Going Mobile with SAP and the iPad
November 14, 2011
There is no doubt that mobile devices have changed the way that we communicate – and the way that we live. However, though heavily used in business for email, for phone calls, even for remote meeting access – there is one primary reason that mobile devices are still unable to make users truly mobile. They continue to need access to their office (or at least to their corporate hardware). The reason: enterprise applications are not truly mobile.
Certainly, many providers are on the move to providing full access – like SAP – but until the providers of all of your enterprise applications provide usable, accessible solutions, you will always be tied to your desk. So when we had an opportunity to create that solution for someone – we jumped at the chance.
It all started with an iPad, a current SAP customer, and our Excellis team working with a focus on three key themes in order to get it right.
The User Experience drives everything that we develop at Excellis – so as we worked to identify how the user would interact with the iPad, UX had to influence every step. What we came out with was an interface and flow driven by the users (not the process) and how they actually think. Also, since we were working with a mobile device, some key differences influenced the outcome, including:
- The users will touch – not click – so buttons had to be usable
- This is not a Website – so every pixel needs to serve a purpose
- Elements must be aligned to provide the quickest access to highly-used activity
This is the reason that separating User Experience Design from Application Development (and vice versa) becomes a gamble. Since our Excellis team includes professionals in both arenas, we are able to mutually inform the entire process – and come out with a design that was indestructible.
We prioritized based on the tasks that would provide the most impact to the user and the business – in order to drive actual portability. [It doesn’t make sense to create a mobile application that everyone uses only to dump a bunch of data into IT’s lap.]
Of course, an application can be really easy to use, but if it’s not useful, there’s no reason to use it. So, while we had to make it usable to the end user, we had to also make it usable for IT.
In essence, we had to ensure that data would both pull from and push directly to SAP. More importantly, though, it had to be the right data – so we worked directly with the business stakeholders to prioritize the most impactful areas for them (instead of just tackling the ones that we thought would be most impactful). We had to learn their business – and prioritized primary user flows that would ease the day-to-day workload of the users as well as streamline the movement of data between the user and the SAP application.
Order management happened to be the most important areas in this case, so our user flows capitalized on the activities that were highest priority for user needs and business impact.
Access to Real-Time Information
The application wouldn’t be completely useful, however, unless the users had true, deep access to information. Of course, that information also had to be current.
So we worked through more than just viewing and entering data – we developed inventory control, order management, and analytical tools in order to ease not just the transactional side, but the administrative side, too.
We knew that we had to go deeper than impacting their business process. So, as we worked through the wireframes and use cases – we included features that gave insight into other areas, like calendars (for appointments – so the user never has to call back to the office) or inventory insight (so the user doesn’t have to close the application to search SAP online) in order to ensure that we were creating a truly usable business application – not just a software interface.
Certainly, the way that businesses use SAP and other enterprise systems differs immensely, but that’s why we focus so heavily on User Experience. Without studying those will ultimately use the application, you’ll never get it right.
And we want to get it right.
Like what you see? Let us know in the comments or send us a message. Watch the whole process unfold in the video below.