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Young, Mobile, and App-fluent

By Paul Baur, SAP AG – May 3, 2012 • The original version was published in SAP Info (see reference below)

As product manager for one of SAP's hottest mobile apps, Rebekka Koehnen knows the importance of designing software for the "Mobile Natives". She shares her insights.

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Figure 1: Pele is a product concept for intuitive, immersive exploration of quantitative data (Screenshot: SAP)

Rebekka Koehnen's SAP story began in 2005 as an intern in marketing at SAP customer Ferrero in Frankfurt, Germany. Confronted with SAP's R/3 solutions as an end user, she struggled with usability she could only describe as "cumbersome".

Never shy to tackle new challenges, Rebekka joined SAP to improve product usability. Seven years later, she is product owner for the mobile app SAP Manager Insight. This solution gives managers untethered access to their SAP ERP systems, enabling them to remotely prepare for and hold meetings with line managers and employees, anywhere, anytime. With over 5,000 downloads and counting, SAP Manager Insight is one of the most successful apps for SAP Business Suite.

 

Making the Transition from User Interface Designer …

The consumerization of IT has raised the bar for enterprise software. Nowhere is this trend stronger than with mobile devices. Apps that don't provide instant satisfaction will be ruthlessly uninstalled or simply ignored.

Designers like Rebekka have realized that they need new approaches and skills to develop mobile apps. Shortly after joining SAP in 2006, Rebekka became a user interface design specialist supporting the development of user interfaces in the Human Capital Management (HCM) product area of SAP Business Suite.

User interface designers (UIDs) lead the product team's design activities such as observing users, developing product use cases, creating design prototypes, validating with end users, and writing specifications for the user interface. Rebekka and her team traveled extensively to customers and observed how users interacted with SAP's on-premise HCM solutions.

Screenshot of how the SAP Manager Insight App is presented in iTunes

Figure 2: Screenshot of how the SAP Manager Insight App is presented in iTunes (Source: SAPInfo)

 

… to Product Owner with a Keen Eye for Design

Rebekka's skills in observing the needs of SAP's customers of HCM on premise solutions make her uniquely well-positioned to support SAP's leadership in enterprise mobility.

Her usability background has proved to be an asset for a number of reasons. "Coming from the design angle, you collect and address the end users' pain points, and then bring the business case and design together into a solution that satisfies both objectives," explains Rebekka. "Design is always about making the best compromises," she explains.

"The team appreciates that I have a different view on the product, which is customer focused rather than technology focused. I have been fortunate enough to have an experienced architect, as well as developers, who support me in areas that require a technical background," she concludes.

The biggest pitfall in mobile solution design is focusing only on the mobile scenario while leaving the backend out of the equation. Mobile capabilities, however, inevitably impact the desktop scenario. The two worlds are inextricably linked. "Users end up wanting a similar experience on the desktop as on their iPads," remarks Rebekka.

"We have shown that we can deliver great apps. Many of the customers I speak with are delighted that SAP has already launched mobile solutions that are so easy to use," she says.

 

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