Can the UX process be applied to SAP BI Dashboard projects?

30 December 2016

Karun Soni

Karun Soni


I’ll keep this simple: Yes! Absolutely! To explain why, I’m going to take you through three crucial elements of the User Experience (UX) process and show you why they can prevent common issues arising in SAP Business Intelligence (BI) projects.

User personas

In your standard BI project, how often do we step back and ask ourselves “how we are making the end-users' lives easier”? Questions that should be used to address this are: “What report/ dashboard does X user run each day and what answers are they looking for from that query?” along with “How can we reach these answers faster?” 

Karun-Can-the-UX-process-be-applied-to-SAP-BI-Dashboard-projects-content.jpgThese questions draw out specific challenges these users face in terms of user interface (UI) and/or performance. Multiple user personas are incredibly important when you have a design for various roles (i.e. a dashboard ‘view’ should vary if the target audience is for both Executives and BA’s).

The personas should inform the design. Too often, senior stakeholders will dictate the design around the tools, offerings and their own KPIs – disregarding the end users. Once the users get their hands on the tool money is squandered on additional training and change requests (CRs) due to the amount of change required to meet the end-users' needs. User personas explore the human factor and lead to a deeper understanding of what the user wants. This is crucial; people find change uncomfortable so building a solution that is focused around them can counter this.


Flows are important to define how the user will navigate around a front-end solution. With BI tools, such as Dashboards, users can navigate around the front-end by clicking on tabs and buttons etc. to access key decision making data. But what is the impact of how well this is designed?

Putting time and thought into the flows means that Dashboards can be tailor made to meet the various end user personas needs. For example, a dashboard could give the user the information they need instantly or they may require drilldowns and filters before accessing it. If we know and appreciate what the user does, day to day (through the persona), this will inform the flow design. This ensures that something can be designed to prioritise the information users access first. Whilst this might only save a minute, when this minute is multiplied over hundreds of users over a year the efficiencies soon begin to stack up.


This is a highly successful way of communicating what a BI solution will feel like early on in the project and is particularly effective in agile project solutions. There are tools available which can make your sketches interactive for example, which means that your client can play with drilldowns in your drawings and navigate around a concept dashboard immediately. This bridges the gap between IT and the business: sharing your vision instantly.

In an agile project, changes to these wireframes can be made instantly wasting little time and therefore fitting into the fast-paced nature of that project. There are a plethora of tools out there that can do this, including Balsamiq, Axure and Invision.

The benefits to the client

By incorporating user personas, flows and wireframing, clients will experience multiple wins: from a reduction in CRs to higher user adoption, less clutter and increased performance.

It is a no-brainer, but there is still a culture of UX process being associated with B2C solutions, when the user interface is prioritised and user response is crucial. However, in B2B BI solutions, even if user response is not important and the focus is on getting the ‘job done’, following all of the above is proven to save time and money, as explained here.

The UX process isn’t just something that should be considered in BI design, but perhaps in all front-end solutions in and outside of the SAP world. 


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