Is your current implementation sufficiently focused on the user experience?

7 June 2013

Cliff Pennycate

Cliff Pennycate

Consultant

UserExperienceHaving worked on many SAP implementations I have noticed that the user experience (UE) is always considered to some degree, but maybe not always with maximum focus and/or not always early enough in the design phase.

The UE should be more than simply what fields to show/hide and what reports to make available.  A good UE design considers how the solution will be used in the 'real world' setting, considering key stroke paths, messaging, responsiveness and ease of use to name a few.  It goes without saying, a better user experience greatly improves system uptake.  If we like something, we're more likely to use it!

Why is there a limited focus on user experience?

There are many reasons why the focus on UE can be insufficient, which could include:

  • Budget constraints. Is there sufficient budget to allow focus on what is sometimes seen as a secondary / 'fluffy' project deliverable
  • Aggressive timelines. An attitude of let's just get it built and worry about "prettying up" later during a future release - does later ever come?
  • Overshadowed by technical challenges. Effort focused on more complex IT issues such as integration, data and changes to existing systems
  • Lack of business input. Either late involvement of business users or they are only used for process design and testing and not user experience requirement

Ignoring the user experience comes at a cost

There are many good reasons to plan and design a quality user experience into your next SAP implementation, in order to avoid some of the following pitfalls:

  • Poor user adoption. The new solution goes live but unhappy users begin to revert back to offline spreadsheets and/or simply do the bare minimum in the new system
  • Inability to meet KPIs. With poor user adoption, some KPIs such as productivity improvements aren't fully realised
  • Negative feedback. A "within budget and on time" project can be overshadowed by poor business user feedback
  • Uncertain future. Without positive feedback from the user community, future phases of the implementation stand a greater chance of budget uncertainty

5 ways to ensure your projects sufficiently factors in the UE

Whether you're planning, mid-flight or have recently gone live with your implementation, it might be worth checking back on your project to see if focus on the user experience is/was adequate - ask yourself the question, "if I was the user, would I like the new system". 

Some of the following approaches for ensuring a good level of focus on the UE, (including a couple, which I have personally used on more recent SAP TPM engagements), include:-

  1. Make good UE a deliverable. Make someone/team accountable for the User Experience, agree KPIs and then measure success against them
  2. Engage business users early on in the project. Bring in business users early for agreeing on what a good User Experience would look like (be sure you know your limitations around setting expectations)
  3. Shadow your business users. Spend time looking at what and how they use their current applications and find out what works and what doesn't. Experience their experience!
  4. Organise cross stream UE sessions. Periodically bring together the various functional project streams to review UE of the overall end-to-end solution
  5. Embed positive system messaging. An introduction of reward messages instead of just error messages.  Do we always have to use on screen messages in business applications to inform of errors or document saved, but possibly also use it to praise?

With the above in mind, ask yourself again what your UE strategy is and the likelihood that the solution delivered at the end of your project will be a user friendly one, one which is actively used, positively spoken about and a true platform for future improvements.

Get the user experience right and your business colleagues will thank you!

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