Right, this feels kinda awkward… I’m about to give Microsoft kudos and point out how I wish that some SAP processes were closer to what I’ve seen from the team from Microsoft. So bear with me if I seem a little less hyperboly than regularly…
This isn’t the Microsoft you remember
Recently I was working through the options for integrating SAP SuccessFactors personnel records into Microsoft AD, it’s something that every organisation that doesn’t have a dedicated IAM or (IdAM, however you want to make up your TLAs or FLAs) is likely to need in their environment. Have to say, I love working with new “start-up” orgs that don’t use an on-prem AD, but there’s not quite so many of those that are large enough to pick up SuccessFactors that they are probably still a minority.
Documentation is a skill that is distinct from development
Anyway, I happened to look at the Azure AD online doco about SuccessFactors integration and discovered it had been written by a developer. Well, that’s a guess, but seriously, who digs through the results of an API call to get config values out of a system when you can just use the standard tooling to do it? And then makes some poor sod document how to use Postman to do the same? So I suggested an update.
no – just use the UI!
So, I was feeling benevolent and thought I’d offer my advice that perhaps there was a better way. I clicked the feedback button…
Shock horror – I wasn’t redirected to another site and asked to create a new user, I was asked to create a Github issue! (Okay if you don’t have a Github user, you’ll be asked to create one, but seriously, you don’t have a Github user id?)
And now we wait… or not
Then I resigned myself to never hearing back about it again… But I did!
Issue was triaged and assigned to the document author to review that very same day! (that’s not normal is it?)
I was – wow!
Then things got surreal…
Not only did I have someone look at and action the feedback that I gave, they then went and found my tweet on the subject and personally responded to it! Wat?
And now, the update to the documentation is about to go live:
And hopefully that will make some poor consultant/tech support person’s life a little bit easier.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
So let’s compare and contrast. And I know this isn’t apples – doco is different to application UI changes, but, lets compare the process at least.
I was working on the new SAP SuccessFactors IAS/IPS integration on my own company’s system when had an issue – I couldn’t figure out how to change some value in the config. Fortunately there is a partner community that SAP have set up for partners to discuss these sorts things and get some assistance from each other.
(Sidebar – Yes, I know it’s a bizarre idea, consultants helping our competing firms consultants do stuff. But in the scheme of things, the other consultants are all good people, they just aren’t lucky enough to work for my company, and helping others tends to do pretty good things for your own internal skills too.)
If you don’t know, then ask!
So I raised the issue in the forum and the really nice SAP person how has to read all my grumbles and moderate the forum raised it in the fortnightly call that SAP hosts for partners (it’s at 12:30am my local time, which makes it a bit fun, but better that than 6am!)
And there was already a solution! WOOO HOOO!
Pretty cool, so I had a look..
If you have to attend training to do something, it isn’t intuitive.
Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed with the UX and I realised why I hadn’t figured out how to do this myself! Because colouring something BLUE in an SAP UI5 app is possibly the least intuitive thing on planet to do to indicate that it is editable if you click it. Possibly the developers had played one too many games of Day of the Tentacle and thought users needing to randomly waving their mouse around the screen to see if it changes pointer shape is a good way to indicate to people that something is clickable? (Okay I doubt that was actually the case, more likely someone threw a guideline at them that didn’t make sense and they had to get inventive to work around it (been there!)). Pretty much everything in standard SAP UI5 apps are cyan or blue, and I’m not checking everyone one of them to see if it’s different.
So I gave some feedback on the forum.
I even tweeted about it. Cause that’s what you do, right? (Well it’s what I do. I mean there’s a certain type of person who stays up late at night writing blog posts about these sort of things, so what do you expect?)
This then lead to a bit of a conversation in my DM’s with someone from SAP (since it was DM’s I’ll not share, private stays private) who suggested that I really needed to raise this with support since it was an issue, and that helps track that people have issues. Likewise in the forums I was directed to raise it formally.
To whom it may concern
So I raised a SAP Support ticket (low priority since I already had a fully working work-around.)
I would happily have bet on the response, and I’d have won!
Thanks Mike – yep, the ole “Raise an enhancement request” gambit. That place where good ideas go to die.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead”
But by this time I was, “right whatever, lets see how far this sucker goes!” So I raised that enhancement request.
Oh – and whilst I was doing that, I came across a small issue…
The feedback site is hosted in Europe. I am not in Europe. But that’s cool because there’s this concept called CDNs, yeah, that allow large websites that are accessed around the world to be accessed in a reasonably fast manner from everywhere.
Yup – CDN wasn’t enabled. It is now – so the rest of you can thank me for suffering on your behalf!
Sod it though I’m gonna get this bugger filed! Oooh flashy light on my phone…
Anyway after much self flagellation
I got the request raised! had to attach my diagram as an “attachment” not able to be viewed inline in the request – but hey – it was raised.
And there it sat…
Three weeks later my request was “Acknowledged”.
What’s the German word for “million to one chances happen constantly”?
And in the weird way that the universe works, whilst I have been typing this up, I got a comment on the request, strangely I didn’t get a notification (yet) but keeping my fingers crossed that sometime tonight. I did just check my spam email folder too, and interesting that it’s about 30/70 banking phishing scams and webinar invites, sure it used to be far more interesting. But nothing to notify me that my request had an update.
The really nice lead designer for the product reached out and asked me what I thought about their thoughts about making some UI changes to make things easier to use!
The response was awesome! I Loved it!
they ended the message with a request for my thoughts!
“Please let us know what you think.”
YES, YES, YES!
Well – I can say I was totally stoked, so happy! And then I tried to find the button to reply….
The irony of wanting to reply to a conversation about improving UI to make things more obvious and easier for people to use and then not being able to because the UI of the tool in which the conversation is happening doesn’t facilitate it.
Anyway. I did what I always do. Tweet lots, then try to figure out what to do…
It would appear that someone thought that it would make more sense for new comments to appear at the top of the conversation, not the bottom. So by clicking on the comments “tab” at the top of the page I was navigated up the screen and saw that I could enter a new comment. I did. And I tried to be very nice in my feedback (given the amount of huffing and puffing I’d been doing seconds before.)
Two ways of doing things, both with good result
So, we have two different scenarios, both ended up (or will hopefully end up with) some change in the product as influenced and suggested by me. Two out of two is pretty good going. However, one took 3 weeks, the other, over 3 months. One was painless and easy, the other painful and frustrating. As I said earlier, we’re not comparing apples to apples – getting a product changed is much harder than getting some doco changed. And I have heard anecdotally that some areas of SAP are even faster:
Interesting to note that the area that got the same day response that Robin mentions is also using the Microsoft Github tooling to manage issues. I wonder if tooling impacts delivery approach?
Yes – AND?
So what do I want to achieve by writing all this (other than hopefully amusing a few of you with the tale)? Well, I think it’s important that it’s documented how difficult giving good and constructive feedback can be. Only by taking a look at what’s happening can we get on the right path to working together to make everything we do better and easier.
I’ll finish by just mentioning that EVERYONE that I have dealt with when providing feedback at both SAP and Microsoft have been AWESOME. Both organisations do understand and value feedback. It’s not a people problem.