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Small Software for Enduring Prosperity

A few weeks back, as part of our Sustainable Design Enablers (SDE) initiative, we released a micro-app in SAP StreamWork:  Design Intent can now be accessed from within any activity on SAP StreamWork  by going to the ‘Tools Catalog’ menu, in the ‘Sustainable Design’ category or the ‘Beta’ category.    Design Intent helps businesses design more sustainable products by facilitating the early alignment of diverse stakeholders on design principles for a specific product or system, during the conceptual design process.  (Examples of stakeholders include members of the Industrial Design, Engineering, Procurement, Marketing, Innovation, Sales, or Logistics teams, etc.)

Bill McDonough of MBDC consulting reminds the design world that a design ultimately expresses values and intent. Principles, which reflect these values, frame the design.  So consensus on the principles is a good place to start before you go into too much detail with requirements and metrics.    Principles can be expressed at a high level, but at the same time must be concrete in scope.  They form a sort of contract among the key stakeholders responsbile for the life cycle(s) of the product.

This 5 minute video provides you with a demo of Design Intent.   You can also try Design Intent for yourself.  An account on SAP StreamWork with up to 5 activities is free. 

The requirements for the basic use case that Design Intent addresses, and insights into other sustainable design related use cases, were synthesized from interviews about best practices and challenges with leading industry practitioners and thinkers (including folks at Steelcase, Shaw, Method Home Products, SMART Design, and MBDC Consulting).    Design Intent addresses the most simple of about a dozen use cases that I synthesized from my interviews.  There is room to improve upon this early release, and SAP will hopefully make available other micro-apps in this domain either directly, or in collaboration with the ecosystem.   We’ve put the source code for this method on SAP Code Exchange.  This means that the community can modify, or build upon our work. 
Note that Design Intent leverages the OpenSocial interface (an open standard) for SAP StreamWork.  You may have seen Jerome Selles, the developer on the Design Intent effort, demo Design Intent in Madrid at the recent SAP InnoJam as one example of a how to deliver micro-apps in SAP StreamWork.  I’ll also note that Jerome’s InnoJam team just prototyped another micro-app for StreamWork in less than a day for which they received high accolades from the InnoJam jury.  BOM Explorer exposes Bill of Materials data from SAP ERP in the SAP StreamWork decision making and collaboration environment and leverages HANA.   Knowing what is in your components and materials one level, and eventually N levels deep, into the supply network, is a basic requirement for sustainable new product design, materials substitution efforts, and product certifications such as Cradle to Cradle.

Taking a principled approach to remaking the way that we make things as a society is where we will get the most leverage in our efforts to create a more sustainable planet.    It’s my hope that we can interest the best of our internal and external developer communities to build out a suite of sustainable product design micro-apps (small granular simple software, accessible when and where users need it, delivered with small investments, rapid iteration in collaboration with users, small risk). 

Technology for the sake of technology is at best worth nothing.  It’s time to apply the amazing new technologies that SAP and other vendors are making available and consciously re-make the way that we make things for an enduringly prosperous world.  Time is of the essence.  Are you in?



1)  We’ll be talking about SAP StreamWork and Design Intent at Autodesk University on the week of November 28, 2011.  Come join us if you can.

2)  You can also find SAP StreamWork at the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute and on the Autodesk App Exchange for AutoCAD.

3)  See also Sustainable Design Enablers – Use Case Summary




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