As I sit here in our testing room, I am impressed with usability improvements made in SAP Sourcing Wave 9. These usability enhancements are really part of a progression of substantially improved user experiences that began in Wave 6, 7, and 8.
Please keep in mind that the Wave 9 software is in the early stages of testing, and there is a chance the some of the nuances of the features described below may change and be improved upon by the time the product is finally released.
The usability enhancements in Wave 9 are:
Organize your attachments with folders. Buyers can organize attachments by inserting attachments into folders at the header of documents (Master Agreements, Subagreements, RFxs, Projects, Auctions, and User Defined Objects). Similarly, suppliers can also create and manage folders on RFx Responses and User Defined Objects. Unlimited number of attachment folders can be created (single level), and files can be inserted and moved within and among these folders. If you use the existing feature of importing attachments from the library, a new folder will be created automatically to store the files imported from the library. If you mass download the attachments, the folder structures are preserved as directories within the downloaded zip file.
This folder feature is available on attachments to the header of the documents. Attachments not directly associated with the header--such as line items, questions and info sections—do not have folders and operate in the same manner as before.
Split Screen: Line Item Dual Pane Window. Did you ever want to see a list of your document’s line items, and yet work on the line item details at the same time? The traditional method is to bring up the line item list, drill down to the detail of one of the line items, then exit back up to the list. You would do this repeatedly to work on multiple line items. New in Wave 9, you can split the screen and see the list of line items at the top, and the detail of a line item in at the bottom. This allows you to work efficiently as you view and process through the line item summary and details at the same time. What is really nice is that you can size and resize the two panes by dragging the resize bar up and down, and the system “remembers” this setting as you move to other tabs and back again to the line item tab.
This dual pane window capability is available on the line item tab of the RFx, RFx Response, Agreements, Subagreements, and Auctions—both on the buy side and sell side.
As you can imagine, the dual pane feature works best on a high resolution monitor. I have found that at resolutions of 1600 X 900 and above, plenty of information is shown. At resolutions of 1280 X 720 and below, the screen real estate gets a bit tight if you are trying to view both panes. But keep in mind that you can always maximize the Detail pane with the resize bar, and you would effectively get the same display as in the previous releases. And while the Detail pane's vertical space in Wave 9 is very similar to that of Wave 8, Wave 9 also uses a two-column display in the Detail pane, allowing you to see more information without having to use the vertical scroll bar.
Full Screen Mode. To get even more out of your limited screen space, there is a button on virtually every screen called “Full Screen”. Click this and the upper toolbars disappear (refer to the two screenshots below). I found this to be especially effective when used in conjunction with the above-described Split Screen to maximize what you can see in each of the two panes.
Easier internal collaboration using Discussions. The Discussion feature is an existing feature in SAP Sourcing, but it had its peculiarities. Discussions are a great way to carry out threaded and auditable written conversations on any subject. They can help clarify points, solicit ideas and feedback, or request for help. Collaborators and suppliers can reply to discussions as well as start a new discussion thread.
Discussions consist of a high level Topic and lower level Messages. Prior to Wave 9, the Topic level did not have an internal/external flag, but individual messages could be flagged as “internal” or “internal and external” (and more completely, messages could also be set to "Specific External Users"). Messages flagged as internal cannot be seen by the supplier. So far so good. However, since the Topic level did not contain a flag, the supplier could see a Topic with no messages, if all the messages under the Topic were flagged as Internal. These empty Topics were confusing to the supplier.
In Wave 9, the user can decide at the Topic level if it is Internal or not. If the Topic is internal, every message under it is automatically flagged as internal, and the messages, along with the Topic line, are invisible to the supplier. This works for all places where discussions are possible, namely Projects, RFx, Auctions, Master Agreement, Subagreement, and UDO’s.
Get more help from Help. In previous releases, the ever-present Help link in the upper right corner brought the buyer user or the supplier user directly to the SAP Documentation. This rich content is very helpful, but there is sometimes other assistance that the user may require. In Wave 9, the Help is now a pulldown with the following options for the buyer: Documentation, E-Learning, Community, Guides, and About. For the supplier, the Help pulldown has the following options: Documentation, E-Learning, Community, and About. The addition help options actually were available but somewhat hidden in the older releases, and it had required that the user’s workbench page is configured to enable the Help Center. By having the new Wave 9 Help options always available, both the buyer and supplier user will have an easier time finding the assistance he or she needs.
Use your favorite browser. According to many different studies of browser usage, the top four browsers are (in order): Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. SAP Sourcing Wave 9 now supports all four of these browsers, which represents about 90% of all browser usage. In Wave 7 and below, SAP Sourcing supported Internet Explorer. In Wave 8, Safari was also supported. In Wave 9, all four browser mentioned above are supported, specifically Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8 and 9, Google Chrome (latest version, currently tested with version 15 as of this writing), Mozilla Firefox 8, and Safari 5 (on Mac only)
Microsoft Office 2010 support. SAP Sourcing uses Microsoft Excel in exports and imports, and Microsoft Word for contract generation. SAP Sourcing Wave 9 now supports Microsoft Office 2010, in addition to Microsoft Office 2007 and Microsoft Office 2003.
Less screen refreshes; faster performance. This is one of those areas that unless it’s pointed out, you may not realize there were any changes to the software. When a user enters data into one field in a window, it may affect the options that are available in a second field. For example, entering a Plant into the RFx line item has an effect on the values of the corresponding Location field. In other cases the user-entered data in one field could mean that a second field is completely unnecessary. An example is the selecting Perpetual Term on a Master Agreement. If selected, the Expiration Date is not necessary and should not be a prompt on the screen. But if selected, the Expiration Date field prompt should appear.
Rather than doing a screen refresh to adjust the screen, Wave 9 now employs a method to update only the applicable field(s). You most likely experienced this previously in the Auction area, where the count-down clock and the real-time bidding immediately updated specific contents of a screen, but no screen refreshes occur. These fast, focused field adjustments make for a better user experience.
New pulldown for group selector. Prior to Wave 9, it was a bit tricky to add a line item to a specific Group. The user must first select the desired Group via a dropdown field, and then click Add. The mental gymnastic for the user was: "I want to add a line, but don't click Add, click Group". It was very easy to miss the step of selecting the Group, since many users instinctively clicked the Add button immediately. In Wave 9, the Add button itself has the pulldown to select the Group. The logic now is "I want to add a line, click Add, and now the system guides me to select a group".
This new Add button format is also included in the new Attachment folder area.
Button frames. In the past, buttons were borderless and unfortunately were not always immediately recognizable as buttons. This made them sometimes hard to find. In Wave 9, all buttons have borders that make them stand out as buttons. To make it even more obvious to the user, all buttons changes shading when you hover the mouse over them, and all buttons have icons.
There are also several Usability changes in Wave 9 which are more system administration oriented. These are:
Page customizing overrides with export/import capabilities. Two new buttons on each of the Page Customization objects provides a utility to export and import field overrides. During Sourcing implementations and upgrades, administrators can export custom page customizations from a test environment to a production environment. This feature saves time and ensures accuracy and consistency across environments. Additionally SAP Consultants can create and export each Object’s Page Customization as a template, and then only make minor adjustments after importing to different customer/tenant systems.
Additional WYSIWYG page customization. In wave 7, SAP Sourcing introduced the ability to customize document pages. As part of Wave 9 additional pages have been added to the list. These additions were also back ported to W7 and W8. The new Page Customizations include:
2 Supplier Modification via Workflow pages,
4 Supplier Registration: External pages
6 Supplier Registration via Workflow pages
Accessibility Improvements. The following accessibility improvements are new for Wave 9:
Added Screen Reader Accessibility support for users with Reading impairment. JAWS® Screen Reading software can only be installed on Windows and supports IE and Firefox only.
Added Keyboard Tool-tips accessibility for those users who use the keyboard over a mouse for navigating around a window.
Added Keyboard Drag N Drop capabilities for those users who use a keyboard over a mouse for navigating around a window.
(Note that Keyboard Accessibility was added in Wave 8, and was further enhanced with Tool-tips and Drag N Drop in Wave 9)
As I look back at this blog, I count 13 new features in the Wave 9 usability area, a clear demonstration of SAP’s commitment to continually improve our users’ experiences. This is an ongoing enhancement area, and you can look forward to additional developments in this area in the future. Thanks for reading this blog, and I welcome your comments!
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