ORLANDO: Companies must design their business applications to be as user friendly as their consumer counterparts if they hope to entice workers to adopt them, according to Unilever chief information officer Willem Eelman.
Eelman highlighted Apple's apps as a prime example of how companies should design their enterprise applications, when speaking at the Sapphire 2014 trade show.
"The Holy Grail is to create efficient apps that make people better at their jobs but are also easy to use. Apple has proven you can do this," Eelman said.
"All of us have used the Apple App Store. However, very few people know that it is SAP technology underneath. This shows, if you can fuse the fantastic engineering of a SAP product with a great user experience you'll score a win and adoption will happen in the workplace."
Unilever is using SAP's new Persona and Fiori technologies to create a range of productivity applications that meet the design standard set by Apple.
"In the past two years we've been working with SAP to improve this. We've had design workshops together, talks with the SAP design group and have been among the first to experiment with the tools SAP has on the market, like Persona and Fiori," Eelman said.
"We've significantly reworked the UI with SAP to make the product more appealing and easier to use for our staff. A number of applications that we're working on are bringing SAP services into new parts of Unilever. This is particularly true in our research and develop, and customer management departments."
Fiori apps are HTML5-based mobile tools designed to offer businesses enterprise-level security and productivity services with consumer-style user interfaces. The applications were originally unveiled at SAP's 2013 Sapphire event.
Eelman said the company's initiative is only possible thanks to recent work by SAP to improve its services' design.
"When I came into this role four and a quarter years ago, it was very clear to me that if there was one Achilles' heel in SAP it was that, while it had a fantastically engineered product, its user interface had not caught up with the experience of newer players and demands of younger users," he said.
"I've been very vocal with SAP that they have to embrace design thinking and improve the user interface of their core products. This is because a solution only has value when it has been adopted by your business users [employees]. When I first started, SAP services' UI was an inhibitor to this."
Eelman's comments come during a wider push by SAP to make its enterprise software simpler to use. SAP chief executive Bill McDermott said simplifying enterprise software is a key part of the company's strategy during his opening Sapphire 2014 keynote.
SAP has also made its Fiori range of mobile and tablet applications available for free, after pressure from customers who felt they should not have to pay for an additional licence to use the tools.
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