SAP will offer new UI tech at no extra charge

(Source: SAP)

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4 June 2014 | 0

Bowing to pressure from customers and competitors, SAP will provide a series of recently released, next-generation user interface technologies at no extra charge.

Screen Personas and Fiori will now be included with SAP software licenses, while customers who already bought the products will get a credit they can use as part of future purchases, SAP said Tuesday at the Sapphire user conference in Orlando.

Fiori is a rapidly growing set of lightweight, mobile-friendly applications based on common processes from SAP’s flagship Business Suite, while Screen Personas gives users the ability to rejigger Business Suite screens to suit their liking or job role.

In recent months, SAP user groups agitated publicly for both products to be free, citing SAP’s poor track record over the past couple of decades with respect to the user experience.

SAP initially held steadfast against the criticism. But newly minted sole CEO Bill McDermott may have since decided that a high-profile concession on pricing could put a signature initial stamp on his tenure.

“Some customers as well as our user groups said SAP shouldn’t charge for [Fiori and Screen Personas],” McDermott said during a keynote address Tuesday. “You know what? I agree.”

Fiori now covers 300 of the most-used processes in the Business Suite and reduces keystrokes by 75%, McDermott said.

SAP isn’t leaving all the money on the table, as it will offer customers design and implementation services they can use to adopt Fiori and Screen Personas, according to Tuesday’s announcement.

Fiori will be “the new [user experience] for SAP software” across multiple types of devices, according to a statement. Screen Personas, meanwhile, will be blended into SAP GUI for HTML, which is aimed at casual users.

In addition, SAP executive Sam Yen has been appointed chief design officer of the company.

User groups such as DSAG (German-Speaking SAP User Group) had argued that the user interface improvements should have been included as part of the annual maintenance fees customers already pay.

“SAP has recognised that attractive surfaces are an important trend among users and this must be served within maintenance expenditures,” DSAG board member Andreas Oczko said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “Now SAP customers can evaluate whether SAP Fiori and Screen Personas are suitable for their business or not, without having to take into consideration additional licensing costs. “

SAP also nnounced the beta release of River, a rapid application-development platform that was hatched under the watch of former technology chief Vishal Sikka, who left the company last month as part of a management shakeup.

Overall, SAP’s announcements reflect a growing recognition among enterprise software vendors that customers demand a consumer-like feel to their business applications, particularly as millennials make up an increasingly larger part of the workforce.

“Fifty percent of Gen Y say they would rather lose their sense of smell than their mobile device,” McDermott said during the keynote.

It is also a response to competitors such as Workday and NetSuite, which recently introduced user-interface upgrades at no additional cost to customers.

McDermott is the first American to be sole CEO of SAP, and appears bent on making his mark on a company that despite its success has long endured criticism for the complexity of its software.

“We see a dream for a simpler SAP, and a simpler customer experience,” McDermott said during the keynote. “I realise there are those of you, especially the pundits, that say we can’t. Those that are eager to point out to me that SAP has been too complex. That’s a fair point. No doubt about it. That’s why there’s a chip on our shoulders. We will beat complexity. SAP is simple from now on.”

Philip Adams  from the UK and Ireland User Group, welcomed the move by SAP.

“SAP’s announcement that it will be providing Fiori and Screen Personas to customers as part of its maintenance contracts is good news,” said Adams. “There has never been any doubt about the quality of these new user experience tools and with the news today it will be much easier for us as customers to take advantage of them. The user experience of SAP has been a complaint of members for some time. As part of SUGEN, and at a local level, we’ve been pushing SAP on this matter as our members felt strongly that they shouldn’t have to pay separate license fees for Fiori. This move shows that SAP is listening to its customers and takes the concerns of user groups seriously.

A survey we’ve just run showed the vast majority of organisations expected Fiori to be provided as part of maintenance and that additional licenses would put them off using it. With companies paying up to 22% in support and maintenance fees this isn’t surprising. What’s interesting though is that well over half of our survey respondents stated they would adopt Fiori in the next 12 months if SAP made it available without licenses fees to customers with maintenance agreements. This should be a win-win for SAP and our members. Fiori should improve user satisfaction and as a result we wouldn’t be surprised to see user adoption of other SAP software increase. Screen Personas also being offered at no extra charge to customers paying maintenance will also serve to improve the user experience and make it much easier for organisations to tailor the SAP UI to the needs of different users,” concluded Adams.

Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service

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