SAP Fiori has been around since 2013 and is a paradigm shift to SAP’s user experience (UX), the focus of their digital transformation. With SAP’s roadmaps now talking about Fiori 3, it is firmly placed within SAP’s future. Fiori is more than just technology or a design concept, it’s an approach that recognises the benefits when users can work easily with a UX they enjoy, on desktops, tablets or mobile devices.
Yes, the visual change to this new SAP is significant and designed to be user friendly, but the bigger challenge is the differences between Fiori and traditional SAP UX, forcing those working on implementations to adapt to this new way of working.
After five years rolling out successful Fiori implementations and transformations, Zag UX Architect, Di Wheeler discusses some of her observations in what Fiori means for your implementation team and users:
- You will need to change your mindset
- Know that you are going to have to relearn some things
- Leave behind your preconceived ideas about SAP – otherwise you’re in for a shock!
What is Fiori?
Deriving its name from the Italian word for Flowers, Fiori is core in the digital transformation of SAP. SAP brand it as a user experience instead of just a change in the user interface (UI) and they’re right. Fiori is all the things you would want from a decent website, but also harnesses the underlying power of the SAP HANA database and traditional SAP functionality.
Aside from design approach, development tools, and supporting technologies, Fiori also refers to applications (apps) which refers to UI5 SAP Fiori and includes traditional technologies such as SAP GUI and SAP WebDynpro. There are three general flavours of apps:
- Transactional (which allows users to perform SAP transactions on mobile devices as well as desktops),
- Analytical (real time information about business operations, meaning users are presented with their work without having to proactively produce a report) and
- Factsheets (which display information about key business objects in SAP i.e. how a finance manager views a cost centre).
Functionally speaking, the same foundation objects can drive Transactional as well as Analytical and Factsheet apps. This tighter integration and types of apps means there is a shift in how traditional Analytics and Reporting should be tackled.
There will be things that just don’t work the way they used to
Not everything works like it did before. Putting in Fiori means changes to how things are set up as well as functional alternatives. When an SAP system is installed and set up by your technical team, traditional transactions are ready to work out of the box. Now, the traditional transactions will work, but any Fiori based apps will not. An additional set of activation needs to be done to get Fiori based apps up and running.
Once the base Fiori activation is working, the focus moves onto business process. True UI5 Fiori apps are simplified and have less functionality than their older technology alternatives. This means work is needed to evaluate the options. For example, an action like entering timesheets can be done using a true UI5 Fiori app, a SAP GUI transaction or a SAP WebDynpro ABAP transaction, each built using different technologies to enter timesheets. They all come with their own pros and cons and a key part of the consultant’s job is to evaluate the app to see if it is fit for the scenario being implemented, if it should be extended or replaced with an older version of the function.
An analogy is like different windows in a house. You’re still looking into the same room, but they are all slightly different from each other. The rule of thumb is to go with the standard call of Fiori first, then check if it supports your process as you need. If it doesn’t, perhaps the app has a bug and needs some work to fix, or extend, or you will need to consider one of the technical alternatives, or even build a custom app.
One entry point
The Fiori user experience is centred on the Fiori Launchpad. It is the single-entry point to access all apps in most implementations and provides a browser-based dashboard style view of the apps that a user has access to and workflows they’re involved in. Most SAP Fiori work is focused on exposing apps and business processes in the Launchpad or extending apps to support more specific business processes. It can run with or without installed software, but the idea is to try for a lighter footprint, and just use the browser, which needs no installed software to run. Users go to one place without having to understand that they might be working in lots of different systems in a seamless way, not to mention that if you can do it without software installation on your user’s computers, you’re saving money.
Design thinking techniques can be useful during your implementation. Focussing on user needs and using tools such as user personas, journey mapping and interviewing can be invaluable tools, helping to understand the user as well as gaining an appreciation for their problems, concerns and limitations. When you’re making decisions about the design that affects how things could work, these tools can help make a decision that works for the user in all their constraints.
It is worthwhile to consider how best to spend your user experience efforts; the work to put in a solution at a greenfield site needs a different approach than transforming someone who already has SAP. In greenfield sites, you have a clean slate approach, so the thinking process is more on overall frameworks, structure, scale and robustness, and you will have users new to Fiori. Transforming an existing site means not just thinking about putting in new technology, but also addressing how your solution will mesh into existing SAP technologies and structures and constraints, as well as the transformation of the user experience, and supporting the customer through that. Interestingly, we’ve found brand new users find it much easier to move to Fiori, whereas those who have existing SAP knowledge have more challenges with the transition.
It’s not always possible to fit a full design thinking approach into current project and management structures, but you should embrace it as a tool to improve project outcomes and keeping the team working towards customer focussed solutions.
Give them what they need
Fiori is designed to put users in control of their business tasks by giving them only what they really need. This goal is reflected in five design principles; role based, adaptive, coherent, simple and delightful. The transactional, analytical and fact sheet apps described above, allow users to switch between their desktop, tablet or smartphone. Things are also more future proofed; built so that new things can be switched in and out with minor configuration changes in a seamless way for the users. In fact, you can have two separate users (e.g. a manager and an employee) clicking on the same link and display a different result, just through configuration and clever structuring in your menus and role designs.
User focus – this is where all the benefit lies
From the end-users perspective, SAP Fiori is all about what happens on the display in front of them. Before Fiori, users had a very prescribed experience, and a reasonable level of familiarity was needed for them to move comfortably around. There were some navigational features, but users still had to understand where to start. One of the big wins with Fiori is the introduction of text-based enterprise searching. Users can search using a word and see all objects that relates, which they’ve been granted permissions to see. Results might include apps, or data such as anything where a customer’s name appears. This could be a journal posted in their customer master data record it appears on, line item entries, and other key documents.
If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s that you should keep persevering. Doing anything new does bring its challenges but done well will bring rewards. SAP firmly place Fiori as its future, and you should approach it with an eye to adding business value with new features and opportunities, not solely eliminating the old for the new. Like everything, it is a journey, and something that gives better information and working flexibility has got to be counted as progress.