By 2015 SAP aims to have has one billion people interact with some piece of the company’s software. The folks at SAP are not saying where there are now in terms of achieving that goal, but as part of achieving that goal SAP has been releasing a raft of applications that one would not normally associate with a provider of enterprise applications.
Recent SAP application forays include everything from a My Runway fashion shopping application to wellness applications that involve wearable sensors to Big Data analytic applications for the National Basketball Association (NBA). According to Sam Yen, global head of design and user experience at SAP, the end goal is to expose as many end users as possible to SAP software in the expectation that it will increase demand for more traditional SAP enterprise application software.
Yen says all of these applications are written in HTML5 to make them as engaging possible, which in turn is part of a major re-engineering effort of all SAP user interfaces. That effort, says Yen, is based on Design Thinking principles originally developed at Stanford University, which in addition to driving applications outside the normal realm of SAP was key in helping to develop a new generation of SAP Fiori applications that make use of HTML5 to help automate common business functions such as workflow approvals.
In fact, Yen says that SAP will leverage HTML5 and Design Thinking principles to transform every SAP application regardless of whether it runs on premise or in the cloud.
What’s driving all of these efforts is a concerted SAP effort to step out of the back office. As the line between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) applications continues to blur, the quality of the user experience has become paramount. In addition, the mobile and cloud computing era more business executives are playing a bigger role in deciding which application vendors to go with. Given SAP’s historic challenges with user interfaces, the embracing of Design Thinking principles represents an effort to make SAP software more appealing at all levels.
Ultimately, SAP is trying to encourage the development of an API ecosystem around both its applications and core technologies such as the SAP in-memory computing platform. As part of that effort SAP wants developers to build applications that go well beyond the traditional bounds of B2B application. But before any of that can really happen SAP is trying to create a few examples that show both customers and developers alike what is truly the new art of the possible.