Everybody talks about the importance of a streamlined mobile interface 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 that doesn’t just mean screen optimization: Mobile UI optimization also touches on how business transactions are processed and focuses on making complex processes simpler and more intuitive.
During a recent SAPinsider Online Q&A, CNBS Software’s President, Chuck Stahl, and Gerald Schlechter, CEO of enosiX, discussed how to shift your focus from what a process accomplishes in SAP ERP to what the mobile user experiences while doing the work. The following is an abridged version of the questions SAPinsider readers posed and the expert advice they were given. The full transcript is available at bit.ly/CNBSOptimizedUX.
Q: What should an organization consider 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-haves.” Then deliver quickly, while also implementing a foundation platform that can be adapted to other users’ needs. The concept of addressing all your users’ needs can be daunting. Speed and flexibility are key.
Q: How does a rich, agile end user experience benefit overall solution adoption?
Stahl: When mobile solutions are tailored to 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 not only can put performance at risk, but also can have a less-than-desired impact on “next-generation” mobile workers.
Q: What options do I have for a quick start with mobility without a big upgrade or infrastructure expense?
Gerald Schlechter: It is possible to begin with pre-made templates and starter kits. For example, enosiX provides a starter kit that allows you to install native mobile apps today and test them with your data tomorrow. The starter kit apps don’t need any upgrade — they run from SAP R/3 4.7 to the newest SAP ERP 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 by CNBS to your exact requirements. You can be live in a week or so.
It’s all about taking risk (in the form of lengthy go-lives and big cash exposures) out of the equation for the C-level decision makers.
Q: Do you recommend building and designing apps from scratch? Or is it better to look for a template?
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, such as login, security, offline replication, error and message handling, and communication with SAP. A big advantage to using templates 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 provide limited flexibility, and that’s a problem with apps. They need to be tailored to your audience; one-size-fits-all is not a good approach.
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 before designing a system are gone.
Q: How do you consolidate an organization’s mobile apps to provide the end user with a seamless interface?
Schlechter: This is still a tough one. I believe in the Xamarin technology, which allows you to develop on one code base and to publish to native Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows 10, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android systems. They were focused on Windows developers, but just acquired a company that’s doing the same with Java and integrating that into SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio.
As technology gets better, native apps will win. They already did for social apps. As the generation of business users changes, that will apply to enterprise apps as well. I often 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 millennials are our workforce.
If you make the right data available whenever users need it, you make everyone’s life easier.
Q: Can you talk about change management with respect to a mobility initiative? Millennials love their devices, but some other employees struggle with the move to mobile.
Stahl: In our discussions with our customers, it is all about productivity and efficiency. If you make the right data available whenever users need it, you make everyone’s life easier, even for those who 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.
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.
Q: How can I provide my users with secure mobile access without adding complexity to my SAP environment?
Schlechter: Security is always an important topic. First, with solutions that do not store or buffer information on a third-party platform, you are immediately dealing with security concerns such as big cloud exposure and payment card industry (PCI) compliance. Make sure security protocols, such as reverse proxy, firewalls, and separate web application servers (WAS), are in place to make sure your SAP ERP system is properly protected. Only allow approved services.
Second, you need a proper mobile device management (MDM) solution. Strict transmission security policies should be put in place to ensure the secure transmission of data between the enterprise and 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.
Q: What are the most common mistakes you see companies making, or misconceptions that they have, about mobile?
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 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.
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, and so on. 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.
Q: What are some top hints to improve usability and engagement when going mobile with SAP ERP?
Schlechter: Keep it simple and start your design with the business user. We see that design often starts with the question, “What data can we get the business?” This is totally the wrong approach, and the business will not get what it wants. Use an agile approach where results are in users’ hands quickly so they are involved early, can give feedback, and therefore, love the app you provide for them.