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Good Design is Good for Business

Good Design is Good for Business
Ian McCallum - | August 14, 2013

As long as anyone can remember, SAP has been a market-leading solution among enterprise business systems. Renowned for its flexibility and broad capabilities across a number of industries, the vast majority of the world’s largest and most successful organizations run their business on SAP. It is fair to say, however, that the User Experience (UX) of SAP enterprise systems has room for improvement.

To be sure, SAP has invested enormous intellectual and actual capital in a better UX. While the trend has certainly been positive, the recent explosion of mobile devices and consumer applications with a typically simple and elegant UX makes the need for further improvement by SAP even more acute. As consumers, we are accustomed to easy, sleek and intuitive mobile apps, and we expect nothing less. At work, however, employees have long had to suffer with complex and cumbersome business applications that require extensive training. The UX of consumer apps is now changing the game in the business world as well. Employees expect the same ease of use in the applications they use at work as they enjoy in their personal applications. But beyond an aesthetic improvement, a better UX can have a significant business impact as well.

Good design can have a positive financial effect for businesses. In a recent Computer Weekly article[1], Clive Howard explores the effects of design in the context of a call center, and suggests that a 6:1 return on the investment made in a good UX for call center applications can be achieved via reduced training costs for call center reps and improved response times. The cumulative effect of easier to use tools can positively impact employees and therefore benefit the business over time: better employee retention, and by association, reduced costs in hiring and training new employees. Plus the obvious benefit of allowing employees to perform business tasks and processes while on the go, creating an increase in productivity. Good design is good for business.

Despite its historical challenges in providing a less complex user experience, SAP is clearly on board with the benefits of a positive UX. They have responded to the increased need for a better UX by giving us the Fiori bundle.

SAP Fiori is a suite of applications with a dramatically improved User Experience, built using simple, industry standard components. By using HTML5 and the SAP NetWeaver Gateway, customers are able implement Fiori without a significant change in a typical mobile or web UX strategy. This means mobile extensions to business processes can be implemented more quickly.

To borrow a phrase, SAP is ‘an old dog, learning new tricks’ when it comes to design, and Fiori is just the beginning. Fiori was developed with the input of over 200 SAP customers. The initial collection has twenty-five apps, accessible via both the web and via a mobile device. Without any change to the SAP back-end or business processes, they enable any SAP user to make or approve travel requests, process customer invoices, check benefits status and much more. All of the proven SAP back-end functionality is now behind a sleek and easy interface, making the execution of these business processes quick and intuitive.

The attractive, easy-to-use interface for common actions extends SAP functionality to a broader group (namely those with less frequent interaction with SAP), and drives additional value from the SAP system. This outlet for self-service--which is more appealing to employees and customers by a 2:1 ratio--is nothing less than a reinvigoration of how employees can interact with SAP.

There is a growing movement to make Enterprise Solutions more intuitive and obvious, which is being driven by the revolution in consumer mobile applications; the need for training should be limited to the extreme (see James Riley’s blog, No Instruction Manual Required). Fiori goes a long way toward making SAP easy to use, and therefore more cost effective, for everyone. With Fiori, mobile applications are now effective assets that drive additional value.

Well done, SAP.

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