With laptops and smartphones having established the concept of working on the go, iPad has now arrived to take things to the next level. Reading e-mail and surfing the Internet from virtually anywhere have thus become commonplace for many managers, and the lines between work and leisure have noticeably blurred. But using SAP at the airport or the café around the corner? Surely the software is too complex to be an appealing option for managers on the move…
The demo apps nextPCM Contract Management and nextPCM Personnel File from nextevolution (site in German) are looking to change that common perception. Both enable iPad users to access SAP systems and prepare information, transforming the device into a mobile workstation for decision-makers.
Target group: managers
Since these apps are tailored to live operations and packed full of too much functionality to allow for rapid decision-making, adopting them for iPad in their original form would make little sense; they thus do not provide managers with data directly from SAP systems.
This is why nextevolution wants to adjust its usage concept to suit managers’ needs. Thanks to mobile enhancements, its apps will access data through servers and put optimized information right into users’ hands, no matter where they are. The company’s goal is to enable iPads to display only the information needed to render a particular decision in short order, which itself will require just a touch of the screen.
A simple, straightforward interface
The strength of iPad lies in its ability to present content virtually anywhere in an attractive format, combined with its intuitive, touch-based interface. The iPad versions of business solutions follow the motto of “one task, one app”; they are thus highly focused in terms of usability and require no special instruction.
For example, if an employee handling a supply contract needs 100 different parameters for the agreement in the SAP application he or she is using, no more than 10% of this information will be of interest to the managers involved. Of greater importance are questions such as “Which contracts over €10,000 can I cancel in the next four weeks?” The corresponding app can provide the answer with just two touches: one to slide the euro indicator to the desired amount, and another to spin the app’s date wheel to set the appropriate time period. One more swipe of the finger is sufficient to mark a contract for immediate cancellation. In the background, the app automatically informs all of the employees involved4, enabling them to take every technical detail into account while carrying out instructions.
Showcase I: contract management
nextevolution made a showcase of nextPCM Contract Management at SAPPHIRE Now 2010, showing off its SAP integration and how it uses various standards – including SAP Records Management – to oversee digital archives.
Users can search through stored contracts based on different criteria and view the most important parameters. On their iPads, they can also utilize the software’s commenting function to add notes to digital contract files, which are then immediately visible to all of their colleagues. Particularly key for managers, meanwhile, is how the software presents condensed search results and significantly reduces the complexity of the underlying data to enable decision-making at a glance.
Showcase II: digital personnel files
The mobile extension of the SAP solution nextPCM Personnel File is closely connected to the SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) solution, providing HR administrators with a comprehensive digital personnel file covering all of their colleagues. In paper form, a file like this would comprise several hundred pages, but only a fraction of the information is often necessary to make a particular decision.
To aid the search for personnel files, the iPad app provides a clear overview by displaying the organizational tree of the department in question. Besides spinning the date wheel, users can turn knobs and adjust sliders to refine their queries. The results are filtered to display all of the information relevant to a particular decision. This enables mobile managers to prepare employee appraisals, approve training courses, invite applicants to interviews, and more no matter where they are. The appropriate app launches to handle each scenario and prepare the data according to the needs at hand.
Modular, service-oriented architecture (SOA) keeps the systems of presentation and business logic separate, meaning that both iPads and virtually any other output technology can access the application.
Data is exchanged through XML interfaces by means of Web services, a standard for communicating information among self-contained software modules that can be based on various technologies. The iPad app, for instance, logs into SAP NetWeaver Application Server through an SSL-encrypted connection. This communication interface also runs through Web services and includes SAP authorization checks as a standard function.