Mindset recently had the opportunity to sit down with Hennie Pieters, Leader of Enterprise Architecture at Sun Chemical. His team had recently finished developing Fiori apps using Mindset’s signature approach; Design Thinking followed by Agile development. Here is his take on the process.
Hennie Pieters – what’s your history in the ERP and SAP space?
My first ERP experience was with Marcam in the mid-90s at South African Breweries. At that time SAB began moving toward SAP, and I became involved in that implementation for about two years. Following that I did some contracting at Sun Chemical, and became an employee there in 2004. Interestingly in 2005 Sun Chemical made a decision to migrate to SAP, so I’ve effectively been in the SAP space for over two decades.
Today at Sun Chemical I lead our Enterprise Architecture Group, which includes Custom Application Development, Integration (PI), Security, Enterprise Architecture (Technology Strategy, Application Portfolio Planning and Project Governance) and Master Data.
What SAP UI/UX Experiences have you experienced and delivered along the way?
Well we started with SAPGUI’s green-screen back in the mid 90’s, then SAP GUI, Java Web Dynpro, NetWeaver Portal with Adobe Forms, and more recently, Fiori. We’re also evaluating Personas for a possible pilot. With respect to selecting Fiori vs. Personas, we have adopted the SAP Decision Tree to help with these decisions, assuming the correct infrastructure is in place.
How would you characterize Fiori from previous SAP UI apps from an IT perspective?
Well, from a Developer perspective I felt the Java/Web Dynpro was clunky and hard to maintain, whereas with Fiori it’s a much simpler development paradigm. And from our end-users perspective: they really love Fiori as soon as they see it, and they immediately think of other things they can do. This is quite a contrast from Web Dynpro (unpopular) and SAP GUI (they deal with it….).
For the Fiori apps delivered by Mindset recently – what general business problem(s) were addressed?
Improved forecasting and order consolidation with a goal to reduce transportation costs.
You used Design Thinking ahead of cutting any code – how did that go?
Design Thinking went very well. The Mindset approach resulted in users feeling they participated and were listened to. The Design Thinking Process generated a lot of user empathy. And the prototyping permitted us to see basically what became the final product.
After Design Thinking your Fiori apps went live in nine weeks — what made that quick delivery possible?
Mindset leading the Agile Development, coupled with a joint Sun Chemical-Mindset knowledgeable and efficient team.
What did you like most about the Agile development approach for the Fiori Apps?
Two things: First– that it engages the product owner fully, whereas in the past with a waterfall approach, we’d lose engagement with the business due to the length of time between an initial white-board session and delivery. Agile permits more engagement during the process.
Secondly– It’s designed to accommodate change daily or regularly, rather than pushing back on the product owner after the fact.
And any surprises with the Agile approach?
Only the time commitment needed for the Product Owner and some stakeholders. But the fact they have to spend time in daily stand-ups forces commitment to make the project successful. This is NOT a drawback to the process; rather it must be calibrated up-front with everyone.
Having gone through the process with Mindset, I see the benefits of that approach.
You had vendor choices before selecting Mindset for this engagement – why did you select Mindset, and were expectations met?
We selected Mindset because Mindset was committed to making our go-live date, whereas another vendor could not make that commitment. And Mindset made that go-live date.
What advice would you give to organizations just beginning their Fiori journey?
Don’t underestimate the amount of foundational technical work to stand up Fiori. For example establishing single sign-on, or permitting users to access via one URL – there is a lot of foundational stuff to be done.
Once that is in place and you want to engage with the business to create Fiori applications, I’d strongly encourage Agile development methodology to keep the users engaged. Agile and Fiori also supports a bimodal IT concept: basically get things out there quickly, get user feedback, iterate, improve. Use it as an innovation platform to test ideas.
And with respect to Design Thinking, the goodwill and engagement generated by following that process with the end users will pay off in the long term.
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