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Customers Benefit from SAP's User Experience Strategy

How SAP’s Solutions and UX Design Services Change User Perception

by Andreas Hauser | SAPinsider, Volume 15, Issue 2

April 1, 2014

SAP’s user experience mantra of “new, renew, and enable” is reshaping customer perceptions of its enterprise software applications. SAP is pursuing a consumer-grade experience for all new applications, while renewing existing screens via solutions such as SAP Fiori and SAP Screen Personas. Its user experience design services also enable customers’ own UX revivals.


SAP and our customers have collaborated closely to address user experience (UX) challenges faced by organizations. The result is SAP’s UX strategy of “new, renew, and enable,” which has become a mantra of sorts at SAP, and includes our latest UX solution and service offerings.

The “new” part of the strategy looks forward: We are bringing a consumer-grade UX to the enterprise with new solutions such as SAP Cloud for Sales and SAP Scouting. The “renew” and “enable” pieces of the strategy apply to SAP’s existing software. We examined how our customers are using SAP screens and found that a relatively small number of scenarios were used most frequently by most people, whereas a very large number of scenarios were used by only a few people and by some of them only occasionally.

We chose to “renew” the scenarios that are used most frequently and most broadly by nearly all users by offering out-of-the-box solutions with a consumer-like UX — this is what SAP Fiori is all about. To address customer-specific needs, we provide a set of tools and technologies that “enable” customers and partners to quickly simplify and modernize our software for their enterprise. This is where SAP Screen Personas comes into play.

The strategy is complemented by our UX design services, which offer design consulting for customers in their journey to achieve an optimal user experience. We help customers meet the needs of their end users and we support IT groups in developing a UX sensibility in their organization.

In short, the key component of our UX strategy is the customer. Our design and UX improvement efforts have focused on iterative collaboration with customers, who in turn haveseen significant impacts across their organizations and for their end users.

How It Started: Nestlé’s Design Partnership with SAP

SAP’s commitment to improving the user experience is tightly interwoven with one of our largest customers, Nestlé. A household name for many of us, Nestlé is a leading food and beverage company with an increasingly strong focus on nutrition, wellness, and health. Nestlé’s motto is “good food, good life,” and this belief permeates throughout the company in everything they do.

“As a consumer-centric company, we’re always thinking about what the consumer values when we manufacture and sell our products,” says Terence Stacey, Nestlé Group CIO. “We’d like to do the same where employees are concerned, so for people to be effective and efficient in a day-to-day operation, we’d like to put applications that have a good user experience in front of them. This is something that we’ve seen as core in recent years as we’ve tried to improve the working environment.” The user experience of Nestlé’s enterprise software needed to be reexamined and fundamentally reworked to address users’ understandable expectations that business software be as easy to use as the apps they use in their private lives.

SAP Fiori Is Born

SAP worked closely with Nestlé in an iterative, collaborative way on the first set of apps that eventually evolved into a collection of more than 200 role-based apps representing the new SAP UX paradigm: SAP Fiori. This collection of apps provides enhanced user productivity and personalization for customers using SAP Business Suite and SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA. SAP Fiori offers a simple, easy-to-use experience and provides real-time information available anywhere, across any device (e.g., desktop, tablet, and smartphone), at any time. Users can get insight into their business and act on that information wherever they may be.

Today, Nestlé has 18 SAP Fiori apps (see Figure 1) rolled out to about 500 people and reports that users have been very positive about using SAP Fiori. As of March 2014, they will roll out these apps to about 18,000 users.

Figure 1 — SAP Fiori apps implemented at Nestlé

Personalization with SAP Screen Personas

Nestlé has also had good experiences with SAP Screen Personas. In some instances, the solution has enabled the company to reduce 75% of the screens required to complete a task. Nestlé has had positive feedback from users as their productivity has improved due to fewer keystrokes, simplified screens, and a reduction in the number of screens used (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 — SAP GUI screens for Nestlé Purina redesigned with SAP Screen Personas

SAP Screen Personas improves the user experience of SAP GUI screens, but it is important to recognize that it is a do-it-yourself tool.1 You need the right combination of skills to transform business processes in SAP Screen Personas. This includes business knowledge, experience with SAP Screen Personas, and design expertise. Most importantly, companies need to have the skills to engage with their end users and translate their needs into a practical, attractive design. This is where UX design services can help.

UX Design Services

IT organizations around the world are realizing that being successful requires more than an efficient software implementation and tools — they need to understand their end users. What are their goals? What do they need? What motivates them?

Our customers are increasingly taking steps in this direction; they are asking for SAP’s advice on how to establish design practices that can guide them toward a more human-centric approach in their software implementation. To support customers on their UX journey, SAP established the Design and Co-Innovation Center, a team comprised of highly skilled and experienced designers from around the world. This global team, together with colleagues from SAP Active Global Support, SAP Custom Development, Services, and Sales, provides a wide range of UX design services to customers.

The Design and Co-Innovation Center team’s working style, which is agile, scrum-based, and highly iterative, requires engagement with actual end users. The foundation for this is design thinking, fostered by co-innovation — innovation in close collaboration with our customers. We consult with our customers and offer workshops to facilitate our engagements.

“We now have the tools and technologies to support a user-centered design methodology,” says Benjamin Salter, Enterprise Architecture and Application Development, Valero Energy. “Now we have to change the way we engage. Design skills are rapidly becoming the premium. It is a different way of thinking. SAP offers design services that can help us to learn and do it ourselves.”

Folks from Gameforge 4D attended a design thinking workshop with the goal of improving the user experience of their game portal (see Figure 3). “We were astonished by the amount of innovation we could really kick off with this workshop and the methodology,” says Markus Windelen, COO of Gameforge 4D. He says the prototypes generated during the workshop are now in development. Gameforge was not an SAP customer, but nonetheless approached SAP to benefit from our design talent and experience.

Figure 3 — A design-thinking workshop helped Gameforge 4D generate working prototypes

The team also facilitated a two-day workshop to help the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) improve its fan experience. This resulted in a new dashboard application that enables fans to visualize fun facts about their favorite teams and players. According to DEL Head of Hockey Operations Jörg von Ameln, “The output of the workshop was immense.”

A 3-Phase Approach to Refresh Shell’s UX

Shell is known to many as a giant in the energy and petrochemical sector. To help deliver sustainable and profitable growth, high-performing software is vital. The Design and Co-Innovation Center team was tasked with redesigning the user experience of Shell’s key software transactions using SAP Screen Personas.

Through user research, the team learned that Shell’s current transaction-based processes were complex and time-consuming. Many input fields, buttons, and tabs were neither used nor needed. There was no clear path for the user to navigate through the pages. The team adopted a three-phase approach:

  1. Discover: Conduct user interviews
  2. Design: Redesign screens based on user feedback
  3. Develop: Create new screens for Shell to use

In all three phases, team members in different roles, such as business experts, designers, and technical experts, were involved to ensure that everyone had a common understanding and could contribute to all aspects of the project. It was also key to involve the users in all phases to make sure the team was meeting their needs.

The final outcome is a beautiful, lean user interface that meets the needs of Shell’s users and focuses on key end-user activities. The team simplified navigation and automated processes to save the user time and clicks: The number of screens was reduced from seven to three, and the number of clicks was reduced from 45 to 26 (see Figure 4). The response from Shell has been overwhelmingly positive about the results achieved with the various proofs of concept.

“It is interesting and sometimes dangerous to assume to know how your users are operating,” says Lee Mears, Lead IT Solution Architect at Shell. “There is no substitute to engaging and talking with them actively. It was enormously beneficial for us to get the help of expert designers who could make this successful for us.”

Figure 4 — SAP GUI screens at Shell redesigned with SAP Screen Personas

Improving Cancer Research with SAP HANA and a Simple UX

Accessing and analyzing patient data was a complex, time-consuming process for the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), a patient care and cancer research and prevention organization based in Heidelberg, Germany. The NCT’s medical staff needed to search multiple databases, compile patient lists, print files, and manually check if patients matched criteria for clinical trials by reviewing each file individually.

In early 2013, the Design and Co-Innovation Center team began working with the NCT to design a simplified, easy-to-navigate digital experience to access and analyze patient data. By conducting user research with physicians, researchers, and nurses, the team developed an understanding of patient data and associated terminology, and prioritized the must-have requirements for a new solution (see Figure 5).

While the Design and Co-Innovation Center team iterated and defined the detailed designs, our colleagues at the SAP Innovation Center implemented the core functions in parallel. The design team conducted regular user feedback sessions to observe how medical staff would interact with the new tool and to ensure that the designs made sense from a user perspective.

The result of this collaboration is now project “Medical Insights,” an application based on the SAP HANA platform that allows fast and easy access to patient data and comparison of patient profiles from various sources. Benefitting from both the speed of SAP HANA and a user-friendly design, staff can search and filter on a single interface to retrieve patient data from multiple sources. The tool gives physicians more time to care for patients instead of going through paperwork, and it enables medical studies to be completed faster.

Figure 5 — The Design and Co-Innovation Center team worked with the NCT to design a simplified, easy-to-navigate digital experience to access and analyze patient data

Lessons Learned

These scenarios are just a few examples of our collaboration with customers. We engaged with hundreds of customers to support and bring the SAP UX strategy together with customer reality. Along the way, we gained a number of important insights, including:

  • Many UX issues could be solved with existing SAP tools.
  • The needs of the end users are often not known to IT organizations.
  • Companies should engage with the real end users — not just people who think they know how end users work.
  • Customers should build design skills in their IT organizations.

To fully benefit from SAP’s UX strategy, each customer should create its own UX strategy that considers its corporate business and IT goals, as well as what SAP is doing today and where we are going. Bringing in experienced and skilled designers — whether from SAP, a design agency, or in-house — is essential to meeting end users’ expectations. The ultimate expression of an increased UX sensibility is to develop an internal UX center of excellence.
“It’s really key to recognize that if you want solutions that are user-friendly, that are intuitive, that are good productivity aids, you’ve got to internalize that yourself as well,” says Stacey. “We found the need ourselves to bring some people in with those skills, with those design skills, and they work with our end users, our people in the business, and with the SAP folks. Ultimately it’s the bringing together of these pieces that has delivered what we need in this space.” Through its center of excellence, Nestlé wants to internalize this as the way all future applications should look and improve the usability experience overall.

An Exciting Journey

For both customers and SAP, the UX journey has been exciting and the achievements are very promising. We plan to apply the SAP Fiori UX paradigm over time to all on-premise SAP solutions, including SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA, and also to our cloud solutions. SAP has not only committed to its UX strategy, but we also advise companies on how to bring it to life in their business. We will continue to collaborate closely with our customers, helping them better use SAP software, and to be more productive, innovative, and competitive. For more details, visit

1 For more details about SAP Screen Personas, see "Drive Productivity Through Personalization with SAP Screen Personas" by Peter Spielvogel in this April-June 2014 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

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Andreas Hauser
Andreas Hauser

Andreas Hauser ( is the Global Head of the Design and Co-Innovation Center at SAP AG. He has more than13 years of experience in leading global user experience (UX) teams and is now driving UX design services at SAP.

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