NO! – I will not explain all features from A to Z of the SAP Floorplan Manager (FPM), there are for sure better sources to provide that (see the links on the right side) and…
NO! – I will not even try to explain what the FPM is as a Framework built on top of Web Dynpro for ABAP and even one more…
NO! – I will not show you screenshots of nice graphics, background pictures or analytical charts – which for sure are of great importance for a users’ experience as well, but…
YES! – I want to make you curious about exploring the capabilities and the user experience that FPM-based applications offer you.
Therefore I want to elaborate about those small but often really helpful little features that come along for the end user with a FPM-based application and are very often missed when trying to understand the big picture.
So let’s just dive into what productivity features I am talking about – as also stated in my other post on NWBC – it is often the smaller things that let people work better, feel better, makes them smile or sometimes even lough or applaud… or at least they complain if the feature is not available.
So I decided to dedicate this post to personalization capabilities but also to some of the built-in features where the FPM tries to simply just let software work the way the users expects it… or even a little better ;o)
Let me start with a little anecdote that explains what I mean with the last statement “even a little better”. It is around a tiny feature, which received in some of my presentations in the last years spontaneous applause from the audience, simply because they didn’t expect this behavior to be there but understood that it would help them… it is about a simple, but smart COPY/PASTE operation.
Let’s think about the following simple but real life use case:
In most of todays’ businesses the work with spreadsheets like MS Excel is still part of the daily business, and sooner or later these spreadsheets also hit the business software environment… so let’s assume you received a list of some important customers from your manager with the request to look up their order placements in the last 2 months. So you have a nice list of customers in XLS and a cool :o) piece of business software offering you a simple search screen (well-known paradigm used across software solutions) which provides you with the flexibility to do exactly that search for a time frame and a group of customers.
So what would you expect? What would be the way you would like to continue your work?
I guess most would say “Easy, I select the customers in XLS and copy them to the clipboard and then paste it into the corresponding search field BUYER NAME” – and would curse a little why it is supplier here and buyer there, but that is a different story ;o)
And guess what, this is exactly what is done… hmmm… little tricky… 7 customer names but only one target field? What now?
Easy solution: The search recognizes 7 entities in the clipboard and automatically multiplies the field to fill all 7 entries. And in order to not blow up the screen they are grouped and the user can collapse this field group while still providing the information that there are 7 customer names in the search. Thus the user can now focus on the result list he gets after hitting ENTER (to execute the search).
Well this might come across as a small, simple feature when you look at it from a “capability” or an “implementation” point of view, and in fact it is…
…BUT people simply like it and this is what user experience often is about. It doesn’t have to be complex, it simply has to help or even positively surprise.
…and by the way: did you know this feature exists? ;o)
The other area is the world of PERSONALIZATION.
A human being simply expects to tailor a software solution to his personal needs. And while I completely agree that this is a necessary capability as every human being is different, likes different things, wants to express his personality even at work and thus also works different to a certain extent, it is always tricky to not overwhelm a user with too many options.
(Remark: Luckily using the Floorplan Manager you can switch on/off almost every personalization capability for your end user groups, but this again is a different story.)
I simply want to give you some examples of personalization options users get for free (i.e. with the application team not having to put any additional effort into app development) when using the FPM to build a user interface.
Of course a highly personalizable element on any user interface is the TABLE. But besides this nice screenshot highlighting some of the options you have I do not want to go into too many details.
Of course a user can simply sort, filter or as indicated above group per column (using the column header). He can even add calculations for certain columns, remove or add columns and rearrange them in any way he wants to. Export to XLS and more advanced personalization options in a dedicated dialogue finalize the options for a user. Building different views on certain information which can easily be switched on the fly make it a really nice package for any user – BUT remember to switch off what your users do not need, as every feature that is never used simply adds complexity.
What I would like to dive a little deeper into is what we call the OVERVIEW PAGE (OVP) and the layout possibilities a user has to make it fit to his personal needs.
(Remark: everything explained below is of course available for IT admins or consultants in customizing and configuration of a user interface, with which they pre-define UIs for groups of people or certain roles – but again this is a different story for a different post :o) as I want to focus on the end user here – “styling” the users’ way of working.)
The OVP is a page containing all the details you need to know about e.g. one specific customer, or sales order or product. You simply understand that one user is more interested in the communication details with a customer, while another is more into the latest orders placed and yet another wants details about the latest complaints or service tickets of the customer. So different people with different information needs simply do exist.
But sometimes it is also a “I like / I don’t like” thing.
Easiest example is: Some users intuitively scroll vertically to access more information that does not fit directly on the screen. Well-known from most web pages out there. Others prefer tabs showing all areas of information while being able to display only one tab at a time (this is what I often refer to as the good old SAP GUI style). Of course you can centrally decide for your user groups how they “have to like it” ;o) but with FPM you can leave the choice up to them. Below is an easy example to illustrate what a user can do regarding the layout of an OVP.
The OVP below shows an account, a company buying from you but also selling to you, offering some basic data like address and communication, sales and purchase order overview as well as an indication where the company is located.
Looks pretty decent the layout, nicely optimized… but assume a user would love to see more information (more columns as well as more rows) in those two Sales and Purchase Order Overview areas, he could simply use the full width and make the page rather more scrolling vertically, looking like this:
This now scales perfectly in width and height… scrolling can easily be done as on any web page via the scrollbar or the mouse wheel.
And the nice thing, to come from the first to the second layout a user needs around 5sec simply using drag & drop – no dialogue window, no calling the IT department.
But there are also the experienced SAP users among you, that have worked with SAP GUI user interfaces for years, that really like the focus on one information piece while having a complete overview of the contents available at all time. So they prefer using tabs in the layout. Again, nothing simpler than that, another 5 seconds and simple drag & drop and the screen looks like this:
You see with this option you even give a user the possibility to play around a little to find his best way of laying out his page so that it fits best to his needs, and thus let’s him work more effectively with the information he directly needs.
Below you find two more examples of how such a layout could look like – again only some seconds and some drag & drop away from the above layouts.
The really cool thing about all this is – and now I am switching a little bit the point of view to the one of a developer – that you do not have to do anything specific or on top to make these personalization options available for the users of your applications. They are simply built in by the Floorplan Manager, you get them for free. Often you just have to fill some simple checkboxes and that’s it. Sounds even like a pretty efficient thing for developing applications :o)
The point I want to make with this little snapshot of what FPM can do is not only about how important personalization options are nowadays for users – I guess everyone out there understood that in the meantime – but also that there are already a lot of capabilities existing to make use of, which are pretty often missed.
So did that make you a little curious about what else the Floorplan Manager can do for your users? ;o)
Just follow the links to SCN, there you can find all the detailed information you need.
Or simply leave any comment below…
Further OVP layout examples:
Example 1: Focus on main data with tabs plus a full view on the map information
Example 2: Exploring the (almost not existing) limits :o) with maps only on request on a tab and even more information blocks added to the screen