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Design Thinking and Co-Innovation: A proof point with SAP Travel OnDemand

Have you seen what SAP is doing to take the pain out of business applications?  Check out this short video:



To fully appreciate the irony of illustrating user friendliness via  SAP Travel OnDemand, you have to go back to Hasso’s keynote address at SAPPHIRE 2007.  For those of you who weren’t in Atlanta that morning, he basically used  an earlier version of Travel & Expense Management as an example of how not to develop a product.  In brief, he relayed the convoluted process his secretary went through to get reimbursed for simple office items such as a book.  She had to create a fictitious trip complete with fictitious dates and a fictitious destination before she could ask for real money back.


Hasso’s core message that day wasn’t about expense reporting but rather design thinking.  Since then, his apostles from the Stanford School of Design have helped spread the word to virtually every corner of SAP.  For us in co-innovation, design thinking is as core to our activities as the customer.  Indeed, design thinking is all about putting the end user at the center of the development process.  The heavy lifting; however, is performed by our colleagues in User Experience.  They meticulously observe end users interact not only with software but with all external factors impacting a given business process.  Based upon these observations and brainstorming with end users and industry experts, they develop wire frame mock ups of how the ideal process could look.  Next, they work shoulder to shoulder with developers to see how much of the ideal can be achieved within the constraints of the technology available.  Lastly, they deploy an iterative process to ensure that end user feedback continually guides each step in the process.


The solution in the video, scheduled for General Availability in Q1 this year, represents a small fraction of the vision our colleagues in User Experience have been developing with co-innovation customers and partners.  One can imagine, for example, the day when it is no longer necessary to type in details of a taxi receipt in the iPhone.  Perhaps Optical Character Recognition will populate the form based upon nothing more than the picture.  Ironically, some of the coolest features are invisible to the end user.  Out of the box integration to SAP ERP, for example, ensures the cost center is pre-populated for each employee..or that the approved expense report is paid just like any other account payable.  Orchestration is a quality customers have simply come to expect.  Perhaps Superior User Experience will be the next attribute everyone will associate with SAP…

John and Sven (@SDenecken)

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  • Design thinking is a key part of success in creating the best interaction design. Early previews of the product show how SAP’s done a great job w/ building form to follow function in how users expect a seamless experience.