Whether you’re a CEO who needs a high-level dashboard view of her company’s profit margins, a sales manager who relies on daily sales reports pushed to his mobile device, or a shop-floor worker requesting a vacation day, SAP wants you to get the most value out of your company’s investment in SAP solutions. SAP Insider readers can now turn to our new column “The User Experience” for tips, tricks, techniques, and best practices for optimizing the daily use of SAP solutions.
To start, we review both a familiar product and newer applications from SAP — SAP Interactive Forms software by Adobe and SAP Acrobat Connect Professional applications by Adobe — which IT can implement easily but that produce big gains in end-user satisfaction and productivity. Look for future “The User Experience” columns on topics such as corporate portals, Duet, Alloy, and more.
IT departments are currently working with reduced budgets and decreased spend. Yet in the midst of economic uncertainty and budgetary belt-tightening, the expectations on the IT department are as high as ever.
In fact, IT professionals are under continuous pressure to deliver on their existing projects and services at a time when they expect IT spending to fall, revealed a survey of CIOs administered by McKinsey.1 Simply put, the mantra of the day is to contain costs while improving productivity.
So how can IT managers lower costs and still ensure that the business is running strong, all while positioning the company to excel when the economy recovers? They can invest in projects with clear productivity gains.
|Increasing the use of your current enterprise applications may be one of the most cost-effective ways to realize the full potential of your IT investment.
User Adoption Drives Productivity (and Simplicity Drives User Adoption)
A key area often overlooked by IT is workers’ productivity. You have invested in your supply chain management, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, and business intelligence software — now look closely at whether your organization takes full advantage of this investment. Recent studies show that the most critical factor for software success and return on investment is effective user adoption.2
That said, the biggest productivity gains may come from the improved usability of the software. Your end users have varying needs for the software and may require different ways to access a particular application or business process (see sidebar). There’s the sales professional who spends most of his time out of the office and relies heavily on a mobile device, the business manager who needs to find the latest information quickly to make a decision, and the service technician who wants an easy, intuitive way to document and route a service request.
Poor user adoption, increased user training times, and decreased productivity are just some of the costly implications of not having a user interface tailored to a user’s particular needs. That is why SAP has a broad range of options for your end users to interact with enterprise applications. You can improve productivity and enhance a user’s experience with focused, easy-to-implement, tactical solutions.
Here I’ll highlight two such solutions that can help address end-user productivity — SAP Interactive Forms software by Adobe and SAP Acrobat Connect Professional applications by Adobe.3 These solutions utilize technologies that are widely adopted by end users and are already installed on most networked computers worldwide, thus reducing the need for training and significantly lowering the barriers to adoption. With these SAP options, you can realize increased user productivity while spending less time and ultimately less money on implementation.
|Poor user adoption, increased user training times, and decreased productivity are just some of the costly implications of not having a user interface tailored to a user’s particular needs.
SAP Interactive Forms: An Intuitive Interface That’s Quick to Implement
If your company is still using paper forms as part of its critical business processes, consider automating these processes with SAP Interactive Forms. Developers and end users alike may be familiar with this software, which allows end users to interact with enterprise applications via straightforward, PDF-based electronic forms. But you may have overlooked this solution as a cost-effective means to improve user productivity. SAP Interactive Forms allows you to eliminate paper forms and quickly automate numerous tasks to interact directly with business processes, including requests for proposal, partner account setup, purchase requisitions, travel requisitions, online recruiting, field service requests, and customer, supplier, and employee account setup and maintenance (see Figure 1).
SAP Interactive Forms are dynamic and versatile; shown here are an example service order form, used to take and process customer service requests, and an inventory requisition form, through which service technicians can identify problems and order parts
Not only do these forms maintain an interface that’s familiar to an end user, they can be prepopulated with relevant information for that particular user, such as his or her name, employee number, department, and address, thus reducing duplicate data entry, decreasing errors, and increasing user satisfaction (see Case Study sidebar). Users can also add or update forms online through Web Dynpro or offline with Adobe Reader. SAP Interactive Forms software is fully integrated with the SAP NetWeaver platform and allows developers to design templates and create interactive forms in SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio using Adobe LiveCycle Designer software. Developers can then integrate these forms with any SAP application (see Creating an Interactive Form sidebar).
SAP Interactive Forms allows IT departments to enjoy substantial benefits without breaking their budgets or spending valuable time on implementation. Let’s take a closer look at this software’s benefits.
Simplify the user experience. By providing access to SAP solutions via a familiar interface, SAP Interactive Forms eases the way users can take advantage of the information and business processes contained in SAP software. This solution requires virtually no end-user training since the interactive forms look exactly like paper forms and are deployed through the well-known Adobe interface.
Save time and money. Factoring in the cost of manual data entry, lapses in accuracy, and average processing time, paper forms can cost as much as US$8,000 per day in a midsize or large enterprise in the United States.4 You can dramatically reduce redundant and inaccurate data and minimize errors by eliminating paper forms. Industry research estimates that electronic forms can save as much as 50% of the labor costs associated with traditional pre-printed forms.
Improve collaboration with external business partners. SAP Interactive Forms is not only for improving internal interactions, but also for eliminating inefficiencies or redundant communications with customers, partners, and suppliers. With this software, you can customize the way you deliver information to external audiences, provide your customers or partners immediate access to the latest data, and validate captured content in real time.
Comply with laws and regulations. Companies that still use paper forms face the problem of overflowing storage cabinets and usually lack an efficient way of tracking documents and the data they contain. But a form created with SAP Interactive Forms is in an archive-ready PDF format that allows you to track the entire process, from who filled out the form, to where he or she routed it, to who approved it, to where it was electronically stored. This electronic format provides a defensible audit trail that meets regulatory and corporate requirements.
SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting: A Cost-Effective Collaboration Tool
SAP has unveiled an additional solution that will help IT managers enhance user productivity and usability while decreasing costs — SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting. This application allows users to quickly and easily take advantage of the benefits of Web-based collaboration (see Figure 2).
SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting allows users to communicate instantly in a reusable virtual meeting room
Travel is typically a major cost for organizations that increasingly employ talent globally. In unstable economic times, how can companies ensure that teams are still productive and work together efficiently even when frequent travel becomes a luxury?
According to Gartner research, organizations can cut costs by increasing the use of Web conferences to reduce travel. Enterprises are realizing that Web conferencing is an easy way to virtually replace some meetings, either internal ones or meetings with clients.5 With SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting, your teams can work over the Web just like they do in person. SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting brings users together virtually. They can establish and manage real-time, on-demand virtual meeting rooms, incorporating document sharing and collaboration, live and recorded video, Adobe Flash movies, live screens, applications, audio, and multiuser text chat.
It is easy to start collaborating using SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting. Each user is assigned a personal meeting room with a custom URL and can create as many meeting rooms as he or she likes. Any end users, from both inside and outside of your organization, can immediately join a meeting — they just need to know the URL and have Adobe Flash installed on their computer. There’s no need to ask IT to set up a meeting.
Once all participants join the room, they can start communicating quickly using an integrated audio conference or VoIP. If a user wants to be dialed in, he or she can send a quick note to the participants using the Chat pod. Users can also track a list of action items using the Note pod feature. Actions are saved in the Note pod so users can retrieve their list the next time they join the room. If users need to share files, they don’t have to email them or upload them via an FTP site — they can just use the integrated File Share pod. And within the interactive interface, an end user can write on a whiteboard and share his or her desktop view to collaborate in real time.
Implementing SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting offers several advantages.
Reduce cost. Curtail unnecessary travel by allowing employees to conduct meetings via the Web. Instead of traveling to remote locations, your end users can participate in rich, interactive meetings online. Reduced training costs is another benefit realized when you deploy SAP Adobe Connect Professional Learning. Users can develop powerful eLearning courses to preserve and share knowledge inside and outside of the organization. Starting from a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, a user can add Adobe Flash animation, incorporate audio and visual features, and track the success of the training with SAP Adobe Connect Professional Learning. The on-premise deployment model also provides long-term savings over on-demand solutions.
Maintain control and tighten security. The in-house solution resides completely within your corporate firewall, which gives you the total security that hosted solutions cannot. You control all decisions about infrastructure, installations, and timelines for the upgrades (see sidebar).
Get started quickly. Your installation investment is minimal. SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting works with Adobe Flash, which is already installed on 98% of the world’s connected computers; your network is likely already configured to use the application.
Boosting effective software use is a critical yet often overlooked way to realize the full value of your enterprise applications. End users have different needs and work styles, but SAP offers a variety of ways for them to interact with SAP software through interfaces that fit into their work and environment.
For business processes where you currently rely on paper documents, consider using SAP Interactive Forms. The software’s intuitive interface, simplicity of use, and ease of development will save you time and money by eliminating paper forms and extending access to SAP solutions to new users inside and outside your firewall.
To increase team productivity and reduce travel costs, look into SAP Acrobat Connect Professional Meeting. The user-friendly design, rich collaborative features, and use of widespread technology eliminates some of the typical barriers to adoption, reducing the need for end user training — saving travel and training costs.
- SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe by Jürgen Hauser (SAP PRESS, store.sapinsider.wispubs.com)
- “Streamline and Automate Your Forms-Driven Business Processes: SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe,” an article in the Optimizing IT with SAP Solution Extensions special feature (SAP Insider, July-September 2008, www.SAPinsideronline.com)
- “Using SAP Interactive Forms in the ABAP Workbench to Create and Design PDF-Based Print Forms That Address a Wide Range of Print Needs” by Markus Meisl (SAP Professional Journal, March/April 2007, www.SAPpro.com)
Victoria Menshchikova (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Senior Manager of Enterprise Solution Marketing at SAP. She has over 10 years of product marketing experience in the IT industry, working with product teams to bring innovative enterprise solutions to market. Over the last five years she has focused on mobile, collaboration, and business user solutions. She holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley).