Big Data for the Ultimate UX

Martin Wezowski, chief designer of user experience at SAP, designs software that satisfies daily work routines. He’s convinced that Big Data is the key to world-class user experience.

Third data revolution, “Me and We” as the future concept of software, emotional environments: Martin Wezowski, chief designer of User Experience at SAP, knows how go after themes that sometimes don’t even sound IT-related.

Wezowski likes this ambiguity, because it makes no difference to him whether he’s selling the idea to a programmer, designer, or manager. Wezowski knows that a great user interface alone doesn’t equal great software. The best software, he says, is a product that has been “beautifully designed, is easy to use, and frees the user to concentrate on the task at hand.”

Q: You came to SAP just under two years ago. Why did you leave Huawei? You were its User Experience specialist …

A: I felt I had reached a dead end when it came to developing software for end users. Plus I was extremely interested in Big Data. I didn’t see any real inroads being made with respect to Big Data and high-volume data processing.

Big Data’s probably the coolest thing available today that can push user experience (UX) forward. So I am expecting great things from the SAP HANA in-memory technology, which of course isn’t just a technology platform, it’s first and foremost a UX “enabler.” Take, for example, SAP Fiori. We can already see here that fast analysis of data isn’t just added value for the user, it also harmonizes their work routines and tasks.

Q: You recently spoke at the UX Days about “Me and We,” two aspects that software of the future will have to fulfill. What’s that all about?

A: First, I mean that software will be individualizable and can be easily adapted to the individual role of the user, in other words, it will understand “ME.” Superfluous functions only confuse and distract the user from what’s important.

SAP Fiori and SAP Screen Personas, for example, allow the user to call up precisely those figures, facts, and information that are required for their particular role in a particular situation – no matter whether they’re working on a tablet, desktop PC, or mobile on a smart phone. The user is more comfortable using the program as a result. Indeed, SAP Fiori was the first step in making software more humane.

The “WE” is just as important. In the business environment, the primary focus used to be on the transfer of data back and forth. Then we focused on the transaction that followed, in other words, the analysis of that data. Now we have the third data revolution before us: dealing with the data in its relevant context.

What good is an “order to cash” process, for example, if I just map it with business processes? I’d suppress all the activities that happen in between. I exchange detailed information with colleagues, request additional information from others, discuss with them, and assume responsibility for various tasks.

So in order for me to be able to do my job properly, software has to provide me with an emotional environment as well. It’s something we all expect in our private lives too. Of course, the software has to be able to map the complex processes that have evolved over the years. But in doing so, it has to take the context into account and facilitate collaboration. After all, you don’t usually go to a party where you don’t know anyone else there. And no one’s going to send you a PDF for you to read afterwards.

“Indeed, SAP Fiori was the first step in making software more humane,” says Martin Wezowski.
“Indeed, SAP Fiori was the first step in making software more humane,” says Martin Wezowski.

Q: Making software more humane: That’s one way to describe your mission. Business software evolved over time, focused primarily on processes. Users have grown used to this. Is this about-turn necessary?

A: A better user experience enhances the engineering culture, which in turn improves product quality. It helps employees do their jobs better and find more meaning in the work they do. They’re more motivated.

Put simply: The system knows you, communicates with you, likes you. So if you’re going to develop software, you have to start at the root, with people. That’s a complete mind reset, for sure.

In the past, the business environment did not comprehend that software ought to be easy enough to use without training, with minimum perceived complexity. The complexity is still there, of course, but nowadays it’s the interface that makes the software easy to understand, not training. It’s a cultural change, because everyone is interested in UX and everyone can and should get involved.

At the SAP App Haus in Heidelberg, for example, programmers, designers, employees from different business departments at SAP, and lots of people from various companies come together in workshops to help make SAP software even better.

The great thing is, because IT and the business departments bring in their requirements, they likewise have a hand in making the software fun to use and easier to understand. After all, it’s not just about codes and interfaces. Everyone should come away feeling they’re contributing to a fabulous piece of software.

Q: Was there ever any resistance to this cultural change?

A: We have the full support from management, Bill McDermott, and Bernd Leukert for our journey. One thing is clear, though: We’re only half-way there, so we still have some convincing to do.

For more information about UX at SAP, visit SAP at CeBIT in Hall 5 next month, or watch a video:


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Wezowski ‘s unofficial e-mail signature includes the byline “NxT & Design Whizz.” NxT, pronounced “Next,” stands for “New Experience Technologies.” The phrase “Design Whizz” does not mean Wezowski sees himself as a crack in all things design; it’s a reference to the team he leads jointly with Christian Stark. A graduate mechanical engineer, Wezowski earned his living as a bassist for a heavy metal band before turning his attention to software design. “The studio, recording technology, the whole music business in general had a lot to do with software,” he recalls. And if there’s one thing his time as musician taught him, it’s this: “Software can bring out a lot of creativity in a person.”