When I mention that SAP has been engaged in design thinking for a decade, people are often surprised. And it often takes a 15-20 minute conversation for them to see the depth of our work in the space. Not to mention when they hear about our human-centered approach as well as our dedication to creating a culture of creativity and innovation, they’re shocked. In many ways, our experience with design thinking is our best kept secret and it appears the cat, which was never intended to be in the bag, has finally gotten out.

As we consider trends in the IT space, a recent industry report found that design thinking is the top investment priority for organizations optimizing their digital business. We, at SAP, have been investing in design thinking for a decade, weaving the design thinking process into our DNA as an organization and working with clients to embed the same mindset in their DNA as well. So it appears the industry is catching on, as they realize that in order for a company’s digital transformation to be successful, technology is key but not the only factor to consider. In fact, the real challenge is a cultural one, one of changing mindsets which is where design and design thinking comes to life.

Speaking of mindsets, IT’s role for years has been fixed on words such as “reliability”, “scalability”, “mission critical”, yet little has focused on the need for design and the experience of the user. Its no wonder clients are surprised to learn of SAP’s investment in design and design thinking given our focus on functionality through the years. Today, our human centered approach helps organizations unlock innovations, not only with their IT infrastructure but with how they go to market as well.

Given the opportunities ahead, it is now possible to bring a wealth of data together, such as online behavior, social media activity and customer interactions into one place. We can make sense of vast stores of information quickly, and our customers can paint a rich portrait of their end-users, as well as their customers, so we can help them tailor and personalize the experience they wish to convey through online, social and mobile channels. This means IT organizations can use technology in a way where they are crafting new experiences in a rapid fashion unlike ever before.

Also, this new mode of operating requires a new vocabulary. Rather than relying on words such as “reliable” and “scalable” to describe IT, we can invite words such as “agile”, “rapid”, “delightful” and, yes, “innovative” into the mix. This new vocabulary is not only taking place in terms of the approach to the work, but to the technology itself as machine learning, big data, predictive analytics and the networking of the digital and physical in what has come to be called the Internet of Things (IoT) comes to life.

Company leaders are learning that, while it is important for IT organizations to support mission-critical operations to meet the needs of the business, they must also begin to develop a capacity to be agile and innovative as new technologies come into play.

In short, we have been preparing for this digital transformation for some time at SAP, working to integrate design thinking into every facet of our business and provide our customers with an engaging and collaborative experience. As a result, we recognized years ago that, in order for an IT organization to survive, they would need to fundamentally change at their core to be more innovative, more supportive of the business.

So, what do I mean by fundamental change? Many people think that it’s the technology that gets in the way of IT organizations’ ability to navigate the digital transformation. We instead feel people are at the heart of the equation for a successful digital transformation. In order for an IT organization to move from old-world “reliable” to the new world of “agile and innovative”, people within the organization will want to place themselves in the shoes of their customers to design experiences and interactions that surprise and delight them.

We at SAP have made it a goal to create learning experiences and opportunities for our clients to experience design thinking and begin the journey to evolve. As such we have the SAP AppHaus Network as well as online courses available to learn and incorporate design thinking into their work. We have also blended these best practices into our BUILD platform (www.build.me) so organizations can begin to learn and test design thinking concepts while exploring new user interfaces and user experiences.

So, as we move forward, SAP is there to help every step along the way with the platforms, learning, and techniques to make your digital transformation a success. And we suggest visiting www.build.me to learn more and engage with us as you progress through your digital transformation. We are here to serve as your guide and accelerate your journey along the way.

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