Clearing out the SAP screen crud at Seventy Seven Energy with ClearUI

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy June 28, 2017
A good user experience is often a rare event in the world of enterprise applications. Clear Software solves the UI problem for end users in an elegant fashion.

Clear architecture

Every now and again I come across a software business doing something that 'just makes sense.' Very often, these are companies that fly below the media and analyst radar, playing the role of unsung heroes in the broader market yet providing stand out value to the customers they serve. Clear Software is one such.

Marty Thompson, the company's CMO and I are connected on one of the social channels. As we approached SAPPHIRENow 2017, he asked if I'd be interested in looking at his company's offering. I usually take a very small number of these meetings because there isn't enough time at SAPPHIRE to do justice to the hundreds of ISVs that pitch their tents.

Thompson's pitch is simple: "We make enterprise software easy to use by connecting them in a way that keeps people where they need to be and eliminates the screen workaround they otherwise face." Any time I here that kind of story I'm up for at least taking a look because, as many enterprise systems users know only too well, companies like SAP and Oracle never designed their process based offerings with end users in mind. For myself, I could fill a book with stories of workarounds in call centers and on shop floors where the 45 keystrokes needed to find customer details got reduced to 18 and so was considered a victory.

On the stand, Clear showed me a remarkably easy to use UI system that can be operated by modestly trained power users. Without getting into the weeds of the system, it takes existing business processes and logically organizes and connects them through a single UI. The image above gives you an idea of how this works. We discussed this in the context of an SAP/Salesforce environment but with the topic of indirect access at the back of my mind. In this case, Clear doesn't move or store the core systems data but represents it through a fresh interface that works off a rules based database. The net result is an incredibly fast but much easier way for users to interact with what they need but through a UI that 'just works.'

So far, so good. But I am always skeptical of booth demos as you're never quite sure whether there's smoke and mirrors going on that cloud (sic) a spaghetti soup of implementation gotchas. In response, Clear offered me a conversation with Seventy Seven Energy which self describes as: "an oilfield services company that provides a wide range of wellsite services and equipment to U.S. land-based exploration and production (“E&P”) customers operating in unconventional resource plays."

I spoke with Frank Wilson, who is Seventy Seven's Business Solutions Manager - Order to Cash. From the get go, he is unapologetically enthusiastic about what Clear have provided.

They came in for a one week blueprint and basically 90 days later we went live and the end users have loved it. It's nine transactions within SAP but to them it's only one.

It's not often I hear that. Let's get into the detail.

Seventy Seven Energy assembles equipment requirements for rental. Those requirements are both infinitely variable and complex, involving the issuance of sales orders, changes to sales orders, goods movements both in stock and between customer sites and equipment status. Working through all that would often take 30-40 minutes in order to get all the detail onto one sales order. Placing an order involved in a clerk entering details into as many as 52 screens.

There would be jobs where there would be as many as 50 parts out and each one has to be managed individually. We had custom code within SAP that wasn't perfect and that we really wanted rid of it. We saw that Clear could streamline all those transactions. We put a loop in there that automatically runs through however many times it needs to in order to complete the order. The user doesn't have to touch it once we've uploaded a simple CSV file with the serialized part numbers to the customer order.

Note that from the user's perspective, the process starting point has not changed but a whole load of work required to get the order created is eliminated by a machine that is error free.

The beauty for us is that it also gives us more visibility into the revenue earning capability of each plant item.

A asked whether Seventy Seven looked at existing SAP technology such as Fiori prior to making a decision to go with Clear.

We looked at Fiori but it didn't have the ability to handle 25 pieces of equipment very quickly. It was bad design when we initially developed it but the problem with Fiori is that you had to have someone develop it which we didn't like and then once you develop it, it only works for that one function so Fiori wasn't giving us the means to develop an end to end process. Clear lends itself to multiple functions and doesn't require us to maintain code.

All good, but then Seventy Seven Energy got acquired and, as with many acquisitions, the acquiring company wants to impose its systems. In this case, the acquirers insisted on a transition to Oracle e-Business Suite. The same functional gap exists inside the Oracle systems so the plan now is to shift what happens with SAP over to the Oracle system.

People over at the acquiring company who have seen what Clear can do are very excited about it. The plan is that for end suers, nothing changes and they have no idea that underneath we'll swap one for another. It's seriously one of those projects where I have no regrets.

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