Former SAP executive Selim Ahmed saw an opportunity to help SAP customers bring good design and better user experience to their landscapes. And with that, Bourne Digital was born. Freya Purnell reports.
During his time as director of mobile and user experience solutions at SAP ANZ, Selim Ahmed observed some common themes amongst customers.
“User experience was a core issue for end users, so being able to do things well and simply aligned to business processes – from simple business processes such as leave requests to more complex processes such as asset maintenance,” Ahmed says.
To achieve a better user experience, organisations needed to simplify their processes, and have, ideally, a one-touch approach. More important, however, was the ability to simply integrate data from other systems with SAP as the system of record.
“Those were the two things that made me think, I am seeing a market requirement for good design and good ability to extend SAP by adding additional data sources. I saw a big market for that in the three years I was there,” Ahmed says.
His experience selling the HANA Cloud Platform to dairy giant Fonterra also convinced him of its potential to address some of these customer pain points.
“I saw the potential of SAP HANA Cloud Platform as a fantastic tool to extend SAP, being able to bring together SAP and non-SAP sources, develop very simple mobile apps leveraging the Fiori template, but then providing some simple tools to adjust that to meet the end user needs,” Ahmed says.
“The consistent issue I saw with customers was inability to innovate, inability to extend, and inability to rapidly develop user experience on top of SAP. HANA Cloud Platform to me was the answer from SAP.”
Focus on design and user experience
Ahmed believes a key issue with innovation at the moment, particularly on SAP, is poor design. And to address that, Bourne Digital is not your average SAP consultancy. Currently a team of six, Bourne Digital combines experienced SAP professionals, including Ahmed and SAP Mentor Matt Harding, who is the company’s architect, with designers university-trained in key UX principles such as process mapping and prototyping.
While these ‘digital natives’ began their careers in agencies doing graphic design work, they have been attracted to the opportunity to actually provide great experiences.
“They see a bigger meaning from doing SAP because the value that they can create for the end user is significant. So they’re quite attracted to this market,” Ahmed says.
“We’re very strongly focused around good design principles, how to engage with end users around user-friendly design, and thinking about how to make the processes as simple as possible. It’s traditionally been an Achille’s heel for SAP.”
Bourne Digital was officially launched at the SAP offices in Melbourne last week, evidence of the closeness of the relationship. The timing of the firm’s launch is good – in recent years, SAP has lifted its own game on UX, and Ahmed says they are now actively looking for ecosystem partners that are focused on better design in SAP.
At the other end of the spectrum, while many SAP customers understand how important design is for adoption of their systems, it’s a skill set that hasn’t been part of the traditional IT department.
“All our customers are saying we are filling a gap they didn’t even realise they had,” Ahmed says.
Bridging the Fiori gap
While there is no doubt that the release of Fiori took SAP’s UX and how it thinks about its interface huge jumps ahead of the past, some customers still weren’t convinced that outside of new solutions, which natively used the Fiori UX, it couldn’t really help them.
Ahmed agrees, but argues that the introduction of the HANA Cloud Platform has been an important shift.
“Fiori on premise was fairly limited, because it was really focused on certain customer sets, and ultimately, those were customers who were moving down the HANA stack,” he says. “HANA Cloud Platform now give you the option for users who are saying, ‘I want to stay on ECC6 for the moment, but I want to mobilise these functions.’
“We are talking to customers who need to bring together data from SAP and Salesforce, and other systems like that. It provides an opportunity to use a Fiori template and customise that to meet their needs, but they’re using cloud connectors to connect to anything.”
This capability has seen Bourne Digital attract interest from customers such as Incitec Pivot, who are not looking to extend their SAP solutions at present, but wish to modernise their systems.
SAP UX’s strategy
These advances are moving SAP’s UX strategy in the right direction, according to Ahmed, but the end game is still emerging.
“Fiori as a service in the cloud is a fantastic game-changer. The customers are really happy about that because they like the Fiori guidelines and template. That means we can be agile and leverage that template to deliver a consistent user experience. So that’s a big tick,” says Ahmed.
He says this offering is a huge improvement on the first iteration of Fiori, having expanding the number of templates out of the box, and adding new capabilities such as SAP Splash and BUILD – a design prototyping tool which Ahmed believes will be an exciting development when it comes to market shortly.
“I think that is going to be really powerful – it helps you to effectively prototype application for new and customised Fiori apps,” says Ahmed.
Next up, world domination
Ahmed says having just officially launched, Bourne Digital is generating interest from SAP customers such as Fonterra, Orica, Jemena and Powercor, who are looking to utilise its services. But given their offering is unique in the current market, the company is also catching the eye of SAP at the global level.
“The whole [aim] of Bourne Digital was to create something in Melbourne that could expand to be a global entity. We’re very excited about the opportunity to support the whole SAP ecosystem first nationally, and then longer term looking to go broader into APJ and beyond,” Ahmed says. “The timing is good, and we’ve got full support from SAP, so I think the sky is the limit.”