybody who is at least a little interested in SAP must have noticed the huge emphasis SAP puts on user experience. Let’s be honest, not only SAP, but most enterprise software vendors have realized that the expectations of the users had gone up and it is normal nowadays to expect consumer grade business apps. In most cases (with some exception of native mobile apps, etc.) SAP suggests to create these application in SAPUI5, which is SAP’s HTML5 library for responsive web development.

 

I think SAPUI5 is a technology SAP customers should pick up in 2015 for the following reasons:

 

  1. SAPUI5 is SAP’s strategic UI technology. There are many UI technologies available and fully supported (Web Dynpro, BSP, etc.), but SAPUI5 is the way forward. As far as possible SAP will create all its applications in SAPUI5 (mostly Fiori). The SAPUI5 library is out-of-box available in HANA, which makes it the default way of creating UI for native HANA apps. It works well with SMP/Kapsel for mobile scenarios requiring offline mode, extra security, etc. SAP is putting very big effort in improving and extending SAPUI5, so updates are frequent.

  2. SAP Fiori is the new UI paradigm which SAP is rolling out across the entire SAP portfolio including all on premise and cloud software. Fiori is based on SAPUI5. In case you would like to modify out-of-the-box Fiori apps or create your own, mastering SAPUI5 is required.

  3. First time in SAP’s history in my opinion, real outside in development approach is possible. For decades customers installed SAP software and adjusted the UI to (mostly limited) extent. Now customers can think freely about how the UI should look like and it is possible to implement it in SAPUI5. It’s a huge improvement. That’s why Design Thinking goes well with SAPUI5/Fiori projects. Design Thinking helps customers to come up with creative solutions, which then can be implemented in SAPUI5.

  4. SAPUI5 supports responsive design for SAP applications, which means that the applications can run on desktop, tablet and smartphone. This is a strong point of SAPUI5 in comparison to previous UI technologies such as Web Dynpro.

  5. It supports most modern browsers, which is again very appreciated by SAP customers.

  6. SAPUI5 has become a huge library with hundreds of controls, which results in high efficiency when it comes to creating business applications. It supports internalization, MVC concept, etc. all things which make serious business app development possible.

  7. SAP is making good progress in providing development tools to speed up implementations. The best tool is Web IDE, which is available in the HANA Cloud and as a local installation. Check it out, it even has a graphical layout editor.

  8. SAPUI5 application can be themed with the Theme Editor. You can introduce your corporate identity (logo, colors, fonts, etc.) with this tool. Some changes are possible without coding, but full flexibility is also available via css.

  9. SAP has standardized on the OData protocol. SAP Business Suite and HANA applications can be exposed as OData and binding OData to SAPUI5 controls is really easy.

  10. SAP has made SAPUI5 open source under the name OpenUI5. This will speed up further developments and lead to greater adoption also outside the SAP ecosystem.

  11. Based all the reasons mentioned above, IMHO many upcoming business requirements will be best met by using SAPUI5. So I would say: get ready!

  12. Looking at it from a personal or team development point of view: if you are in the business of developing SAP solutions, don’t miss SAPUI5 in 2015, otherwise you may be too late.

Following up from my previous blog on common usage patterns, I now want to share the common UX Pain Points consistently prevalent with most customers I have worked with.

Gaining this type of insight is very helpful in guiding your first efforts to identify UX value opportunities. 

I summarise these UX pain points into seven main categories.  In addition, I find there is a correlation between the common UX pain points and the organisational level of the role.  This is due to the type of use of SAP from the user.

 

Common UX Pain Point Patterns.png

 

 

 

 

 

1. Decision Making

Mainly found in the leadership roles.  These users require outputs from applications to support decision making.  The key pain points are timely data, relevant data and quality of the data.

2. Workflow & Analytics

I group these together from a pain point perspective due to the correlation with the roles that require this type of use.  These are mainly management pain points.  Workflow relates to the impact of late approvals where the delay incurs higher or additional costs, as well as access to multiple systems for different type of approvals.  Analytics refer to the outputs of operational reports and the lack of relevant or accurate data.

3. Coherence

Coherence is a broad term and I want to highlight the following elements specifically.

  • Single Point of Access: Users suffer from a lack of coherence when they need to access multiple different systems or consume multiple different UI technologies using different access points.  The ideal solution is a single access point that integrates access and consumption of all SAP applications.
  • Menu: The standard hierarchy menu [SMEN] provides a general menu that is the same for all users.  A coherent menu solution provides
    a role specific solution with capabilities to support an integrated experience.
  • Navigation: The consistent pain points with navigation are the use of multiple sessions, the navigation options from any point within the system process, and the ability to interact with the role specific menu.
  • Visual Design: Although this may appear superficial, it remains a contributor to fragmentation of user coherence through the different ‘look and feel’ of different solutions.  The reason I add this is that SAP now provides very good capabilities that help to improve visual coherence without the need for much effort spent.

4. Search

In an internal study at SAP we found that up to 20% of the time of a user can be spent searching in SAP.  The UX pain points relate to finding the correct data object where the search engine results are either too restricted, producing limited or incomplete information, or too open, producing 500+ results.  Both these results are problematic and may cause further data quality erosion though the subsequent creation of duplicate data.  Clearly the indexing and parameters of the search engine are relevant, but equally the data quality is paramount.  SAP embedded and Hana search offers great capabilities to our customers.

5. Complexity

Complexity here relates to the user interface.  There are 4 consistent pain points in addition to the topic of coherence:

  • Fields: SAP GUI reflects a design paradigm that transposes the configurability of SAP.  As a result there are many fields that may
    never be relevant for you.  This stands in stark contrast to what is required from a consumer grade user experience.
  • Layout: The layout of the screen – where different objects are placed - influences the ability of the user to intuitively complete the transaction.  This was not a primary design principle when SAP GUI was designed.  The value opportunities come from reducing the risk of data entry errors or reduced the time and thereby user productivity.
  • Flow: Flow is about the sequence of completing a transaction.  SAP GUI provides a flow, but based on the underlying configuration complexity.  It is therefore not optimised for any particular role.  As a result there is a gap between how the user needs to interact and how the user wants to interact and this increases the risk to user productivity.
  • Screens: Many transactions in SAP GUI runs over multiple screens.  The more screens and pop-up windows a user needs to complete the longer the transaction takes to complete.  We have already seen that radically reduced number of screens can increase user satisfaction as well as improve user productivity.

6. Access

This pain point relates to the ability of a user to use SAP when they need to.  In this regard mobile access to SAP provides the desired capability.  This will also trigger the need for security and other supporting capabilities. 

7. Context

Context here relates to the context that supports a user to be more successful while busy with a transaction in SAP.  The pain point in this case is that a user may need to undertake additional actions in the system or with other people before they are able to proceed within the system.  For example to create a sales quote, the user may need to run a credit check.

  • Display: Provide additional context within the UI Client and not a separate screen.
  • Master Records, Reports & GeoTags: Displaying specific details relevant to data objects in the main transaction e.g. a map of where a shipment needs to be dispatched to, or a 3D CAD diagram of a material object like a pump and assembly instructions.

ASUG.jpg2014 saw a significant raise of interest and focus on the topic User Experience also across the north american market. This has led to the fact that in 2014 the great collaboration between the American SAP User Group (ASUG) and SAP was also extended with a special focus on the topic User Experience.

 

With support and direct contact into the SAP UX area the ASUG formed the ASUG SAP User Experience  and Interface Influence Council (need to be a member to see the details page) under the chair of Damean-BF Chen in May 2014. This was accompanied by an ASUG WebCast series that lead into TechEd 2014. Towards the end of the year the Special Interest Group User Experience (SIG UX) was founded also headed by Damean-BF Chen. Feel free to join these groups if interested.

 

In the course of these activities a new ASUG WebCast series is being set up - focusing completely on the topic User Experience - which is planned to lead into SAPPHIRE 2015 / ASUG Annual Conference 2015 in May, but continuing with further topics afterwards. This series kicks off with the

 

"ASUG User Experience Community Launch Webcast -
Overview, UX Updates, Webcasts, and Meetups"

 

 

on February 6, 2015 for which you can register now - as long as you are an ASUG member. Below you can get an impression on what to expect during this kick off call.

 

"Join that WebCast for jumpstarting the hot topic of User Experience (UX) in 2015. This is a key topic for SAP Customers and ASUG will have a very special focus on this topic this year.

 

During this webcast you will have the opportunity to  hear from Sam Yen (SAP Chief Design Officer) and Geoff Scott(ASUG CEO). Sam and Geoff will discuss the importance of UX, SAP’s and ASUG’s focus on this topic as well as the upcoming offerings  for ASUG members. Additionally, Sam Yen will share some key UX updates during this session.

 

You will also be introduced to our ASUG User Experience Community volunteers along with key SAP UX contacts. You will learn how to best participate in this exciting community for UX education, networking, and influence.

 

In this session we will announce the launch of an educational UX webcast series to be held every two weeks. These webcasts have been crafted based on customer feedback, and they will lead up to UX community meetups at events such as 2015 ASUG Annual Conference and SAPPHIRE NOW as well as ASUG Chapter meetings."

 

So feel free and encouraged to join ASUG and us in this Kick Off WebCast.

Ingo

 

P.S.: This WebCast is only accessible for ASUG members as mentioned in the text.

When nothing will make a UI delightful other than taking it away, how is the Internet of Things(IoT) changing the UX alternatives available to SAP customers? How might you start to fit the rapidly changing world of interconnected IoT devices into your UX strategy?


I'm a citizen of the world. I like it that way. The world's wonderful. I just think that some people are pretty badly represented. But when you speak to the people themselves they're delightful. They all want so little.

Billy Connolly


ID-100268309.jpg

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I’ve been watching with interest the Consumer Electronic Show 2015 and its aftermath over the last few days and reflecting on how the Internet of Things is impacting on UX and UI strategy and roadmaps.

 

The UX Roadmap .... Beyond Screens

In 2014 IT spending priorities on mobility meant any serious attempt UX roadmap needed to at least consider the device question, i.e.

 

On what devices will people access this User Interface?  Smartphone and/or tablet and/or desktop?

 

In 2015 the UX Roadmap needs to consider the impact of IoT on UX. Why?

 

It’s not just that Gartner is placing digitization firmly into their Top 10 list of IT spend priorities  ; or that Internet of Things (IoT) is rated by the prestigious Consumer Electronics Show  as “the hottest topic in tech” ; or the popularity of the IoT booth at last year’s SAP Teched&&dCode. 

 

Naturally with such a high focus there are many SAP customers are working on their own IoT projects and connecting into SAP using Gateway, HANA or the HCP.  If you are interested in IoT yourself you might consider participating in SCN's own Internet of Things community.

 

But if you’ve had your head down in the UX space, you may not be aware that SAP is already providing a bunch of IoT solutions such as:  SAP Predictive Maintenance and Service, SAP Connected Logistics, SAP Connected Manufacturing, SAP Connected Retail, SAP Precision Marketing, and SAP Augmented Reality solutions for service technicians and warehouse pickers.   These solutions are being championed by SAP Customers such as BMW, Harley Davidson, Hamburg Port Authority, John Deere, Kaeser Kompressoren, Volkswagen, Toyota, SK Solutions, University of Guelph, and others. You'll find some of their stories on SAP's Internet of Things video collection on YoutubeNaturally there’s more to come and if you want take a look at what’s happening then this Teched&&dCode online session "Harnessing the Internet of Things" is a great place to start.

 

We are also seeing SAP customers bringing their own custom Internet of Things solutions, built in-house or with partners, and connected to SAP solutions utilizing SAP capabilities such as HANA, HCP, Gateway, Process Orchestration, Event Stream Processor, and Predictive Analytics.


In other words, we are increasingly seeing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions providing real business value in the enterprise... and that has some not so straightforward consequences for user experience.  For starters, often a major reason for introducing an IoT solution is to significantly change the user experience:

  • to capture data that could not be captured before;
  • to make that information available on devices that may never have been possible before;
  • to use data as evidence to reveal insights that may only have been hunches before;
  • to use insights to drive actions and reactions at speeds that may only have been seen in science fiction movies before.

 

So how does IoT fit into the enterprise UX roadmap?

 

Unsurprisingly, many IoT devices themselves have user interfaces.

 

Consumer IoT devices  are full of IoT user interface examples such Google Glass, goPro cameras, Fitbit bracelets, and Nest home automation.

 

But the challenges of UX on IoT devices are not trivial - never mind whether the screen real estate is as small as a Smart watch or as large as a Smart Vending Machine - the device may not even have a screen; the solution (& code) may be distributed across multiple devices and multiple users; some of the devices may not have input or output capabilities; there are lots of different technical standards involved, etc.


[There's excellent blog on the O'Reilly site with more insights into the challenges of UX and IoT]

 

If you feel like you’ve just got your head around SAP Fiori or Personas, you might be wanting to put your fingers in your ears and pretend IoT has nothing to do with UX.

 

Even if you are deeply fascinated by way the Internet of Things is impacting on the design of the user experience, tackling the UX on IoT devices themselves might not be the best place to start.  After all I'd suggest most customers are more likely to buy than build the devices - it's unlikely you'll build your own Smart Glasses when you can buy Google Glasses or a Sony EyeAttach.

 

So now what?  In my best Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy style ... DON’T PANIC.

 

There’s at least one relatively straightforward way to start factoring IoT considerations into the UX roadmap, and it’s something that should be a fundamental part of any UX roadmap already, and that is….drumroll please…

 

Should this User Experience include a User Interface (screen) at all?


It’s all very well talking about UX being “delightful” but there are plenty of scenarios where it doesn’t matter how simple or clean or desirable the technology… sometimes a screen is a just another screen that gets in the way of what you want to do.

 

We all know there are some user interfaces that no amount of simple is going to make delightful.


ID-100184516.jpg

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


You only have to think of doors and login screens. Most of the time all they do is get in my way.   You can make doors and handles aesthetically beautiful.  You can put a fancy Pinpad on the door. You can put interesting graphic designs and Single Sign On onto login screens.  But fundamentally they are there to shut me out. There’s a certain “guilty until proven innocent” odour to their behaviour. In other words, as a user experience they lack empathy.  What I want is for the door to recognize me instantly without having to twist keys or type in digits or push heavy lumps of wood, glass or steel.  What I want is for the login to recognize me and log in instantly.

 

The only way to make them delightful is to get rid of them altogether. You can now get door locks that fit a standard house door with near fields communications (NFC) built-in so that they automatically recognize you as you approach the door by a key fob tag (such as August Smart Lock), unlock as you approach and lock again once you have passed through.   As for login screens the biometrics such as the iPhone6 Touch ID fingerprint reader is a step in the right direction, but it still needs to remember which thumb I used, and if I only use the phone for work, the touch recognition times out over the weekend.


A close relative of the undelightful screen is the undelightful field entry ... if you can't remove the user interface entirely, at least minimize the amount of typing the user needs to do.

 

A friend recently gave me a preview of a new UX his organization was building for ordering items over an internal product catalogue.  They’d created a really nice set of user interfaces using the latest OpenUI5 capabilities and put a lot of thought into the design, particularly the search.  It reminded me how painful searching itself is.  Certainly Google's semantic search capabilities has lifted everyone's game but it's still a long long way from reading my mind and understanding what I am looking for.

 

For instance, when it comes to searching, simple is standing in front of the display and pointing to the one I want.  From a user experience perspective it begs the question, if we know the user is standing in front of the product in the shop or on the factory floor, why would I make them search for or type in a code?  Why not use an RFID reader or barcode reader or Smart Glasses and remove not just the search but maybe get rid of a search screen from that context altogether?  Which of course is what is happening in some stores and many factories.  I've even seen local stores which provide RFID readers in store for customers to check the price of an item without having to look it up in an online or paper product catalogue.

 

There's a near endless list of please-don't-make-me scenarios in enterprise user interfaces, perhaps not all of which can be solved by IoT - timesheets anyone? - but IoT is certainly improving user experiences by removing or reducing user interfaces.  For instance any IoT device that contains sensors that capture data and communicate it to another machine, such as anti-collision systems where sensor-enabled cranes talk to each other in real-time.

 

Oh, and the punchline is... part of the joy and fever-pitch excitement of IoT is that just about any object can become a machine.  If you are still getting your head around this, there's an excellent TedX presentation on Enchanted Objects that gives some real but unusual use cases - such as umbrellas that give weather warnings and pill bottles that report if you've taken your medication, and a real SAP scenario from a German soccer club 1899 TSG Hoffenheim using sensors in shin guards and even the soccer ball itself.


UI alternatives for SAP Customers

From a UX roadmap perspective, using technology to avoid less than delightful user interfaces is nothing new to SAP Customers.

 

Even if you cannot or don't yet want to avoid a user interface altogether, there are plenty of well-known SAP capabilities that provide useful pre/during/post processing options that can significantly simplify the user interface to be built. I'm talking about capabilities such as SAP Process Orchestration (and its predecessor Process Integration), business rules engines such as SAP Decision Service Management and BRFPlus, SAP Business Workflow, Post Processing Framework, and even our old old friend batch jobs.

 

What the Internet of Things is doing is introducing a vast array of devices that can capture an amazing variety of data in astounding quantities, and communicate it at staggering velocities.  SAP customers already have access to capabilities that can capture that data - at last year's SAP Teched&&dCode the IoT Booth was demonstrating sending sensor data directly to HANA and HCP, and it should be no surprise that SAP's delivered IoT solutions are using existing SAP capabilities in productive IoT solutions.

 

I wandered into the SAP North Sydney office last week and some of our presales folk were playing around with some IoT scenarios – just for some practice with the technology. Since my sister gave me (at my request) an Arduino http://www.arduino.cc/ microcontroller board for Christmas and I’m starting to play with that too, so I was curious to see their prototype.  They had set up a child's train-set, and put light sensors underneath each piece of track, so that any time a section of track was moved out of position, the sensor would report immediately it, and an alert was given telling the train controller to fix the track. Cute stuff!

 

Sensors of all shapes and sizes have become so cheaply and widely available, that it begs the question...

 

If all user interface "xyz" is doing is capturing data: Why does a user need to be involved at all? Why can't we get a device to do that?

 

And there you have at least a starting point for adjusting the UX strategy.  If a device can do it, why build a user interface for it? If a device can do all or even part of it, that reduces the user interface that needs to be built, or at the very least is a basis for justifying lowering the priority or complexity of the build.

 

Or from a slightly different perspective, the Internet of Things makes us ask harder questions about the real value that the user brings to the user interface.

 

Last year Sam Yen, SAP's Chief Design Officer, stated there is a serious worldwide shortage of user interface designers. So while there are many other ways that IoT impacts on UX and UI strategy, a good starting point for those of us working in UX and UI is knowing where to focus our efforts, and perhaps even more importantly is knowing where not to.


Other impacts of IoT on the UX roadmap... beyond the device

There’s another key way in which the Internet of Things affects the UX roadmap:


IoT dramatically increases the importance and relevance of Insight to Action user interfaces


If you used any smart fitness device like Fitbit, they all come with insight to action user interfaces - how many steps did you do today, last week, last month, plan your next week etc. Most of this is information you might never have bothered to capture before - but now you have it, it can have life-changing affects.

 

Even more important is insight to action when it comes to the enterprise.  The Nanjing Connected City video shows an thought-provoking example of insight to action re the traffic routes of whole cities.  And of course we are also talking about doing business better, faster, more efficiently, such as preventing failures before they happen.

 

So if you've only been looking at transactional Fiori apps, you might want to take a look at what's been happening in the analytical apps such as Smart Business Cockpits, and get thinking about your UX strategy for simple, consistent insight to action user interfaces.

 

For instance, you might want to think about what additional stakeholder discussions you need to include in your UX strategy to figure out what insight to action content fits with all that IoT captured data.


Why start factoring IoT into the UX roadmap now?

 

Perhaps you are thinking - "we don't need to worry about that... that's a long way off for us"? Even if you are working at latest of the late adopters the starter approaches I've suggested to integrating Internet of Things into the UX roadmap are good foundations for UX strategy. 


And beyond that? Well CES 2015 was swamped with Internet of Things devices which is appropriate because when people talk about the impact of IoT words like "tsunami" and "tidal wave", and the statistics that go with that are staggering .... even Gartner is saying 4.9 billion connected devices by end of this year; 25 billion by 2020.  Cisco is estimating it at 50 billion by 2020 and the economic impact is being measured in trillions.  So a "long way off" might just be a lot closer than you think. 

 

 

 

 


Ok, so you know that some of your company’s users are not entirely satisfied with their user experience or user interfaces. And you realize that you need to learn more from these users in order to understand how they work, what they do and what they are actually dissatisfied with. So basically you have a plan of action and have a good idea about how you will proceed.

 

But there is one thing you do not have: The buy-in from your top management.

 

In my opinion, this is one of the most challenging obstacles you will face, and normally the first one. Without the support of your top management, you might feel quite alone. And I can tell you, being alone is about the worst thing possible in a UX improvement project, because it requires more than just you to be successful.

 

 

Gather arguments: Be prepared to persuade

 

If you already know how user satisfaction can be measured and how to turn this into an execution plan for a UX improvement project, you are already on the right track.

 

BUT STOP. Don’t think that you can persuade management with this alone. To be fully prepared, you need a number of additional “selling points”:

 

  • As-is numbers
    You need to explain what the problem is. Talking about dissatisfied users is generally not enough. You need more hard facts. Perform user surveys and review the top 50 transactions / applications in your current setup. Identify those with the highest business value or rate them (roughly) in terms of UI complexity. You could also review the amount of incoming support requests and work out a categorization based on caused costs. With numbers and feedback from users, you can obtain valuable data points to help identify problems that can be illustrated in numbers (e.g. transaction XYZ has high complexity and produces a lot of support activity. At the same time however, it is one of the most used transactions in the company)

 

  • A rough vision and idea of the outcome
    You don’t need to build a complete UX strategy just yet. If you want to “sell” a UX improvement project to your company however, you need at least a rough idea of what you hope to achieve. Have a vision that has the power to impress but remains feasible and realistic (e.g. “A modern software environment provided by a highly professional IT department, offering applications that are a pleasure for the users to work with”). You should also be prepared to talk about the possible results (e.g. reduced support costs by 201x, or x users transitioned to a modern user interface)

 

  • A high-level execution plan
    You can simplify your plan by categorizing it into three general options. You could either ADOPT things out-of-the-box from SAP, ADAPT things that you have adopted from SAP or simply DEVELOP new things using tools and frameworks provided by SAP. If you already have the as-is numbers, you could probably start to (very roughly) sort your actions into these categories and start tailoring your plan to the needs of your users and your environment. If you want to learn more about this topic, see this video: “Typical transition paths for SAP UX improvements”.



Make UX exciting: Know the types of arguments that management is listening to

 

Let’s be serious here. A business exists first and foremost to make money. Unless you work for an IT company, you company’s core business is certainly not to operate IT, provide a good experience for your users or to develop user interfaces itself. IT is something your company needs in order to perform more efficiently.

 

Your first aim therefore must be to indicate why your company’s business can make more money by improving user experience.

 

 

Keep realistic: Be careful when talking about user productivity

 

I know, increased productivity is one of the arguments most frequently used to justify investment in an UX improvement project. And of course, there is huge potential in this domain, especially in business areas where a small number of tasks are repeated again and again.

 

Depending on the individual user however, the working environment and the typical tasks can be quite different. If most of the user’s time is spent on meetings, mails and other things, improving a user interface to gain a measly five minutes per day might not make much of a difference. So be careful when using productivity as your argument if you aren’t really acquainted with the user environment and user tasks. Being unrealistic at the beginning will hit you like a boomerang once you have to prove the success at the end of the project.

 

While stressing the need for care, I am not suggesting that you should leave productivity out of the equation altogether. If presented methodically and realistically, productivity can in fact be your trump card.

 

To play the productivity card, bear in mind the following points:

 

  • Have a plan for what people can do with the time they save
    Just ask yourself the following question: What would you do with five minutes saved per day? Would you just pick up another coffee, or simply relax after hours of meetings? Maybe you would check your mails. But does this improve productivity in a monetary sense? You need to have an idea how the newly available time can be used. If it is not used for tasks that are connected with real business processes, you have probably hit upon a snazzy UX improvement with zero business relevance.

 

  • Consider all aspects of user experience, not just the user interface
    Improving user experience can amount to a lot more than just looking at user interfaces. Based on the example above with a user’s day full-packed with meetings, mails, Excel sheets and the like, you have a springboard for improving user experience right across the spectrum. 

 

In both cases, SAP can only provide a limited amount of out-of-the-box help during this part of the improvement process, as a customer-specific analysis is required. SAP can help you with UX consulting services however.

 

 

Use facts, reliable numbers and a healthy ROI: A good way to satisfy decision makers

 

Beside productivity, another winning argument is reducing costs. Please remember that UX improvements require investments as well however. You have to put your numbers through a Return-on-Investment (ROI) calculation and have an idea of a break-even period. To stay realistic the break-even period in a medium-sized UX improvement project should be around 12-18 months, although your company might see certain benefits much earlier.

 

Here are some examples of UX-related cost reductions:

 

  • Reduced correction costs
    Simpler screens result in fewer input errors and ultimately in increased data quality.  You should ask your business organization what percentage of their time they spend fixing bad data.

 

  • Reduced error handling costs
    Realistically, bad data will not always be fixed upfront. There are cases where bad data will be fixed when errors occur (e.g. unexpected errors, incorrect reporting, product sent to the wrong customer address or wrong customer). Depending on the case, this might impact your support or specific business users, and will generate process costs. While correction costs are painful enough, costs arising from errors are a source of real discomfort for the business.

 

  • Reduced training costs
    Simpler screens are easier to use and will ideally be self-explanatory too. As a result, training costs can be significantly reduced. While many argue that this only impacts on new users, you need to keep in mind that your improvements might also be new to your existing users. Reducing to a minimum the amount of training required to get them productive with the new solution might be another argument you could use.

 

  • Reduced user support costs
    Simpler or let’s say better tailored screens will cause less user-driven support messages. It might sound strange, but less interaction and options on a screen means fewer ways to do something wrong or get into a muddle and need support.

 

  • Reduced development costs
    This area of costs is obviously connected to user interfaces developed within your company, but can also be roughly connected to cases where you plan to adapt existing user interfaces from SAP. If you want to develop your own, case-specific applications, you can reduce costs significantly by considering methods like design thinking. In addition to talking about  technologies and screens, also use the UX topic to attempt to involve modern methods that are in sync with your idea for improving user experience. These methods ensure that you have a much more detailed idea of what you need in your application BEFORE you start building it. Using development resources to build early prototypes or to repeatedly patch up your application as new requirements come in later on is not the right approach, and has a negative impact on costs.



Convince your CIO and business leaders: The reputation of departments

 

Are you proud of the great things you have achieved for your company? Your CIO and the business leads will be proud too if they can make their business even better or making their employees that bit more motivated and happy in their work.

 

Talking about the CIO, wouldn’t it be great if s/he could do these things:

 

  • Announce that user satisfaction has increased over the last year by x%
    If you do it right starting from the beginning, you already have a number of figures. You know how your users feel after conducting a user survey. If you use this feedback and translate it into improvement activities, it will not be difficult to help your CIO to sing the praises of the IT organization.

 

  • Act rather then re-act
    I guess your CIO doesn’t like surprises. So help him/her to understand the concerns of the users AND the business. Being prepared and having methods and solutions ready before people make complaints in the first place is surely the best way to demonstrate the strength of the IT organization.

 

  • Announce that s/he is successfully cooperating with the business
    No CIO wants to be just a service provider. If the IT masters UX methods such as design thinking, it becomes a valuable partner for the business. And as we know already, this is the key for success in any UX improvement project.

 

With regard to the business, wouldn’t it be great if the leaders could do these things:

 

  • Announce that user satisfaction has increased over the last year by x%
    They will like doing this even more than the CIO did.

 

  • Announce that productivity and profits have increased
    Once again, this is about real numbers and good KPIs. While most of them are already known to the business and are already constantly measured, you might add some new data sources like “numbers of reduced clicks” and “number of reduced screens”.


You can position an UX improvement project to provide these benefits. If you get the chance to import UX methods into your company and have the time to make a plan based on real feedback from real end users, all of the above is possible.

 

 

Let’s summarize the facts:

 

  1. You don’t have the support of your top management? Then work on it. Without the support of top management, your chances of successfully implementing UX improvements are compromised.

  2. Be careful not to make assumptions, especially when it comes to productivity. Base your arguments on measurable facts (like user survey results) and figures (support costs, training costs and the like).

  3. In addition to cost savings, user satisfaction and productivity, stress how the improvements will also enhance the reputation of various departments in the company.

  4. Finally: Think big but start small. Start with small projects and cooperative users to gather experience, strengthen your case and be prepared to prove the value of your proposal and acquire support for further improvement steps

 

Let me know if this helps you. Do you have other arguments? Or do you have difficulties in discussing the topic of UX in your company?  Is certain information missing, or is there information you would like to share? Feel free to use the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

All the best,

JJ

 

Jürgen Jakowski - Twitter: @JJComment

Bild4.jpgYou might have seen or heard it already - perfectly placed to close this interesting year 2014 - the call for proposals for the ASUG Annual Conference 2015 is open again - since Dec 8 with a deadline on January 5. And YES especially the deadline might be - at least for some of you - a critical information as for lots of you that might fall directly into vacation time... so why bother this year?

 

Pretty simple reasons as always – there is no better chance to share thoughts, experiences, learnings, do’s and dont’s with a large community by providing insights into your projects, approaches, implementations.. while at the same time having the chance to learn from and socialize with others that face the same challenges as you.. and to get hold of all the SAP experts on site at SAPPHIRE NOW. And if your submission is accepted, you even get a complimentary conference pass.

 

What is DIFFERENT this year – there is a new ASUG track for USER EXPERIENCE you can assign your proposals to. Thanks to the rising interest inside the ASUG community – forming an ASUG User Experience and Interface Influence Council as well as a Special Interest Group User Experience – this new track now allows to group all UX  or UI technology related content and make it easy for the audience to follow this hot topic.

 

It is pretty easy to submit your abstracts and you will find this new track directly when you are in the submission form at the top:

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Besides that – if you are assigning your submission to other tracks – you can still indicate a high focus on User experience of your content by choosing a submission category UX further down below your abstract.

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So I want to encourage you to grab that opportunity and submit your stories that are related to User Experience or SAP User Interface technologies.

 

No matter if it is related to providing single access points for users with NWBC, SAP Portal or the Fiori Launchpad, or your first steps with SAP Fiori apps or Screen Personas to make life easier for your users. Or even your own experience putting your hands down into the Floorplan Manager, the UI theme designer, the SAP Web IDE, building apps with SAPUI5 or OpenUI5… just go ahead and share it. We have also seen great value for the community out of customer presentations around understanding UX and implementing it in the DNA of an organization with all its challenges.. so the area UX is broad and the topic is really hot based on all the feedback we got from ASUG and all around the world. So make use of that opportunity.

 

Kind Regards and hope to meet you at SAPPHIRE NOW / ASUG ANNUAL CONFERENCE in Orlando, May 5-7, 2015

Ingo

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And following this great post by Aviad Rivlin, I also want to point you to these two blogs by Tammy Powlas that might provide helpful tips and tricks for a successful submission:

Principal theme of my work within the last months was UI technology and user experience. This was challenging because you it is not only a technological topic. One of the best presentations of SAP’s UX strategy and UX strategy in general is published here and explains that design innovation is in the intersection human value, business value and technological feasibility as seen here:

innovation.JPG

 

At an DSAG meeting Jürgen Jakowski Jürgen Jakowski explained it very well:

  • adopt
  • adapt
  • develop

 

From my understanding “adopt” means that you implement an SAP solution (think of Fiori for example). Adaption means extending this solution or reducing existing pain point with and technology like Personas. And In this blog entry I will discuss the last aspect of development and I will look at SAP’s technology portfolio and I want to show how this can be used to create beautiful solutions that have business value. For the creation of those solutions ABAP developers have to change their mindsets: they have to learn new frameworks, new paradigms and sometimes programming languages. Yesterday it was normal to learn about the R/3 styleguide for ABAP dynpro, to create solutions whose UI was stateful tightly integrated into the application logic – but this is not state-of-the-art any more.

 

“Redefine Normal Every Day”

The motto “Redefine Normal Every Day” is part of an ALS awareness campaign by Zumba Fitness in the US. In Germany this is campaign wasn’t branded and I learned about it at a sports event last weekend – and in fact as a consequence I decided to write this blog entry. I found this motto very inspiring because of the following reasons:

  • In the last decades as SAP consultants / developers we told the end users that the UIs of SAP Business Suite are standardized and so “normal”. And of course custom dialogs have to fulfill these dialog standards as well because of consistency reasons. As a consequence many ABAP developers are experts when it comes to build dialogs exactly this way and this often means according R/3 dialog standards.
  • The second aspect why this motto inspired me is that UI5 is completely different from other UI technologies of SAP: it is Open Source and you can develop application with a completely unique and extraordinary look & feel and new user interaction patterns.

 

Especially JavaScript and HTML5 offer many possibilities to create an extraordinary (= far from normal) user experience. In my opinion everyone should know the following visualization which I usually show every single UI developer in our UI development projects:

budget.JPG

In my opinion the four visualizations are absolutely amazing because it uses positions, size and colors to display different dimensions of entities. With cross over you can display detail information. The different patterns and diagrams encourage the user to explore the data and graphical effects remember me of computer games which makes the whole visualization fun.

 

Improving Man-Machine Interaction

Above visualization not only beauty – it can promote curiosity and encourages the users to explore and understand a data set. This is a perfect example how an optimized and extraordinary UI can lead to better understanding and decision support which can be also used in business applications.

Visualization and to some effects gamification are only one example who a UI can improve man-machine interaction. But I think there are more examples which I explain in the following.

 

The speed of the UI can have a significant effect on interaction patters. It is absolutely necessary for exploration of huge data sets but also necessary if data from different systems are collected. This is absolutely common for call-center and front-office users who need all information about a certain customer. Traditional stateful UIs like CRM Web UI or Floorplan Manager are sometimes slow and we need AJAX-like techniques to access the necessary data.

 

Decision Support = Analytics + Rules + Visualization

Another interesting aspect of new UIs is enabling of decision support. What does this mean? The application shows a visualization of a business object (and perhaps context data) and applies business rules. The result is a precise message for the end user – think of following traffic light symbol for example:

red-24180_640.png

Using NWBC sidepanel you can display of context information of a certain business object, apply business rules and even visualize the result using graphical representation. The decision support tool can be added to any ABAP dynpro and WDA screen using configuration (wiring) and you don’t need to enhance existing ABAP dynpro tools.

 

Slicing Processes and Realtime Alerting

In this subsection I would like to introduce two interesting technical features: with Configuration Framework as part of Floorplan Manager framework you can create configurable UIs. This allows to develop applications that can flexibly adapted to the skills of a specific user team. With these techniques you can develop applications that are customized to specific skills and task of a certain group of users. This can be profitably if much of work can be performed efficiently by the staff and only very complex business transactions can be assigned to expert users who work with expert UIs.

Another interesting capability of SAP’s technology portfolio is the support of ABAP Push Channels via web sockets which allow bidirectional communication between client and server.  This can lead to realtime applications and alerting which will be topic for a future blog.

Differentiation

The examples above showed that new UI technologies as part of SAP’s technology portfolio have outstanding properties and allow to develop completely new UIs which can help you to differentiate from competitors. And this should be besides simplification (using SAP Fiori apps & Personas) a possible cornerstone of UX strategy: develop outstanding UIs which to innovate your business. Therefore you should do the following:

  • Identify pain points in your business. Try to find out whether new UI can lead to better man-machine interaction and improves the business process?
  • Are the business processes where a new UI can lead to a huge improvement so that you are better than your competitors?

 

Dealing with Different Speeds

With UI5 and some parts Floorplan Manager SAP separated the UI from the backend – it is exactly the Vishal Sikka’s concept of “timeless software”. One core principle is that you can change the UI independently. This is a huge advantage even in the development phase: one the OData  service is stable you will make any changes without changing the backend. So the UI frontend has a different development speed compared to the backend.

 

When developing business applications it is often necessary that the business logic can be changed quickly. In our development projects we decided to use the chance to renovate the backend and to control the backend process using rule systems created using BRFplus since this is very easy and agile to change. With solutions like DSM you can even perform hot deployment into production.

 

I think this a general best practice: usually we have best of breed systems landscapes and the backend systems are not that agile compared to systems at the “edge”. Today you can put edge innovation systems as well as backend systems into the cloud which gives you more agility. But the speed of the slowest systems (and in many cases they will we onPremise) dictates the speed for changing the system landscape. So it is a wise decision to get more agile in the backend and separation of business processes and business logic is the right step since the latter can be changed very easily. In the last year I wrote many blogs about this topic and even on a very detailed technical level so feel free to read some of them if you are interested in this topic.

 

Summary

So let me come to a conclusion:

  • In the center of SAP’s UI strategy is UI5 and can use it to develop Fiori-like Apps and use it even in Web Dynpro in HTML islands. So this technology is a cornerstone of SAP’s UI technology so UX strategy.
  • Besides UI5 the SAP technology portfolio offers many interesting technologies which can help you to differentiate from your competitors. In my opinion the combination of different technologies is most important since you can benefit from synergy effects: HANA can speed up the OData services and so the UI tremendously using search functions. And another very promising technology are business rule frameworks since you can need them also to enable decision support but you can also use them to make the backend more agile.

 

So the synergy of all mentions technologies in the blog entry can help you to differentiate from your competitors and you makes it possible to “redefine normal every day”.

The common usage patterns are of primary interest for both SAP and our customers.

 

  • On the one hand this information is highly valuable for SAP as an input into how we formulate the best strategy and approach to prioritise our own design, development and improvement initiatives.
  • On the other hand it should also be the basis for our customers to prioritise what transactions they target for improvement.

 

I want to share my own personal experience.

 

For years now I have been involved in discussions on this topic.  Right at the outset we are confronted by a variety of views on the best terminology to use and how effectively one can segment usage patterns.

 

A promising avenue that I have just became involved in is to look at enterprise data sets and analyse these with big data analytics.  The jury is still out on what will emerge as a working model.

 

I list five usage patterns below and the ‘time in the system’ increases in a descending order from 1 to 5 below:

 

Common Usage Patterns.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Self Service Usage: Simple tasks such as booking leave, time entry, but also the approvals type transaction.

2. Reporting: Consumption of report outputs, as opposed to report creation & analysis.

3. Knowledge: This is a broad category that emphasises usage of system outputs as part of a knowledge area.  The main work of this type of usage is not inside the application.

4. Professional: This is another broad category that emphasises usage of system functionality, including report creation and analysis.

5. Heavy: This is a broad category that covers from repetitive system transactions (e.g. entering invoices) to a large range of transactions.  The common denominator is that these usage patterns account for the majority of system usage.

 

The five usage patterns above are broad usage patterns and serve as a general indication of what I have observed with many customers.

While listening to the User Experience Keynote of Sam Yen during TechEd 2014 in Las Vegas (http://tinyurl.com/kuwt5jj) with the topic: The Users Strike Back: The Force Behind a New SAP Experience, I was quite surprised by a quick demo of Caroline Welsh about SAP.Drive .

 

Even though the tool is quite interesting and accessible for everyone with a s-user or scn-account, the demo was just a 3:55 min walk-through.

You can watch the demo as part of Sam Yens keynote here:

http://www.snappytv.com/snaps/drive-sap-about-sap-teched-strategy-talks-on-sap-teched_vq

 

Nevertheless, I catched the URL to the tool (it was shown less than 5 s during the whole demo...):

https://drivesap.ondemand.com/

 

What is Drive.SAP?

The goal of Drive.SAP is to get prompt feedback on your design during an iterative project approach.

 

Or in SAP words:

Drive.SAP is an award-winning user experience application that enables SAP user researchers, product owners, and anyone working on design artefacts to validate and improve the user experience of SAP products.

 

Drive.SAP studies are simple to create and an ideal research tool that enables you to gather specific feedback from third parties, such as colleagues or customers, on images of your design artefacts.

 

The days are over when you sent screenshots in mails or via dropbox to get feedback from your customers end users, businness people or colleagues via mail, phone, chat or as annotated screenshots. At least that is the promise of Drive.SAP.

 

Let's see if the tools really fullfills this purpose.

 

How does it work

According to the "award-winning" usability of Drive.SAP, it should not be necessary to create huge how-to documents or videos. Depending on how you define award-winning, the tool at least made it to the category "People’s Choice Honorable Mention" in the UX Awards 2014 Winners list.

http://userexperienceawards.com/ux-awards-2014-winners/#sap-ireland

 

Nevertheless, the usability of the tool is really good and intuitive which is important for the participants who just want to provide feedback.

 

So, how to get started?

First you need to fire up your Chrome or Safari browser since a big annoying popup reminds you that Firefox or other browsers are not working:

 

On the Help page you can read that IE10 should also work fine. At least on IE11, I got the same popup. We will see what the future brings.

 

The initial steps are actually quite easy: Create a study and upload your screens you want feedback for.

 

Using drag and drop, you can re-arrange the screens to  get the final screen flow you want to show to the participants. After that, you can specify for each screen which kind of feedback you want to get and also add a question to it like "Do you want to see the password in plain text?".

 

 

Participants can answer in a free-text form or set marking points on the screen to highlight their feedback. After adding questions to EVERY screen, you are able to publish your study.

Attention! Once you have published the study, you will not be able to edit it anymore. So please ensure that you have the right order of the screens and added the right questions.

 

You can now share the study link to everyone you want feedback from. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to secure the study with a password. So your customer should be aware that everyone knowing the URL is able to see it. Currently, it is not possible to participate in a study without a scn- or s-user.

 

The good usability is shown especially for the feedback process. Before participating in the actual study, the participant gets a nice popup with some tips and tricks how to use the application.

 

 

Depending on the type of answers selected during creation (free-text or marker), the user can add responses to the questions or set four types of markers.

 

  • Like: simple Like icon + possibilty to add some text to it
  • Issue: yellow sign with an exclamation mark + possibility to add some text to it
  • Speech bubble: add some text
  • Arrow: to mark a position without adding text

That's it for the participant. He or she can decide in the top menu to allow displaying the name or staying anonymous.

 

The feedback can now be seen by the study creator.

What are the benefits

During the quick check of the tool, I can see the following benefits:

  • A tool with an easy and state-of-the-art user experience just doing its job
  • Easy way to collect feedback from various people gathered through ONE channel
  • It is now fun to provide feedback!

 

What needs to be improved

  • You need a scn- or s-user
  • No password protection to secure studies
  • Help page is currently clearly written for SAP internal employees including SAP internal links
  • No support address or contact outside of SAP
  • Browser compatibility popup

 

Summary

The purpose of Drive.SAP is very simple but a huge advantage if you can use it in projects with a clear design focus. Good to see that SAP is on the right way to create simple but useful apps. Sure, there is quite some work to do but as SAP is not promoting the tool currently (try to search for Drive.SAP at google and you will find just a few hints...), I expect that they are working on it right now.

 

Personally, I will try the tool in one of our next user centered projects to see how it works in real life.

 

What are your thoughts on that? Have you already tried it?

UI5 rules the SAP universe. There is a plethora of new tools and infrastructures provided by SAP (HANA database, HANA Cloud Platform (Java), Server Side Javascript in XS, Core Data Service and much much more). But the actual king for me is UI5. Though it’s not much more than a set of libraries and styles in a technology which has been there for ages. Whether it’s a brilliantly composed infrastructure, I can’t judge – as I don’t really know the alternatives. But it doesn’t matter: UI5 it the user interface technology which is being pushed by SAP intensively and which will surely be highly attractive to millions of SAP GUI-accustomed users out there. Hardly any end user can judge the impact of business logic being executed as a stored procedure inside the HANA database or the flexibility of running an infrastructure on HCP. But everybody can look at a UI5-based simplified user interface he once knew in the SAPGUI and say “that looks fresh – and it even works on my phone. Awesome!”. Therefore, I consider UI5 as the driver for business application renovation for the next years.


It’s not about SAP GUI vs. HTML5

Alright, beautiful new world, here you are. I’m learning JavaScript and will somehow manage to deal with an un-typed programming language. I’ll simply expose my business logic as OData via Gateway, as UI5 is based on this protocol. Should not be a big deal, should it? But slowly, second thoughts creep into minds of those developers who actually implemented transactional applications in the past. Some asked related questions quietly also this year in Berlin. Questions like “what about locking”? This addresses one major change in application development caused by the OData-protocol: Applications are supposed to be stateless. And not having exclusive locks which provide a server-side state about who’s under control of which instance is part of that. It struck me also this year was, how little SAP and the brilliant heads available in the sessions actually seem to care about this change and how easy this questions is answered with “there are only optimistic locks”. And I’m even more surprised by how relaxed the developers having asked this question accept the answer.
For me, this change in paradigm is huge! Let me explain why.


Stateless business applications

In the classical SAP development world (=ABAP, until just recently), applications were stateful: The application server knew about the state of the transaction in process. While saving, the state was committed to the database. Locks were either resolved or a new transaction started immediately based on the last image of the previous “transaction” including its locks. To me, this behavior seems absolutely appropriate for business applications: Multiple persons operating on the same data expect to exclusively work on it once they’ve successfully started to perform operations on the data. In our project, even a late exclusive locking (on first write access, not on clicking the “edit”-button) needed some explanation to the users before they could accept it as a feature (not as a bug). I do not know whether this expectation really is a need for business applications or whether it’s just something (SAP) users got used to throughout the years – I believe it’s both. In addition to resolving concurrency, users expect that a system validates their input. And in some cases, does not only prevent further processing, but also the saving of inconsistent states.

In a mobile world, where connectivity to the application server may not be as stable as in a wired office, this interaction pattern is not appropriate: The server must not hold a state which might be lost after the connection was lost or which leaves objects in a locked state as the transaction cannot be completed. At maximum it is acceptable to read data with some mechanism which informs the client that data which he has read is out-of-date as someone else has changed it (optimistic locks). The OData-protocol, upon which UI5 is based, implies such a stateless behavior. While the actual frontend-developer (those brilliant youngsters juggling with the Javascript) simply can rely on the model to which they bind the UI to be stateless while the grey-haired ABAP-developers who are glad to have mastered ABAP-OO are now confronted to fulfil the provisioning side of the protocol.

And there’s no in-built-support for enabling a stateless application-backend.

ABAP_vs_Youngsters.JPG
Figure 1: Evidence: The youngster with his responsive app and a group of fanboys and the grey-haired frustrated ABAPer - picture taken at TechEd 2014, Berlin


Options for stateless backends

Before I go on, let me say very clearly: I don’t know of any silver-bullet-application-design-pattern. I wanted to sketch some ideas which came to my mind and I want your feedback on them.

Assuming data has been read optimistically on opening the UI, the questions is what happens on write (“save”). I’d expect the optimistic read lock to be promoted to an exclusive one once a PUT or a POST are being transformed into backend modifications. If this locking is successful, other optimistic locks on these instances would be deleted. Thus, on a subsequent change from one of the other sessions, the backend could detect the concurrent change and then…


Dismiss concurrent changes

The most simple of the options surely is to inform the user that changes to the instances he wants to modify have occurred. Whether the current data is re-read automatically or whether the user is given a chance to actively refresh his UI is subject to what’s more acceptable to the user. Depending on the complexity of the operations performed, this interaction pattern can in fact be acceptable. Particularly for one-click actions and data which is actually owned by one user, this seems to be appropriate. No wonder leave-requests is the new “hello world” of the business applications.


Push channel

With a bit more of effort, the backend could provide a mechanism for actively notifying owners of deleted read-locks about changes which have occurred by another user. This limits the frustration as less data entered might be lost, but the mechanism remains: Simply inform the user and afterwards, dismiss his changes.


Merge

Knowing that concurrent changes might occur, one could also prepare the model for concurrent updateability: With an active/inactive-mechanism which allows to have multiple inactive versions for different users, the system could basically allow parallel operations on (parts of) the same data. A dedicated interaction with the system (e. g. an action “merge”), the always save-able inactive version of the business data which may even have been modified in several steps by the user could be merged with the active one. During this process, the backend can remember the changes done and include this in the algorithm once another session which has read and modified the original data pushes its changes to the backend. In this pattern, not even an optimistic lock would be required – but the merge-mechanism may be tricky to implement depending on the scenario. I believe that this interaction however would be most acceptable for users being used to stateful applications.


Is ABAP (and Web Dynpro ABAP) dead?

With the new world relying on Javascript in the frontend and the OData-protocol, it’s obvious that neither on the frontend nor on the backend ABAP is required anymore. You can even implement business applications with the UI5-look which are based on a completely non-SAP backend or you could use one of the other weapons SAP has in its technology arsenal for you (Enterprise Java on HCP, server side Javascript with XSJS or simply XSOData). But still, you could stick to good old ABAP and expose the service via Gateway. And from my point of view, there are good reasons to do this: ABAP (not as language, but as infrastructure) offers mature tools needed for business applications: A programming model which has first-level-citizens optimized for tabular data, a sophisticated authorization management integration, a brilliant change and transport system and much more.

I have sketched some options for a stateless backend, but honestly, I believe that still for transactional applications, the exclusive locking of a stateful application and the business transaction which allows to save only consistent data will remain the most required interaction pattern for complex use cases. In addition, connectivity has improved vastly over the past years and will surely be enforced more and more also with high-speed networks. Therefore, I believe that many new business applications will also be stateful at least in the next five to ten years. And if this is the case, the usage of the ABAP-based Floorplan Manager is appealing to me: Personalization capabilities are extremely powerful, the controls are optimized for the needs of business users, a real WYSIWYG editor is available and last but not least, the programming model is well established.

Consequently I guess we’ll have multiple types of applications based on OData and UI5 or FPM to exist side-by-side. Key with respect to user experience will be to provide styles for both the UI-technologies which don’t expose the difference in the application pattern to the user. Based on the use case, either a stateful or a stateless application may be launched without the user noticing any difference.


Importance of frameworks

Whatever your architectural decision looks like: To me it’s obvious that you need an application framework which helps you to implement generic consumers in order to fulfil different contracts. Whether it’s about providing generic feeders for the FPM UIBBs or about exposing the model as OData – having a metamodel in place will help you tremendously. Also these contracts evolve or the consumer (UI5, kapsel container offline plugin) require new aspects of the protocol to be implemented. Want samples: $expand, $top, delta tokens,… With the consumption technology evolving, it’s essential to have a technological foundation which keeps the pace.  From my personal experience, I’d even say it’s not possible to actually implement this from scratch on your own. Luckily, we don’t have to (those who followed my previous posts know what’s coming): With BOPF, SAP provides a framework which has a strong metamodel optimized for the delevopment of business applications. There have been consumers around (the Floorplan Manager BOPF integration (FBI), the Gateway BOPF Integration (GBI), Post Processing Framework, … ) which leveraged the benefits of this model driven approach. However, these components have been established based on the needs of business applications built upon BOPF (majorly SAP Transportation Management). This lead to the sad fact, that these components only supported the set of features needed in the consuming applications, not in support of all features possibly required by the consumption technology (e. g. there is no FBI feeder for the Form Repeater UIBB, $expand is not supported by GBI).

But with SP8, this has changed tremendously: SAP now provides an abstraction layer called SADL, the service adaptation definition language. This runtime artifact consumes various types of metadata and provides generic adaptors to the latest UI-technologies. And what’s best: It’s being developed in close cooperation with the consumer-technologies (FPM, Gateway). Personally, I’ve got huge expectations with respect to SADL really making BOPF timelessly consumable software.


The only thing which I don’t understand at all: Why is an application framework based on well established technology not being promoted at TechEd? Of course, this is not as sexy as showing new UI controls, as integrating IoT-sensor data or as aggregating zillions of BSEG-items within the blink of an eye, but in the end, it (still) is all about business applications. So why not show how to actually enable developers to get this done? Maybe next year, when SAP cares more about actual application development. This year’s keynote was a step into this direction, at least I keep telling this to myself.

Let me tell you about an interesting event organized by Dutch SAP user organization (VNSG) yesterday. The User Experience and the Custom Development focus groups joined forces and set up yesterday’s meeting about Fiori. The idea was to have Dutch customers present their experience, but unfortunately we couldn’t convince any of them to stand up to present. On the other hand, we had Marcel Smits, who is Fiori Factory Lead inside SAP EMEA, to tell what he learned about Fiori implementations at 90 customers.

 

f1.jpg

 

Marcel introduced Fiori and emphasized the importance of great design, which creates an emotional connection with the end users. He talked about SAP’s goal to unify the UX for all SAP software. This means that the Fiori UX will be rolled out to all solutions. Not the Fiori technology, just the Fiori user experience. His first presentation focused on the Fiori apps roadmap per LoB where planned innovations are listed for the coming half a year and future innovations beyond half a year. Basically SAP releases a new wave of apps in each quarter. What we can notice is that the apps are getting more specific for certain tasks, some of them cover more complex processes, which took SAP more time to simplify. He made an interesting comment about a new WDA app for cost center hierarchy, which was released as WDA, because it was too complicated for the Fiori paradigm. Another interesting detail was about the My Benefits app, which is primarily created for the US market and therefore cannot be implemented “as plug and play” for the Netherlands. Marcel took some time to explain why some apps require HANA, while others don’t. He mentioned various reasons such as the use of HANA search models, use of HANA Live and the case of Fiori apps which require re-written, HANA-optimized backend logic.


f2.jpg


Marcel shared his experience in Fiori implementations. He organized it along the 3 phases of UX adoption:

  1. Advise - What is my strategy and roadmap?
  2. Launch - How can I get started with deploying Fiori?
  3. Accelerate - How can I accelerate deployment of Fiori?

 


This presentation gave a very good overview and gave some very specific details at the same time. He talked extensively about the value of good design and he introduced the UX Value Calculator which can be used to quantify the benefits of great UX, in this case Fiori, and express the value in Euros based on many factors such as time saving of management. He talked about security around Fiori. Most SMEs use reverse proxy and SAP Web Dispatcher and larger organizations with more complex requirements implement SMP and Mocana. We had some conversation about SAP Notes, Marcel suggested to check them weekly, because they bring fixes, but also new functionality – which should be evaluated by customers. His advice was to keep track of all manual installations steps in Dev to speed up the setup of QA and Prod. Regarding project approach, he emphasized the importance of project management and he recommended the agile approach if at least 2 sprints can be defined in a project.


Aviad Rivlin, PM and SAP Mentor from SAP Labs Israel joined us virtually and presented via SAP Connect. He introduced the Fiori Launchad and gave a live demo. He defined FLP as “Intuitive, modern and easy to consume single point of access for bus applications and content”. He explained the 4 deployment options: ABAP (Gateway), JAVA (Enterprise Portal), Cloud (HCP) and HANA. He expects most customer to use the ABAP option, because it supports all Fiori apps. FLP in the portal works the same way, but the underlying technology is the portal and the Fiori apps run on the ABAP Front End Server. In case of HCP, the connectivity to on premise backend systems is provided by the Cloud Connector and the Fiori apps themselves run on HCP. He got questions about the future of FLP in relation to the SAP Portal so he spent quite some time explaining SAP’s UI client convergence plan covering alignment between Portal and FLP.


f3.png


Wim Snoep and Leo van Hengel presented how to change and create Fiori apps. Wim talked about extensibility on 3 levels: backend (ABAP or HANA XS), Gateway/OData and front-end. He mentioned that modifications can be as simple as styling, but can mean introducing new functionality. He described his project approach consisting of 4 phases:

  1. Mockup
  2. Build services
  3. Build screens
  4. Test

 

f4.jpg


Leo gave a nice live demo of Web IDE running on HCP trial. For many participants it was very interesting, because this was the first time they saw this new tool.


Finally Henny Claessens talked about his experience at AppHaus Heidelberg. This short presentation, more like a pitch, was nice to hear about this SAP initiative. It is basically a creative environment where SAP designers, developers, and customers can work together on new, innovative products in multidisciplinary teams. It aims at merging engineering and art. The Design Thinking workshop where Henny participated was about how to bring design education to SAP customers and partners in the form of DesignEd.

 

f5.jpg

 

As far as I know this was the first time that students (from Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences) joined a VNSG meeting. We were happy to accept them to learn about Fiori.

You have your UX Strategy in place and now the question is what do we improve?

 

We already made the point that the topic of UX involves a number of elements that are linked or dependent on each other.  From the front-end interface, connecting to an application that renders a system process, based on a business process, with master and transactional data, to the technology platform and architecture.

 

It follows that with so many moving parts, we need a methodology to bring all these elements together – we need a Roadmap.  The main driver for a roadmap approach is the fact that any solution requires the availability of UI components.  These components change over time and are influence by other components.  So a solution that is not feasible today may be feasible in a few months due to a change or update to the landscape.

 

Key Principles

 

1. Focus on Value

 

Improving UX for the sake of it does not serve much purpose.  For this reason we believe this should be a targeted effort to identify
the business value opportunities.  In my blog 03 I discuss the balanced scorecard approach to UX value and that applies here.  Business value accrues either from value opportunities – introducing a new capability that adds new value, or by solving UX pain points that have a business impact.

 

2. Focus on Data

 

Data is the golden thread to discover the value opportunities.  Data also needs interpretation and understanding so this process also requires interaction with users.  The data helps us to follow a method of prioritisation, so that we consider the whole but find a way to identify the best opportunities.  At the end, the data is what we use to justify as well as to quantify the business value.

 

3. Transactions, End Users & Landscape

 

We derive our target value opportunities by focussing on the transactions to prioritise, which end user groups to prioritise as well as what the landscape capability offers.  I want to reiterate the end user again.  We are looking to solve the UX pain points of user groups / roles that offer business value.  We are not looking to change a few transactions within the whole of SAP.

 

4. Time-boxing

 

As a principle we recommend that you set a time limit on this exercise to avoid  the ‘paralysis by analysis’ trap.  The resources need to be prepared and available for this exercise.

 

The Stages

 

We follow a 3 stage approach: Discover > Assess > Roadmap.  Between the Assessment and Roadmap stages we have a decision point where our recommended solutions require approval before they are planned for user coherence and integration into the SAP roadmap.

 

 

UX Roadmap.png

 

 

 

During the Discovery stage the aim is to generate as much information as possible and to evaluate this in a way to drive a prioritisation of transactions in the first instance and then of end users.  We consider multiple types of information for this exercise and in practice this depends on what information is available within a reasonable time.  This stage ends with a consolidated list of transactions and users in scope.

 

During the assessment stage we assess firstly what ‘Out of the Box’ solutions are available from SAP and then consider the appropriate enablement solutions.  The enablement solutions involve the design and build of the solution for the transaction and the users.

The second part of the process is to validate the initial assessment results.  For this we utilise a basic set of validation criteria: Desirability; Feasibility and Viability.  The result of this stage is a set of recommendations.

 

We recommend an approval step before proceeding to the last stage.  The UX Roadmap is created firstly by developing a user coherence plan and then creating the UX roadmap that integrates the UX solutions, UI components and end users.

 

Lastly please note that this methodology requires a cyclical approach that every cycle will target the priority areas and over time will drive a UX transformation of your SAP estate.

On Tuesday of the week before Las Vegas SAP TechEd && d-code it was windy in Sydney. In fact it was very windy. A serious low pressure system was passing over us and bringing winter-like conditions to much of eastern Australia. In parts of the Blue Mountains - just east of Sydney - snow cut roads and railway lines, trees were down everywhere, etc. All this on the second week of October - well into our spring and very unseasonal.

 

Someone sent out a tweet - sorry I can’t remember who - that drew my attention to http://earth.nullschool.net. This is a site built by Cameron Beccario, @cambecc, that provides a visualisation of global weather conditions, ocean currents and ocean surface temperatures.

 

On Tuesday 14th October eastern Australia looked like this - except animated of course.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 5.33.59 pm.png

 

I spent a bit of time playing with the user interface because it was so much fun and so interesting. You can adjust the altitude to see the wind conditions at different levels right up to the jet stream and stratosphere. Move forward and back in time to see changes. Modify the map projection to see the whole world in one page. Etcetera.

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 5.39.38 pm.png

 

As I looked to see how Cameron had built this I was pleasantly surprised to find that he had made the project available on GitHub for anyone who wanted to make use of it under a MIT License. Great - I couldn’t clone it quick enough.

 

Looking at the code I was amazed. Firstly it was primarily only Javascript and SVG. Wow. Secondly I noted how many other projects and resources Cameron had leveraged to produce his awesome “earth” visualisation.

 

Javascript libraries included Node, D3, backbone, and when. The mapping data came from Natural Earth, a public domain dataset, weather data from the US National Weather Service, etc.

 

I knew Clint Vosloo and Chris Rae were planning to enter DemoJam the following week with an entry called Swell Analytics. Swell Analytics used an API supplied by MagicSeaweed that provides Surf conditions from all over the world. I thought Camerons' “earth” visualisation would be a great starting point for the UI which would allow the user to search around the world for a surf spot and then drill down to get the surf conditions in detail.

 

I added the OpenUI5 library to Camerons’ project and a single Javascript call that triggered my code and passed the selected map coordinates. When my code was called it instantiated an OpenUI5 dialog box that ran as part of the “earth” visualisation but independent from it.

 

The map coordinates were passed to a web service that returned the nearest Surf Spots monitored by MagicSeaweed. When the user selected one it then called the MagicSeaweed API to get the surf conditions for that spot.

 

The MagicSeaweed API returns all surf condition reports for the spot over the past few days, including weather charts and forecasts. By moving quickly through these charts I could produce an animation effect that looked pretty cool.

 

 

Once completed I handed over the code to Clint & Chris to plug in their components. These included historical analysis of the surf spot and analysis of related social media feeds using HANA.

 

I had spent less than 2 hours on this - but there is clearly more than two hours work in the result. A true example of collaborative development. I have not met Cameron or the people who worked on D3, or backbone, or Node. I don’t know anyone at the National Weather Service or Natural Earth. But we all worked to produce this outcome and I am deeply grateful to all of them. So are Clint & Chris.

 

That is why GitHub, and other services like it, are so important to developers today. That is why SAP CodeExchange was so important and why it was so disappointing that it was killed with little notice. For developers to truly collaborate we need a distributed revision control, change control, call it what you will service, and associated tools, to support us. That is also why SAPLink is so important - a great collaborative project totally driven by the community.

 

Most important of all is the developers who share their work, outcomes, and experience with the rest of the developer community and thereby make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. They allow minnows to stand on the shoulders of giants to produce great outcomes.

 

If you don’t know what Git is I think it is time you found out.

 

You can watch a replay of the Swell Analytics Demo here.

Graham Robinson

SAPUI5 === Golf

Posted by Graham Robinson Oct 28, 2014

I was fortunate to be invited to participate in the Blogger Program at SAP TechEd && d-code last week. I had a busy week of meetings and meet-ups, keynotes, briefings, etc. and I also did a couple of presentations on SAPUI5.


Several times I found myself trying to explain to people why this web development stuff is so hard.


My pitch went something like this.


"This SAPUI5, Javascript, oData, Gateway stuff is not as easy as some people make out. It is not just opening up the manual and doing a bit of reading. Neither is it taking a few OpenSAP courses or doing a few tutorials and you will have it covered. Learning the syntax of Javascript is not enough. Learning all the SAPUI5 controls off by heart is not enough. Knowing how to use transaction SEGW to model your Gateway service and then falling back onto good old ABAP to do the heavy lifting is not good enough either."


"All this stuff takes time to learn, time to get experienced with, and requires time to fail. You will not get this right the first time - or the second - or the third. As you learn more you will come up with new, and better, techniques to achieve what you want to achieve. Sometimes these new techniques will be developed because you realise you could have done something better. Sometimes a colleague will share his techniques and you will find pieces of them better than yours. Sometimes you will learn from others sharing via SCN or Stackoverflow."


"Also the underlying technology will change - and you will need to change to adapt to it. For example, the whole way that SAPUI5 does in-app navigation changed in release 1.16 and, while the previous techniques will still work, the new way needs to be absorbed and understood."


"It is all about experience. And the only way to get experience is to do it. Then do it again, and again, and again. Refactor old code to adopt new techniques. Share and learn from others. Always be looking for better ways. Rely on proven design patterns rather than create your own."

 

You get the idea I hope.

 

So, I am in this meeting with Sam Yen. Sam is the Global Head of Design and User Experience at SAP. He is largely responsible for SAP’s focus on design, and design thinking, and the end-user. He is a designer - I am a techie. Sam listens to me struggling for several minutes to describe how important I think experience will become with SAPUI5 developers and he sums it up in two words.

 

“It’s golf”.

 

Don’t you hate that?

 

http://www.heyuguys.com/images/2013/01/Happy-Gilmore-Adam-Sandler.png

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