GUI gooey

Next week I’m taking part in a 2 1/2 day workshop for Gartner Enterprise IT leader clients on SAP. We bring together about 40 IT leaders from various companies from across Europe as well as several analysts.

The session I’ll be leading will digging into UI and usability options and challenges. We will present an extensive survey we have done on SAP UI perceptions, and look at options with SAP and third party tools.

I’m receiving an increasing number of client calls about UI/UX options, be it making the best out of SAP, or alternative tools on augment or replace the standard UI experience. There has been a big growth in tools and options to improve user experience, especially for self service and transactions like sales order entry.

I’m expecting to write some research with Jim Murphy on SAP UI options and roadmap later this year too, so I’m on the look out for Ui innovations in the SAP world.

There is significant appetite for a better user experience, but it is easy to get carried away with the tools.  A client research note published by my colleagues Ray Valdes, Eric Knipp and David Mitchell Smith on HTML 5 and Flash makes for sobering reading. I’ll quote a bit that is relevant here.

The average enterprise will continue to make ineffective use of any and all available UI technologies. The root problem is not lack of powerful UI technology. Instead, the root causes for a suboptimal user experience consist of lack of appropriate process and governance, and lack of a genuine commitment to a quality user experience. Such a commitment would lead organizations to adopt a user-centered, usability-oriented development process. Rather than taking these steps, we see a lot of projects that are “stakeholder-driven” (i.e., driven by internal politics). Very few organizations center development around user needs by relying on objectively measured data about user behavior. Most enterprises don’t seem to care enough about the user experience to change their habits (in terms of processes that are developer-driven, vendor-driven and stakeholder-driven, rather than user-driven). The principles of creating effective user experiences are well-known among successful external-facing e-commerce or consumer sites, such as Amazon, eBay, Expedia or Facebook. Unfortunately, it will likely be a long time before these principles become part of the average enterprise skill set.

Developing a user experience that delights your users is not as much about the technology as it as about design. It is easy to knock the user experience of most standard software.  It is a lot harder to build something better yourself.

I hope it will be an interesting session. After our workshop the group and I  will go over and meet some of the SAP user interface team. I expect that meeting won’t be short of questions.

If you are interested in learning more about the Enterprise IT Leader SAP Peer Community, drop george dot martin at gartner dot com an email.

One thought on “GUI gooey

  1. It takes a user to create a wonderful user experience. I’ve realized this after watching countless companies let their developers guess at it and fail, and then implement processes to improve it, and fail.

    This is, IMO, the greatest strength of agile development (when done right).

    Jason

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