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If you have a product idea, but no technical knowledge to make a prototype, you can now visualize and share your idea on BUILD. A new open source technology from SAP, BUILD makes it possible for anyone to design and create interactive prototypes. Ben Ceaser, Vice President Product Management for User Experience & Design, talks about the capabilities, market strategy, and potential impact of BUILD.

How did the idea for BUILD emerge?

From the development of the first SAP Fiori apps and subsequent user interface (UI) projects, we knew how important interactive prototypes are for obtaining high quality feedback from end-users. Prototypes are also an extremely effective way to communicate requirements to developers, management, and other stakeholders. Unfortunately, this has traditionally required UI developers, who are precious resources, and are not readily available for prototyping. We asked How might we make it easy for non-technical users to express requirements and bring their ideas to life? This was the spark for BUILD. 

Who is the customer for BUILD?

Anyone who finds it useful! Our objective is to promote the practice of iterative prototyping with end users prior to the start of development. The initial focus was on customers and SAP teams that work closely with customers to co-innovate, but we soon realized that there is a lot of interest from partners and internal product teams as well.

Tell us about some of its main features.

BUILD is comprised of two main components: prototyping and user research. User research can be task-based, question oriented, or both. We collect both quantitative and qualitative feedback from end users, which we consolidate and present to BUILD users so that they understand what works and what doesnt.

Prototyping enables progression from low-fidelity designs to high-fidelity interactive prototypes during the idea-to-development process. Users can start by creating clickable prototypes from sketches or pictures on a whiteboard. Once these ideas have been validated with end users, they can replace the sketches with real UI controls and templates in a WYSIWYG editor. BUILD also provides features to make it easy to incorporate realistic sample data so that the prototypes are more meaningful for end-users. We didnt want technology to be a limiting factor in expressing ideas, so BUILD can support different UI technologies, including multiple versions of SAPUI5.

BUILD is open source. Why did SAP go with that strategy?

There are three key factors in our decision to open source BUILD.

Time to market By leveraging readily available open source components, we were able to bring BUILD to market much faster than we could using only proprietary technology.

Scale and adoption - We hope that by open sourcing BUILD and encouraging contribution from customers and partners, we will broaden the scope and breadth of the solution faster than we could alone. Weve already seen faster adoption from partners, as they know that they can shape the future of the application

Developer efficiency and satisfaction - There is a short learning curve for the technology used in BUILD and we can onboard new developers in a matter of days instead of weeks or months. Our developers are also very motivated to use open source technology, as many already contribute to open source projects. This helps us attract and retain talent, as it provides us with the opportunity to master technologies that are commonly used in Silicon Valley. We are also able to engage better with the development community in the valley where many of these open source projects are being driven.

What is the business value of BUILD for SAP?

Ultimately, we hope to help internal teams, partners, and customers improve user experience of the apps that are built on SAP technology. We want to make it easy for them to adopt the best practices of design-driven development; specifically by enabling product managers, consultants, business analysts, etc. to design iteratively with end-users. This process results in fewer change requests once development has started and increases the likelihood that what comes out of development will meet the needs of end users. We are also able to reduce the costs of development by generating code for commonly used UI patterns.

How will BUILD integrate with other SAP products?

We've had a great partnership with the Cloud Experience team from SAP Labs in Israel, resulting in the initial release of a BUILD WebIDE plugin for developers to import BUILD projects in WebIDE and serve as the basis for UI development.

Working with the SAP Fiori technology teams, we have incorporated Smart Templates into the BUILD prototyping experience. This will allow S/4HANA and Fiori product owners to prototype and get feedback on Smart Template based applications.

What has been the response from customers/market?

Its been overwhelmingly positive. Our first two private betas have been oversubscribed and we have a very healthy pipeline of interested customers, which weve been able to secure mostly through word-of-mouth.

Tell us where the project currently stands.

We have just released the second beta, which is open to internal users, customers, and partners. This beta introduces prototyping of Smart Templates, user research analytics, and a ton of UX improvements from the first beta. We plan on another major beta release in the next few months, which will bring even more prototyping capabilities.

Whats with the monkey in the BUILD logo?

BUILDs mascot Lucy is named after the Hominin fossil discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. That fossil is approximately 3.2 million years old and is from mankinds earliest ancestors. Lucy can be considered to be a prototype of mankind. Lucy also embodies one of the key design principals of BUILD; prototyping should be fun, always!