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SRM UI Conversion

By Markus Heilig &Prerna Makanawala; interview by Silke Ecker, SAP User Experience, SAP AG – December 21, 2006


What Commitment Can Do

Starting out on a huge project with just one User Interface Designer (UID), you definitely realize that it takes more than one swallow to make a summer.

Markus Heilig must have felt like that when in March 2006 the SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) application was up for redesign. That meant redesigning a complete range of business processes spanning from a shopping cart to the purchase order, to goods receipt and payment, all in all, roughly 1200 screens to be revamped.

"If we are to do this well, we need ten UIDs," was Markus’ reaction. He addressed the problem and asked management for extra support and adequate UID staffing.

Thanks to the joint commitment of SRM and SAP User Experience (UX) management, over time the project was staffed with five UIDs from central UX and the applications, plus was given external UID support. They initiated close cooperation with about 18 application solution managers and more than 50 software developers.

The UIDs first grounded their future work by convincing solution managers to roll in end users' (Not customers'!) requirements.

Prerna Makanawala and Markus Heilig

Figure 1: Prerna Makanawala and Markus Heilig presenting the SRM conversion project (photo: G. Waloszek)

After only four weeks, solution management handed over 80 end user interviews and 20 low-fidelity screens prototypes. UI designers from three continents then started creating high-fidelity mockups. Their ambition was not only to create a new look and feel for the application, but to achieve improved interaction design, consistency and standardization of screen layout – in other words a true redesign. And UI designers were not left alone.Solution management was just as motivated as software development by the idea to make the new product a success in usability.

Focusing on key self services such as the shopping cart, auction and bidding and contracting, the team added noticeable value to the SRM application.

Not only did they master the technical change from HTML screens on ITS (Internet Transaction Server) to NetWeaver technology. What is more, "We changed the complicated and time consuming paradigm of searching a work item, to the much more intuitive paradigm of planning your work via a personal object work list (POWL). No more searching for an unknown 10 digit purchase order number, clicking it, clicking again to look into the detail screen, toggling between overview and detail until you get lost," smiles UID Prerna Makanawala. When starting the application, users now stay in context. They see their personalized work environment with i.e. their last purchase orders, their primary suppliers, or their range of products to be supplied most often. Furthermore, the new SRM offers typical work lists that reflect the users' needs. Other individual work lists can be defined rather easily.

Asked for the ideal SRM, Markus outlines a WYSIWYG type personalization of the work list. End-users could simply mark the fields they wish to keep; all others would respectively drop from their screen. "But that is the next level of usability to be aspired to," says Markus. For the moment he is satisfied with what has been reached in this project.

End-users and customers already declared the project a success: The new design underwent a thorough validation process in Europe and the US and the feedback gathered ranged from benevolence to real enthusiasm.

For Prerna Makanawala, Markus Heilig, Eduard Hess, Sandesh Sawant, Kim Chambers, and Richard Hong the main ingredient for success in a challenging global project spanning different time zones and cultures: A motivated group of UIDs, solution managers and software developers that works together as a team, agrees on design guidelines and continuously synchronizes their efforts. "Talk – talk – talk! Even if it hurts," Markus exaggerates with a laugh, "otherwise you will never achieve consistency."

Example screen SRM 5.0

Figure 2: Example screen SRM 5.0 (click image for larger version)

Example screen SRM 6.0

Figure 3: Example screen SRM 6.0 (click image for larger version)


Should the newly designed software not meet the requirements of the User Centered Design process (UCD), the software will not make it to market as a product. Furthermore, ensuring full integration of UI design into the SAP Product Innovation Lifecycle (PIL) is another important success factor.

Glossary of Abbreviations

  • HTML: Hypertext Markup Language
  • PIL: SAP Product Innovation Lifecycle
  • SAP: Software, Applications, and Products – name of the software company that maintains this Website
  • SRM: Supplier Relationship Management
  • UCD: SAP User-Centered Design
  • UID: User Interface Designer
  • UX: SAP User Experience
  • WYSIWYG: What you see is what you get


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