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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
S/4HANA projects that miss the mark on User Experience typically do so by including only UI (User Interface) Lead(s) without including a UX (User Experience) Lead.  This blog aims to give project managers insights into the critical activities a UX Lead performs within a S/4HANA project implementation (over and above the usual UI app activation and adjustment). It is these critical UX Lead activities that deliver the real promise of User Experience of increased user adoption and improved user performance.

With S/4HANA 1610 UX delivery rises to even greater prominence and attention - as explained by Thomas Reiss in Great User Experience for SAP S/4HANA 1610 with SAP Fiori 2.0. So much so that a key driver of most, if not all, S/4HANA projects is new user experience that delivers increased user adoption and improved employee productivity.  Project managers implementing S/4HANA need to understand how the relatively new role of UX Lead delivers on the promise of user experience – and involves much more than simply turning on a bunch of new user interfaces.

Since the earliest days of the new SAP UX strategy, effective user experience has been described as the intersection of the 3 key pillars People (Desirability), Business(Viability) and Technology(Feasibility).

Delivering on the promise promise of user experience requires giving equal consideration to the People pillar in deployment as SAP gives to creating the S/4HANA user experiences in the earlier phases of the UX lifecycle.

SAP S/4HANA UX provides Fiori apps created using a UX lifecycle that keeps the 3 pillars in mind:

  • In the Discover phase, end user research provides first hand evidence for design and development

  • In the Design Phase, prototyping is used to validate the user experience with real end users

  • In the Develop Phase, the final solution is again validated with end users.

The final Deploy Phase is the responsibility of the S/4AHANA project itself and this is where - without a UX Lead - end user experience breaks down Too often we see projects delivering taking a “just turn them on” attitude to apps, leading to a fractured and incomprehensible user experience for end users.  This leaves your users confused, your stakeholders disappointed and your sponsor angry.

It doesn’t take much to fail – a poorly organized Launchpad alone will leave users struggling to identify which app they need for the task at hand. Nor is Personalization an adequate fix – many aspects, such as tile names, can only be fixed in configuration. Worse, waiting until after go-live to fix issues is problematic as it risks compromising existing Personalization, alienating your end user community further.

Unfortunately many S/4HANA projects only plan for UI Lead(s) who are focused on the Technology or Business Process leaving no-one to focus on the People, i.e. the employees themselves.  As a rule UI Lead(s) are simply expected to deploy apps, place them in the business process, and if necessary adjust apps. This alone is not enough to achieve increased user adoption and improved user performance. Especially where there may be several technical and business UI leads, with no-one responsible for central decisions, and no agreed central decision criteria for how out of the box apps should be adjusted, or which technology should be used for any additional apps needed.

In contrast, the UX Lead has a laser-like focus on delivering increased user adoption and improved employee performance.  These outcomes can only be achieved by ensuring the “voice of the user” is heard through user validation activities that fit with the organisation’s culture.  It’s the UX Lead’s challenge to find appropriate mechanisms for user engagement and validation that respect the needs of the sponsor, stakeholders, business process owners, and the end users themselves.

The UX Lead further delivers on promise by centrally governing all aspects of user experience.  Central governance not only gives better outcomes it saves considerable project time. The core aims of the UX Lead are:

  • Establish and drive user validation activities in a way that respects the organisational culture

  • Drive a coherent user experience across all S/4HANA streams

  • Avoid project missteps or rework by providing clear decision criteria for any app adjustments and new apps

  • Communicate and manage all central aspects of S/4HANA user experience

In order of importance the most critical activities of the UX Lead are:

  1. Critical Activity #1 – Communicate UX needs & expectations

  2. Critical Activity #2 - Validate UX with End Users

  3. Critical Activity #3 – Provide UX Strategy Guidance

  4. Critical Activity #4 – Govern UX Adjustments

  5. Critical Activity #5 – Optimize Launchpad per Business Role

On S/4HANA projects we have seen so far, the need for #1, #3 and #4 become obvious during the project and end up being unplanned activities which crunch the project timeline. While #2 and #5 may not happen at all leading to failure to achieve strategic business outcomes for user experience.

Let’s work through these briefly…

Critical Activity #1 – Communicate UX needs & expectations

The most important activity of the UX Lead is to advocate for great user experience.  This involves explaining needs and setting expectations for user engagement and user validation activities.  As the UX Lead is an expertise role that usually comes from outside the customer’s organisation, a UX Lead works to understand how the culture of the organization can be leveraged or adapted to best include user engagement and user validation activities.  It might be via workshops, interviews, web sessions, or coming alongside certain people - whatever works!

A UX Lead needs skills to work at all levels of the organizations including with:

  • Sponsor – understanding drivers, scope, intent, and priorities

  • Architects and basis team – discussing the impact on user experience of including or excluding specific solutions components, such as the Web Dispatcher and Mobile Device Management

  • Project team – discussing central user experience capabilities and adjustment options

  • Business process owners – understanding impact, importance, and discussing how to avoid unintended consequences of change

  • Organisational change managers – guiding selection of end user representatives, discussing intrinsic reward and recognition for end user representatives, and how to grow selected end users into change evangelists

  • Security – as in S/4HANA the user’s Launchpad is the primary driver for authorization administration

  • Training and education – discussing how and what needs to be covered (or perhaps more importantly should not be covered) when providing intuitive user interfaces

And most importantly of all, with:

  • End user representatives themselves – ensuring their voice is heard, that their opportunities & responsibilities are understood

Critical Activity #2 - Validate UX with End Users

The UX Lead is responsible for ensuring consideration of the People pillar of user experience, i.e. making sure the “voice of the user” is heard.  This is done by guiding user engagement and user validation activities that:

  1. Fit with the organization’s culture

  2. Provide pragmatic insights into as-is and to-be user behaviours and their motivations

  3. Increase user confidence and buy-in

The “voice of the user” is essential because ultimately the only people who intimately understand the business role are the people who perform that role every day.  Even when the business process itself is changing, user engagement and validation activities:

  • Increase user buy-in by showing respect and consideration of end users

  • Improve employee productivity by building in a pragmatic “view from the frontline” of all aspects of the user experience

  • Promote a positive attitude to change by growing selected end users to become change evangelists

  • Reduce training and onboarding costs by minimizing misunderstandings due to terminology and organizational culture

  • Reduce the risk of missed requirements in new business processes by providing a real world view of their impact

Critical Activity #3 – Provide UX Strategy Guidance

A common mistake we have seen in S/4HANA projects is to think that because S/4HANA UX delivers new user experiences there is no need for a UX Strategy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

S/4HANA UX contains several UI technologies and these all have various options for adjustment via: personalization; UI adaptations; extensibility options; and by combining different techniques – such as overlaying a Screen Personas “Flavor” on a SAPGUI screen.

Your functional leads are also likely to identify adjustments to the delivered user experiences and perhaps even new apps.  Having a UX Strategy in place minimizes confusion and avoids maverick or inconsistent solutions that break your business outcome of a delightful and effective end user experience.

The UX Strategy as a minimum needs to include:

  • Key drivers for User Experience – explaining UX business outcomes to those who will support or further adjust the system after the initial project is completed

  • Governance framework establishing who is responsible, accountable, needs to be consulted or informed (RACI) of any adjustments or new apps

  • Decision criteria around which adjustment options should be used & when

  • Design-led development process framework appropriate to your organisation for executing approved adjustments and new apps to ensure quality and consistency are not compromised

You may also want the UX Strategy to cover or, if already existing, at least reference naming, coding, performance, and the other usual best practice standards.

Critical Activity #4 – Govern UX Adjustments 

A UX Lead does not merely set the UX Strategy - they are responsible for making sure that strategy is enacted.  Establishing into project practice the governance framework, UX adjustment decision criteria, and design-led development.  And naturally, adjusting the UX Strategy to smooth continued practice in the organisation after the project has completed.

Depending on the number and degree of adjustments, the UX Lead may need to act as an end user researcher, a Design Thinking facilitator, a UX Designer, or as a defacto trainer of other members of the team in how to perform these roles.

This is especially true of extensions where arbitrary decisions by the business process owners of functional consultants to “just add a couple of extra fields or features” can break the user experience.  Even with extensions, some UX design should be done to make sure the placement still hits the sweet spot of UX, i.e.:

  • People – it works for end users

  • Technology – it will execute and perform well in the system

  • Business – will actually achieve the desired business outcome

This doesn’t involve holding workshops for every single change – however it does mean making sure that the change has at least been sighted and feedback exchanged between relevant end user representatives, business process owners, and developers.

Of course if you are creating custom Fiori apps or new Screen Personas “Flavors” a more comprehensive design-led development process is necessary.

Critical Activity #5 – Optimize Launchpad per Business Role

Once the Fiori apps and other technologies are active and working, one of the most important tasks of the UX Lead is to make sure every user’s 1st impression of S/4HANA is positive. This means ensuring the Launchpad makes sense to the end user.

Just like delivered Security roles, delivered Launchpad roles should be treated as examples – fine for an initial assessment of what’s available, but needing to be tailored to the organization.  We’ve seen giving out of the box roles without tailoring result in “tile shock” – users are simply overwhelmed and can’t find what they need.  Once that happens you have lost user adoption benefits and it can be a long road back to re-establish user confidence and trust.

This tailoring is not something your Business Process Owners or Subject Matter Experts can typically do for you.  Nor is it a task for the Security lead.  While they can help identify which apps and tiles should appear, unless they perform the business role themselves they simply don’t have sufficient perspective on the mental model of the end users to identify:

  • Intuitive tile texts in end user terminology – so that end users are confident they are choosing the correct app

  • Effective grouping of tiles for ease of identification - to help users quickly find what they need

  • Appropriate sort order for optimal user performance - such as putting most frequently used apps first

  • Core vs. Context apps - which apps need to be available on the Launchpad on day 1 vs. rarely used or not yet understood apps to be removed to the App Finder (formerly known as the Tile Catalog) for future consideration

Really the only people who can have the perspective and can give you insights are end users themselves. While the UX Lead takes responsibility for configuring the Fiori Launchpad, collaboration with Organisational Change Management to manage end user engagement activities is extremely helpful to optimize the launchpad for employee productivity.

Plan for S/4HANA Project Success

In our experiences so far, many S/4HANA project managers don’t yet understand the role of the UX Lead and consequently don’t adequately plan for UX activities.  This leads to a failure to deliver on the key promises of user experience: increased user adoption and improved employee productivity.

While the degree and extent to which these activities are needed on specific S/4HANA projects will vary, all of the above activities are essential to user experience success.

Be aware that there are many other optional scope areas which can form part of S/4HANA project and which will required additional activities to be considered.  For example:

  • Mobile device deployment

  • Accessibility

  • Corporate theming

  • UX metrics capture to prove benefits realisation

Success in S/4HANA projects is heavily dependent on delivering great user experiences, not just great user interfaces.  A good UX Lead not only delivers on the promise of UX, they can assist the rest of the project team and the organization itself to make the leap from Business Suite or Suite on HANA to S/4HANA.