Project “Gateway” – the Rise of UIs

November 9, 2011

After returning from Tech Ed, SAP’s new strategy is firmly cemented in my mind – on device, on demand, on premise. Having done lot’s of UI projects for clients where the user experience has been extremely important to success, on device has special meaning to me. It means designing a user interface that hits the mark with users, is appealing and flexible, and is certainly anything other than out of the box. That’s one of the things I’ve learned over the years in terms of designing great digital User Interfaces for clients – out of the box UIs are becoming more and more unacceptable.

And its no different for SAP. 

Sure, everybody knows the power of the SAP backend, but can the SAP front end, the “true” user experience, match that power? That’s what today’s digital users have come to expect – great UIs. At Excellis, these are the kinds of things flowing through our mind daily, as we look for the best ways to make SAP simple and appealing across many different devices and many different platforms. Its what we do all day, everyday – make SAP look great – and there’s lots of products to pick from – to name a few: Web Dynpro ABAP and Java, NW Portal, CRM Web Shop / ISA, Bobj / Webi, and now Sybase as well. The thing is, all of these UIs are being rolled out to users to access the backend of SAP in some way. We always ask, what if that accessing of backend SAP was easier – so users can have it their way, in terms of utilizing SAP data to do their work?

And then I ran across some information on Project Gateway, and that’s when the juices started flowing.

Here’s what we learned – “Project Gateway enables UI-centric consumption of SAP Business Suite data by popular devices or platforms in an easy and standards-based fashion.”

It’s not that connecting to SAP from these devices and platforms was a foreign concept before – it’s just that now it’s easier. “On device” is really is a microcosm of reality. There are so many devices and platforms today, which equates to all of the UIs being different. Embracing the fact that customizing UIs are what users want, and making it easy to access SAP on top of that, makes touching 1 billion people with SAP a whole lot easier. Project Gateway makes accessing SAP easier than pure web service consumption or with JCA, which was the way to do it in the past.

While the direct benefit of project gateway is open APIs to SAP (with standards), there is more of an indirect underlying message with all of this – UX design. I think now UIs can be designed for SAP projects more from a traditional UX project perspective – around the users and how they work and what they need. Project gateway places prominence on designing truly great UI’s on any device or platform. Because now the focus can be around improving the users experience on their platform of choice, and not on writing tons of custom code to access SAP or change it’s out of the box UIs.

With Project Gateway, we get a chance to see how SAP is recognizing this rise in the prominence of UIs, and how important it is to get the user experience right. I believe Gateway will help SAP keep pace with users’ growing UI expectations in terms of creating UI flexibility and allowing clients to have their own UIs that consume SAP. It’s a win-win situation. SAP back ends will still be utilized, and users will still get the UIs that they want – exactly as they want it, without having to settle for constraints in flexibility or out of the box shortcomings. This ultimately makes the role and craft of UX design much more prominent on SAP projects moving forward. Now, true user centered design can prominently take place on sap based projects where things like wireframes and mockups are no longer dirty words and don’t produce eye rolls. Instead the focus shifts from what can’t we do to what can we do. Users don’t care about why something can’t be done, only that it can be done. They want easy and they want fast.

So with Project Gateway – it looks like SAP has finally realized – that the power of the front end is just as powerful as the back end. Times have changed. Users want more. And now with a focus on the UI, they’re in line to get it.

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