It takes two to tango, goes the saying. It also takes two to co-innovate. SAP has the talent to create great software, but the results are better when SAP dances with experts in their field.
Transparency Need Was Apparent
Vilore Foods, based in Texas, is an importer of Mexican dry groceries into the US and Canada. Vilore had SAP’s ERP software, installed and set up by Element Five, an SAP partner. But Vilore’s management didn’t know what was going on in their warehouse. This caused inefficiencies and incurred costs. The company needed a clearer overview of inventory levels and improved insight and communications between Sales and Warehouse so they could give their drivers priorities for which trailers to work on first and to optimize off-loading and bin consolidation. In addition, they wanted to capture data electronically for auditing purpose.
The SAP partner Element Five had worked with Vilore Foods for years and so it knew the importer needed something more customized than SAP’s current portfolio could provide. Vilore liked their SAP system, as far as it went, but SAP didn’t have an off-the-shelf solution for their issues with inventory transparency.
Unlike many partners, Element Five has extensive experience in creating apps. When SAP announced its Fiori framework, Element Five saw an opportunity to fix Vilore’s problems and approached the SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center (DCC) in Palo Alto for support.
Design Thinking – More Than Thinking About Design
The challenge for the DCC was to learn what Vilore needed and then implement it. The challenge for Vilore: To look at their existing process in a new way.
How did the DCC achieve this? First, the team, together with SAP partner Element Five, visited the customer site for several days to better understand Vilore’s issues. “As part of our design process, we always – always – want to talk to end users of that process,” says Eliad Goldwasser, Senior User Experience Designer at SAP’s DCC.
After Vilore’s management explained the company’s overall process, the team applied the Design Thinking methodology: They observed the end-users in their own environment, conducted interviews, and collected artifacts. This included documenting the process, defining the scope, and designing screens and flow mock-ups. Finally, the DCC team validated the design mock-ups and, with input from end-users and management, built a journey map that visualized the current process and opportunities for improvements.
According to Luis Garza, Receiving Director at Vilore Foods, “The visualization of the business process helped us to identify opportunities for process simplification.”
The DCC and Element Five worked jointly on the paper prototypes from the site visit. They co-innovated on further design iterations and finally on the development of the first application – a Carrier Check-In app that uses SAP’s Fiori framework.
The Customer Knows Best
In this joint solution, the Design & Co-Innovation Center provided the technical expertise, Vilore the business acumen. Together, they created a “consumer grade” user experience (UX) design.
This co-innovation resulted in Vilore using an app with great functionality and great UX. The functionality gives Management better insight into the real-time status of their goods. With everybody from the warehouse to the front office on the same page, the company can make decisions faster. And the consumer-grade UX leads to increased productivity due to less training costs and fewer user errors. Vilore thinks their new apps provide significant simplifications to their current business processes, with increased UX.
The process and the outcomes show that SAP Fiori is a great platform for apps. But most importantly, for co-innovation to work you need to dive deeper into a business than the IT department. You need to interact with the app’s actual user. They are the experts in their own business. When you get their input and approval, you can’t go wrong, which this project successfully demonstrates.
“This is a very exciting project, that I know will be successful and will benefit all.”
Jose Luis Murillo, Head of Business Operations, Vilore Foods