Written by: Richard Frykberg

Attend an SAP event these days, and SAP Fiori is everywhere. But what exactly is SAP Fiori? These are my observations and thoughts as to what SAP Fiori is not.

10 SAP Fiori Myths

Is it a thing? False. Per SAP: “SAP Fiori is the new user experience (UX) for SAP software. It applies modern design principles for a completely reimagined user experience. SAP Fiori UX represents a personalized, responsive and simple user experience across devices and deployment options.” https://community.sap.com/topics/fiori

In other words, Fiori is the marketing banner for a new consumer-grade user experience. Technically, it encompasses Fiori Apps, Fiori Mobile Service, SAPUI5 Javascript Libraries, HANA Cloud Platform, an Integrated Development Environment, Netweaver Gateway for oData service composition, SAP Splash designer, and a range of other bits and pieces of technology.

SAP Fiori Requires the latest SAP ERP version

False. You don’t need to be on the latest version of SAP ERP. You don’t need to upgrade to S/4 HANA. And you may not even require additional infrastructure. Yes, any Fiori project starts with the BASIS team – there are support packages that require installation. And yes, many of the pre-packaged Fiori Apps have dependencies on HANA for Analytics or particular SAP versions and configuration to operate ‘out of the box’. But remember, SAP is the new user experience, not the Apps. The platform, the Launchpad, the Fiori MyInbox will all work. And you can, at the very least, build your own Fiori Apps that present business activities in a more intuitive and useful way to the business users in your organisation.

SAP Fiori Requires HANA

False. Many of the out of the box Fiori Apps depend on SAP HANA, the in-memory platform for advanced data processing and next-generation applications. With your SAP ERP on HANA, you can benefit from a significantly simplified database and eliminate the need for a separate data warehouse for analytics. But your upgrade (or more commonly migration) to S/4 HANA may be a few years’ out. Don’t discount Fiori. With the HANA Cloud Platform you can access SAP User Experience as a Service (UXaaS) which is an integrated component of SAP HANA Cloud Platform that empowers organizations to build and scale simple, personalized and responsive user experiences. SAP Fiori, cloud service is the fastest and easiest path to giving your users the greatest SAP user experience available by hosting your Fiori Apps and connecting to your current on-premise SAP ERP.

SAP Fiori is Free

False. OpenUI5 is an Open Source JavaScript UI library, maintained by SAP and available under the Apache 2.0 license. OpenUI5 lets you build enterprise-ready web applications, responsive to all devices, running on almost any browser of your choice. It’s based on JavaScript, using JQuery as its foundation and follows web standards. This bit is free, and can help you build Fiori-like apps using the same controls as SAP’s own Fiori apps based on SAPUI5 (which is practically identical to OpenUI5). Your OpenUI5 front-ended application can be hosted on any Web Application server and integrated to any back-end. SAP developed Fiori Apps are also free. But any Fiori App whether off-the-shelf or custom-built that interacts with live SAP functionality requires an SAP user-account and is subject to SAP licensing. Use of the Netweaver Gateway to expose any SAP data or functionality to non-SAP licensed end-users is subject to platform licensing. Consideration of the licensing impacts of any “Apps for SAP” strategy and picking the correct technology components accordingly is an essential aspect to ensuring the cost-effectiveness of any solution.

SAP Fiori is a complete mobility strategy

False. SAP Fiori Mobile Service component of the HANA Cloud Platform gets close. It provides a complete set of tooling for transforming your browser-based Fiori Apps into mobile apps incorporating full offline support, notification services and accessing device features including camera and GPS. Enterprise-grade security is ensured with controlled application deployment, centralised administration, local cache encryption and secure mobile connectivity. A test cloud feature enables cross-device validation of the generated native code. So what is missing? Windows apps for one. But more importantly, these Apache Cordova generated hybrid apps do not provide for the degree of device-specific UI customisation required for a truly consumer-grade user-experience. Recognising this deficiency, SAP has announced a partnership with Apple to provide an SAP HCP SDK for iOS to allow native iOS developers deliver an even better native app user experience based on SAP Fiori UX adapted for iOS. But what about other platforms? Are Android and Windows device users becoming second-class mobile citizens? Alternative platforms like Microsoft Xamarin may provide a more egalitarian option.

SAP Fiori works out the box

False. By definition, Fiori is all about the User Experience. Unless your organisation operates the same as every other, the standard Fiori apps will not ‘work’ out the box. Yes, they may function, but like the SAP GUI, to satisfy everyone, everywhere requires a lot of transaction complexity. So it is extremely unlikely that standard Fiori apps will meet your unique needs without some customisation – generally simplification of the user interface and orchestration of back end transactions to make more business sense.

SAP Fiori Leverages existing skills

False. Fiori is an SAP concept, not an SAP technology per-se. Your ABAP developers will be invaluable in surfacing effective oData services, and they can likely be retrained as Javascript-expert web front-end developers. But retrained they will need to be. In the short-term, a great Fiori App developer is more likely to emerge from your Web team than your SAP team. The ultimate team consists of a business process owner, designer, front-end developer, back-end services developer and functional consultant. And most importantly tester, as depending on a variety of browsers and devices to faithfully present your apps requires a significant validation effort.

SAP Fiori is a developer’s delight

False. Your typical web front-end developer has never heard of OpenUI5. Web technologies have moved on and a JQuery based control-set implementation will not be met by whoops of delight and a clambering to re-skill. Frameworks like Bootstrap and AngularJS (developed by Twitter and Google respectively) are trending, vibrant and active of communities. SAP has a huge enterprise installed base and will achieve some degree of traction with SAPUi5, but don’t expect your experienced Web or Mobile app developers to be queuing-up. This requires a special type of developer who is more focussed on the business outcomes than the latest tools and technologies.

SAP Fiori is now mainstream

False. Despite all the hype at SAP events, Fiori is still in it’s infancy. A few leading enterprises have embraced the Fiori-way, but the majority are still waiting to see if this is for real. SAP has an enormous task converting its traditional ERP, SRM, and CRM products never mind including acquisitions like Successfactors, Ariba, Hybris and Concur. It is highly probable that the Fiori UI technology will have evolved before the task of renewing and harmonising all products is complete. It’s fair to expect the market for Fiori developers to get red-hot over the next few years. Fortunately, having been doing Fiori-like apps for the last 7 years, we’re lucky to be ahead of the pack!

Fiorify everything

False. UI technologies such as SAPUI5 have limited scope. But true with regard to user-centred design. And this is not just about simple, it’s about fit for purpose. Some users in some roles need every field and function. Don’t deprive them. But where the complexity is not required, keep it fast and easy. Yes, Web and Hybrid Mobile apps have their role for rapid development and universal deployment. But don’t exclude native mobile apps where the volume and user-expectations demand. Eliminate Excel as a data store. But listen to your users’ requests for Office Apps like an Excel user interfaces where it make sense for data processing and analysis. Keep your single source of data and business rules in SAP where that’s where they belong. But don’t force data and documents into SAP just to use a Fiori-tool. Certain processes, such as collaborative CAPEX budgeting, for example, may be more effectively supported within your SharePoint document management system than in SAP.

At IQX we’ve been building Apps for SAP for over 7 years. We’ve applied a broad range of integration techniques from RFC’s, iDOC’s  and Netweaver PI to DUET, the collaboration between SAP and Microsoft. The mechanisms change, but two things remain constant:

  • the indisputable value of SAP ERP to provide organisations with a highly integrated platform for transactional processing, and
  • the desperate desire of occasional and executive end-users for a more intuitive user-experience.

Kudo’s to SAP for finally getting it – leading with user experience is absolutely imperative. The challenge is that pleasing all of SAP’s 200,000+ customers all of the time is an impossibility. No packaged software can deliver the required intuitive user experience for every individual user in every industry in every role “out of the box”. That is the opportunity for integrators like IQX: to transform SAP-speak and transactions into seamless business processes. Fiori certainly helps establish a flexible and consistent user interface for both SAP-centric as well as non-SAP processes. We are delighted that SAP’s focus on User Experience using Web Apps has increased the profile and legitimacy of what we have been doing for so long – building apps that engage and delight end users whilst accelerating and controlling critical business processes.

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