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Does SAP ONE Support Launchpad make SAP support any easier to use?

The new Fiori user experience makes it easier to access applications and support services, but product-specific support still needs a more customer-centric approach.

The year 2016 has been an important one for SAP's support organization with the introduction of the new SAP ONE Support Launchpad, the first redesign of the SAP customer support interface in … well, to be honest, possibly the first one ever. The new launchpad adopted the Fiori user experience design language and works to modernize the web experience for customers interacting with SAP support.

It's not all great, but it's going in the right direction. Here's what you need to know about the launchpad and SAP Support.

Out with the old and in with the new

The old site is still there, but all of the applications, from SAP Notes search (Notes are SAP's equivalent to a knowledge base), to software download and installation management, to incident reports, have migrated to the new site.

The new applications adopt the Fiori design language and are implemented in SAPUI5, giving them a clean look. While the applications suffered from some design missteps early on, they have become more consistent and usable. Users of other Fiori interfaces should feel more or less at home in the new SAP ONE Support Launchpad.

Updates are delivered for the new launchpad on, approximately, a monthly basis. These updates are a mix of significant improvements, like the delivery of entirely new applications to fill gaps in functionality, and small user experience enhancements, like the much-needed "All" option in the incident management application shown in the screenshot.

I have been pleasantly surprised by both the pace of the updates and the targeting of updates to user needs. I can't say most of the applications are at the pinnacle of usability, but feedback is acted upon (use the link in the lower-left corner to share yours), and the improvements seem to be focused where they are most needed. That's a good thing because, as of August, the old support applications were retired.

SAP ONE Support Launchpad incident management application
Screenshot of the incident management application from the Wave 8 release notes for SAP ONE Support Launchpad and applications

Is SAP ONE Support Launchpad only skin-deep? The user interface (UI) of the SAP support system -- while still not perfect -- is improving. But is the UI really the reason for SAP's struggle to get decent customer satisfaction for its support process? The UI was certainly a source of frustration, as were the creaky systems underlying that user interface, but the real problem ran deeper. In my view, the issue was and is one of customer focus and an organization unable, in many cases, to focus both product design and issue resolution on customer needs rather than their own.

So the real question: Is the new SAP ONE Support Launchpad just a cosmetic change or does it run deep -- all the way to the product development teams? The answer is, in my experience, mixed.

To understand the answer to this question, you need to first understand the structure of SAP's support organization, or rather, organizations. The main support organization, responsible for the support systems themselves, is one thing, but the actual product support is made up of a first layer of staff who triage incidents and a second layer that usually consists of the actual product development team.

There are real signs that the main support organization is taking a new, customer-focused approach to the support job. The SAP ONE Support Launchpad is one of these signs. Rough patches aside, it is evidence that the support organization is trying to refresh its user experience for the first time in over a decade.

This is anecdotal, but I also think the speed with which messages are processed at the initial layer of support has improved significantly since a few years ago, which can make a big difference in issue resolution times. And, lastly, new channels of responsive support have become available. You can still call or email the SAP Customer Interaction Center, but the @sapsupporthelp Twitter handle works great, as well. Yes, they respond, and they help eliminate issues faster.

That said, the product support is still a mixed bag. Just a few weeks ago, I had product teams play a game of hot potato with an incident. It went through four assignments to different areas, eventually ending up back where it started several days later. However, I've found that in situations like this, the support organization itself can now step in and work to fix the process problem. So even if product teams seem to be playing the same old game, a re-invigorated and customer-focused support organization can help to mitigate the problems that causes.

What's the verdict? For many years, dealing with SAP's support organization was a dismal job. "Working as designed" and "That is a consulting question" were par for the course responses to customer incidents. Things have definitely improved, and the new SAP ONE Support Launchpad is one aspect of that. The launchpad serves well as an analogy to the rest of the SAP support process. The web experience for customers interacting with SAP support was neglected for so long, and was so bad, that it required a truly massive improvement to reach a level that could be characterized as decent. The new SAP ONE Support Launchpad has just about reached "decent."

I say it in this way because I don't want to detract from the work that went into this new user experience, nor the amount of improvement that was achieved. If we were judging SAP against itself, this would be an undeniable triumph. But we need to judge SAP against the best of its competitors, and so it is clear that there is still a long way to go. The same is true, perhaps even more so, of the rest of the support process. 

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