designers with interface on laptop and tablet pc@2x

SAP Usability: Four Ways to Maximize your SAP investment in 2012

December 30, 2011

This year, 2012, is going to be extraordinary.  Why?  We’re all going to lose that weight, eliminate stress, save more, spend more time with loved ones, learn a new language, and maximize the investment the company made in SAP.

What’s that?  The last one wasn’t on your list?  It should be – because you know that the redundant legacy systems and manual approval proceses that suck up headcount aren’t doing any favors for your bottom line.  It seems like an insurmountable task, and some consultants will tell you that it is – yet we’ve done it for others.  You can get there, too – with a focus on the following tenets.  Our expertise as an SAP usability firm wouldn’t hurt, either.

1. Look at New Metrics

The first step is ALWAYS “Build a Plan.”  I assume you already know this – so instead, I encourage you to discover the metrics you may not be studying yet.  The metrics that choke up your margins and discreetly affect your bottom line.  Metrics on usability like the completion rate or task time, among others, should be monitored because failures in these areas lead to the creation of manual processes and the fearful rogue departmental database.  Odds are, if you calculate the time it takes a user to complete a task in a default interface of SAP and multiply that by the number of transactions you complete, your blood pressure will start to boil.  Hold on, though (remember that “eliminate stress” was on your list) – because there is a solution…

2. Change the User Experience

This is the solution to the metrics problem – if you look at the numbers we just discussed, you know that costs will only go up if transaction volume increases, so we must find a way to improve things like completion rate while cutting the task times.  Making SAP usable requires that you create a better User Experience – making the interface clearer, simpler, and more aligned to their process.

Keep in mind that you probably can’t create one experience that helps everyone, either – and that’s where we can help.  Identifying the roles, or personas, of your different user streams allows us to study their behavior and then create targeted and optimized usage scenarios, then apply visuals to scenarios, like in the example below.


SAP Usability - Usable Order PageIn the case of this client, it was necessary to identify the types of users that would be accessing the system and design specifically for them.  Designing the User Experience requires a lot of research and prototyping, which we performed onsite and directly with users themselves so that we could get true data about how they used the previous interface in order to optimize the new one – because your end goal is to eliminate confusion, eliminate obstacles, and eliminate the need for extensive training.  This opens the door for increased volume while minimizing cost (remember the calculations we did before?) through speeding up the process.

3. Eliminate Legacy Processes When Possible

The User Experience isn’t limited to making SAP usable from the front end – we have to consider the entire experience for a user in order to make them more efficient, which means thinking about the underlying process once a transaction occurs.  Is your blood pressure rising again?

In any SAP usability project, we are bound to encounter legacy systems that are enabling the business to limp along.  Either SAP does not support the processes necessary, or there is a perception that the process is too difficult (I think the technical word is “clunky”) – and it leads to manual processes or problematic syncs.

You’ll find that SAP often does offer the base functionality necessary for your process, but that it doesn’t offer the right approvals, the steps are in the wrong order for your workflow, or that it’s simply unusable.  This is another time where designing a proper User Experience can eliminate the legacy process you’ve developed as a “work-around.” If we can identify features in SAP that would – in theory – work if they were less restrictive, we can design and optimize around them, like we did in the following screenshot.

SAP Usability - Portal - Excellis

For this client, we knew that SAP could offer the same features that they were using six or seven different applications to support.  So, we designed a portal that would surface the functionality and processes in a usable way – to combine with SAP Biller Direct, Claims, and Returns.  These are all mission critical processes that truly do belong in the same system, and that can exponentially increase your overhead costs if managed separately, not to mention difficulties in analyzing data…

4. Make SAP Mobile

The usability of mobile devices like iPad is clearly the catalyst for their rapid adoption.  We already know that mobile browsing has skyrocketed beyond the likes of desktop browsers like IE 6 & 7 (the former bastions of Web application access).  So, it’s no surprise that SAP clients are beginning to take mobile applications seriously as a replacement for current manual or traditional application processes.

We blogged recently about a project in which we used SAP Mobility (Sybase Unwired Platform) to produce an iPad application to empower field service staff.  The iPad is portable, inexpensive (compared to a laptop), and thanks to our User Experience design process, combines a simple, usable experience for the user along with integrated business process (my favorite: we added a finger-signature for order confirmation).

SAP iPad Application by Excellis Interactive

For a field services team of more than 2200 reps, it is clear that a successful mobile implementation can have staggering results – allowing each rep even thirty more minutes per day free of administrative overhead can mean that each one can make one more call, or one more sale.

Now look back at the calculations I had you consider in the first item.  What could one more transaction – whether it’s completing an order, or servicing a patient, or addressing a customer relations request – per user per day mean?  Two more per day?

This is the basis of maximizing your SAP investment, and building a more usable product can get you there.  We can build that more usable product.  Get in touch with us and let’s make 2012 the year SAP becomes usable for you.

0 responses to “SAP Usability: Four Ways to Maximize your SAP investment in 2012”

  1. […] time with loved ones, learn a new language, and maximize the investment the company made in SAP. Link – Trackbacks Posted in User experience (UX) | Permalink. ← Last resource for 2011: […]

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