I’ve been a huge New York Yankees fan my whole life. (Sorry, Red Sox fans, but I’m a New Yorker born and bred). I have countless memories of listening to games on the radio and hearing my family argue over game losses or player gaffs. So you can imagine my excitement when our team at the SAP Mobility Design Center was asked to create a mobile app that allows users to interact with 111 years’ worth of New York Yankees player history! Not only was it an incredible experience for me to work on something related to my favorite sports team, the lessons we learned in the process proved to be invaluable.
Today I’d like to share some of those lessons with you. But first, a little background on the project:
Beyond the Numbers: showing fans what the stats actually mean
Although SAP is primarily known as one of the largest software companies in the world, in recent years we have become increasingly focused on providing best-of-class mobile enterprise solutions as well.
The Mobile Design Center is the hub of this effort. A global team with offices in the US, Europe, Asia and Canada, the MDC is a center of excellence that strives to create the best, most engaging consumer-focused mobile solutions for multiple platforms.
Recently we were asked to create an iPad app to support Beyond the Numbers, a corporate sponsorship project that allowed us to use our powerful HANA data-crunching software to give sports fans an unprecedented window into what all those the numbers—player and game stats—actually mean.
The Beyond the Numbers website connects to a HANA-powered Major League Baseball database, giving users the opportunity to see and interact with a visual display of 111 years of player and game data for the Yankees, one of the most successful franchises in history. Users can compare player performances, analyze seasonal data, compare the Yankees’ performances against other teams, and much more.
The MDC was tasked with the challenge of providing an engaging mobile interpretation of this experience for the iPad. We started by gathering knowledge about interpreting sport data and familiarized ourselves with how others had dealt with creating an experience for users. The goal was to create an app that invited iPad users to engage with the historic information in a way that offers maximum enjoyment while fully leveraging the interactive abilities of that particular mobile device.
For me, the opportunity to work on anything Yankees-related was exciting and not exactly what I would call “work.” But of course, the MDC being a diverse work environment, not all of my coworkers shared my passion for the team—or even the sport. Some of them had never been to a baseball game.
In order for our team to create a mobile app that really spoke to baseball fans and offers a great iPad user experience, I knew I had to communicate my excitement for the team and the game to my coworkers.
Like other SAP businesses, the MDC practices Design Thinking methodologies to generate effective and enduring solutions to problems. Here are four important lessons we learned while applying Design Thinking to this particular challenge:
1. Open communication is the key
At the outset, we agreed that the team would communicate as clearly as possible with each other throughout the whole design process. This didn’t mean more articulate emails or longer meetings, but rather a conscious agreement to speak our minds and engage in honest, upfront and constructive critique. No opinion was invalid as long as it was connected to an explanation and/or alternative idea. In other words, comments such as “people won’t use that feature” or “I don’t think that works” needed to be connected with a clearly articulated “because.”
Having strong communication channels also allowed us to make more valuable use of our time. We had less then eight weeks to conceive, design, present, user-test and program a great experience. With clear, honest, upfront feedback the team was able to put their egos on hold and focus on the end result with the belief that each team member had their best interests at heart.
2. Smart project management transforms ideas into reality
When you open the channel of communication your team can generate a massive number of brilliant ideas that, when coupled with smart feature prioritization, can improve upon your original concept and result in a solution that goes far beyond your expectations.
Having great ideas is, well, great. However, to evaluate those ideas quickly and efficiently and decide which ones to move forward on, smart project management is essential—especially when you’re working on a tight deadline like we were.
3. Teamwork is everything
To come up with great ideas and turn them into solutions quickly and effectively, you’ve got to be agile. Knowing and respecting the strengths and contributions of your team members is essential for this.
In baseball terms, this is the equivalent of a double play – you’ve got to be able to count on your teammate to help complete the play. When you don’t question each other’s motivation or choices, you’re able to move more quickly. The level of trust and respect we had for our teammates led to a higher level of agility and faster decisions. We were able to test different ideas and go through more iterations, which ultimately yielded a better product.
4. Having fun makes all the difference
Our team at the MDC was committed to having fun while completing this project—and we did. As a result, we were more engaged in the process and committed to creating a great solution.
Not all projects lend themselves to having fun as much as this one did, but there are always opportunities for enjoyment in every project. Sure, a sports app may seem to be more fun then a medical statistics app, but it doesn’t have to be. The more you encourage your team to learn the nuances of the topic and appreciate the value the mobile solution presents to the end user, the more invested they will become in the project—and the more motivated they’ll be to create the best solution.
I was fortunate that my MDC team has some of the most knowledgeable developers at SAP. These people proved how creative, flexible and dedicated they are to achieving success. I’m proud to say that I believe what we created will be well received by both neophyte baseball fans and die-hard Yankee enthusiast.
In the next Mobility Minute, we’ll share more of the lessons we learned in the SAP Mobility Design Center while working on projects like the Beyond the Numbers app.
SAP Mobility Design Center, Custom Development
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