As more and more organisations explore SAP® Fiori as part of their UX strategy and start learning about the latest UX tools from SAP, we are beginning to see patterns emerging: a common journey of investigation.
There is growing interest, and even excitement, about SAP Fiori, as this represents an opportunity to begin wholesale replacement of SAPGUI, the 25-year-old technology used by most SAP users.
The journey begins with the SAP Library apps: A growing library of ready-to-use Fiori apps that can be deployed on premise or in the cloud. At the time of writing there are hundreds; almost 1,000 off-the-shelf library apps representing a new standard SAP user interface.
Using the on-line explorer, organisations can search for library apps based on application or role, view screenshots and find out any pre-requisites. They quickly find that there are many! Taking ERP as an example, the number of apps which require the latest version of Business Suite and a recent enhancement pack is significant, as is the number of apps requiring a HANA database: To the average cynic it would appear that SAP is driving HANA sales through the provision of free Fiori apps.
The SAP drive for simplification means that the library apps are much easier to use that their equivalent SAPGUI transactions. However of course this means that they are typically less powerful and flexible than the SAPGUI transaction: It is likely, therefore, that organisations moving to Fiori may find key fields missing from the Fiori app that they rely upon. Library apps are never going to be a 100% fit for most companies.
Organisations wishing to use the vanilla apps may need to change their business process, and of course it sounds like a dumb idea to design the process around the app: Clearly the app should be designed around the business process instead.
So library apps provide a great introduction to Fiori, but most commonly represent the ‘starting line’ rather than a realistic working solution.
The great news about library apps is that they can be ‘extended’; there are delivered ‘extension points’ with which the apps can be tailored to suit particular business requirements. This means that fields can be added (or, potentially, removed) in order for the app to better match the need. Typically, the apps call SAP BAPIs through Gateway Services, so the change should be relatively straightforward if the required field is available in the BAPI.
However, there are still limitations in fit, particularly when the required data fields are not available out-of-the-box, and the level of development required to extend the app may get painful. So extending the library apps may not be the best approach.
Moreover, having established that best practice is to design an app around a business process, it seems like a backward step to be constrained by a BAPI: This approach merely replaces a SAPGUI transaction with no consideration for the wider business process. There is more value in Fiori when the apps form part of optimised business process steps, rather than when they are like-for-like replacements with SAPGUI transactions.
Consider a master data process, or a new joiner process, a purchasing process or a service management process. These multi-step, collaborative business processes involve multiple touch-points, notifications and updates. Modelling the Fiori app on a SAPGUI transaction code designed over 25 years ago isn’t necessarily going to provide the best solution for current and future needs.
Inevitably, organisations will come to the realisation that it is necessary to build custom apps to exploit Fiori: The question is not whether organisations come to this realisation, but how quickly. This ensures a much better business fit, and can be designed around new business processes.
This is completely normal, and the SAP Web IDE is delivered with templates for building custom Fiori apps.
Also inevitably, in order to deliver that better business fit, the custom apps are more likely to be relatively complicated: Despite the drive for simplification, we can expect real business requirements to remain stubbornly complex.
In practical terms, this means that each app will consist of 3 parts:
• User experience (Web IDE app)
• App communications (Gateway services)
• Process infrastructure (back-end workflow and ABAP business logic)
The complexity of the requirement drives up the number and the complexity of the Gateway services.
What this means is that the cost/benefit of custom Fiori apps is not sufficient to support a business case for many normal business processes.
The need arises for solutions to accelerate delivery of custom Fiori apps. Solutions are emerging to tackle this need such as Splash, which focusses on the UX design, and Stelo, which focusses on process integration.
Splash enables designers to mock-up app prototypes, working with business users, in order to accelerate the blueprinting process. The resulting prototype can be used to generate a basic app, ready to be integrated into a business process.
Stelo is a Fiori app generator which automatically generates the app in Web IDE based on back-end definitions. Stelo apps include:
i) Business services for data derivation, validation, searches etc. through simple ABAP user exits.
ii) Automatic communication through pre-delivered Gateway services, such that apps can be built without any Gateway service development.
iii) Process integration, such as workflows, notifications and SAP updates, handled via a mix of IMG configuration and ABAP user-exit, to support the simplest or most complex requirement.
Stelo enables organisations to marry the simplicity of the Fiori UX with the complexity of real-life business. This results in:
• Huge acceleration in app development time;
• Easier maintenance of custom Fiori apps through standardisation;
• A business case to deliver any Fiori app.
Organisations embarking on their Fiori journey should consider what value they can derive from the library apps, and then look at Stelo for the development of any custom process.
Arch is a market-leading provider of SAP usability software, and has been delivering solutions to enhance the SAP user experience since 1996. It specialises in delivering SAP Fiori solutions to provide customers with the best SAP UX.
Arch guides its customers through the entire Fiori journey, and provides products to enable the delivery and management of first rate Fiori processes and apps.
About The Author
Chris Scott has over 20 years’ consulting experience of SAP solutions, co-founding Arch in 1996. Specialising in SAP usability for over 10 years, he has contributed regularly to SAP Community Network, and presented alongside SAP at SAPPHIRENOW and other events. Follow Chris and Arch on twitter @ArchPulse
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