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Edition 3: Portals

Workplace and MiniApps – Steps towards a Personalized and Efficient Electronic Work Environment

By Matthias Vering, SAP AG, Vice President, Project Lead Workplace – August 1, 2000

Disclaimer: Please note that this edition was written in 2000. Therefore, statements in the articles, particularly those regarding SAP's products, product strategy, branding strategy, and organizational structure, may no longer be valid.

Do you remember the first video recorders? By the time you figured out how to watch one program and record another, both films were over. Think of the first automated fax machines that drove many to the brink of suicide. Its the same with many Internet applications. Technological advances do not necessarily go hand in hand with a design that makes that technology usable for the average human being. The Internet provides unlimited, real-time access to information, but it also brings unlimited, real-time frustration. The advantage for users is that if they don't like what they get, they can go somewhere else instantly. For this reason, good visual and interaction design is likely to evolve more quickly than usable appliances.

All players in the new economy offer information, applications, and services to their community via the Web. The community consists of employees, business partners, suppliers and customers. In particular, immediate customer feedback clicking over to the competitor encourages the standardization of best practice Web design. But also employees are now demanding a state-of-the-art working environment that helps them achieve their individual and corporate goals more quickly, more accurately, more easily and have some fun as well.

SAP is an active member of the Internet community. Besides delivering comprehensive e-business solutions, SAP also promotes usable Web design. The results of the EnjoySAP initiative are now available to SAP customers. For example, with the Workplace SAPs enterprise portal users can now enjoy the convenience of finding everything they need to get their jobs done via a central access point. Single Sign-On relieves the burden of logging on to individual systems. Cutting edge features such as drag and relate allow users to spend more time on satisfying customers than on fighting with IT. Pioneering the role concept, enterprises can now access best practice knowledge and express corporate knowledge as a role in the Workplace - not just as outdated documentation. With the Mobile Workplace mobile users can also get what they need, where they need it, when they need it.

Critical to the acceptance of the Workplace is the design of the user interface. People are most willing to use something new if it works the way they expect it to and if it really helps them get their job done. Therefore, the Workplace provides point and click convenience and uses the traditional Web arrangement of a navigation area on the left and a content area on the right. This navigational area, called the LaunchPad, uses pull technology to access content (application, information, and services) in the enterprise portal. The content is displayed in a larger area in the right frame. The "home" view of the Workplace provides users with MiniApps - small but useful applications assembled in a role-based and personalized dashboard of the most relevant content the user needs. Some examples of MiniApps include a graphical display of key performance indicators, a workflow inbox, a currency converter, or even a new Dilbert cartoon each morning. When called for, links in the MiniApp take the user to more detailed information in a larger application, allowing the user to complete a task quickly, without the hassle of navigating.

Also important is the layout of the Workplace and the design of MiniApps. Coherent design principles are an absolute must. For MiniApps, SAP has already published guidelines covering visual and interaction design. Currently, these guidelines are still in their infancy, but as time goes by, these guidelines will mature, reflecting the experience gained through working with the Workplace and MiniApps.

The growth and success of the Internet is due to self-governing communities of interested parties that openly share best practices. To keep pace with this growth, SAP provides such an open forum - the SAP Design Guild.

We are very excited about this forum and look forward to learning from your ideas and input.


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