By Dan Flesher, NIMBL
Recently, a colleague was telling me about a conference at which he was presenting. He was conducting a session on Design Thinking, a topic I am sure many of you have come to be familiar with as SAP advocates for it as part of its commitment to a new UX strategy. When he started to describe all of the steps that go into a good design session, such as interviewing users, understanding their pain points and daily struggles, he got questions from the audience that basically boiled down to “Why do I care about the user?” As a fellow developer, this made me mad, and I’d like to tell you why.
Design Thinking is a user-centered design process, which is maybe why it’s new to many developers in the SAP space. The creation of many SAP applications doesn’t have a user focus; it has a focus on the tables, document types, and business processes involved. So in a way, I can understand why taking a user-centered approach would be a paradigm shift for a lot of SAP developers… but that’s not an excuse for not caring about your users.
The first iPhone was released in 2007. Smartphone sales are up globally, reaching 353 million units sold in the third quarter of 2015 alone. The first iPad was released in 2010. While these are still relatively new technologies compared to the telephone or television, they have radically changed the game. People expect high quality user experiences across all of their devices. This doesn’t just include millennials like myself. My mom makes all dinner reservations with her phone using Open Table. We Facetime relatives that can’t make it to family gatherings, something my grandmother refers to as “magic”. And people have come to expect this magic in every UI with which they interact. Why wouldn’t they when it comes to SAP?
The fact of the matter is user experience is very important for businesses, especially when it comes to mobile devices, where most of the Internet traffic and purchasing now comes from. Companies with e-commerce sites that offer poor mobile experiences lose money to competitors. If you don’t believe that it’s serious cash being thrown away, check out these articles.
So let’s bring this back to SAP. SAP GUI is a beast, and not very user friendly. As developers, we should relish our opportunity to improve the user experience by implementing SAP delivered solutions, or developing custom Personas screens or Fiori apps. It isn’t enough anymore that the correct tables get updated efficiently, that a workflow processes a PR approval. It now matters how those processes are completed. Maybe some developers take to heart that users are unhappy with their experiences and feel insulted. I mean it meets the requirements right? Well, my Ford gets me from point A to B just fine, meeting all the requirements of my commute, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t trade that experience for driving a Ferrari every day.
Overall, across the many SAP UX projects I have been a part of, I have seen a lot of improvements in the daily work life of users: the ability to use their phone for approvals instead of getting out their laptop, intuitive interfaces eliminating the need for complicated trainings, completely eliminating the need to use SAP GUI. As more young people enter the workforce, it would behoove companies to renew their commitment to a positive user experience. Put a 20-something in front of SAP GUI and it will take them a while to get their bearings. Toss them an iPad and they’ll be creating sales orders like seasoned pros, increasing productivity and morale.
With a wide array of UX solutions like Fiori, Personas, and S/4, SAP developers have the opportunity to be part of an exciting time, where we are redefining how users interact with SAP systems. We can either choose to build those new, exciting solutions, or dig our heels in and proclaim that what the user thinks is irrelevant, that our ABAP code is fast and efficient. I know which side I belong to, how about you?
If you would like more information on SAP User Experience, please contact Dan at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org