The Fiori revolution - disruption at its best

28 September 2016

DJ Adams

DJ Adams

Principal Consultant & Mobile, UX and Development Centre of Excellence Lead

SAP Fiori has heralded and enabled a revolution in the User Experience (UX) for enterprises the world over. There's plenty of disruption here that you can harness, disruption that will give you a better chance in this ever increasingly digital era. This post examines three disruptive aspects of Fiori, and why they're important.

I'm an SAP dinosaur, and not ashamed to admit it. I embraced S/370 assembler, and was bathed in the glow of the green screen 3278 terminals that I used with SAP R/2 a long time ago. Even today I dream of a return to punched cards and Job Control Language.

But that's not going to happen, and apart from some odd exceptions (like me), the world breathes a sigh of relief. Joking aside, there's a revolution that's been gathering pace since mid 2013, when SAP Fiori arrived on the scene. We've covered many aspects of Fiori on our website already, so feel free to inform yourself if you haven't done already. What I want to talk about are aspects of that revolution which, if embraced, are disruptive enough to help your organisation move forward as you digitally transform your business and step into the next decade.

First a bit of context, to set the scene. Over the years, SAP have introduced many initiatives to address the lot of the user, but they've been technology driven, sometimes inspirational, sometimes challenging, and often disjointed. SAP Fiori is different, as it's design driven, with the user -- the consumer -- front and centre. The realisation, in the form of technology and platform, is secondary. So Fiori is very appropriate as the right initiative to embrace and disrupt when it comes to people.

Seamless consumer interactions

The Fiori Launchpad is an important component in the Fiori universe, allowing direct and realtime visibility of KPIs, and consumption of apps, in one place (across all devices blah blah, yep, we know the score). Look one level up from the Launchpad, and consider what you see. The Launchpad, as well as the well-designed app-based approach to consuming functionality, is suitable and available for your business partners as well as your internal departments. Imagine that!

Why keep the goodness of all that Fiori has to offer to yourselves? Spread the love to your customers and suppliers, and they're more likely to reciprocate. How often have you gritted your teeth before launching into some old style portal, at your desk, just to check on the progress of an order or invoice?

What's more, with the power of the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, Portal Service, you can even move away from the tile-based approach, while still benefitting from all the design goodness, by building freestyle sites that are both fit for purpose but also espouse the Fiori best practices for app-level interaction.

Connected systems

SAP Fiori is here, and it's here to stay. Not only for what we traditionally think of in terms of SAP ERP systems, but also for other products - Ariba, Concur, Lumira to name but three. Gradually, the Fiori revolution is coming to these systems.

The architecture for Fiori is based largely on the concept of a "frontend server", which as the name suggests, abstracts away the nuances of whatever SAP systems sit behind it - ECC, CRM, SRM and more. So we have connected systems and processes through a uniform interface. Dissonance and impedance that normally arise through context switching and different user interfaces can melt away.

It's not only SAP systems that can participate in this connected state. The toolkit that powers Fiori, UI5, comes in two flavours - one with an associated SAP licence, the other with an Apache 2.0 open source licence. The latter, named OpenUI5, means that you can safely and legitimately provide a Fiori look and feel for your non-SAP systems too, further harmonising the experience across your enterprise.

Realtime insights

I've hinted at this disruption already. Yes, we all know about the realtime dashboards from the BI stable. There are plenty of tools over there that can give you insights into data in realtime. But it's "over there". There's a disconnect, a cognitive gap when you switch from your transactional tools to your analytical ones.

With Fiori, and the infrastructure that comes with it (the Launchpad, the Overview Page concept, Smart Business and more) that gap disappears. Your users (and partners for that matter) can move from insight to action in one smooth transition, because both are in the same place, on the same page (for examples of this, see The SAP Fiori Launchpad as a dashboard for my running KPIs).

Closing thoughts

I've worked with SAP technologies for 30 years, and I suggest that never before has there been such an opportunity, with joined up technology initiatives, for SAP customers to embrace and make their own, to move themselves forward and beyond where they are right now. Yes, I hear you say, it's only a frontend. OK, fair point. But it's seamless, connected and live. Most importantly though, it's focused on people - you, your users, and your business partners. Systems and business processes don't make a difference. People do.

 

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About the author

DJ Adams

Principal Consultant & Mobile, UX and Development Centre of Excellence Lead

DJ Adams is an enterprise architect and open source programmer, author and bread-maker. He has a degree in Latin and Greek (Classics) from the University of London and, despite having been referred to as an alpha geek, can nevertheless tie his own shoelaces and drink beer without spilling it.

He hacks primarily on SAP systems for a living, and has been doing for over 20 years, cutting his teeth modifying SAP applications in S/370 assembler, building real-time interfaces between forklift truck-mounted RF devices and SAP materials and warehouse modules in C (yes, this was pre-MM-MOB and WM-LSR!), and most recently integrating SAP, Ariba, Infor, Siebel, IXOS and PeopleSoft systems with a REST-based ERP business messaging gateway built on an SAP NetWeaver platform and processing tens of thousands of messages per day. Phew!

DJ is an SAP Mentor, and in 2003 helped get the SAP Developer Network (SDN) off the ground. He also spent a year working at SAP Walldorf in the 1990s, and is proud to still have some of his code and ideas in core SAP software.

When not building and integrating systems, he advises enterprises on architecture and integration, from SOA to REST, from pubsub (most recently with Coffeeshop) to messaging and presence, from message queues to webhooks.  DJ has written two books for O'Reilly, on Jabber (XMPP) and Google.