I recently blogged a case study on extending SAP HR with Adobe Flex. One of the goals of the post was to triangulate between the Adobe and SAP developer community/outreach efforts. It seems I succeeded. Craig Cmehil, SAP’s Mr Scripting, just riffed on my piece, and made a call to action for Adobe. He says:
“Now I like Flex (I too can get down with Flex) and I’m hoping to add a “Flex” forum to SDN here in the near future (any Adobe guys want to help moderate?) and since I’ve been pushing the use of Scripting Languages his post is right up my alley in fact in more ways than one.”
Craig’s post is really solid, pointing out that SAP is enabling flexibility by opening up its interfaces, rather than worrying about specific GUIs or UI builders. Anyone would think its about services, and composition… it doesn’t have to be Big SOA though.
Dan Mcweeny, commenting on my blog, outright nails it:
“SAP sucks at UI, they always have and they probably always will; the shift you are starting to see is that SAP has finally decided as a corporation that they can’t compete in the UI space, specifically on the web. From a business perspective they need to be focusing on the stability and diversity of their business applications, namely what they are best at. My CIO has said it a million times before, he can’t remember the last time someone said one of our R/3 systems was down. However, I can never remember him saying that people truly enjoy using them :-)”
Thomas Otter, meanwhile, continues his Vendorprisey contrarian/status quo series, where he asks what is enterprise software for anyway?’ Thomas worries about the “idolatry of the end user”, and believes that as far as enterprises are concerned, users are users, the goal is business value not happiness, and therefore UIs aren’t there to make nice, but to make business, whether or not end-users “enjoy” the experience.
“The user of the system is not always the customer. To put it bluntly, a financial system should not be designed to make accounts payable clerks happy. It should make the real customers happy, the CFO and the owners and investors in the business.”
I will take a somewhat Zen view here, which is that happy users will make for a successful and productive business (especially important in age of self-service, where the customer is often “doing the job of a clerk”… enterprise meets social software, indeed. Today’s customers are also sometimes employees, or at least act like them). On the not enterprisey tip this BusinessWeek story is essential reading for anyone in business – time and motion isn’t effective. Free people up and measure the outputs, not inputs. Lovely story. Thinking like this, UIs are very important, because they set the tone for a working day. No cubicle? Then have a picture of your kids as a desktop. Anyone for Sabre’s Air Travel Reservation Command Line Interface (CLI) as a happy employee generator? I thought not (great link here from Gary Potter, who started in business as a reservation agent in 1976), even though the CLI gets the job done (possibly more effectively, think network admin). But well done Best Buy- if i didn’t work at RedMonk I would probably apply for a job.
Talking of applying for a job, I will sign off with a disclaimer/sales pitch. This blog is a value creating vehicle-I just enabled an opportunity for both Adobe and SAP. Neither company is currently a subscription client. Perhaps its time to change that. What does RedMonk do? Collaborative Innovation in the software development and middleware space. We’re about learning across barriers, social learning. We’re about making connections, building narratives, and encouraging standards-based integration of people and technology. We’re really good at this.
I met with Adobe Senior Principal Scientist [weird job title] Mark Anders, who led the Flex Builder Team, a couple of hours ago (thanks Tim). I told him Adobe needed to double down on ISV platform support, continuing my make money for the community riff. Adobe has a great sales relationship with SAP. It has a great marketing relationship with Adobe. But in the developer space the strategy needs filling out, deeply documenting APIs across both platforms, providing code-sharing services, education and so on. That is why Adobe should get back to Craig and put some resources in place. Likelihood is it will be grassroots, bottom-up though, rather than top down. Maybe someone like Matthias Zeller. Either way we’re happy to help.
disclaimers: I already made them.