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Business Solutions with SAP

The SAP User Experience

April 9th, 2012 by

SAP User Experience

SAP User Experience

Over a decade ago SAP embarked on a journey to revamp their outdated user interface.  Enter “nJoy” SAP with all of the new “N” transactions.  But it has been over a decade now and other than some nice refinements to the GUI not much has changed.  A decade in the technology space is like a century in other areas.  Isn’t it time to take a hard look at the application suite again?

So you have the cute “Netweaver Business Client” but there hasn’t been a lot done to change the user experience for SAP applications.

Features, Functionality, Usability, and Performance Directly Translate Into User Experience

SAP Features, Functionality, and German Engineering

Let’s look at SAP’s years of leadership in the features and functionality area of Enterprise applications:

  • No matter what any other enterprise software vendor claims they can not come close to the depth of enterprise application experience SAP has.  A recent SAP fact sheet claims more than 183,000 customers in more than 130 countries (retrieved 4/8/2012).
  • SAP supports at least 22 major industry vertical solutions [FN1] covering such diverse areas as Automotive, Banking, Chemicals, Governement (Public Sector), High Tech, Mining, Pharmaceutical, Retail, etc.  Each of these areas has its own specialized process nuances and the application additions require specialized support.

The SAP application suite is massive as well.  If you’ve ever looked at an SAP price list you’ve probably been thoroughly confused and overwhelmed.  The SAP enterprise application footprint is gigantic.  SAP R&D spend for 2011 was about 13.5% of gross revenue (or about 1.9B Euros) and with a few exceptions SAP R&D spend is generally in the double-digit area of gross revenue.  Think about that, 1.9B Euros in R&D spend is more than the gross revenue of most of their competitors enterprise application sales.

Consider the depth and breadth of application functionality in the context of the various solution options available (see Footnote 2 below for a SMALL sample from ONE Application Component area) [FN2].  If you’ve ever had to deal with an SAP price-list trying to develop enterprise solution architecture, or license requirements, you may quickly become overwhelmed by the massive feature and functionality landscape. 

SAP Performance Options

Many of SAP’s products are hardware and database agnostic.  I don’t mean that it will run on any hardware, or any database, but it will run on most major platforms.  Because of the way the applications are structured they will also run in what SAP callls “2 tier” or “3 tier” landscapes.  This means the applications are scalable, in both size and performance, to whatever level of hardware investment you decide.

With the introduction of SAP’s HANA in memory computing solution(s), performance within the application is changing by orders of magnitude.  Massive amounts of data and programs are now loaded into, and then read from memory rather than from hard drives.

Whether you want to scale up or use HANA system performance should never be an issue.

Usability, Usability on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Now we get to the heart of the matter.  As demonstrated SAP is a GREAT engineering company with huge R&D spend, a comprehensive industry solution portfolio, and a mountain of enterprise application options.  They’re German, what did you expect? Scalability and performance are not issues so the only area left is usability.

The “nJoy” program is about a decade and a half old.  In technology terms that is like the difference between the Stone Age and the industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately on the user experience curve they are in the IT Stone Age.  While there are great functionality enhancements coming out in the various enhancement packs at the same time the ability to use the application suffers.  Each major version of the SAP GUI offers a more pleasing screen, but it is still the same underlying data entry requirement–, the same fields, the same tabs, the same screens, the same old everything with a little bit of “lipstick” added.  But it is still the same fat, bloated, over-engineered user experience. 

SAP User Experience Customizing Pain

Please, don’t tell me about GUI XT or any of the other “customizing” options for screen layouts.  The starting point stinks and then you expect a customer to pay (consulting time, employee time, system integrator time, etc.) to enhance or modify the screens.  The SAP enhancement or modification option is not simple either — a simple screen enhancement is a significant engineering undertaking.  Unlike several modern “drag and drop” applications SAP requires development work to add new fields, change field labels, populate data in those fields during transaction run time, screen development is needed to “build” a new screen layout, and then you have to reassign a new “Z” transaction with copies of the modified underlying programs, adjust security, etc.  It takes a major engineering effort to make SMALL changes to the user experience.  SAP you have GOT to change this!  Your customers should be able to focus on the user interface without having to worry about all of the underlying engineering.

A Model for the SAP User Experience

Recently I offered The PERFECT SAP Acquisition Target in a CRM application called “SugarCRM.” As an SAP consultant who wants to see SAP continue to do well there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from them.  They are a cloud vendor who has set their target on Salesforce.com.  They provide a great navigation and ease of use experience.  And best of all, you can alter field labels, hide fields, add custom fields, completely change the layout of screens, and a whole host of other things without having to do any coding at all. Even if this isn’t an acquisition possibility for SAP it might help some of those German engineers in the SAP CRM space to download the opensource version and explore it.  Maybe they will learn a little something from a scrappy upstart who recently received $46 million in venture capital.  And this was from several VC organizations so a number of investors are betting millions on SugarCRM’s marketplace viability–, even in a marketplace saturated by salesforce.com and Microsoft.

Apple has Proven that User Experience Can MAKE the Market by Addressing Customer Pain Points

It’s been a long time SAP since you have seriously considered a remake of the user experience.  Since then Apple has proven that addressing customer “pain points” is a market winner. It’s about time to take another hard look at the user interface and user interactions because SAP “usability” has always been a customer pain point.  The “nJoy” program is about a decade and a half old.  In technology terms that is like the difference between the Stone Age and the industrial Revolution.  Don’t you think it’s time to get really serious about the user experience paradigm?

==============

[FN1] Retrieved 4/8/2012 from http://help.sap.com/industries.  Along with this there are “sub” solutions within several of the industries and across industries.

[FN2]

SAP Application Components

like SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure, SAP BOBJ Spend Performance Mgmt, SAP CRM, SAP ERP, SAP SCM, SAP SNC, SAP SRM, …

SAP Best Practices

SAP Best Practices packages are available in different country versions for various industries

SAP BusinessObjects portfolio

like Address Directories & Reference Data, Crystal Reports Viewer, SBOP Data Federator, SBOP Enterprise, SBOP Extended Analytics, SBOP Text Analysis, …

SAP Business One

like SAP Business One 8.8, SAP Business One 2007, Crystal Reports for B1, Remote Support Platform for B1, …

SAP Connectors

like Business Connector, …

SAP Content

like BI CONT, SAP Business ByDesign CONTENT, …

SAP Cryptographic Software

like SAP Cryptographic Library, …

SAP Development Projects

like customer-specific development projects software, …

SAP Education Products

like Acrobat Con Learning by Adobe, Knowledge Acceleration, RWD Info Pak Suite, SAP Productivity Pak by RWD, SAP UEM by KNOA, Training Content for SAP KW, …

SAP Frontend Components

like NetWeaver Business Client, SAP GUI for Windows, SAP GUI for JAVA, SAP ITS, SAP IGS, …

SAP In-Memory (SAP HANA)

like SAP HANA Enterprise Edition, SAP HANA Enterprise Ext. Edit., SAP HANA Platform Edition

SAP Mobile Solutions

like MOB ACCAPROVER INT, MOB HR APPROVAL INT, MOB MGR INSIGHT IPD, …

SAP NetWeaver and complementary products

like SAP NetWeaver, SAP NetWeaver CE, SAP NetWeaver Mobile, SAP NW Identity Management, SAP MDM, SAP Content Server, …

SAP On-Demand Solutions

like SAP Sales OD Integration

SAP Rapid Deployment solutions

like SAP Business Communication Management rapid-deployment solution, SAP CRM rapid-deployment solution for Sales, Marketing, and Service, SAP IT Service Desk Operation rapid-deployment solution, …

SAP Solution Extensions by Partners

like BOBJ XBRL Publishing UBMatrix, SAP CPS Full (Scheduler), SAP Ext. Diagn. by CA Wily, SAP IncentivePayback by Vistex, SAP Quality Center by HP, …

SAP Solutions for Governance, Risk, and Compliance

like SAP Global Trade Services, SAP GRC Access Control, SAP Process Control, SAP Risk Management, SAP Nota Fiscal Electronica, …

SAP Technology Components

like LV for Solution Manager, Remote Support Component, SAP Landscape Transformation, SAP Solution Manager, SAP Support Enablement Package, SAP TAO, …

Adapters

like Informatica, IWay, Seeburger, for SAP NetWeaver 04 (EP Edition), for SAP XI 2.0, …

Composite Applications

like Industry Composites Applications (SAP COMP App for BOP, for E-Tax) SAP DOCB, SAP CQM, SAP XIEP, SAP XLPO, SAP SOP, …

Country-specific Add-Ons

like HR-CIS, SAP Core CEE, SAP E-Recruiting – LOCFR, SAP HR-CEE, SAP IS-U/LOCIN, SAP IS-UT CEE, SAP Real Estate CEE, …

Fuzzy! Products

like Fuzzy! Analyzer, Fuzzy! Bank, Fuzzy!Boykottcheck, Fuzzy! Double, Fuzzy! Post, Fuzzy! Umzug, …

Industry-specific Components

like Banking Services from SAP, SAP Bank Analyzer, SAP CFM, SAP Deposits Management, SAP Discrete Industries, SAP Insurance, SAP IS-U, SAP Mill Products, SAP Oil & Gas, SAP Patient Management, SAP Retail, SAP Trade Industry Demand Mgmt, …

Miscellaneous Components

like AppServer LINUXx86 64 on 6.40, Convergence Tool, SAP Kernel, …

Plug-Ins

like SAP Plug-In, SAP Enterprise Portal Plug-In, SAP Solution Tools, …

Supplementary Components for Cross Industry Solutions

like Project Management, Life-Cycle Data Management (SAP PLM Integrations), SAP Railcar Management, SAP Test Data Migration Server, SAP Visual Basis, …

Sybase Products

like AFARIA, Sybase Mobile Sales, Sybase Mobile Workflow, Sybase Unwired Platform, …




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Will Next Generation IT Finally Transform Business

April 18th, 2011 by

Technology Enabled Business TransformationNew IT Value Propositions – Moving from Operations to Customers and Innovation

Throughout everything I do as a consultant I try to categorize my activities into the three key value proposition areas of business–, operations, customers, or innovation.  Even though I have been working primarily in the supply chain areas of SAP since 1994 (SD – Sales and Distribution, MM – Materials Management, and PP – Production Planning) I have been focusing more and more on the key value areas of customers and innovation.  The big driver for my focus on customers and innovation is because that is where business is done.

By focusing only on processes, operations, and cost reductions business and IT efforts result in mass commoditization.

Certainly every company must contain, control, and reduce costs to stay competitive in the marketplace.  More and more however the companies who are able to ensure long term success are those with a more balanced focus on retaining and acquiring customers while innovating new products or services.

Where IT has been and Where IT is Going

The last 30+ years the business and technology “revolution” has focused on operations and done little to directly address the customer or innovation.  It is almost as if technology organizations only understand Henry Ford’s assembly line mentality with business processes.  The operations focus can be seen in ERP applications (like SAP), EDI or interfaces, machine logic controllers, wired and then wireless data transfer, the Internet, or any other number of technological advances.

Today’s leading companies are integrating their IT operations into the fabric of the business.  Today’s leading companies are focused on innovation and customers.

Today, innovation is about much more than new products. It is about reinventing business processes and building entirely new markets that meet untapped customer needs. Most important, as the Internet and globalization widen the pool of new ideas, it’s about selecting and executing the right ideas and bringing them to market in record time.

In the 1990s, innovation was about technology and control of quality and cost. Today, it’s about taking corporate organizations built for efficiency and rewiring them for creativity and growth. [FN1 – excerpted from “The World’s Most Innovative Companies,” see the footnote link below.]

In announcing the recent list of innovative companies, MIT noted these companies are “setting the agenda in an increasingly important market, on the verge of disrupting an established market, or creating an entirely new market.” (BostInnovation Feb 22, 2011 citing an MIT study of innovative companies).

The Operations IT Focus Has Turned All Products Into Commodities

This better, faster, cheaper automation paradigm has worked well when processes were mostly manual and labor intensive.  As more and more processes have been automated and streamlined further technological advances provide less and less return at higher costs.  Along with that, the cost-cutting chase, and the speed of automation and process improvement has dramatically accelerated the rate of commoditization of products and services.

As just one example of how dramatic this transformation is, I personally own an iPhone.  On that iPhone I have a free application that: a) uses the phone camera to capture and process product bar codes, and then b) goes online to immediately price-compare that product to local and online sources.  My wife loves it.  She can be out shopping and do real-time price comparisons.  What does this mean? 

Every major product seller is now a commodity outlet.  Every product can be comparison shopped in real time making it a commodity also.

As a product supplier, your customer does not have the option of you re-numbering, or using a different SKU.  Why?  Because the very same ability to search for the lowest price is the same tool that finds your product to begin with.  Changing the SKU would be more counterproductive to sales than engaging in the commodity-based price wars.

The future of technology and business integration provides the two areas of business most neglected by IT or ERP or technology to focus on–, innovation and direct customer interaction.  While I personally believe we are in the early “Wild West” era of social media tools, their hype and popularity is proof enough that the marketplace as a whole recognizes a gap in customer interaction that must be filled.  The real question is what will tomorrow’s successful social media business models look like after all of the hype and snake oil sales are finished.

Next Generation Enterprises – Will They Transform Business?

Already we are beginning to see seeds of transformation being sown.  All around the globe companies are beginning to focus more directly on innovation and customer focus through technology integration.

The hype around social media and Web 2.0 is beginning to give way to a few practical applications.  The same can be said for “cloud” computing even though it is still heavily immersed in the “hype” phase.

These are all IT solutions.

What about business integration?

What are the details of how technology and social media will bring about a revolution in customer focus and innovation?

——————————-

[FN1]  The World’s Most Innovative Companies (Bloomberg)
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_17/b3981401.htm




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Where do you Start with SAP Return on Investment or SAP ROI?

July 19th, 2010 by

SAP Return on Investment or ROI

See PART 1SAP Implementation is an Investment NOT an Event

How much is it going to cost and how long is it going to take?  That is the classic approach to SAP implementations.  Today it’s not enough and the marketplace is demanding more from their IT dollars.  Now there are questions about measuring cost reductions, process improvements, as well as customer retention and customer acquisition. These are all important discussions.

Your money has to work for you in your business and it should work for you in your SAP investment as well.

If you’re looking to buy a new stock, or mutual fund, or some other investment you do your homework.  If you’re looking at a capital purchase in your business you want to understand the justification and the payback so you build a business case.  If you’re looking to implement SAP then define the business reasons for the implementation and do your homework! 

Take the time and do some research to understand how to avoid many of the sales scams, pitfalls, and ridiculous system integrator tactics.

SAP Cost Based Indicators, Total Cost of Ownership, and Return on Investment

Lagging Indicators and SAP Supported Process Cost Reduction

Using the stock investment analogy, the cost-based ROI component can be seen as the dividends paid by a stock–, generally known, stable, reliable payback, quantifiable and tangible.   In an SAP implementation the “dividends” would represent lagging indicators of performance.  There is a fairly reliable history to consider for the dividend payout. You have a pretty good idea of a number of your costs (or can find out what they are), such as:

  • current legacy systems cost,
  • you know what your man hours are (staffing, personnel, benefits, overhead, etc., etc., etc.),
  • process cycle times,
  • per transaction costs for things like purchase orders, sales orders, production orders, etc.,
  • competitor transaction cost benchmarks,
  • current application license and maintenance costs,
  • etc., etc., etc.

These are all lagging indicators and they are all cost based, cost improvement focused portions of an SAP implementation.

Same Old, Same Old, Everyone at Least Pays Lip Service to Cost Based Process Measures

EVERYONE tries to do this to some extent.  It is not always structured, clearly defined, and then measured after the system is live, but there is a general expectation of improvement.  Even for those companies who buy into this paradigm during the sales process but never see it realized, it is still part of the system integrator pitch.  You are always promised “improvements” by the system integrators.  You always expect processes to speed up and process costs to go down.

The process improvement, automation, and cost reduction approach is no different than everyone in the marketplace who does SAP or some other ERP application–, it is the old “operational excellence” model of business.  It does little or nothing to address the key components that grow business or improve revenue.  And after an initial cost reduction boost it does little to increase profits.  

Leading Indicators, SAP Value Proposition and SAP Value Realization

Unless you are in a commodity market, or have clearly “broken” or significantly inefficient processes, the cost reduction or operational excellence approach to ERP should not be your only focus.  Considering your SAP implementation as an investment for ROI purposes you would understand that this is the first step in a long term system investment program.  After you get the system in, you should press your IT organization to move from an operational excellence paradigm into how to use the system to support corporate innovation and sales growth.

If you want value realization from your SAP or other business application implementation it takes a more rounded and tangible business centered approach or, a real SAP value proposition.  Using the stock analogy, the value realization comes from stock appreciation together WITH the cost saving dividends that are paid.  In your SAP implementation both lagging and leading indicators are used to finally realize value.

This new investment paradigm must focus a significant amount of attention on the end state after the business has started operating in the new SAP world.  And that “end state” focus on value realization from your SAP implementation should begin  before you write your RFP.  This entire site is dedicated to help you transfer critical knowledge needed for success from SAP value proposition all the way through value realization.

Marketplace Winners and Losers in SAP and ERP Investment

Innovation is one of the key and critical value proposition areas that separates winners from losers in the marketplace.  And even though your initial implementation may only consider the initial operational excellence areas that is just the beginning of the journey.

Does your system integrator have any ideas or methods for improving engineering, design, and delivery collaboration efforts?  Maybe you are not there yet, and that is fine, but it must be considered as part of your initial assessment of the path you are on with SAP.

Ask your system integrators how to use your SAP implementation to improve concept to market cycle times and for other innovation methods that will impact your marketplace.  Drill into the details, don’t accept “sales fluff,” ask for specifics and don’t settle for less. 

SAP Implementation Measurement of Return on Investment

To this day I am still surprised by how few companies define success criteria for their SAP implementations.  Fewer still do the up front due diligence to determine where they will have business benefit in terms of cost based lagging indicators:

  • process improvements,
  • cost reductions,
  • automation,
  • reduced transaction processing costs,
  • reduced licensing for legacy systems,
  • reduced system maintenance for legacy systems,
  • improved cycle times,
  • etc.

Even if there is some consideration of these categories or classes of cost savings, few companies quantify them and try to understand current costs and how they might be improved BEFORE bringing in a system integrator. 

During the selection process few companies ask the tough questions and demand the details of their integrators to validate their saving assumptions, and then even fewer hold the integrator accountable for them.  Few businesses attempt to tie incentives, compensation, or other means of achieving these results to their system integrator contracts. 

Talk about caveat emptor, or buyer beware!

Some companies consider legacy systems, and the cost savings for eliminating them, but beyond that there is not a lot of due diligence done to support long term cost reductions.  Key details are generally lacking.

Few companies, and fewer system integrators ever consider leading indicators of business performance such as:

Customer retention

  • service processing
    • reducing overall service requests / requirements,
  • repair and response turnaround times,
  • first time fixes,
  • solution databases,
  • interactive response forums,
  • etc., etc., etc. (come on, you didn’t expect me to tell you ALL the secrets of an ERP customer retention program did you?)

Customer acquisition

  • target markets
    • by geography,
    • product line,
    • customer strata,
    • customer segment,
  • promotion options
    • special product mixes,
    • offers,
    • promotion execution,
    • promotion cost tracking,
    • buy “x” get “y” at a discount or free,
    • buy “xyz” product mix and get “abc” mix at discount or free or both,
    • etc., etc., etc. (again, feel free to contact me if your system integrator has NO IDEA how to do all of this in the BASE SAP ERP system ;)  It is possible!)
  • Customer analysis
    • stratification,
    • buying analysis,
    • product mix / popular combinations,
    • promotion integration,
    • segmentation
      • by region,
      • dollar value,
      • product mix,
      • product line,
      • customer group or product line profitability
    • overall profitability,
    • etc., etc., etc.  (again, feel free to contact me if your system integrator has NO IDEA how to do all of this is the BASE SAP ERP system ;)  It is possible!)
  • And MANY more options…

Why is this lacking?  Because you, as the customer, do not demand it of the system integrators.  As a result the system integrator develops technicians.  And the cheaper they can develop those “technicians” rather than experts the greater their margins are. 

System integrators generally have little interest in promoting the idea that you should actually see a genuinely measurable business improvement.  If they did, those system integrators would be forced to bring in more competent, more highly skilled, and more seasoned veterans who understand business as well as the technology.  See for example, CRM, ERP, BI, and IT Investment — Where Do You Find the Business Benefit?  Using mostly a CRM example for illustration, that post helps you gain some insight on the types of consultants and insight you need for business success.

Short Term (operational excellence), Mid-Term (innovation), Long-Term (customer focus)

Relying on the investment analogy, your SAP portfolio should include several items or components of the application to implement.  And just like stock market investments, there must be some short-term, mid-term, long term, and business hedges built into a healthy implementation. 

Some items, such as “Wave II” or add-on functionality may be planned for at a later date but should be considered from the beginning.

For a long term successful SAP implementation it must become part of a business program, not just a system installation.

What does this mean?  This means that your thinking about SAP and its role in your enterprise must change.  As I’ve written before, Change How You Look at SAP to Create ROI.  SAP must be seen as a tool that enables the enterprise to change, to grow, and to spot opportunities and execute on those opportunities sooner than your competitors.  To do so requires a change in culture and thinking that companies often struggle with, however, SAP can enable these changes when SAP is seen as a business investment requiring regular adjustment, focus, balancing and change.  Just like your stock portfolio.

Use a Business Focused SAP Implementation for Business Transformation

If you want to see true competitive advantage it will take adding a real business imprint, real business insight, and key success metrics to create a long term business program.  That long-term business program is business transformation with SAP enabling the enterprise to be more competitive, more agile, and more robust.

At the the end of the day if you do not define what you want from SAP to consider it a SUCCESS, and if you do not have a focus on business drivers you will NEVER see the success you want from your implementation.  Worse still, if you don’t focus on these items from the beginning you will not have a good baseline to evaluate your system integrator or SAP implementation partner in the early RFI or RFP project stages.  Without that critical evaluation you may end up sinking your budgets in a “money pit” where you will NEVER see a return on investment.  Worse still, without these critical measures you may end up having a long term negative return that is dangerous for your long term prospects.  And it is NOT a shortcoming of the software!




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