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Keep UX design top of mind when you move to SAP S/4 HANA

SAP Fiori is incredibly adaptive. Investing in UX early on will save you money in SAP S/4HANA projects.

Jennifer Ståhlberg / September 30, 2020

Digital transformation is all about great user experience. Moreover, investing in UX early on will save you money over the long haul. In spite of this, many companies forget UX design the moment they hit the system implementation phase.

I’ve helped many companies implement SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori. Usability thinking is something that we talk about a lot, but unfortunately its often discarded when projects are implemented. The primary reason for abandoning UX is money.  

Great UX includes all users 

Certain basic principles of user-based design thinking date back several decades. The term Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) was made popular in the early '80s, and Jakob Nielsen wrote his famous 10 principles of usability inspection in the '90s. It is interesting how well these notions fit the design thinking of today. If we take a closer look at SAP Fiori, we can see most of these principles in action. Since this is the case, why do customers decide not to invest in good UX? Despite decades of usability theories, we still have to convince project owners that money spent on UX is money well spent.   

Companies implementing their SAP S/4HANA often fall into two typical categories in terms of UX design and Fiori implementation.  

  1. Some ignore UX design from the very beginning of the project, which leads to poor ad hoc designs. 

  2. Others are over-enthusiastic and insist on designing together with superusers. This may sound great, but it often leads to complex and heavy solutions. 

To make matters worse, both of these approaches cause delays in project schedules and cost more in the long run. 

The simple truth is that solutions are easier to adopt if they provide good User Experience for all user groups, including novices – and SAP is aware of this need for great UX for all.   

Superusers don’t make super UX designers  

As designers typically have the users divided into three different groups (beginners, intermediates, and experts), we can see that SAP ERP has traditionally targeted expert users with its’ GUI. Since each transaction holds tasks for a variety of roles and steps, this can quickly make the interface so complex that using it requires hours of training, repetition, and handling user errors.  

It’s not the best idea to involve superusers in the design phase of a project. It easily leads to a lack of simplicity: design thinking and usability take a much smaller role than they should because superusers already have the necessary semantic and syntactic skills to operate complex systems. Short inputs, clear messages from the system, and a limited amount of choices benefit everyone, including the novice users. This is where SAP Fiori is just the ticket.  

A traditional GUI-transaction with multiple buttons and small icons can be quite intimidating for a new user. SAP Fiori follows a “less is more” approach with its 1-1-3 way of thinking. In it, each screen is designed for one user role, a single task, and a maximum of three levels of navigation to perform the task. Users are shown only the relevant information they need, which reduces their memory load and gives a more appealing look that is easier to adapt. Fiori even gives the user the option of inserting personal default parameters (for example Company Code) to reduce repetitive tasks in their everyday work.  

SAP Fiori is incredibly adaptive 

Obviously, there are no universal solutions that fit all industries like a glove. This is something that SAP has acknowledged from early on. Its solutions have been modifiable and configurable, and with Fiori, this has been honed to the point that there really isn’t anything that you are doing with SAP ERP which you couldn’t do with Fiori. On the contrary, with Fiori, you can do more.   

Fiori is incredibly adaptive. You can use it with pretty much any device, have any 3rd party integrations, and use whatever module or business area you want. From Fiori 3.0 on S/4HANA introduces the user to machine learning, conversational AI, and proactive business situation handling. Making business decisions from these insights just doesn’t get any better.  

So, let’s talk about money 

When it comes to new system implementation, most customers want to see the actual benefits and savings on paper. SAP Fiori delivers various human and monetary benefits, including an increase in productivity (less clicking around and fewer mistakes) and data quality. The simple design saves training costs, decreases user errors, and even cuts change requests. It also provides user satisfaction, customer loyalty, and a strong IT/business relationship.  

If you ask end-users for their opinion, they often state that the old way of doing things is all the UX they need. This is hardly surprising, as new ways of doing things means stepping out of their comfort zones – and although we all know that change is inevitable, it feels scary to many of us.  

No amount of convincing will erase all change resistance. In my mind, the key question is when will we make the change, not will we change. Making the change sooner will increase your overall efficiency faster.  

In order to be attractive even for the novice user, the application should be delightful, simple, coherent, adaptive, and role-based. Investing in these things in the beginning of a project will end up saving you money in the long run. Tasks will be executed faster; there will be less errors, and huge change requests will not be needed. 

There are great possibilities for delivering smooth user experiences in SAP. However, I urge anyone planning their SAP S/4HANA transformation to invest some extra thinking to create a solution that matches the needs of all their end-users. The right time to initiate this is in the design phase of the project. 

You might also be interested in reading "Creating the ideal roadmap for SAP S/4HANA".

Jennifer Ståhlberg
SAP Consultant

Jennifer is an experienced SAP Consultant leading SAP Fiori implementation projects in different areas of industries. Her favourite part in development is the testing phase and hunting for bugs. 

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Jennifer Ståhlberg

SAP Consultant

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