- SAP makes it seems as if Fiori is very easy to set up or even works “out of the box,” however, Fiori must be set up for it to be used.
- What is critical to understand about Fiori and moving past the fantasy of Fiori.
Introduction to Setting Up Fiori
How easy is Fiori to setup and to use? In this article, we will review some informed quotes from a reliable source on this topic and how much work it is to setup Fiori.
The History of Fiori
When SAP’s Fiori was first released it was actually a charged for product. After customers pushed back on SAP, SAP switched Fiori to being free. However, the catch was that SAP stopped producing Fiori apps that would work with AnyDB. Therefore, Fiori was used as an enticement to purchase HANA….even though there was no technical reason for Fiori to be restricted in this way.
What Fiori Is
- Fiori is a critical component of SAP’s overall S/4HANA strategy.
- Fiori is often explained as a replacement for SAPGUI, the user interface that is used throughout the SAP suite.
- Fiori is one of the linchpins to understanding the value proposition of SAP applications like S/4HANA, and it is an integral part of SAP’s overall messaging on S/4HANA.
- Hasso Plattner has repeatedly said that Fiori is the future of the SAP user interface.
However, many issues are unknown, or at least unknown about Fiori.
This article will cover many of these areas including the following:
- What is Fiori?
- The SAP GUI
- The Fiori Marketing Message
- The Critical Things to Understand About Fiori
- Moving Past the Fantasy of Fiori
- Is Fiori an Out of the Box Replacement for SAP GUI?
What are the SAP Fiori Apps?
The first question to answer is what is Fiori. However, this issue cannot be solved by the information provided by SAP. A very high percentage of people that work in SAP and SAP sales don’t understand what Fiori is themselves, at least not in detail. It is unclear how much SAP has shared with account executives on the topic of Fiori, but upon performing this research, it became apparent that the real story on Fiori is not what is expressed in the market. When it comes to getting consultants with knowledge of the SAP Fiori Apps, very few have ever used Fiori, so that is a shallow well of information also.
In this article will frequently refer to something called the SAP GUI. For those that are new to the topic, or who are not familiar with the term, the SAP GUI, or SAP Graphical User Interface, is the standard user interface that SAP uses with almost all of its applications.
Here is an example of the SAP GUI, something which will be instantly recognizable to those that have used or at least seen SAP.
Unappealing right? Well, it is worse than it looks. The SAP GUI has a well-deserved reputation for being difficult to use and taking a lot of time to accomplish things within. I use both SAP and other applications. When I compare the amount of time required to do any task, it always takes me longer in SAP. That has been true since I started using SAP in 1997.
The SAP GUI goes back decades, and while it has been significantly enhanced during this time, it is based on a design that goes back to 1992 and predates the web interfaces that are becoming so popular with SaaS vendors.
SAP takes a lot of criticism for SAPGUI. Hasso Plattner was blunt interviews on the topic of Fiori in saying that customers had told SAP that the SAP UI “sucks.”
SAP often presents what appears to be excellent Fiori screens that look like the following:
The SAP Fiori Apps Marking Message
Fiori is indeed a nice looking set of apps, and the app quality is considered high by those that specialize in app development. However, SAP’s marketing message is that the bad old days are gone and that SAP GUI is no longer a problem because Fiori is necessarily going to replace SAP GUI completely. That is not true, as I will cover in detail in this article. But it is also certainly not true currently because 99.9% of the planet is still using the SAP GUI when they use SAP. Therefore, SAP GUI is still very much a problem for user productivity and system uptake.
SAP also states that Fiori is a universal new user interface that works equally well on a computer, or on a mobile device (hence the picture above). I can’t find the exact quote, but I do recall Hasso saying that essentially now SAP had the best user interface in enterprise software. Implying that it “is” rather than “will be” or “might be.” So Fiori has been and is being used to motivate or sell customers on to moving to S/4HANA. But there is some deliberate confusion being generated by Hasso as to how broadly Fiori can be expected to be used.
Now, for those of you that have read my previous articles on HANA and new SAP products based upon HANA, you might be thinking that there is a catch to what I just wrote above. And you would be right. However, before we get to that, let us move on to discussing what makes up Fiori technically.
Fiori is a nice looking set of apps, and the app quality is considered high by those that specialize in app development, and those that we interviewed for this story. SAP’s marketing message is that the bad old days are gone, and that SAP GUI is no longer a problem because Fiori is essentially going to replace SAP GUI completely.
SAP also states that Fiori is a universal new user interface that works equally well on a computer, or on a mobile device (hence the picture above). I can’t find the exact quote, but I recall Hasso saying that essentially now SAP had the best user interface in enterprise software. I looked for this quote online and could not find it. But I am certain that I recall reading Hasso say this.
So Fiori has been and is being used to motivate or sell customers to moving to S/4HANA.
Fiori is based on the following components.
- HTTPS (OData)
- SAP Gateway
- ABAP Backend Server
- Database Layer
Of course for people that don’t focus on user interface technologies, this obviously will not mean a great deal. This list above just describes the components that lay between the user interface, which is HTML5 and the database layer.
The Critical Things to Understand About SAP Fiori Apps
The crucial aspects of knowing about Fiori are entirely left out of the sales presentation of Fiori. When I supported several sales pursuits, our prospects were not told any of the following information. This can’t be an isolated example — that is I assume that this information is left out of most sales presentations to this day, as I had to dig to find this information. And none of the SAP’s sales and marketing literature explains any of the following bullet points. Nor does almost any of the literature written by analysts on this topic.
Items to Understand
- Fiori is not a full user interface the way that says, SAP GUI is. Fiori is instead a series of apps. You can see the apps library for yourself here.
- When one buys Fiori, say along with S/4 HANA only a very small number of screens, that are encompassed in ECC are included – that being all of the app screens in the SAP Fiori apps. At the time that I published this article, there were 811 Fiori apps. In the space of one month, Fiori grew by 15 apps.
- Fiori is not inherently designed to replace the multiple areas of SAP GUI. The most accurate way to think of Fiori is that it is a mobile user interface.
- Fiori is not a platform for new app development. That is Fiori is not providing an environment to create new apps, so one must use the apps provided by SAP.
- If you look at each of the apps on the Fiori app library they each state whether they work with AnyDB (or any database). And alternatively, if they only work on HANA. However, the vast majority of Fiori apps only work on HANA. In a future article, I will cover why SAP has done this, and what it has meant for Fiori adoption.
- Fiori’s future is not assured. SAP has a history of bringing out new UIs only to see them fall by the wayside. Personas, SAP Mobility UI, Duet, etc…
- Gartner wrote an article titled “SAP Fiori UX: It Is Not a Matter of If, but When and How,” However, the logic presented in this article is extraordinarily weak, which I will cover in a future article in detail. Furthermore, I believe SAP ghostwrote at least some of this article. This article is nonetheless routinely referenced in other internet articles without the slightest effort expended to determine if what Gartner is saying makes any sense. If Fiori is primarily written for HANA and HANA continues at its low level of adoption, it is hard to see the inevitability of Fiori as presented by Gartner in this article. I cover Gartner’s history of technology prediction in my book on Gartner.
So these are some disappointing aspects to Fiori, which are not known.
Comparing Fiori Apps
Let us compare what I have written on SAP Fiori Apps above to a statement made by Hasso Plattner on the topic of Fiori.
“Despite S/4HANA offers a new UI (FIORI based), the customer can choose to have the old UI still available to assist the users in the transition.”
- This is inaccurate, and the reason it is incorrect is it gives the impression that the overall UI for S/4 HANA is Fiori.
- Fiori cannot now and cannot in the future be a replacement for the SAP GUI. The reason is that Fiori is primarily for mobile applications. SAP ECC, for example, has so many transactions that are complex, it’s not reasonable to create them in Fiori.
The scope of SAP GUI is explained in the following quotation from the book SAP Nation 2.0.
“SAP users are using, by SAP’s estimation, some 300,000 different input screens that were designed for different product lines, numerous product versions, different vertical industry requirements, etc..These screens were developed using approximately 30 different software tools (emphasis added)”
Those people that declare SAP GUI as a goner do not understand the extent of what has gone into the SAPGUI. Those that are presenting Fiori as an SAP GUI replacement — that know better are actively producing false information.
Therefore to say that S/4HANA offers a new UI and that the old UI (SAP GUI) will still be available, misstates or obscures the issue. And it seems to do so quite deliberately. This allows implementation teams to explain away why Fiori is not the day one user interface used by the project which is implementing say….S/4HANA. It is not because the client is not ready, or because of comfort issues. Instead, it is because Fiori is not a substitute for the SAP GUI.
Moving Past the Fantasy of SAP Fiori Apps
The reality is that Fiori is a user interface development environment combined with a series of apps that can be used with S/4 HANA or with ECC for that matter for doing relatively simple things for mobile devices or for doing things like building dashboards. However, mostly it is just a series (and a large number of) apps.
The primary use for Fiori would be for simple applications, for mobile applications — applications with high display content and limited user interaction.
That is, it is impossible to use S/4HANA exclusively with Fiori, and there is no way around SAP GUI is the primary user interface for S/4 HANA, Fiori would merely be used alongside SAP GUI.
- Why SAP Fiori Apps only Work with HANA
- Should SAP Fiori Apps only Work with HANA from a technical perspective?
SAP Fiori Apps
There are a few SAP Fiori apps that will work with AnyDB or any database. However, it is an interesting question why SAP has made Fiori primarily compatible with HANA. We will get into this topic in this article.
Below I have a screenshot of one SAP Fiori app on the Fiori App Library.
SAP Fiori Apps Library
If you look at each of the apps on the Fiori app library they each state whether they work with AnyDB (or any database) or only on HANA. However, the vast majority of Fiori apps only work on HANA.
Why is it So Rare to See SAP Fiori Apps in the Field?
The problem is that because HANA is not selling well, and because many of the Fiori apps connect to S/4 HANA, this means that there are just not many customers who are even in a position to use Fiori apps, even if they loved the apps.
SAP Fiori Apps as the Razor?
Fiori is the “razor” in the well known “razor and razor blade strategy.” This is where one item is sold very inexpensively, and the company makes money on the other thing that you can’t use the first point without.
SAP’s Evolving Strategy with SAP Fiori Apps
SAP used to charge for Fiori, but they were not successful in selling Fiori apps when they charged. However, now Fiori apps are free, but you have to buy HANA. If you want to use the ERP oriented apps you have to buy S/4 HANA (that is ERP on HANA), which almost no one has done this. Therefore Fiori apps are being used much even though SAP no longer charges for them (that is charged for them directly).
Is There a Reason SAP Fiori Apps Should be Limited to HANA DB?
The answer is no. This is 100% a marketing strategy on the part of SAP. User interfaces are not dependent upon the database.
Digging Into the SAP Fiori Apps
Fiori has been very narrowly adopted up to this point. Still, most buyers do not know the information just presented, and only a few analysts have dug down in what Fiori is.
Customising the SAP Fiori Apps?
The proposal that is made is that customer can write their applications with Fiori. That sounds great, but not when one realizes that its a lot of work and a minuscule proportion of all of the screens for S/4HANA have been written. And this gets into a topic of development effort and timelines.
SAP and their partners routinely estimate very long and expensive development for anything in Fiori. This brings up a question which is absent from every Fiori article that I could get my hands on — and that question is “What is the development productivity within Fiori’s development environment?”
The biggest problem is that SAP is presenting Fiori as a UI when in fact, it is not providing that much total UI coverage to customers and is mostly giving them a prescribed development environment.
Open Competition for Custom User Interface Application?
Since most of the work of developing the custom screens is going to be put onto the customer, then the customer has some options to select from to connect to SAP. That is, if Fiori were ready to go “out of the box” then SAP would be providing a complete user interface (much like they do with SAPGUI), then customers should only purchase Fiori. However, Fiori is not some out of the box replacement for the SAPGUI. That is not what SAP is doing with Fiori.
SAP has no particular advantage or known capability in creating customized user interface development environments over other vendors in the market. However, there is a vibrant market in customized user interface development tools. Customers should compare Fiori against competitors like AppsFreedom, Mendix, Caprica or Koni by cost, functionality, development easy, development productivity, etc.. That is Fiori would be put through a software selection as an independent component from SAP. If it is compared in this way, Fiori will not fare well in this open competition. Therefore, Fiori has to be sold under a lot of heavy smoke.
Not an Out of the Box UI Solution
Fiori is not some out of the box replacement for the SAP GUI. Instead, SAP is primarily selling apps with a UI development environment — although not saying it — and in that case, Fiori is in open competition with some UI software vendors. SAP has no particular advantage or known capability in creating customized user interface development environments over other suppliers in the market. SAP is now competing in space it has no experience competing in. That is a bad thing because SAP’s real value is when it stays at its core. Its core is applications with complex business logic. That is what built SAP. Not databases, not application integration, not custom user interface environments. Let us look at history to see why this is the case. Every time SAP has deviated from its core, after the fanfare as passed SAP has ended up with a lagging product. CRM, PLM, PI/XI, Duet, Portals, and I could go on. But these are just a sampling of what happens when SAP gets out of its sweet spot.
Therefore, customers should compare Fiori against competitors like AppsFreedom, Mendix, Capriza or Kony by cost, functionality, development easy, development productivity, etc.. That is Fiori would be put through a software selection as an independent component from SAP.
About Fiori as a Free Product?
“When I discussed the free or not free for Fiori argument with a colleague, he intelligently commented that ‘no change is free’. I thought about it, and in particular for on-premise, that rings true. Even if you do want Fiori apps, you will need to add NetWeaver Gateway to your landscape, add some server side add-ins, open up access via internet (reverse proxys, firewall changes etc.), instantiate a (hopefully small) project or initiative to get it all done. To leverage some Fiori apps, you may need to even upgrade your system or even put HANA underneath it! Check here for the list of apps and their dependencies. So, irrespective of the SAP list price, implementing Fiori is not free.”
This is an excellent point. Fiori costs to implement, which is different from other user interfaces that are baked into the application. Therefore, with SAP core products (the acquired products don’t use Fiori) one has two user interfaces.
- SAPGUI: “Which is the baked in” interface.
- Fiori: Which must be “implemented.”
Fiori’s Related Layers
SAP and their surrogates will tend to present implementing Fiori as only the cost of Fiori’s license (which is free). However, they leave out associated costs.
“And it is not just about licensing of Fiori, there are licensing layers above (to the user) and below (to the application and persistence layer) you may need to add. As John Appleby mentioned, you still need end-user licenses to leverage Fiori in addition to the Fiori app price (to my understanding it is not built into the Fiori price), you need licenses for underlying applications (of course)”
Customers find out about these costs later in the process, and they are of course surprised.
“For Fiori analytics apps you need HANA as the persistence, which means to take advantage of these you need the appropriate HANA license …. and be careful, I have seen a customer which paid for HANA on BW which doesn’t qualify for these apps … they were informed they would need to purchase HANA on ERP (of course, everyone needs to check with their account executive). And finally, to improve the load performance of Fiori apps, SAP is recommending the use of Kapsel which comes with a SAP Mobile Platform license. So customers need to have deep pockets when you add all this up, not to mention the actual implementation costs from my previous point.”
The most important things to know about Fiori is that the SAP Fiori Apps will not be a replacement for SAP GUI, and Fiori only has a minuscule amount of coverage over the collection of screens that make up SAP GUI. Therefore, any S/4 HANA implementation will not be assisted here and there by SAP GUI; it will be the primary user interface of S/4. The customer may use some Fiori apps, the client may develop more apps using Fiori, but that is the extent of Fiori.
Fiori has been talked about and written about for years, and there has been a tremendous amount promised on the SAP Fiori Apps. Many of the articles written on Fiori now look silly…….or should I say hopelessly optimistic, because the SAP Fiori Apps is still barely used on accounts and has no momentum in the marketplace. And most of the authors did very minimal research into what Fiori. They seemed to have gone to an SAP press conference and then merely typed what SAP said. This is the problem with so many analysts or reporters that write on topics — only using the SAP as a source, or use an analyst — who has not investigated the SAP Fiori Apps in any detail, as a source.
SAP’s Changed Strategy on Fiori
SAP has changed its strategy on Fiori, from one of charging for the SAP Fiori Apps to making Fiori as part of a packaged deal — that is packaged with HANA.
This is what is known as a Faustian bargain. It does not allow the SAP Fiori Apps to succeed on its own merits, but instead unnecessarily ties Fiori to HANA. However, there is no technical reason for this to be the case. SAP has put a significant amount of effort into Fiori, but Fiori has a very poor future if SAP continues to limit the use of Fiori apps to customers that are running HANA.
Overall, SAP is presenting customers with a risky product in Fiori. I cover the topic of enterprise software risk in great detail in the book Rethinking Enterprise Software Risk: Controlling the Main Risk Factors on IT Projects, and the fact that Fiori is offered by a large software vendor like SAP does not change these risks.
Fiori is much more involved than is commonly presented. SAP and their surrogates want to make the use of Fiori sound as painless as possible, but because Fiori is not technically baked and because it is used to drive customers to HANA, it is often presented under pretenses.
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