Building Fiori Apps
Many organizations realize the value of leveraging SAP Investment Management to control their capital allocation and expenditure management processes. They also recognize the value of SAP Fiori to provide a more intuitive user experience to both initiators and approvers. In this article we consider some of the challenges in building your own Fiori apps, and the value that IQX CAPEX provides.
As a Web Application, SAP Fiori enables participants to interact with Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) processes on any device, anywhere. As the future common interface to all of SAP’s current and future enterprise applications, SAP Fiori provides a familiar, consistent, and intuitive user-experience. This greatly reduces training requirements and error rates, whilst encouraging adoption and increasing productivity. Deployed as additional tiles to the Fiori Launchpad users can transition seamlessly from CAPEX planning to downstream procurement and Asset Management processes. Whilst SAP is providing standard Fiori applications for the key Investment Management transactions, most organizations require significant customization of the data collected, approval processes and target SAP integration. So, in seeking to provide the business a tailored solution, you have two choices:
- Build your own Fiori apps, or
- Tailor a pre-packaged suite from a specialist provider such as IQX.
Custom Built Fiori Apps for Capital Expenditure
Whilst technically feasible, organizations seeking to build their own Fiori apps should be aware of key challenges which we discuss in this article.
User Interface Development
The most obvious aspect of a custom Fiori App is the user interface itself. SAP provides tools for designing and building Fiori apps targeted at exposed ERP functionality, both for on-premise, and for SAP’s Business Technology Platform (previously SAP Cloud Platform). The basic app and integration is relatively straight forward to build with these tools, but the unique complexities with regard to CAPEX processes are outlined below:
a) Process over Transaction
An effective Fiori App should be designed with the user and business process as the key focus. Too often, when internal teams develop Fiori apps for the CAPEX process they tend to simply produce web-versions of existing transactions: a web app for an Appropriation Request for example. In fact, SAP Appropriation requests can serve a useful function in both wishlist (Investment Proposal) aggregation and Authorization for Expenditure (AFE) approvals. However, by themselves they lack the features of budget selection and shifting, monthly forecasting, and customer classifications – such as risk and strategic alignment. Designing Fiori apps therefore requires a deep understanding of the real business process and applies this insight to design and implement apps that provide a tailored, intuitive, and seamless user experience.
b) Common Components
Within CAPEX there are many common components that provide an opportunity for re-use. For example, adjusting a monthly cashflow forecast can be triggered during annual budgeting, as part of the Capital Expenditure Request (CER), during monthly CAPEX re-forecasting, or as part of the project completion process. Understanding these components and providing rich targeted functionality (for example, uploads, calculations, and validations) and reusable components for consistency and supportability requires depth of understanding of the end-to-end process, and not just ‘the first’ app.
c) Integrated Analytics
Traditional SAP transactions are typically data intensive, as are many legacy, form-based processes. With internal development, the opportunity to directly incorporate more graphical components into the apps is frequently missed or descoped due to time or expertise. Best practice apps will, however, extensively incorporate the charts and graphical overviews to facilitate downstream decision making.
d) Integrated Excel
Most legacy CAPEX processes are operated by accountants and engineers, who have a love of spreadsheets. Any process that seeks to eliminate spreadsheets from the process is thus fighting a losing battle. The secret to development of delightful Fiori apps is to seamlessly integrate Excel for all its best features – including ease of editing, custom calculations, and analysis – and eliminate its biggest risk: becoming a perpetual data store in its own right (aka the annual budget!). As opposed to relying exclusively on business case calculations in attachments, providing an excel-like interface for the on-screen completion of ‘standard’ projects can provide approvers with greater confidence in the reliability of key metrics. To close this Excel/App gap requires extensive experience of the techniques and the third-party libraries that can deliver the optimal user experience.
e) Dynamic Field Status
By their nature, CAPEX processes are highly collaborative. In addition to multiple layers of approval, the input of specialists including finance and procurement is obtained during the proposal development phase. Effective Fiori apps therefore require data fields to be exposed and editable depending on the participant and the process stage. Similarly, the nature and value of a request will greatly influence the scope of data entry – for example, a safety initiative will be more concerned with risk and impact, whilst a cost saving measure will be focussed on the net present value of the savings. These rules can be explicitly ‘hard-coded’ within a custom Fiori app, but maintenance thereof would be difficult. It is better to have a framework for the effective ‘configuration’ of these fields’ status for ongoing refinement and tailoring by business process stage, user, and scenario.
Data Model Extensions
To fairly evaluate Capital Expenditure requests of various types requires classifications, quantifications, and justifications unique to an organization’s industry. For example, the CAPEX for a waste management company is focussed on refuse-collection trucks, whereas for a medical devices company, it is more focussed on intellectual property (patent and trademark registration). With custom Fiori app development, the mechanism for achieving these data model extensions without modification to SAP or the creation of excessive Z-structures will need to be designed and implemented. By contrast, the IQX CAPEX solution anticipates these custom data model extension requirements and has a robust framework in place to accommodate these in a structured and sustainable way.
Collaboration and approval of Capital Expenditure requests requires appropriate routing based on operating unit, request type, investment reason, value and other organization specific drivers. In a custom implementation, the mechanism of routing a request though the approval lifecycle stages and triggering parallel or serialized actions by specific roles based on these drivers (the workflow pattern) and then deriving the responsible agents based on these drivers (agent determination) will need to be designed. Utilizing standard SAP Business Workflow requires a specialized skill set and custom coding to achieve and is often costly to implement and adjust. With IQX CAPEX, however, this need for a quick-to-implement, flexible-to-adjust process designer is core to the solution value proposition. IQX CAPEX employs the concept of an approvals matrix to define the delegation of authority, and the agent derivation by the key drivers. This approvals matrix is itself a Fiori app than can be easily maintained by non-technical users, including via Excel export/import functionality. In the matrix, agents are assignable either directly, or indirectly via position, job, responsibility rule, or even authorization role.
In order to collect all the required information from collaborators, and all approvals, prior to triggering SAP ERP transactions (eg budget adjustment) and master data (eg project creation) requires that the request is temporarily persisted. With custom development, the method of staging the request data effectively and flexibly requires careful analysis, design, and implementation. A key feature of the IQX CAPEX solution is that this intermediate data staging layer is pre-built and designed for flexibility, security, and administration. Data analysis tools are provided to enable both process participants and administrators to monitor the status (and value) of all requests in real-time.
An important feature of an integrated CAPEX process solution is to allow participants to view all their submissions, all their assigned tasks, and the disposition of any request that they may have actioned. With custom app development, these apps will need to be assigned, and take into account a flexible data model and dynamic workflow. With IQX CAPEX, the provided My Forms app combines all these views across all requests (Wishlist, Budget, CER/AFE, Forecast, Capitalization) for the convenience of both process participants and administrators.
Capital Requests involve significant allocation of human and financial resources, and therefore the auditability of these requests is very important. With custom development, the mechanism for tracking request adjustments and approvals will need to be designed. IQX CAPEX provides a consistent, detailed and highly secure standard mechanism for managing and analyzing the disposition of all requests of all types.
Document Attachment Classification, Version Management, Security, Storage and Retrieval are critically important with CAPEX. With custom Fiori development, the mechanism for effectively handling your supporting documents will need to be designed and built. IQX CAPEX provides standard functionality for accommodating document attachments that includes both line item and header level attachments, re-usable drag & drop attachment controls, secure storage and retrieval, inline rendering of PDF documents, and document accessibility from the final SAP transactions (eg Internal Order).
At the appropriate stage in the request lifecycle, it will be required to orchestrate multiple SAP transactional updates, for example to create an Investment Measure and distribute Budget from the Investment Program. What is important to consider with custom app development is how these multi-step updates will be accommodated and reflected back to the participants on successful outcome, or to the administrators in case of error, identifying the specific step in the orchestration that failed (especially if rollback is not technically feasible). With IQX CAPEX, a standardized background process achieves the required outcomes whilst providing a smooth and quick approval experience.
Agility and Flexibility
Typically, with custom Fiori app development, apps are built to design specifications and are costly to change. With IQX CAPEX, all aspects of the solution (form, data model, workflow, integration, and analytics) are designed for flexibility. This enables customization to occur in a much more agile fashion, helping to ensure that an optimal solution is delivered by engaging the business throughout the implementation lifecycle to eliminate communication gaps and ensure an effective prioritization of features.
Custom apps are typically designed for the normal case. But things do go wrong (for a variety of reasons) and it is important to provide secure and effective administration capabilities. With IQX CAPEX a full suite of process monitoring, and analysis capabilities is provided to ensure that the solution runs smoothly.
IQX CAPEX Solution Benefits
Having considered some of the technical benefits of using IQX CAPEX over custom development, we now consider some non-technical benefits of leveraging IQX CAPEX for the delivery of your Fiori App solution.
To gain executive sponsorship for an SAP Fiori-based solution for CAPEX management it helps to be able to demonstrate a functioning proof of concept. IQX CAPEX provides a fully functional baseline suite of apps that can be deployed directly into your environment to help showcase the value proposition to your sponsors using your environment, configuration, and data. This can help sponsors visualize the solution value, clear up miss-conceptions, and ultimately de-risk the technical and usability concerns.
Starting with a working solution, backed up by flexible configuration tooling, allows IQX CAPEX to be deployed in a fraction of the time of custom development, to a very high-quality standard. This saves time in the design, build, test, and support of the overall solution.
The IQX CAPEX solution is comprehensive in its scope. Rather than a phased roll-out of apps, the entire process can be delivered in a single release. This helps with change management and training by providing a single, consistent user interface to all participants. It also eliminates technical issues avoiding interim-states and workarounds, ensuring the delivery of a fully integrated and seamless idea to implementation system.
IQX CAPEX provides a low-code user-interface, data model, and process design implementation. This provides a highly transparent implementation for internal technical representatives and analysts to understand the implementation approach and eliminates the dependency on scarce technical resources inherent in custom application development.
With a focus on configuration flexibility and administrative tooling, IQX CAPEX can be effectively supported by both in-house teams and IQX. IQX provides on-going specialized CAPEX support services globally if required.
IQX are the SAP CAPEX specialists. We share best practice in the design of your new CAPEX system, configure SAP Investment Management effectively (avoiding many classic pitfalls), and implement tailored Fiori apps to ensure the optimal effectiveness of the entire end-to-end solution.
IQX CAPEX adopts and extends SAP’s standard EPR authorization concept to ensure all access is fully and consistently authorized in accordance with your existing access rights and future policy.
IQX CAPEX is technically deployed as an SAP-certified Add-on to your environment for your peace of mind. This ensures a quick and easy installation to get going, and an easy back-out if plans change.
IQX CAPEX runs on an organization’s existing IT infrastructure – whether on premises or in the cloud. This eliminates infrastructure provisioning delays and costs.
Fiori Apps are an excellent choice to handle your end-to-end CAPEX processes. You could build your own, but with IQX CAPEX you can deliver a more comprehensive solution faster, that delivers an optimal executive experience at significantly lower risk.