Scaling Design Thinking Methods and Mindset Across SAP
September 24, 2019
During my three years at SAP, I proudly called my pre-sales team the “Business Therapists.” Our human-centered design approach brought a special flavor to our work. My teammates - distributed across 5 time zones - used design thinking to uncover our customers’ challenges and unmet needs.
Other pre-sales teams approached customers solution first by building endless demos. The business therapists focused on problem finding - doing field observation to discover customer experiences and pains. This new way of working helped SAP teams understand customers and co-create solutions.
The "Business Therapsits" curated field research and observation to find the right problem to solve. Photo by Jo Szczepanska.
Scaling a new approach and way of working
In 2017, SAP decided to scale the approach as part of the SAP Leonardo program. I was eager to help our 80,000-person company harness the power of design thinking, so I joined our Design Enablement team. As the only remote team member I knew collaboration would be a challenge with my co-located teammates. I began using MURAL as a way to share my concepts and gather feedback.
One moment stands out in my mind that galvanized the team around the power of MURAL. During one of these planning sessions in the office - well, I was calling in and on video - we realized we needed our own “business therapist.” How would we actually tackle this strategic learning beast?
We started - as we always had - with the co-located team writing on the whiteboard in the room:
How might we help trainees access and use the methods we teach them during the training?
How will we display and explain the mindsets and methods for human-centered design?
How will trainees access the materials they need to run their own design thinking sessions?
How will trainees remember the tips and methods we teach them in the session?
We stared at the whiteboard (I was squinting to focus on the wall from my laptop.) And suggested solutions. PDFs they can print? Annoying and challenging without the right printer. Draw the methods? Too time consuming. Plus, how would trainees continue to practice and prepare without something they could edit and own?
A collaborative approach to solving the problem
The MURAL team transferred the methods from paper-based to digital magic. They stepped in with ideas and experience to help scale our design thinking practice.
Built templates in different canvases complete with instructions and examples
Created cohesive guides for methods and sample agendas
Created a strategy to transition colleagues to co-create using a digital whiteboard
The SAP Leonardo design thinking community had a new way of working that brought together the mindset and the methods. Our global community now had a digital home to connect with colleagues and customers. Thanks to the tool and the customer success team, our community had the power to:
Exchange methods and best practices with other trainees
Use visuals to align teams and customers
Save time and resources - no more printing and drawing
Create collaborative sessions with teammates from anywhere
Save travel budget and time traveling across locations
New tools present new ways to work with customers
Our customers noticed and benefited from this shift, too. In MURAL, we could continue building our ideas for true co-creation. At SAP, we were able to:
Increase customer buy in and ownership for the project's success
Reference information gathered during a workshop in a common space
Sharing ideas and concepts to increase stakeholder buy in
Iterate on concepts without worry of losing information
Now, pre-sales teams asked a new question - How can we do these workshops as well online as we do in person?
My work with MURAL addresses this shift to remote collaboration. The future of work demands this type of learning a way make design more accessible. Teammates and customers need a way to connect and align from anywhere.
Remote co-creation opens my role as a “business therapist” to anyone with the passion and dedication to learn and build their skills using design thinking.