|Creating the SAP Product Language|
|The Usability Engineering Center at SAP – User-Friendly Software Is Not a Matter of Chance|
|SAP Accessibility Competence Center – Accessibility for Everyone|
|User Productivity at SAP Labs|
|SAP Design Guild – The Voice of SAP in the Design Field|
|SAP Developer Network|
By Hendrik Achenbach, Esther Blankenship, Anke Böker, Ulrich Kreichgauer, Alex Li, Oliver Mainka, Durga Prasad V, SAP AG – November 19, 2004
German Version • This article has also been published in SAP INFO 122
The SAP User Productivity (UP) department has teams operating around the globe. This article provides an overview of what they do and what they stand for.
SAP thinks and acts globally. Development does not take place only in Walldorf (Germany): Bangalore (India), Palo Alto (California, U.S.), Ra'anana (Israel), and Tokyo (Japan) are also important development locations. At many of those locations, the User Productivity department works to enable SAP to design and develop world-class user interfaces. Our daily work is shaped by the following aspects :
The SAP Product Design Center (PDC) is dedicated to ensuring a consistent user interface throughout the SAP product family. Its primary activities can be divided into two main categories: visual and technical. The visual aspect covers the definition, promotion, and evolution of the SAP brand in the software interface.
Product branding is what makes SAP software visually unique. The PDC determines the colors and forms of the individual screen elements that form the basic building blocks for our software. These generic elements must work together visually in an almost infinite combination on thousands and thousands of screens. Because the SAP product offering is growing all the time and new features are required to meet the needs of the users, defining the SAP product language is a continuous process. With this in mind, the PDC often works with world-famous designers like Hartmut Esslinger and his frog design team.
But there is more to this branding aspect than meets the eye. As a company, SAP is dedicated to giving its customers the flexibility to rebrand the products with their own corporate identity to truly make SAP software their own. Providing this flexibility – which is invisible until customers begin the rebranding process – is one of the principle activities of the PDC, the technical aspect of their work. They both design the controls and implement them into the SAP user interface control library. This library of building blocks is available to the entire SAP development community.
The Usability Engineering Center (UEC) in Walldorf works on SAP-wide usability topics. They define the overall user interface (UI) concepts and building blocks, provide UI style guides and guidelines, and roll out usability related topics via the User Interface Design curriculum, in training sessions, workshops, and coaching sessions, and on the User Productivity website. They maintain the Usability Laboratory in Walldorf and are responsible for the Usability product standard.
Currently they are focusing on four major areas:
Accessibility allows everyone, especially those with disabilities, to use and make the most of technology and information products. Creating accessible products is a top priority for SAP.
Recognizing the importance of making its software accessible, SAP has established an internal accessibility compliance plan to enable individuals with disabilities to use SAP NetWeaver and other SAP solutions. As part of that plan, the company created the Accessibility Competence Center as part of the User Productivity department to:
User Productivity Bangalore, a fast-growing team in a fast-growing lab, focuses on designing world-class user interfaces for world-class products. It has evolved into a hub for innovation, filing almost 20 percent of all patent applications from SAP Labs Bangalore. Its key focus areas are:
User Productivity in Palo Alto, California, focuses on two things. The first is to provide UI designs (such as for new user experiences in reporting and analytics). The second is to closely link SAP development to the needs and opportunities of the American market. The latter is approached in two ways.
First, they organize and co-conduct any activities we do with American users that involve gathering user requirements or performing validations and testing of SAP UI designs. These include site visits for user interviews, observations of tests at SAP Labs, and organizing usability tests at ASUG (Americas' SAP Users' Group) conferences. Last spring's ASUG conference included 40 test tracks with over 300 completed test sessions.
Second, since the U.S. includes the richest scene of user-experience experts, institutes, academics, startup companies, industry heavyweights, and analysts, the Palo Alto team pairs the most promising U.S. entities with the needs of SAP development.
Enabling a world-wide development organization to create superior user interfaces that are consistent throughout SAP's solution portfolio is a major challenge. That is why the User Productivity department puts great effort into knowledge transfer. A team of editors in Germany, supported by counterparts in Bangalore and Palo Alto, works on the following tasks:
Since so much is going on in user-interface and graphic design at SAP, some UP members have a second role besides their normal day-to-day business: They lead communities of practice where people can share information, insight, experience, and tools.
In User Productivity, the teams share a vision of SAP software that enables the users to be effective and efficient - and the SAP experts work to make the vision come true.