Thinking about the user. SAP ZEN

This may seem at odds with some of my earlier enterprisey ranting.  I’m looking for balance, searching for mySAPZEN 2007.  Perhaps I have been reading too much Rednun and surfing too many design blogs.

Here at SAP we think a lot about processes.  I hear it all the time in the corridors and meeting rooms in Walldorf.  It is one of the main reasons for SAP’s success. It is goodness, and it is very tough to emulate.  (We are pretty damn good at the other bit of the iceberg it seems) It is a significant competitive advantage.

At the same time though, we do need to think more about the user,  once we have figured out who the user is.  Find a balance between process and user centricity

The reason why I’m writing this post at all is that I stumbled across something in SDN. David seems uncomfortable with concept of “enhanced user experience”, deriding it as selling Viagra.   I think he has it wrong on two counts.

1. Viagra has  helped many people. Don’t knock it.

2. Historically SAP’s single greatest competitive weakness is the user experience. I’ve spent the last 12 years in presales, and this is the one area where I would get beaten up time and time again.  At SAP we need to learn more from the Apples and Porsches of this world about the power of the aesthetic.  Bring on the enhanced user experience I say.

I’m probably harsher on the marketing function and how we sell  here at SAP than is good for my career, but a user focus is not just  developing a screen, it is about the whole company and the ecosystem. And if you have a minute, ask your mum. 

I’d suggest that anyone in the our enterprisey  world  involved in building processes that impact users spend a little time reading Kathy Sierra’s blog, creating passionate users.  Maybe start by looking  at this post on Featuritis . If Kathy seems a little on the wild side, then try Don Norman.

Perhaps I’m drinking too much design kool-aid, but if we don’t offer the user the enhanced experience they deserve, then some other vendor (and their consulting friends will)

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9 thoughts on “Thinking about the user. SAP ZEN

  1. Having used SAP at one former employer, the user experience was more hindered by it taking over 30 minutes to fill in a couple days worth of time reports. And if I forgot to press some magic button in time, I had to start all over again. At that point, aesthetics didn’t really matter.

    Although aesthetics play a part, user experience is not equal to aesthetics. User experiences are equal to EXPERIENCES. Stuff that stays with you, in good and bad. The way I will always remember the days my employer switched to SAP.

  2. Never forget that aesthetics refers to something that is entirely subjective.

    If you are a touch-typist responsible for capturing vast volumes of data every day your view of aesthetics is going to be different to that of an irregular user capturing information once or twice a month.

    Niko’s comments remind me of the blind men examining the elephant. From my experience SAP has a number of user interfaces which cater for different types of users, and it is adapting and creating new user interfaces. The idea that one of these is going to be aesthetically better for all groups of users is a bit naive.

  3. Again, I think “aesthetics” is a difficult word to use. By dictionary definition it is the “study of what is beautiful”. If we say it is entirely subjective and leave it at that, I feel it wouldn’t make for a very interesting matter of study.

    I agree with subjectivity of aesthetics in theory, but if you work for a company that does touch-typing, there certainly is a common appreciation for aesthetics.

    To clarify my comments on SAP UI, I only had to use SAP at one employer, years ago. With an UI custom built for us, mind you. ;) The point I was making was that despite pleasing looks of the UI, the bad user experience I had will stay with me for years. Hence, creating bad user experiences should be avoided at all cost.

  4. Which is a thundering good reason to throw design over the wall at users. I’ve seen this work really well. It’s a technique that works because it engages the user. I sense that if that was done early on, a lot of time could be saved dealing with post implementation issues.

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