Brian Prentice, Jim Murphy
SAP Fiori UX is a radical rethink of the way people should interact with an ERP system. It will impact the way application leaders need to manage their SAP implementation, including team responsibilities, structures and success metrics.
SAP Fiori UX is an output of a conscious and well-funded effort to establish an internal design team inside SAP. This, in turn, is the result of a commitment to design-led software development at the most senior levels of the organization.
Over 18 months, SAP Fiori UX has dramatically expanded in scope, in purpose and as a strategic component of SAP new S/4 Hana release.
Based on these factors, Gartner believes that SAP Fiori UX is unavoidable. While SAP customer are not being forced to implement SAP Fiori UX on SAP's timeline, SAP customers must start planning for an SAP Fiori UX future.
Application leaders in SAP client organizations must:
Understand that SAP Fiori UX apps compose functionality-based and task-based activities derived from design-driven persona descriptions. Therefore, long-term management of SAP Fiori UX apps requires the implementation of persona management processes inside the enterprise IT organization.
Avoid modifying existing SAP Fiori UX apps if possible, and instead focus future SAP-related UX development on creating new apps.
Use SAP Fiori UX as a way to drive great process standardization in systems of record.
SAP Fiori UX is the new user experience for SAP Software. This seems like an innocuous statement — a statement that can be read as "Oh, that's nice; SAP is making things look better." If seen in that context, SAP Fiori UX would end up being something SAP customers might eventually consider when they have time.
SAP Fiori UX is anything but innocuous. It is such a radical rethink of the way people should interact with an ERP system that it will impact the way application leaders need to manage their SAP implementation, including team responsibilities, structures and success metrics. If successful, SAP Fiori UX will have profound implications on the enterprise software market.
SAP Fiori UX delivers a fundamentally different user experience by being centered on the tasks and activities that matter to the end user. In contrast to previous approaches by SAP, the Fiori experience is not limited to a functional area, but rather cuts across functional areas and end-to-end processes. This is delivered through a collection of purposeful apps (see "The App and Its Impact on Software Design" ). The Fiori concept also entails end users' ability to choose, invoke and manage their own set of apps via the Fiori launchpad. Fiori apps work equally on desktops, tablets or smartphones (see "Turning Supertankers: Getting SAP UX Right" ).
SAP Fiori UX is unlike any UX initiative undertaken by SAP for the following reasons:
SAP Fiori UX is ultimately an organizational strategy, not a product strategy: What makes SAP Fiori UX different from other UX efforts at SAP (for example, SAP Screen Personas) is that it has not started as a traditional enterprise software product, overseen by product management and implemented in the engineer department. SAP Fiori UX is an output of a conscious and expensive effort to establish an internal global user experience and design organization, led by the chief design officer, which includes a collection of design innovation centers around the world (called AppHauses). This team puts SAP in a tiny group of enterprise-focused vendors that are making a direct investment in distinct design teams with C-Level reporting structures. SAP Fiori should be seen in the context of a design-led initiative to fundamentally alter the experience of the overall SAP ERP system rather than a product option that customers interested in improving the experience can select.
SAP's UX organizational changes are a board-level strategy: SAP's co-founder and current chairman of the board, Hasso Plattner, has a deep understanding and commitment to design thinking. He has made substantial philanthropic donations in establishing the Hasso Plattner School of Design at Stanford University as a personal commitment to improve the quality of design in industry overall. He has commented extensively on design thinking as being central to the evolution of the SAP, both its products and the company as a whole (see Note 1). While the Fiori should be seen as the output of a design initiative led by its global design team, this team should be seen as an output of a commitment to a design-oriented approach to creating software at the highest levels in the organization. Simply put, we do not believe either the commitment to design, the staffing investments made to realize that commitment or tangible deliverables of the team will be de-emphasized at any foreseeable point in the future.
Fiori continues to expand in scope: Fiori has evolved since its initial launch in mid-2013, so much so that there can be little doubt as to its role in SAP's overall strategy. What started out as 24 apps have swelled to over 500. In addition to raw numbers, the scope of the apps applying the SAP Fiori UX has also expanded. Transactional apps, those that focus on tasks and which made up the initial release, have been supplemented with analytical (visual overview of KPI-related information) and fact sheet (view information about objects and contextual relationship between different objects) style apps (note that analytical and fact sheet apps require SAP Hana). These apps are now included in SAP user licenses and maintenance. With the introduction of S/4 Hana release, SAP Fiori UX is now one of three pillars upon which their latest release is built (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Pillars of SAP S/4 Hana
Source: Gartner (March 2015)
Given the commitment that SAP has made to SAP Fiori, SAP customers must realize that SAP Fiori is unavoidable. While SAP customers are not being forced to move to SAP Fiori UX immediately, they must recognize that, over the long term, they will be left with little choice but to embrace SAP Fiori UX.
A good analogy is to see this in the context of SAP's move from client/server to service-oriented architectures. Modern service-oriented architectures were not simply a matter of upgrading infrastructure and then installing the new version. SOA has had direct impacts on the way application design and management occurred. For example, application development teams needed to understand the principles of good service design and associated information architecture implications while manifesting a culture of reuse.
These efforts were necessary because modern business applications are dynamic entities in need of ongoing adaption and extension. Customizing a SOA-based ERP system on client/server design principles was a sure way to run into problems. Herein lies the impact of SAP Fiori UX. Just like the transition to SOAs, SAP Fiori UX will necessitate that application teams understand the principles of good UX design and put these into regular practice.
As a result, application leaders will find themselves in the center of a delicate interplay between senior IT and business leadership and enterprise architecture teams. Gartner has published extensive research on UX design practices, staffing implications and financial models — all of which can be used as part of this dialogue. However, there are two broader implications of SAP Fiori UX that application leaders need to understand immediately.
Purposeful Software Design and Persona Management
Based on Gartner interactions with SAP clients (see Note 2) looking at SAP Fiori UX, the most common question we're getting is how the apps applying the Fiori UX can be customized. The reason for the question is reasonable — few organizations have "vanilla" implementations of SAP. As a result, the standard Fiori apps don't map to their implementation.
However, the questions are invariably technology-related (for example, what tools should we do the customization work with, where does SAPUI5 fit, do I need to license SMP, etc.). The question we don't hear very often — the most important question — is whether a different approach to customizing SAP Fiori UX is required. The answer to that question is yes.
It is important to understand the way SAP builds Fiori apps. The overall objective is to simplify the experience of using SAP. That's achieved by providing a collection of "apps," which Gartner defines as: "A software packaging construct where value results from a specific, defined and sustained purpose identified through people-centered design processes."
The key word here is "purpose." Apps are designed to do one thing well for a well-defined audience. Another way to look at this is an app is like a minimum viable product that manages to stay minimally viable.
The way in which SAP has created its purposeful apps is by defining a range of personas. We are not referring to the SAP Screen Personas tool. We are referring to personas as understood in the world of UX design — an abstract characterization of an individual, created through the identification of similar patterns of behavior that result in commonly held goals, used as a proxy for a target audience in relation to an application or portfolio of apps (see "Application Leaders Should Take the Lead in Creating and Managing Personas" ). The personas are tied to associated task activities and information consumption. This is what drives the design specifications of the individual SAP Fiori UX apps.
However, very few enterprise IT organizations have created interfaces to their ERP system based on personas or purposefulness. In modifying SAP Fiori UX apps, attempts to recompose what is perceived as "missing functionality" along with process variations can end up breaking the app because the purpose is lost.
Let's consider an example. Two of the apps available in SAP Fiori UX for Finance are My Travel Requests and Approve Travel Requests (see Figure 2). There are two separate apps because travel request and travel authorization are two distinct activities done by different personas. When managers need to request travel, they are doing so in the context of an employee, not a manager (as the request needs approval up the organization chart). Therefore, even though managers can approve requests, they still have two separate apps on their device.
Figure 2. SAP Fiori UX Apps
Source: Gartner (March 2015)
Suppose an organization looks at the travel request app and realizes that a modification needs to be made because it's doing something the standard travel request app doesn't. For example, the company might allow a staff member to elect to fly jointly with a partner in economy class in lieu of a single qualifying ticket on business class. In the course of planning for this change, IT and the managers determine that they should also reintegrate travel request and authorization functionality because that is the way the functionality is presented currently in the employee portal.
By making the latter type of modification, two things have just happened. The integrity of both the manager and employee persona have been compromised, along with the purposefulness of both apps. If customizations based on ongoing functional expansion continue — for example, adding functionality from the My Appointments app in SAP Fiori UX for sales and marketing into a single travel app — then over time, the whole basis upon which SAP Fiori UX is designed to improve usability collapses. Ever-expanding functionality in purposefully designed SAP Fiori UX apps will also require UI jigs, like adding view layers. Taken too far, this would make the apps unusable on smartphones, thus compromising the multichannel design of SAP Fiori UX.
To avoid this problem, application leaders need to instill a fundamentally different perspective. SAP Fiori UX customization work is initially a job of persona and purpose creation. In this light, application leaders should first recognize that SAP's personas are baselines. Instead of seeking to add functionality to apps, they should be adding persona descriptions to the collection, based on careful consideration. For example, SAP Fiori UX for Finance has a persona called Cash Manager. It could be deemed that, in your organization, there is a slightly different persona — an emerging market cash manager (that deals with the unique challenges of managing cash in volatile currency scenarios with local regulators who seek off-the-books cash payments). By starting with the persona, a better insight into different purposeful tasks this person faces becomes clear. Therefore, persona management will become a required competency for SAP customers.
Application leaders should avoid modifying existing apps. Instead, start from scratch and create new apps for newly identified, persona-based tasks. Remember that SAP Fiori UX also institutes a consumer-oriented app store model. Employees can self-select the apps that work best for them. Thus, app proliferation is part of the overall philosophy of the SAP Fiori UX. Reuse still exists, but you're reusing the business service in the underlying SAP platform.
Another Reason to Embrace Process Standardization
Gartner has regularly advocated the value of seeking process standardization. Leveraging standardized processes is central to the core of a postmodern ERP implementation (see " Postmodern ERP Is Fundamentally Different From a Best-of-Breed Approach" ). Standardization is essential to application rationalization initiatives (see "In Application Rationalization, the Number of Applications Is Irrelevant" ). There is another reason to value process standardization — it allows your organization to shift UX responsibility to the vendor. What is being missed is that, if standard SAP processes can be adopted, then not only do the apps avoid customization, but more importantly, any ongoing work SAP does in improving or evolving SAP Fiori UX flows directly to the customer without constant caretaking. Alternatively, one can think of it like the sign seen in many stores — "you break it, you buy it." In other words, every time an ERP system is customized, you as the customer are essentially buying the responsibility to manage the UX for that implementation in perpetuity. Thus, SAP Fiori UX should be seen as an opportunity to drive greater standardization, particularly with systems of record in a Pace-Layered Application Strategy (see "Pace Layers Boost the Business Value of SAP ERP Investments" ). To help drive this point home with business managers, application managers can determine the lifetime cost of UX maintenance and add this as an additional chargeback to the business owner.
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