Launching a Non-Standard Tool in a Very Standardized Environment
“Yeah, it’s going to be a bit more complicated.”
These are words you never want to hear when you’re trying to get a new tool up and running. Our teams spent over a year negotiating with Figma to get them into our systems as an approved vendor. Aside from all the standard data privacy and security issues that come with any sort of tooling efforts, Figma presents a unique challenge, since it is a highly collaborative design tool. We WANT lots of people to be able to use it, to leave comments for each other, to iterate quickly. That’s the whole point of it. SAP, however, is a very process-heavy organization. If we followed the established process (go to Ariba, request access, send it into procurement, get it approved by 5 different people in at least 2 global time zones, wait a week, and then finally download your software), the moment’s gone. Inspiration has passed, and your project is late. There had to be a better way.
In order to take full advantage of Figma, we needed to have any user invite any other user into the system in real time. This raised two major concerns that we wouldn’t have to deal with if we took the traditional software purchasing path.
Security and Data Privacy
We needed to make sure our data was secure. If anyone could invite anyone into the system, we wouldn’t have the vetting system we needed to protect our intellectual property. SAP takes data security and privacy VERY seriously, so this was a major concern.
To resolve the issue with security, we needed to put everything behind our SSO. That way, people outside the company that aren’t supposed to have access to our design files and prototypes, don’t. Data is protected and products can be developed confidentially. First problem – solved!
Non-standard Licensing and Billing
We also ran into some complications with billing. With Ariba, you buy your license and it’s automatically charged to your cost center. Our licensing vendor, SoftwareOne, manages the renewal dates, and your software just works. If users are invited at different times, what would the effective date for the license be, and would all the licenses purchased co-terminate need to be renewed at the same time?
This is a problem we have never run up against before at SAP. Apart from SoftwareOne, who is an external vendor, there is no team that manages licenses like this. We needed to get creative in our solutioning.
We worked with Figma on the licensing. To start, we purchased a block of licenses for users who would create and edit files. Figma draws a distinction in their user types. If you are just viewing and commenting on files, there’s no cost to us. Once we assigned all these licenses, we needed to add (and pay for) more. Figma does this quarterly, through a process they call a true-up, and we are billed for users we added since the last invoice.
All we have to do is track the users who are approved for licenses, and take care of billing the right cost centers for what they use. We do that through a master spreadsheet. Every design team has an admin who manages the licenses their team uses. They fill out a tab on the spreadsheet, providing the name and email address of the approved user, and the cost center to be billed. As the org admin, I do an audit monthly to make sure the names on the spreadsheet match the names in the system. If a name doesn’t match, that user is downgraded to a viewer, and they have restricted permissions.
To be clear, this is nowhere near a perfect process. It’s very manual, and there’s a fair amount of room for error. All the teams need to be aware of their users, and make sure they have the sheet updated. The audit is time-consuming and isn’t a lot of fun to do. But for now, it’s working. We finalized the contract and onboarded Figma in June, so we’ve been through on true-up so far. That taught me where we could improve the process and make things a bit more efficient. Figma made some improvements on their end, too, releasing a new admin console. Things are definitely headed in the right direction.
Today, we have 60 teams and about 1300 users in Figma across all of SAP. The admins of these teams meet monthly to discuss how we might work better together, and how we can continue to remove the overhead from the design process, and just let our designers do what they do best. We have Slack channels for both users and admins to keep that communication going.
You may be asking, “This seems like a lot of work. Is it really worth it? Why don’t you just use Sketch?” The answer is a resounding yes – it’s totally worth it, for a few reasons.
Figma is simply better tool for design. Because it’s cloud-based, it solves the need for a version control system. You always know you are working on the most current version of the files, and there isn’t a weird copy saved locally somewhere on someone’s laptop.
It’s also the future of collaboration. Figma makes it insanely easy to work with teams around the world to get products built. If we can work together better within NVT, that is a huge win. But we need to think even bigger than that. If we can increase collaboration across all of the design teams at SAP, that makes our users’ experiences even better. It allows us to all use a common design system that is always up to date, to share what we’re working on more freely and ensure the visual consistency of our products, and be inspired by each other.
The mission of NVT is to future-proof SAP. Figma is a step toward future-proofing design at SAP and we’re leading the way in these efforts.