During SAP’s Sapphire events a major part of the message was around Usability. Traditionally, seen as functionally rich but unexciting, SAP and Usability are words that you would not normally put in the same sentence. But with the upcoming release of the Screen Personas toolset it appears that SAP may be addressing the issue.
Whist comments from their CEO saying that they “Want to make Finance” shows a clear intend the first thing to consider is whether the “unexciting” tag is still current. Clearly in the past SAP R/3 was grey on a slightly different grey with some white and some black. Not as exciting or interesting as other products that reference multiple shades of grey but it clearly did the job in the area of ERP. Since then the development of GuiXT and Business Client has addressed some of that challenges BUT SAP is not just ERP there are other User Interface options to consider.
For example, today’s Cloud solutions provide simplified portal based interfaces that are very intuitive and easy to use. Also, the Enterprise Portal itself, a flexible browser based interface that can be integrated through Duet with SharePoint to provide a merged world for both structured and unstructured data. And also thinking in another direction, SAP’s Mobility Solutions can be fronted with Applications written with multiple technologies thereby ensuring a level of usability that is comparable with the most usable applications.
So is an “unexciting” tag unjustified? Today, it probably is not, as long as the write tools are used. So the challenge then becomes how to best exploit these. Providing each user with the ability to flexibly change their screens can lead to a support nightmare and so there is definitely a need for some structure. What to do? Well, taking an Agile approach based on a clear strategy and technology selection is essential. And how do you support this? Think about establishing a Factory or engaging with a partner who already has a factory. This approach ensures that you can quickly create a momentum but also scale back as required – look for a “per use” based commercial model.
So SAP can now deliver usability from a Business Process and User Interface perspective. The Technologies and Delivery Models are out there to exploit this, the challenge is now whether the beholder is prepared to take the opportunity and deliver their vision of beauty!