Our Journey into Product Development – Introducing Maextro
We’re Bluestonex and we love to craft new ideas and innovative solutions….Yes we do the ‘blue sky’ thinking and then (dependant on how crazy we get) we add a touch of pragmatism. Well I guess that’s my approach as I like to challenge ideas occasionally as I am always trying to understand the consumer or end user of the service or product we start talking about and designing for.
The point is; we love working with people using Design Thinking approaches for innovation / problem solving and this story is a brief blog on how we created one of our first products called ‘Maextro’.
We need to retrace our steps some 2 years to tell the story properly. Back then, we had similar conversation with a couple of clients looking for a new solution for running & managing their enterprise data objects and associated processes. They were running SAP software for their ERP & had looked at the compatible market offerings to manage their data processes. They had found a couple of products that could potentially meet their requirements but these were either too expensive, too complex or lacked the flexibility they craved. That’s where we came in……
Ok, we were already working on a prototype and had done tons of research & observation sessions on the subject matter of data management & we had spotted a gap in the ever expanding SAP enterprise estate…but the engagement from the clients gave us more drive to deliver something simple, effective, full of features & functionality and all with a great User Interface. (UI)
We wanted to build a system that was flexible, integrated to SAP and focused on processes as well as data. Oh and of course we needed to build for mobile users and therefore needed a great UI.
When running the design thinking workshops, we talked about ‘stand alone cloud’ but it became apparent very early on that a ‘stand alone cloud’ in this case didn’t make sense. What did make sense was where ever the SAP ERP system resided, so too must this solution, not just sit next to it, but within it (and by that I mean either premise or on cloud).
We talked about future trends in SAP ERP and we knew SAP is heavily investing in technologies (S/4 HANA) that promotes a run simple strategy i.e. single system for all your needs. Our thought process was that by developing something that sits within core SAP system is definitely the right approach and future proofs the solution in terms of SAP compatibility /usability and therefore we decided to develop a tool that pretty much would work from within the core of SAP.
We also wanted to deliver an IMG (Configuration Menu) in the solution for customers to configure the system as and when required (this way, as their data processes change, they shouldn’t be reliant on consultants to re-develop the application and they can do it themselves). Sounds simple and yet a lot of solutions do not cater for this type of basic/obvious requirement.
Early prototyping took various forms from wire framing & use of tools such as Invision, Build and Axure…..but from early design to first working prototype it took 12 weeks utilising SAP ABAP. This included technical delivery, data migration from old solution (in this case MS Sharepoint) and user training. I would tell the story in more detail on this area but I would lose my thread and lose your attention.
What do we call the software – what name do we give it? Everything has to have a meaning, right? This is where we involve our great thinkers, digitizers and innovators. We wanted something to connect to data processes and to be instrumental in their flow. A conductor manages an orchestra and the orchestra has various components so we can relate the term Maestro (a man who is very skilled at playing or conducting (= directing the performanceof) music) – but in our case were talking about processes & data that need directing – so we gave birth to Maextro (with the X replacing the S because its Bluestonex and of course our focus on UX)
Bringing Maextro to life took time. The core engine took thousands of hours of code from our labs & the different UI (User Interface) options alone took some time. Some might say that this isn’t true design thinking and that prototypes should be quick (& if we fail then we should fail early…which is true to a point but I will elaborate on this).
Another factor – We didn’t pick one UI as we thought why limit the customer? We can let the customer choose depending on their landscape (just like when you buy your phone and choose your own wallpaper and fonts etc..).
So, we developed Maextro’s core engine in ABAP and have a UI on SAP GUI but also using SAP Screen Personas and SAP Fiori (UI5).
We thought this approach was better to give those options as SAP Screen Personas (https://bluestonex.com/sap-screen-personas-services/) is freely available for customers (for branding as their own product and simpler screen navigation) and by also creating all screens on SAPUI5 using SAP Fiori Principles we gave the option to a modern UI that’s responsive to different device types (https://bluestonex.com/sap-fiori/) – this way, depending on the customers landscape the customer can choose which UI they deploy.
So, back to timescales and what timescales does it take to bring a product like Maextro to market???
Enterprise Software that is integrated or is considered an ‘add-on’ for power house software companies like SAP, must be robust, must add value and absolutely must be low risk. This is why it takes the time. This is why Maextro is a great solution for enterprises looking to get the most from their investment, want control of master data processes and want flexibility from a solution, how it is configured and how to deploy it.
if you have already used the product, we hope you enjoy as much as we enjoyed creating it & bringing it to life.
So we thought we’d share our story on how we got Maextro here. Now it’s time to tell people about it……