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Over a decade ago SAP embarked on a journey to revamp their outdated user interface.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  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 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  Along with this there are “sub” solutions within several of the industries and across industries.


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


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, …


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, …


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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The PERFECT SAP Acquisition Target

March 5th, 2012 by
SAP SugarCRM Acquisition

SAP SugarCRM Acquisition

Recently SAP acquired Success Factors to supplement their SAP HR with talent acquisition as well as make a serious play in the cloud computing space.  And although the leaders in Waldorf generally tend to rely heavily on organic development and growth there are times when acquisitions obviously make sense.  I believe I have the perfect acquisition for them to consider!  That acquisition would be a scrappy CRM outfit that has been going directly after Sales Force and having a lot of success.  Enter, SugarCRM.  Frankly it makes perfect sense.

The Sugar application has been directly competing with Sales Force for quite a while.  They have a great pricing model and a fair amount of saturation in the Small and Medium Enterprise area.  Add to that the fact that the application is also based on PHP rather than Java and you are slowly steering away from Oracle too. 

The SugarCRM offering is a bit more polished than what I have seen from SAP’s CRM application.  Waldorf, I make a pretty good living working with SAP products but let me tell you, your CRM application really stinks!  No wonder so many companies are trying to migrate to Sales Force.  It is not easy to use, it is not as feature rich, many of the CRM “consultants” are blatant frauds (though not all), and few know how to leverage it for any real competitive advantage. [FN1]

Load in the fact that those customers who do not like SAP’s CRM application and choose something like Sales Force end up having to pay additional, incremental licensing cost for using a third party application and you have a recipe for some very upset customers.

The PERFECT SAP CRM Acquisition Target

Now SAP, come on here, do some homework.  I am telling you now, SugarCRM is the PERFECT acquisition target for you!  They have a tremendous cloud offering that is very stable and mature.  They have a lot of polish and ease of use.  There is a HUGE and vibrant developer community who supports the open source version of the application.  There is a fairly decent ecosystem of third party add-ons to extend the functionality far, far beyond ANYTHING Sales Force might even dream of offering.

Even if you didn’t want to integrate it with the big boy SAP ERP (ECC) suite, it would still be a perfect compliment to your entry level ERP application for small businesses.

Anyway, I could go on here, but you get the idea.  And SAP, NOW is the time to buy the company while it can be had for a reasonably inexpensive price.  You have a very, VERY short window of opportunity on this one.  Recently they received $46 million in VC funding.  Right now is the time to pick this one up.  If that doesn’t work, then buy in as a VC investor and partner as well.  Begin the transition away from the Java stack.  There are lots of great PHP developers out there and SAP supports PHP integration.  In fact, one company in Germany who is both a SugarCRM partner and an SAP Partner has already developed the SugarCRM integration! [FN2]

What are you waiting for!  This company IS the thorn in Sales Forces side.  Buy the company!  Put your marketing, development, and sales muscle behind it!  Get a well developed cloud solution that can be integrated with your own applications without much trouble.  And let’s be honest Waldorf, for the prices you generally end up discounting your CRM licenses for, and for the freebies from the past, the SugarCRM monthly subscription model is a little less than your CRM products but not significantly so.  They already have mobile solutions developed, a fair amount of market penetration and LOTS of opportunity for growth!  And most of all, it is more feature rich than the SAP CRM application and easier to use, develop for, and customize.

Even if you decide to roll it out in the SMB space with the entry level SAP Business All-in-One application you could still develop it as an eventual CRM package to integrate into the ECC suite.


[FN1]  In the spirit of full disclosure I personally use the SugarCRM open source application and I absolutely LOVE IT!  I’ve had the opportunity to extensively use the SAP CRM product and it feels clunky, difficult to navigate, not intuitive, and underwhelming.  On top of that, some of the SAP CRM “consultants” I’ve had to work with indicate such a total lack of any knowledge, of any kind, of SAP processes, or of basic SAP CRM capabilities I am 10,000% certain that the vast majority of them are complete frauds.  Is it any wonder so many customers go to 

[FN2] Although the site is in German they do have a fully integrated bi-directional connector for SAP and SugarCRM.

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Using SAP to Improve Revenue and Profitability

January 17th, 2009 by

SAP ROI - Increasing Revenue and Profitability

For years CIOs have been under pressure to help cut costs, improve operational efficiencies, and automate the enterprise; CIOs implementing SAP have largely been effective at streamlining the back-office. They’ve also succeeded at optimizing the extended supply chain because SAP is well-suited to supporting execution activities, and therefore have been a good fit for reducing costs. However, times are changing.

 To successfully move IT and SAP in the direction of revenue and profitability growth it is important to understand where technology fits into the puzzle–, technology is not magic. When SAP is considered in its proper context as a “change enabler” or “change lever” rather than a “change driver” it is easier to understand how and where it can properly fit into a revenue and profitability context. In other words, technology works best when the rules, metrics, criteria, and the means to acquire, process, or analyze information which supports revenue and profitability are understood and defined. Organizations take on large projects like SAP or any other ERP system to achieve several business benefits, often those might include:

* Revenue growth
* Profit margins
* Customer acquisition and retention
* Sales conversion
* Customer profitability
* Product / product line profitability
* Incentive programs and monitoring
* Market penetration / market share
* Marketing program performance
* “Smart” growth (i.e. “good” customers vs. “bad” customers)
* Time to market

And even though these are the expectations companies have for their ERP or SAP implementation, upgrade, or other applications they rarely achieve these goals because they are looking at the application and technology investment in the wrong way.  They are looking at the technology as if somehow it will cause these things to happen rather than providing the key insights and information that management needs to enable them to happen.  Even though that is not said, when companies invest millions in SAP that is the underlying assumption that somehow the technology will just “cause” revenue and profitability increases.

For example, no amount of technology is going to make your sales people sell more if they are paid on salary, without commissions, and do not have objective sales targets and other performance measures. This comes back to the old adage of “what gets measured gets done” and it is no different with the sales force. However, depending on how you structure your sales and marketing programs SAP contains a number of tools, reports, resources, and other data analysis methods as well as bolt-ons like CRM to facilitate a change in sales and marketing programs and strategies.

In other words ERP, SAP, CRM, APO, BI, and all of the other technology tools must be driven by business needs, and to provide key information relevant to business decisions and processes to ensure success.  And even though that seems self-evident it is still not occurring even to this day at many organizations who implement these technologies.  They often start out with that ideal, however they usually get caught up in the technology and lose sight of the business drivers. 

Since doing SAP project work since 1994 I can only recall a couple of projects where the client spelled out the business drivers, and then communicated and reinforced them to the project team and the larger organization throughout the project.  If the project team performing the implementation does not know the underlying business drivers, or the reasons for the investment, how will they build those expectations into the technology?

What are the CIO and SAP Roles in Revenue and Profitability?

It is healthy that C-Level sponsors are beginning to press IT in the direction of supporting revenue growth and profitability, however, SAP by its nature is part of the execution processing and post-execution analysis process. This is where the expectation of driving revenue and profitability with SAP has to be decoupled from corporate planning and execution. The business side of the equation must be defined first, this supports the business case which in turn drives the technology in the direction of enabling necessary change.

The senior management discussions for the this global ERP system must be focused on what information and processes the organization needs to make the right management decisions, to be more competitive, to focus on the wider marketplace.

In many implementations the reason SAP works to reduce costs is because the reductions are based primarily on improving and integrating operational and accounting execution activities. Using SAP to drive revenue and profitability growth requires building another layer of data collection, data analysis, “tools,” and processes on top of the operational data that is processed. To work correctly this new revenue and sales support layer must be built on well defined sales and marketing programs and strategies that are then converted into processes with clear performance metrics and KPIs. A focus on process improvement, business process automation, efficiency gains, cycle-time reductions, and other business process management related issues is not enough.

Sales and marketing must do their part in integrating their strategies into clearer plans, programs, metrics, KPIs, and other measurable criteria that can then be executed on with IT / SAP supporting these processes. ERP systems like SAP do not exist in a vacuum; they are dependent on data from plans, strategies, and historical analysis based on some concrete or perceived KPIs and business metrics. Until a company’s customer touch points (sales, marketing, customer service, shipping, etc.) are able to provide quantifiable plans, goals, metrics, and KPIs for what is important, it is difficult for SAP initiatives to directly affect revenue and profit.

I’ll bet many C-level executives in SAP shops didn’t know that the ERP application contains standard functionality to integrate sales planning, sales forecasting, marketing expenditures, and product or service execution with financial budgeting and multiple dimensions of profitability. For example, over the years I’ve worked on clients that have used one or more of the following methods from standard or enhanced SAP functionality (and there are many, many more possibilities):

· Points loyalty program (ERP pricing and SIS or CRM)
· Trade Promotions Programs (CRM, bolt-on, or custom ERP app)
· Marketing Effectiveness (CRM, custom reporting, BI/BW)
· e-sales with catalogs and configurable products (R3 Internet Sales or CRM – they use the same backend)
· Sales or Marketing program budgeting (ERP CO and internal orders with SD user exits)
· Sales forecast to actual (ERP Sales and Operations planning, CRM, BI/BW)
· Order templates (Generic quotes as templates, ERP, R3 Internet sales, CRM)
· Potential Planning (customer potential buying and planning against marketing plan – ERP, CRM)
· Ticklers, Marketing, Sales activities and campaigns (limited ERP functionality or with CRM)
· Customer churn (standard ERP functionality, custom report, BI/BW, or CRM)
· Customer $$ sales growth, month over month, year over year (SAP ERP functionality, custom report, BI/BW, or CRM)
· Order frequency trends (standard SAP functionality, custom report, or with CRM)
· Upselling, cross-selling, product allocation, substitutions, free goods (standard SAP ERP functionality).
· Web based reports and mobile device sales support (ERP mobile device functionality or CRM)
· Commissions and incentives (SAP ERP functionality or CRM).

One of the things the companies that have implemented these solutions and others had in common was there were already reasonably well defined sales and marketing processes and programs in place. As a result, the SAP technology was used as a change lever to enhance and improve those existing processes and programs to achieve a measure of revenue growth, profitability, and competitive advantage.

Where to begin with a business and market centered approach to SAP?

  1. Develop your longer term business plans, define marketing and competitive pressures along with current and future value proposition(s).
  2. Define the business strategies to support them.
  3. Determine the goals that support those strategies.
  4. Derive your KPIs for those goals. To be successful these KPIs must include both lagging indicators (financial) and leading indicators (pointing to growth).
  5. From those metrics and KPIs determine which business processes and departments will be affected, sales, customer service, shipping, marketing, etc.
  6. Define the necessary reports that will be needed to report on those goals and KPIs. These reports should use both leading and lagging indicators.
  7. Operationalize the strategy by defining the processes that will support them.
  8. Assign responsibility for the reporting requirements to the proper department heads.
  9. Create an internal progress communication process.
  10. Implement the necessary technology solution(s) to support the new paradigm (SAP BI, SAP CRM, SAP ERP functionality, etc.)

By following these steps you will see business centered results that are enabled or empowered by technology, not the other way around. Below are some examples of key ideas for defining strategy, processes, and technology to help with revenue growth and profitability. While in no way comprehensive the following outline provides some steps to begin on this journey. Some type of plan or steps to produce metrics which can be turned into an IT and CIO supported system strategy for revenue and profitability growth are listed.

1. Senior executive sponsorship is needed to drive integration of sales, marketing, and customer service processes. Many of them can be very difficult to “pin down” on key measures for sales and marketing drivers. Without C-level direction here it will be difficult at best to achieve and impossible at worst.

2. Set clear expectations of cooperation between those processes which “touch” the customer.

3. Determine how baselines and benchmarks for KPIs will be determined. The best baselines, benchmarks, metrics, and KPIs will require interdepartmental support. Some of the KPIs, though not all, should be outside of the silo. For example, some of the KPIs should cross over sales and marketing together. Some should cross over sales and customer service, or shipping, etc. The more the KPIs are structured within a silo the more possibility there is for finger-pointing and deflection. It has to be everyone’s job to promote revenue and profitability.

4. Senior level sales and marketing managers must set specific KPI’s, strategies, and plans around customer “touch points” as they relate to revenue generation and profitability. For example:
  a. What processes or sales functions require your sales force to be in the office rather than in the field? How can these be automated or delivered remotely?
     i. Web based?
     ii. Hand held?
     iii. E-delivery through automated e-mail notices or text messages?
  b. What are important new markets and how do you conduct pilots or rollouts to new markets?
     i. Do you have preferred customers as partners who would be willing to cooperate and “pilot” new product or market rollouts?
  c. What about new products?
     i. Do you know what your concept to engineering to market to customer cycle times are?
     ii. Where are the bottlenecks in each of these sub-processes?
     iii. How can they be streamlined?

5. How will you measure customer retention, customer loyalty, and most of all, conversion of retained or loyal customers to actual sales? (after all, what difference does it make if you have retained and loyal customers if they don’t buy more of your products, or pay for premium services or products?)
  a. Do you have (or need) some type of metrics around defining “good” customers (high revenue or sales compared to the cost of doing business) vs. “bad” customers (low revenue or sales compared to the cost of doing business).
  b. How do you measure customer “churn” or attrition of “good” customers?
  c. How do you measure sales growth into the existing customer base?
     i. How do you segment or stratify that data, by product line, by geography, or by customer sales volume?
  d. How do you target new customer acquisition?
     i. In spite of what some salesmen may say, companies do not sell “everything” to “everyone,” so what are your target markets?
     ii. What are your key criteria to focus your sales efforts on your target markets?
     iii. Where are your “invest” opportunities for sales growth and how do you measure the effectiveness of that investment?
     iv. How do you integrate marketing, sales, and customer service into customer acquisition?

6. Define processes and reporting points for each of the key customer “touch” points, whether it is sales, marketing, service and support, or new product / new market entry.

7. What is your strategy for getting company knowledge about products or services closer to the customer?
  a. Are you tracking service or repair trends?
     i. Do you have standard defect codes or service delivery categories?
     ii. Do you have a solution database?
  b. How is engineering, R&D, or new product development integrated into the sales, marketing, and support feedback cycle?

8. What tools do you need to capture customer intelligence based on contacts, visits, and other information traditionally maintained in CRM systems?

9. What external data sources and information do you need for customer acquisition?

These and many, many more questions must be answered within your sales, marketing, and customer service organizations to drive strategies, plans, programs, and ERP investment opportunities for increasing revenue and profitability.

Once you define your revenue and growth plans and strategies, determine the key metric for how performance will be measured by developing a set of KPIs. From this set of KPIs, and from the plans and strategies that are developed, take the time to prioritize them based on a simple cost / benefit analysis. What costs the least (in terms of time, cash, resources, etc.) and has the biggest payback? Depending on your business, you may weight some of the cost factors differently, but try to keep the priority process as objective and clear as possible by creating some type of scoring protocol. Using some type of objective method to prioritize will help to keep the politics, personalities, and emotion out of the process. The approach may not produce a perfect result, but it will be focused on results rather than personalities.


Please see the article on Screening Methods to Find the Right SAP Consultant. This type of process analysis, business strategy, and help with development of the best possible plans for implementing your SAP solution is exactly why SAP consultants with real experience are necessary.

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