Design Thinking with SAP- the Old-New Way to Solve Business Challenges

Rodolpho Cardenuto, President, Global Partner Operations, SAP Americas
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Rodolpho Cardenuto, President, Global Partner Operations, SAP Americas

In today’s world, design is vital for the success and growth of businesses. Back in May 2004, Business Week ran a cover story titled The Power of Design, featuring David Kelly’s (Founder, IDEO) and Tim Brown’s (CEO, IDEO) transformational belief in design by creating experiences, not just products. SAP founder Hasso Plattner read the article shortly before his keynote speech at SAPPHIRE NOW 2004, SAP’s annual technology conference, and he was inspired to bring the magazine with him on stage.

Design Thinking, he said, would be a transformational force for innovative software development. Design Thinking reminded Hasso of the early years of the company when he and his co-founders worked directly with customers to design the very best solutions to solve their problems. That is how SAP became one of the world’s most successful software companies. But over time we became less personal, with more generic solutions. Over the past decade, design thinking has been fundamental in bringing SAP back to its customer-driven roots.

Design Thinking Compliments Business Thinking

Our collective knowledge and talent has changed the customers’ perception of SAP by presenting us not just as a software company, but as a strategic partner focusing on their growth. We truly understand who we are designing for. Design thinking enables us to improve business software design and also find solutions for our customers’ biggest challenges.We collaborate with customers to frame problems and solve them by focusing on people, not just systems and processes. For example, one of the biggest distribution groups in the Middle East was facing diminished collaboration within the company. When we introduced its CIO to Design Thinking, we were able to target the right insights to help the company figure out their real needs.

Another SAP customer, Discount Tire, a retail wheel and tire company in the U.S, sought to improve its customer experience online and in-stores. Our teams collaborated with them using Design Thinking to generate ideas around known problems and then further explored the unknown. Together, we uncovered how technology can improve safety and create satisfaction for customers, in particular SAP HANA, Hybris and Mobility. “The process of Design Thinking with its iterative nature and focus on empathy has made quite an impression on Discount Tire and our customer experience journey”, Steve Fournier, Chief Customer Officer, Discount Tire.

We often compare this software development process to a three-year-old child. Three year olds are always asking “WHY?” They go out and explore the world, touching everything with their hands until they figure out how it works. They make mistakes, trynew ways of approaching certain objects, and eventually come up with conclusions from what they have learned throughout their investigations.

Designing software should work the same way. By applying design thinking and identifying customers’ needs in the early stages, we are able to build more usable products. Customers’ needs are our priority. We finally understand what really drives their need for software, what they expect from it, and how they see their business development in the future.

Embracing Technology to Drive Sports Innovations

Our collective knowledge and talent has changed the customers’ perception of SAP by presenting us as a software company and a strategic partner focused on the growth of their company. We truly understand that we are designing for people, to bring human meaning to technology. Design Thinking enables a new way of problem solving and to improve business software design.

We hold design thinking workshops to help sport teams envision how data can be consumed to make the best decisions and build new business strategies. When we bring the stakeholders together to discuss, analyze and understand their business challenges, we create winning teams with game changing strategies. For instance, the SAP Scouting solution was co-designed with the San Francisco 49ers’ in preparation for their 2013 NFL Draft. The 49ers’ needed a solution that would help their executives and scouts identify and acquire talent, compare draftees in real time, and ultimately put the best players on the field.

"We often compare the software development process to a three-year-old child because three year olds are always asking “WHY?”

Through a series of design thinking sessions, SAP identified the San Francisco 49ers’ need to reduce uncertainty and improve results in the drafting process. The customized solution structures, how the team evaluates players and how it stores, analyzes and provides real-time access to player data.

The system uses the SAP HANA in-memory platform, which is able to analyze information faster than ever. Initiated at a design thinking workshop, the SAP Scouting continues to provide sports franchises with new tools to help them engage fans and improve on-field performance. This year, the SAP Scouting solution won the prestigious ‘2014.

People’s Choice Award’ at the Interaction Design Association and now continues influencing the next generation UX through Fiori across all of our solutions.

Sam Yen, Global Head of Design and User Experience at SAP, has helped drive design thinking methodology across the company. “We try to implement design thinking into our products as the first approach,” says Sam. “One of our customers is a large Fortune 500 company. We invited the company’s CEO and the leadership team to a design session to see how SAP software can benefit their business. They spent two days with us really understanding what this technology is and now if they had this technology how it would transform their business, how they would run their leadership meetings differently, how they would run our business processes differently. What worked really well for us is starting a more in-depth dialogue with our customers about how SAP can help them target their real needs and identify problems.”

We at SAP believe that design thinking can help solve problems and transform software development by bringing in new perspectives, creatively collaborating across different disciplines and focusing on people. We are constantly experimenting, making new discoveries, and changing our perspective, finding new connections and patterns and the resulting solutions help businesses run better than ever before.

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