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By Brianna Shipley, Senior Editor, SAPinsider

Although business transactions such as entering travel reimbursement forms, ordering office supplies, or performing the proper paperwork to onboard a new employee may not immediately come to mind when you think of the most important aspects of running a business, these transactions happen frequently enough that the efficiency with which they run is worth examining. Johns Hopkins found many opportunities for improvement when they drilled into some of these internal transactions taking place at their organization and found that increasing their focus on user experience (UX) was necessary to provide a more efficient environment for their employees.

One SAP instance, implemented in 2007, supports both Johns Hopkins University and the organization’s Health System and many affiliates. In 2017, Zack Rose, IT Project Manager at Johns Hopkins, was part of the group that attempted to determine how to transform their packaged 11-year-old SAP user interface into something that made completing internal business transactions quicker, smoother, and easier. Rose and the Hopkins team implemented a mix of SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas, and 3rd party software to personalize the user experience. As a result, for a growing number of transactions, the UX was moved from a very menu-based path to a tile-based portal for Johns Hopkins’ over 10,000 active users.

Johns Hopkins groups their users into a few general buckets:

  • Human Resources (HR): Professionals who perform HR actions such as onboarding and termination and payroll-related maintenance.

  • Supply Chain: People who procure goods and services for Johns Hopkins (comprised of both the end user who needs to order something and the purchasing department that wants to negotiate and add materials to Johns Hopkins’ catalogues), and people who run warehouses and coordinate inventory.

  • Central Finance: Accounting professionals who perform tasks such as postings, closing the books, setting up finance master data, and maintaining research grant data.

  • Travelers: This bucket contains the most organizationally and geographically decentralized group of users entering expense reports.

Streamlining business scenarios

“The business benefit of improving our UX in one word is speed. In the old world users had a screen with, let’s say 75 fields across several tabs, and the users at Johns Hopkins only need to use a handful of them. Now, we’ve been able to streamline transactions by eliminating inefficiencies for the user, such as removing irrelevant fields and combining data from across multiple tabs.” This allows the end user to make sense of their screen more quickly, which frees them up to do other work, says Rose.

Providing a personalized experience for users

Moving the user experience from a one-size-fits-all approach that core SAP provides to a more customized experience was a main driver of Johns Hopkins’ implementation of SAP Fiori. One group of users who have benefitted from this customization is shoppers.

“If you’re just shopping for general office depot products, for example, the justifications required will be different from those shopping for research materials, and those differences should be represented in the user experience,” says Rose. To ensure they were creating an experience that reflected actual user needs, Rose and his team of both functional and technical resources relied heavily on user feedback while adhering to design thinking practices. “That was very well received because it led to positive customer engagement through whiteboarding, observing, and a hands-on collaborative effort with our users.”

Using design thinking principles, Rose and colleagues were able to collate user feedback into a list of business requirements that the IT team could prioritize by importance of functionality. The IT team kept engagement with that group of users through the development and testing processes. As one can imagine, when working with so many users all competing for a solution to their unique problem, prioritization for the IT team quickly became a challenge.

Increasing transparency to create an empathetic culture

Johns Hopkins’ various users span across many departments, and like any business, not every department understands what other departments in the organization are up against on a daily basis. To solve the challenge of prioritizing user needs, many of which fell on a flat scale within the business in terms of hierarchy, the IT team created a roadmap to increase transparency into projects currently being worked on, as well as a glimpse into projects that were next in line. This approach helped users pinpoint where on the timeline they fell for receiving a solution, as well as understand what the IT team and other departments were experiencing.

Because improvements in UX were so notable after implementing SAP Fiori, the solution sold itself, making change management easier to navigate. Improvements were both tangible and intangible, including less training required for new functionality due to SAP Fiori’s logical nature; speed of business transactions and fewer keyboard strokes required; technology that was more intuitive and required less support work; and a culture founded on empathy and understanding of fellow colleagues’ work.

Overall, Johns Hopkins has noticed a positive change in the efficiency of their internal business processes as a result of implementing SAP Fiori and its similar solutions. Through transparency, careful planning, and a willingness to listen, Rose and his team were able to integrate new technology in a way that complemented human connection, rather than replace it.

Rose will provide a more detailed presentation on how Johns Hopkins improved process efficiency with SAP Fiori at SAPinsider 2020.

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on
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