SAP Fiori: How It Started and Where It’s Going

SAP Fiori has come a long way since its introduction to the marketplace over half a decade ago.

Because of its journey, there are some misconceptions about what SAP Fiori is exactly. When we talk about it today, we are referring to a comprehensive design system for enterprise software.

SAP Fiori provides a set of components and patterns that can be reused in different combinations and includes descriptions and guidance regarding usage, visual design, copy, tone of voice, and integration. Although the design system spans multiple technologies, platforms, and interaction modes, it is important to remember that everything within SAP Fiori adheres to the same design values, principles, and practices.

But how did we get to today’s SAP Fiori? It is an enterprise design story of solving a big problem step-by-step, taking a pragmatic approach, and evolving what works.

1, 2, and 3

If you recently heard the term SAP Fiori 3, you might have wondered about its previous iterations. At its inception, SAP Fiori was a collection of applications with a specific design, so there actually never was an SAP Fiori “1” per se. It was “just” SAP Fiori, a pragmatic way to start solving a very big problem, namely that the user experience of SAP software was too complex and the number of applications and technologies daunting.

With dozens of technologies and hundreds of thousands of screens, this was indeed a hard-to-solve problem. Because the initial applications of SAP Fiori focused on mobile-first scenarios, the aim of its next evolution was to apply the SAP Fiori design to full-blown, hard-core enterprise resource planning (ERP) scenarios. And now we are moving to the next stage, which is the application of its design system to all SAP products across the Intelligent Enterprise.

To support the development and adoption of SAP Fiori, many resources are provided to designers and developers, such as guidelines, SAP Fiori elements, SAP Fiori fundamentals, the SAP Fiori apps reference library as well as SAP Fiori Makers, a virtual community call series for design-minded SAP partners to showcase app designs and present insights.

First a Few, Then Many

The quest to redesign and redefine the user experience of SAP applications began with four user roles and included 25 of the most widely used SAP scenarios, like approving leave and travel requests, creating sales orders, and tracking purchase orders. Every beginning is difficult and what might seem like baby steps today was in fact a huge undertaking. In retrospect, the remarkable thing is that SAP Fiori did what it was intended to do — begin a user experience revolution for SAP and for enterprise software.

In May 2013, SAP announced the launch of “a collection of apps that are simple, easy-to-use, and provide an intuitive user experience for broadly and frequently used SAP software functions, across a variety of devices — desktop, tablet, smartphone — to help easily get the job done.” One year and one week after the initial launch, SAP announced the availability of over 300 SAP Fiori apps. The following year, the number of SAP Fiori apps would grow to over 500. The excitement about SAP Fiori was spreading throughout the company and, most importantly, among the customer base.

And Then Something Unexpected Happened

During the process of evolving the SAP Fiori user experience to accommodate more complex scenarios, the design team made a video showcasing how SAP Fiori simplifies the creation of a sales order entry, a classically complex ERP scenario. The team submitted the video to the 2015 Red Dot Design Awards, the gold standard of product design awards. To everyone’s delight, the team won the design concept award, confirming SAP was heading in the right direction.

As we built SAP Fiori into our flagship product, SAP S/4HANA, we were able to show customers at SAPPHIRE NOW 2016 how it brought the power of ERP together with a modern and simple design. Better use of space, improved page types and navigation mechanisms, and a more flexible homepage were introduced to better support the needs of enterprise users.

Consistent, Integrated, and Intelligent

Because from the beginning SAP Fiori applied modern concepts and design principles that delight users and enable them to more easily get their work done, SAP decided to elevate SAP Fiori beyond just a discrete set of apps alongside core software. In 2016, SAP announced that SAP Fiori would be the design system for all products going forward.

As SAP Fiori evolves and expands its reach, our aim continues to be to support users with the best experience possible. To do this, SAP has crystalized three priorities: consistency, integration, and intelligence.

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Consistency

Over the years, SAP has acquired a number of best-in-breed solutions. This process was imperative to maintain position as the market-leader in enterprise software and to become a leader in the cloud. Now that this transformation process is fully underway, the time has come to focus on making the user experience consistent.

A consistent user experience makes good business sense for many reasons. Users need less training, get up to speed faster, make fewer errors, produce higher quality data, and are more motivated. Guessing about unfamiliar icons, hunting for buttons, speculating about terminology, and relearning color semantics slow people down and make the experience frustrating. When a user interface feels and behaves the way users expect, it leaves them with a feeling of mastery and expertise, increasing their willingness to use the software in the first place and to further explore new applications.

​To get to a consistent suite experience, we are taking a phased approach, harmonizing the ​look, feel, common functions, controls, and floorplans of the Intelligent Enterprise.

Integration

Central Homepage, SAP Fiori. Click to enlarge.

Traditionally in IT, the word integration means data integration, process orchestration, and single sign on​. But today’s users expect and deserve more. ​When customers use SAP software, they expect to move seamlessly throughout the product portfolio. Users don’t and shouldn’t care if it is SAP Concur, SAP Fieldglass, SAP SuccessFactors, SAP S/4HANA, or another SAP product. With a central inbox and launchpad with cards, users get content from different SAP products but only see what is relevant to them. This gets rid of a lot of needless clutter and navigation, allowing users to concentrate on what’s important for their job.

Also, conversational user experience (UX) allows users to express what they want to do in a natural way with a digital assistant, either by speaking or typing. The system does the hunting and gathering, so users can work across products in one continuous conversation and on a single screen. SAP Fiori also provides users with a new search experience, including improved search previews, result pages, and result visualizations, which is fully integrated into the digital assistant.

Intelligence

In addition to consistency and integration, SAP Fiori helps enterprise software productivity by leveraging machine intelligence. The more information users have, the better they can do their work. But, the amount of information available today is overwhelming. Using machine intelligence, our user experience paradigm gathers important information from different parts of the enterprise system and informs users about business situations that deserve attention. It then provides recommendations and learns from the user’s decisions. By proactively bringing relevant information together for the user in an understandable sequence, the system can help advise the user on the best action to take. In time, users can gradually and confidently turn over some tasks to the system. This support helps users do their jobs better and frees them to concentrate on more strategic and creative tasks.

Moving Forward and Keeping What Works

Between 2013 and today SAP Fiori has changed, evolving from a set of apps into a wide-sweeping design system for all SAP products. But from the start, the design principles of role-based, adaptive, coherent, simple, and delightful as well as the commitment to bring the best possible user experience to enterprise users remained constant.

Find out more by reading the SAP Fiori Road Map or watching this short video.