“Build” It and They Will Come

News article by Paul Taylor published on the SAP website.

A new application design tool from SAP called Build enables anyone, even those without a technology background, to design and create apps for business users without coding. Like the Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner in the late 1980s movie Field of Dreams, technologists of all stripes have a tendency to believe that if you build it, they will come. But, as many in both the hardware and software business have since discovered, that is rarely true.

Most company IT departments have direct experience of ‘shelfware’ – software that sits unused or is under-used. As a result, many companies are failing to extract the full value of their IT investments. For example, in a survey of 159 IT buyers and software decision makers, Sandhill Group and the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) found that 72% of companies fail to get value from their software due to poor user adoption.

A similar survey found that 57% of enterprise software applications have below average usability. The gap between the usability of consumer apps and their business counterparts has been highlighted by the success of mobile apps marketplaces run by Apple and Google, and by the bring your own device (BYOD) and IT consumerization trends that have swept through enterprises in recent years.

But while employees now demand the same ease of use and ‘user friendliness’ of the business apps they use at work – as Sam Yen, chief design officer at SAP, acknowledges, most business software vendors (and now cloud providers) have been slow to respond.

UX for Everyone

Indeed, the adoption of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), such as SAP HANA Cloud Platform, has led to the proliferation of apps in companies to address their specific needs. SAP HANA Cloud Platform makes it very easy and efficient for companies to develop and deploy cloud applications, but sometimes teams struggle with delivering an attractive user experience that ensures adoption.

Design experts like Yen believe the answer is to apply the principles of design thinking to software app development and ensure from the outset that apps meet the requirements of end users.

SAP recently announced the general availability of a new cloud-based toolset enabling project teams including developers, designers and non-technical profesionals such as business analysts, to design and create apps for their end users, without writing a line of code.

The new toolset is called Build and its development by Yen’s team highlights SAP’s commitment to its customers to help them transition to become digital businesses by making business software easier to use and more relevant.

Build’s comprehensive set of tools accelerates the application development process and enables users to:

  • Create prototypes collaboratively
    • Users can upload sketches of their ideas to easily create interactive prototypes
    • Design application prototypes with drag-and-drop controls, using real sample data
    • Jumpstart development with generated UI5 code that can be imported into SAP Web ID
  • Access a customize prototype gallery: User can access a rich library of embedded design patterns and real examples from SAP and community as a starting point to create their own designs
  • Learn user-centered design and design-thinking: Learn a little and do a lot with the easily consumable examples integrated within Build’s design tools.
  • Easily get feedback from end users

Business analysts and other non-technical professionals often lack the tools and expertise to design user-friendly apps. In addition they often don’t know or cannot verify end-user needs and they find it difficult to iterate apps quickly. Underscoring the pent-up demand for a tool set that provides project teams with everything they need to design user-friendly apps on their own surprised even Build’s developers.

More than 1,200 companies and 800 partners signed up to try Build during its beta program and provided positive feedback.This same beta program also involved over 3,800 SAP employees, and Build is now being used to design apps built on top of SAP S/4HANA.

Build’s success to date underscores the new approach to enterprise app design that puts the user at center of the process – a new approach that SAP is leading.

Neil How
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Neil How

Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 21 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.

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