Everybody talks about how important a B2C look and feel is for your customers — but what about your internal SAP ERP users? If you want to maximize productivity within your business tools, then a mobile-enabled, optimized user interface (UI) is key. And we don’t mean screen optimization — UI optimization touches on how business transactions are processed and focuses on turning complex processes into a simpler and more communicative way of getting things done.
During this recent live Q&A with CNBS Software’s President, Chuck Stahl, and Gerald Schlechter, CEO of enosiX on how to shift your focus from what a process accomplishes in SAP ERP to what the user experiences while doing the work, readers asked questions on how to boost the productivity of the workforce and improve decision making with a simpler, mobile-enabled process. Questions answered include:
- What key things should I watch for when starting a mobile and UI optimization initiative?
- Do I need to worry about an SAP upgrade if I want to start a mobility initiative?
- How can I provide my users with mobile access without risking security and without adding complexity to my SAP environment?
- What options do I have for a quick start with mobility without a big upgrade or infrastructure expense?
- How do I integrate with the Internet of Things (IoT) and third-party solutions (Salesforce, for example)?
Natalie Miller, SAP: Hello! Welcome to today’s live Q&A on optimizing SAP ERP with an enhanced user experience and interface. I’m Natalie Miller, features editor of SAPinsider and insiderPROFILES, and I’m excited to introduce today’s panelists, Chuck Stahl and Gerald Schlechter.
Gerald, CEO of enosiX, has more than a decade of experience with ERP systems. He launched CNBS Software several years ago, which provides state-of-the-art SAP solutions such as WECO E-Commerce and Web AR.
Chuck is the president of CNBS Software and has more than 20 years of experience with SAP systems and over 30 years in IT. He specializes in guiding his clients through their SAP implementation and associated applications, and is now focused on enhancing value creation with existing SAP systems, with an emphasis on integration, usability, and mobility.
Chuck Stahl, CNBS: Hello, and welcome everyone! This is Chuck. I am president of CNBS Software. I am very excited to talk with you about UX and mobility today. I am equally excited to be sharing the stage with Gerald Schlechter, CEO of enosiX. We look forward to talking with you today. My LinkedIn profile is www.linkedin.com/in/cwstahl24. Our company website is www.cnbssoftware.com.
Gerald Schlechter, enosiX: Hi, I’m Gerald, CEO of enosiX. Welcome! I am very excited to have over 150 people joining us today! I see we have already a lot of great questions coming in. Let’s get started so we can answer everything. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/geraldschlechter)
Natalie Miller: Hello, Gerald and Chuck. Thank you both for being here to answer readers’ questions! I’d like to kick things off by asking you how are companies addressing UI needs when mobility is becoming increasingly popular and important in today’s mobile society?
Chuck Stahl: Today’s proliferation of mobile devices has driven us to merge the “business user” with the everyday mobile user. You need to provide the right data, in the right format, at the right time. enosiX provides the framework needed to make this data available quickly and easily on any device. Speed is imperative as you are servicing many, many end users, so you need to be able to provide something quickly to all. The enosiX starter kits provide 80% of what you need to build a mobile app, allowing for delivery in days, not months.
Comment from Steve: Can I use push notifications with the enosiX platform?
Gerald Schlechter: I assume you want to push messages/notifications to the user’s app. We can set up alerts and messages that are then shown as notifications on the mobile app like you are used to seeing with Facebook, etc.
Comment from Matt: How do you engage and satisfy users when the C-suite has a different view of what enterprise mobility means?
Chuck Stahl: Normally the C-suite focuses on business value, and if the solutions address this, you should get their support. Of course, the user requirements should support the business value. enosiX allows for flexibility for the user, and speed and lower costs for the C-suite.
Comment from Steve: What does enosiX provide to help get customers started quickly using their platform?
Gerald Schlechter: We get this question a lot from customers. They are very concerned about showing results quickly. In order to help them, we created starter kits that we can install within a couple of days. They provide 80% ready apps for simple process optimization and a quick return — most of the time, that quick win will then fund the next iteration of roll-out.
Chuck Stahl: Yes, and just to add to that: I was amazed when we could load the enosiX framework in a few hours, spend 10 minutes to download the app to my iPhone, and establish two-way communication with our SAP system within a day. I have been in the SAP world for 20 years and have never seen that. That is speed!
Comment from hjaca: Hi. What are some top hints to improve user usability and engagement when going mobile with SAP ERP? Also, what is important to consider when internal users go offline for some processes but need to continue working and synchronizing?
Gerald Schlechter: Keep it simple and start your design with the business user. We see that a lot of the time a design starts with, “What data can we get the business?” This is totally the wrong approach! The business will not get what they want. Use an agile approach with business, where results are in their hands quickly, so they are involved early, can give feedback, and therefore love the app you provide for them.
We had a great webinar around that topic with ChaiOne: Best Practices for SAP Mobile Strategy.
Offline is still a big topic. Our tool can handle online and offline for apps that need it — for example, for expense or for service.
Comment from S.Algoed: How do you quantify the benefit of simplified/optimized UX?
Chuck Stahl: That is a tough one. The goal is streamlined processes and increased productivity. In the past, we would focus on their efforts at work. Today, people access their data outside of the workplace and get work done at all hours of the day, which enhances productivity. It’s hard to place a specific value on that; however, if you have technology that allows for flexible mobile solutions at an affordable cost, you might not have to.
Comment from Guest: What is recommended regarding MDM and MAM to ensure that the company's data is protected? Would the same solution apply to both bring-your-own-device and company-owned devices?
Gerald Schlechter: Most techniques are common among BYOD, COPE, or company-owned devices. Strict transmission security policies should be put into place to ensure secure transmission of data between the enterprise and the mobile devices. Remote wiping should also be configured in case the device is lost or stolen. Corporate data should always be encrypted on the device so that even if the device is compromised, data cannot be retrieved by unauthenticated users.
Comment from Guest: Can you talk about change management with respect to a mobility initiative? Our millennial workers love their devices, but we’re concerned that other employees may not be as happy with the move to mobile. Any best practices to share?
Chuck Stahl: In our discussions with our customers, it is all about productivity and efficiency. If you make the right data available whenever you need it, you make everyone’s life easier, even those that aren’t as excited about mobile. Today’s companies are expecting more from their employees. For example, if we can provide an app that streamlines a process on a mobile device so you can approve a purchase order while waiting in line at the airport, life gets a little easier and more work gets done.
Gerald Schlechter: We are just working through this with one of our customers. The key is, again, to keep it simple. Start with small initiatives that allow time for non-millennials to grow into the technology. Of course, the apps need to be crisp and easy to work with. You could as well provide a “power user version.”
Comment from Guest: Gerald, can you expand on the agile approach you mentioned in an earlier response?
Gerald Schlechter: Yes, definitely. Before agile, we would use the Waterfall model (where we would do a 1-2 month blueprint, come back with a proposal, then produce a prototype, and eventually have a first pilot project for the end user to see after a whole 6-8 months!). Especially around apps, the trend is instead to do small “mini apps” — real-time, front-end designs produced with the business so they know what they will get. Constant feedback from business is key.
The key is to get a working app to the end user within a couple of weeks, and then focus on providing value for the business users with every sprint (typically 1-2 weeks). Check out the ChaiOne webinar: Best Practices for SAP Mobile Strategy.
Comment from Guest: How do you consolidate all the mobile apps for an organization to provide the end user with a seamless interface regardless of mobile technology?
Gerald Schlechter: This is still a tough one. I personally am a believer in the Xamarin technology (www.xamarin.com) which allows you to develop on one code base and to publish to native Win8/10, Win Phone, iOS, and Android. They were focused on Windows developers, but just acquired a company that’s doing the same with Java and integrating that into their Developer Studio.
I truly believe that as technology gets better, the native apps will win. They already did for social apps — as the generation of users change that will apply to enterprise apps as well. A lot of the time I hear younger employees ask enterprise customers, “Why is it that all my social apps are native but our enterprise apps are not?” Wait for when the millennials are our workforce.
Comment from Guest: What are the most common mistakes you see companies making, or misconceptions that they have, in mobile?
Chuck Stahl: One common misconception is that it’s going to be very expensive and time consuming. We like the enosiX technology because it provides a flexible environment (starter kit apps to get things going) at a very reasonable cost. You can deal with many users quickly, delivering what they need without breaking the bank. I have had CIOs tell me they are struggling with a mobile strategy. We think we have found a good platform to take away the struggle.
Gerald Schlechter: This is a good point. For a while everyone tried to put big mobile strategy concepts together. And then reality hit — it’s very expensive, the technology changes too quickly, etc. CFOs especially are realizing that speed to deployment is the key for success! Get quick wins for the organization without a lot of cash exposure or project risk.
Comment from Guest: What end user communities within business enterprises can benefit from a mobile-enabled and optimized user experience?
Chuck Stahl: We have found that most can benefit. Uncluttered screens and simple mobile apps can increase productivity. We have had conversations with customer service, shop floor, warehouse, finance, and sales, to name a few. Honestly, with the familiarity of our personal devices we use day-to-day, these devices are driving expectations for business systems as well. Busy, cluttered screens are not desirable any more.
In addition, for users from across the enterprise — we are not focusing on one department only — it’s important that data is shared across departments to make smart decisions in real time. Transactional data processing for just one area is going to be history. Process execution is melting together into one application. Therefore, it’s very important that your solution supports cross-transactional integration.
Comment from Guest: What options do I have for a quick start with mobility without a big upgrade or infrastructure expense?
Gerald Schlechter: We provide a starter kit that allows us to install native mobile apps today and test with your data tomorrow. The enosiX starter kit apps don’t need any upgrade — they run from 4.7 to the newest ECC version. There’s no middleware and no complex integration — everything is pre-built. The starter kit gives you an 80% ready solution and is then fully customizable and can be enhanced to your exact requirements by CNBS. You can be live in a week or so.
As mentioned in other posts, it’s all about taking risk (length of go-live and big cash exposure) out of the equation for the C-level decision makers.
Comment from Guest: What key things should I watch for when starting a mobile and UI optimization initiative?
Chuck Stahl: Focus on clarity and business value. You need to separate the business value “must haves” from the “nice to have.” Then deliver quickly while implementing a foundation platform that can be adapted to other user’s needs. The concept of addressing all your user’s needs can be a daunting undertaking. Speed and flexibility are key. enosiX allows for both.
Comment from Guest: We use both Salesforce and SAP’s Cloud for Customer (C4C) app. Can we integrate both for our sales team to use on their devices?
Gerald Schlechter: I will have to get back to you on that and check where we are in roadmap with this. Today we do ECC, so everything that is integrated between C4C and ECC is a yes. You can reach me directly via email at gerald.schlechter@enosiX.com.
Comment from Guest: Are certain industries more in need of mobile advancement than others?
Chuck Stahl: Actually, we are seeing it in all industries. The mobile devices we all use are driving expectations in our business lives. People want easy to use, flexible applications that can be accessed and utilized anywhere at any time. They are used to it now with their personal mobile devices, and they don’t want their work to be any different.
Comment from Guest: One of my company’s biggest concerns is security. How can I provide my users with mobile access without risking security and without adding complexity to my SAP environment?
Gerald Schlechter: Yes, security is always an important topic. First, when we talk about real-time —a solution that does not store or buffer information on a third-party platform — then you are immediately dealing with big cloud exposure, PCI compliance, etc. Make sure security protocols (Reverse Proxy, Firewall, separate WAS, etc.) are in place to make sure your ECC is properly protected. Only allow approved services.
Second, you of course need a proper MDM solution. Strict transmission security policies should be put in place to ensure the secure transmission of data between the enterprise and the mobile devices. Remote wiping should also be configured in case the device is lost or stolen. Corporate data should always be encrypted on the device so that even if the device is compromised, data cannot be retrieved by unauthenticated users.
Comment from Guest: How does a rich and agile end user experience benefit overall solution adoption?
Chuck Stahl: When mobile solutions are tailored to the business needs, data access, and the roles of the end user, and when they are flexible enough to change as the business dynamic changes, users are highly motivated to adopt process-streamlining and productivity-boosting strategies. Attempting to replicate traditional UIs on a mobile platform can not only put performance at risk, but also have a less than desired impact on “next gen” mobile workers.
Gerald Schlechter: Don’t forget that a great UX means consolidating work steps and simplifying business processes. That’s the key to success. Just eliminating fields and providing a transnational view is not going to be good enough for a business user.
Comment from Guest: IoT is such a hot topic right now. Do you see many customers focusing on it as part of their mobile strategies?
Gerald Schlechter: Yes, we do. But to be honest, everybody is in an early stage, except big, visionary companies. It reminds me of defining a mobile strategy; most companies are currently working on it and there the next big thing is coming. Of course, service-oriented organizations (preventive maintenance) are leaders with IoT.
But IoT can mean a simple phone integration (IVR) for a customer. The issue is that most of the solutions for mobility are not really made for IoT, so a new toolset is required. enosiX can support both; that’s the beauty of the solution.
Comment from Guest: What is the current rate of native app adoption in a business environment that has typically been UI proprietary and not agile?
Chuck Stahl: The business user is really driving the need to solve today’s challenges more quickly and cost-effectively than ever. Thus, there is a noticeable shift to providing native apps with a flexible UI that delivers a rich user experience. Users who enjoy their mobile experience will not only adopt a solution faster, but also have the tendency to proactively uncover additional use cases to increase process efficiency and productivity with the confidence that the native flexibility will deliver and not limit options and speed to market.
Gerald Schlechter: And keep in mind that the next generation of the workforce is changing the game completely. It’s time to get ready now! I was asked during an interview the other day, “So what device do I get provided at work and what display?” — A very important question for your future employees.
Comment from Ethan: Do you recommend building and designing apps from scratch? Or is it better to look for a template?
Gerald Schlechter: I am a big proponent of a template approach that lets you get started quickly with building blocks that might take you too long to create yourself (e.g., login, security, offline replication, error and message handling, communication with SAP, etc.). A big advantage is that those things have already been tested.
It is very important, though, that you still have the flexibility of enhancing, customizing, and creating new solutions from those templates. A lot of tools only provide you very limited flexibility, and that’s a problem with apps. They need to be tailored to your audience; one-fits-all is not a good approach.
Chuck Stahl: Also, in an agile environment, the templates allow you to get something in front of the user quickly to begin the process. The days of taking months to gather requirements from all users and design a system are gone.
Comment from Guest: How can we improve app security without sacrificing usability?
Chuck Stahl: That is one of the big benefits with enosiX. The security is built into the framework so you have the flexibility to use many different front-end tools to create your apps. We have not seen any issues with flexibility and usability of enosiX.
Comment from Sidra: We are looking to implement SAP mobile. We need to find a development platform to develop the apps for Androids. What are the prerequisites to develop an app for Android?
Gerald Schlechter: That will depend. In case of SMP, take a look at http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-58677. There is a lot to consider.
We at enosiX take a very different approach. We like Xamarin as a development front-end tool, which allows native app development for Windows, iOS, and Android with one code base. enosiX is pre-integrated and provides humanized back-end integration with SAP, so you can create apps in days. There’s no need for complex middleware and no need to create back-end business process integration from scratch!
Comment from Guest: How big of an internal team do companies typically put together for development and testing? Can you share any testing best practices?
Gerald Schlechter: It all depends on the client. I’ve seen development teams as little as two, with one tester, all the way up to 10 developers with a dedicated team of QA testers. Unit testing is a must. Look at Xamarin Test Cloud for automating tests on real devices (not simulators) as part of your DevOps process.
Natalie Miller: As we come to the end of today’s Q&A, I’d like to thank you all again for joining us. And a special thank you to Chuck and Gerald for being here and for all these insightful answers!
Chuck Stahl: Thanks everyone for joining today. Great questions! I really enjoyed the conversation. If you would like to discuss anything further, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Gerald Schlechter: Thanks everyone for great questions. I think we could sit here a couple of days and answer questions. In case I can help with anything further, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.linkedin.com/in/geraldschlechter.