James Governor's Monkchips

SAP seeks Adobe Moderator for Developer Network, Doesn’t Care About UIs

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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.


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  1. Thanks for the mention – how’s daddyhood?

  2. James,
    The point I tried to make was that a great GUI experience is not the end goal. A better process is. Take the accounts payable example we picked up on. Self service is a process change. The UI follows process. If you don’t work on the process first, you end up building the application for the wrong user.

    I’m not dismissing the need for a better user interface experience, I just don’t want it to crowd out the need for a better process.

    I’m not sure you are right about Sabre. The real UI for Sabre is not the command line, but travelocity, the lufthansa etc websites, your mobile phone and the selfservice kiosk.

    Put bluntly, even if a fabulous 2.0 rounded edges and widget wonderland UI rather than the command line made reservation clerks happier and faster, the real innovation is elsewhere.

  3. James,
    good summary of the recent discussion around the power of extending SAP applications with Adobe Flex UI. There are a number of other customers who have done so already as well. Are you at the SAP Analyst days this week? If so please make sure to meet with Andre Salazar from Adobe who is presenting the work we did in further integrating Flex with SAP. I also wanted to point out that I have been working with the SDN community from day one (back in 2004). Did you know we hosted a 2 hour Flex SAP integration hands-on workshop at SDN day in Las Vegas and Amsterdam. Technical Flex content (specifically around integration with SAP) for SDN (incl. forum) is clearly in our plans, similar to the presence we have already with SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe (https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/interactiveforms). BTW there is even a book on developing Flex 2 applications on top of SAP ( http://www.sappress.com/product.cfm?account=&product=H1951 it is available in German today and the English version will be released in March).
    Need to change diapers now 🙂 (my son is two weeks old) but plan to write some more thoughts on my Blog (http://blog.matthiaszeller.com) tomorrow.


    Group Product Manager
    SAP Alliance Management
    Adobe Systems

  4. Figured an enterprisey person should respond with his own definition of what is enterprise software. I am of the belief that it primarily refers to a sales model where you get folks to show up in pretty suits and ties to do demos in wonderful Powerpoint so that EA types don’t have to do it themselves. Maybe Redmonk needs to post their own definition of enterprise in future blog entries. I suspect that you, Cote and Steve probably even wouldn’t agree…

  5. Gary – i am loving being a dad. best thing in the world.

    Matthias – congratulations man. that is GREAT. you have any pics i can check out?

  6. Hey James – due to Matthias’ “daddy” break I had not mentioned him directly but he is a godsend for SDN and once he’s back in daily action he and I’ll be talking more Adobe/SDN stuff 😉

    Not that anyone got the wrong idea and thought we had “no one” from Adobe helping and all that.

    Love the posts keep them coming!

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