Written by Christoph Fischer
SAP’s customer base consists of 437,000 companies in more than 180 countries, which are responsible for 78% of the world’s food distribution, and 82% of the world’s medical devices. A staggering 77% of the world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP system.
These are extraordinary numbers.
SAP is utilized for processing big data across HR, Finance, Purchasing, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Logistics and Engineering. Combining data across all of these departments on a global scale is a massive undertaking – which SAP has mastered in its 48 year history.
Historically, SAP has mastered the ability of making this data available to these various departments and oftentimes global user base, via the SAP GUI which utilizes Transaction Codes (T-codes) to display data relevant to the various departments. Each department has their unique T-codes, to perform the day to day actions (i.e., search for document – enter T-code CV04n, display material master – enter T-code MM03, change routing – enter T-code CA02 etc.).
T-codes can be added as favorites, and for experienced and expert SAP users, it is a nice, calculated way of completing their day to day activities in an Enterprise system.
During the early days in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the SAP GUI was already a technological standard, and continued to evolve and improve over the next few decades.
In 1992, after 20 years of existence, SAP reached adulthood in several areas and the transition from mainframe to client-server finally took place. This fundamental switch in technology kicked into high gear with the revolution of the personal computer (PC).
Over the next few years in the 1990’s, SAP made many improvements as more and more big corporations started implementing SAP, and the era of personal computing was moving full steam ahead. With the revolution of personal computing, came the improvements to the SAP GUI.
In early 2001, the next version of the SAP GUI (4.6) was extensively revamped and had a different look and feel – a look and feel many SAP users today are still used to, and working in.
Compare the early 2000 SAP GUI (above) with my current version of the SAP GUI in 2020 (below), and you see little UX / UI differences.
Another step in the evolution of the SAP user experience came with the introduction of the NetWeaver Business Client (NWBC), a single point of entry providing access not only to SAP functions but also to custom applications. The NWBC brought the web-based portal look and feel into the SAP UX / UI.
In 2013, SAP entered the modern era by releasing the Fiori technology. From its initial release with a small suite of apps it grew rapidly, combining the powerful, innovative enterprise software with a simple and modern user interface, which can run on a client or mobile (Android & iOS), and supports both ECC and S/4 landscapes.
Even with NWBC and Fiori available to the SAP user base in ECC and S/4, many SAP users remained in the SAP GUI and are still in this UI today. This means, many SAP users are still using the technology from the 1990’s, in the year 2020. Why you may ask? One of SAP’s own blogs describes its legacy interface – SAP GUI – this way: “It is SAP’s most known, hated but stable user interface technology.” Customers will tell SAP when the old faithful SAP GUI can be retired.
OK – history lessons are complete, now let’s get to the point. Why is LeverX here today writing a blog on the SAP GUI, NWBC and Fiori?
LeverX’s DNA is in the area of R&D / Engineering and PLM, within the large SAP customer base. This means, LeverX concentrates on the 78% of the world’s food producers and distributors, the 82% of the world’s Medical Device companies, and the 1000’s of other discrete and process companies using SAP. With our DNA in the area of R&D / Engineering, we concentrate in the area of Product Development, R&D, Engineering and combining this data with the Supply Chain and Logistics in SAP. In the official SAP solution space, this area is referred to as the Digital Supply Chain. The way 2020 has played out this far, the Digital Supply Chain is advancing and accelerating at record speed – not because it’s nice to have, but because it is a necessity for companies to survive, and ultimately flourish.
Purchasing, Logistics and other SAP users are often times happy using the SAP GUI, even in 2020, because it is stable and it works. Typically the happy users are the users who have worked with the SAP GUI since the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and have become very efficient and comfortable in this UI.
But what about all the younger generations that are joining SAP’s customer base of 400,000+ enterprise companies, working in Purchasing, Logistics, Engineering and other departments? The learning curve to use the SAP GUI, for someone born in the 1990’s is steep. What about the next wave of SAP users – someone born in the 2000’s – can you expect them to train on using the SAP GUI, a technology which originated in the 1970’s and matured in the 1990’s, when they started using the iPad by the age of 10 (or earlier)? This generation grew up in the era of PC’s, Mobile, Smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and technology being “simple and modern”. So why should this be any different in business?
Let’s look at another group – 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s – it really doesn’t matter - Engineering, Manufacturing and / or Supply Chain users regardless of experience, age or background often times find it difficult or unacceptable to use the SAP GUI.
Furthermore, R&D / Engineering is made up of creative minds, who flourish in the area of design, collaboration and ingenuity. These groups of users are often times also SAP users, since the data they create jump start the entire SAP “product life cycle” (from Engineering through Purchasing, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Logistics, Sales, Finance etc.).
These groups of users also DO NOT want to work in a transactional based SAP GUI – even if it is stable and it works. These groups of users are typically working with modern 3D CAD tools, intuitive collaboration portals, and on a day to day these groups of users engineer and design creative, life saving or essential products. Move these users into the GUI, and you may as well have hit the emergency brake on a racecar.
Here comes LeverX – a 17+ year SAP specialist partner, with 700+ employees worldwide, founded by former SAP PLM Leadership, specialized in the area of making SAP modern to use for Engineering and the Digital Supply Chain. LeverX has combined the power of the SAP GUI, the flexibility of the NWBC and the modern ease of use of Fiori, and created the IQ Suite – including IQ Product Work Center (PWC).
IQ PWC combines the transaction codes from SAP required for R&D / Engineering, Manufacturing – Supply Chain etc., and using the NWBC and Fiori technology, provides a simple, modern and efficient dashboard in “IQ PWC” aka within SAP, which can be accessed in the corporate or home office on a PC, or in the field on mobile platforms (tablets, Android, iOS etc.).
A single product informational dashboard, with visibility of documents, materials, t-codes – from Material Master, BOM’s, to Recipes, Quality, to Routing information – all made available in a single dashboard.
Do you want your engineers, quality and manufacturing to want to work in SAP? Call us today and request a demo.
Within IQ PWC, you can even enable “SLACK” like discussions – which we call IQ Discussions, or track Product Development readiness via IQ Launch, to ensure release statuses are followed properly as a product is being released.
Let’s jump into a demo, and you can see IQ PWC transform the SAP user experience into the modern era of 2020.
Next up on our blog, we will highlight a critical sub-group of these SAP users, who should not be working in the SAP GUI. These are the Engineers, Drafters and CAD Designers, working extensively with documents, CAD data and designing the products. For this group, SAP, together with its core partner DSC Software AG makes available the SAP Engineering Control Center (ECTR). ECTR makes Engineers want SAP!