SAP is hoping to score points with the small and medium-sized business set by introducing a new package designed to make it easier to run, manage and customize SAP All-in-One products.
SAP says its new “user experience package” is designed to give All-in-One users a more intuitive experience by providing preconfigured interfaces, embedded analytics and a handful of other changes developed in conjunction with eight channel partners.
The new package includes predefined user interfaces, or UIs, for modules like sales, purchasing, accounting, manufacturing and financials. It also offers a way to pull SAP and non-SAP applications into the fold by using a “drag and drop” type feature -- something that users like Dorothy Hazikonstantis, vice president of enterprise applications at Pegasystems, a Cambridge, Mass.-based CRM and business process management software vendor, may find useful.
“It’s certainly an interesting concept,” she said. “If you’re a client that has multiple heterogeneous applications, including SAP, and you kind of need to switch between one and the other to do your job, it’s a great way to kind of mash them together.”
The SAP user experience package also offers embedded analytics capabilities that can be viewed alongside All-in-One transactional data. In the past, All-in-One could only show that “flat” transactional data, said Prasad Akella, vice president of SME Global Solution Marketing for SAP. For example, it could show users a list of a particular set of production orders, but not if those numbers were falling short of goals.
“Now, with this I can look at my analytic information and make changes in my production schedule,” Akella said. “It’s that holy grail of [bringing] the transactional information and the analytical insight together, and [executing] that on one screen.”
SAP has faced criticism for difficult-to-navigate user interfaces in the past. But the company hopes the new user experience package will change that image, in part, by providing an interface based on the roles of individual users. In other words, users will see only the information and features they typically need, even though they are able to further customize.
That makes a lot of sense, said Jon Reed, an analyst and SAP mentor who runs the website JonERP.com, given that All-in-One is nearly identical to the Business Suite in terms of complexity and number of features.
“It’s a complicated piece of software, so how do you hide that complexity from users and show them only what they need to do in their particular role and not see the rest of it?” Reed said. “SAP has a challenge with that across all of its software, and they don’t always succeed [in meeting it].”
Reed added that the new SAP All-in-One user experience package reflects a growing trend among software vendors that want to make UIs more elegant and easier to use.
Reed said casual SAP users are demanding a more simplified interface -- something that SAP will need to continue to focus on as part of its drive to win midmarket customers who may not have technical skills in-house.
“Those kinds of people need better UIs,” he said.