Skip to Content
User Experience Insights
Author's profile photo Rosemarie Prinsloo

Is Design Thinking Still A Thing? My First DT Workshop At SAP

Is design thinking still relevant? That’s a question I recently found myself pondering. As a concept that’s been around for a while, it can sometimes feel like just another buzzword. So, when Denise Wildner, my teammate and design thinking expert, mentioned there were spots open in an upcoming workshop, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to put design thinking to the test. Given Denise’s excellent skills as a facilitator, I knew I was in for an informative and engaging experience.

Innovation is the key to any successful business. But, how do we ensure that our innovations truly meet the needs of our users? The answer lies in design thinking—a user-centric approach to problem-solving and idea generation (for more details on design thinking, I’d recommend reading Connecting Head-Heart-Hand).

Many leading companies, including Apple, Airbnb, IBM, Google, and of course SAP, have incorporated the design thinking approach into creating solutions that are perfect for us.


Diving into the Design Thinking Workshop: A Three-Day Journey


Day 1: Breaking the Ice and Charting Our Course in 360° Research

The workshop kicked off with a virtual meet-and-greet. With about 40 participants and 11 coaches, all having their cameras switched on, the atmosphere was exciting. It’s not every day you see so many faces on an online call!


We were divided into teams and guided by design thinking coaches. Our task was to design the future of work at SAP in 2026 for SAP User Assistance (UA) and UX employees. Our team focused on User Assistance Developers.


We first needed to get to know the team and understand the challenge at hand by brainstorming and discussing the key phrases. Topics such as flexible work, automation, AI, customer contact, and stakeholders were mentioned.

We then moved on to creating an interview guide, focusing on open-ended questions to gain empathy for the end user.

Some questions we had:

  • Their typical tasks at work
  • Their pain points
  • Things they love doing
  • How do they stay in contact with customers
  • Whether they are familiar with AI tools (AI was a recurring topic in this workshop)

We felt nervous before the interview. What if we didn’t ask the right questions? What if our interviewee is shy? Fortunately, our interviewee, Tanja Wingert, a seasoned UA Developer openly shared her thoughts and experiences. In total, our group conducted 3 interviews, as we needed a substantial amount of data.


Day 2: Building Personas and Sparking Ideas

On the second day, we synthesized our interview findings into “golden nuggets”—key insights that would guide our design process. Some of the nuggets included:

  • “More customer contact”
  • “Improving tools to support the documentation process”
  • “Improving communication between UA and developers”
  • “Automate manual exhaustive tasks
  • “More space for creativity”

The need for creativity got me thinking. If repetitive tasks were automated, authors would have more time to craft creative ways to share knowledge, which in return would be more beneficial for our customers.

These insights were used to create a persona, a fictional character representing our user group. Our persona, Avo, a 45-year-old senior UA Developer, helped us empathize with our users and understand their needs and frustrations better.

Next, we formulated a problem statement: “How might we help Avo, a busy and experienced senior user assistance developer who struggles with communicating clearly with his developers, build a reliable framework for collaboration?” This statement guided our brainstorming session, where the real fun started.

One of the brainstorming exercises is a brain dump. You write down all your ideas—even those that seem unrealistic or silly—on sticky notes. There’s no judgment, and you only have 5 minutes.


On the first day, our group started off reserved, which initially made spontaneous discussions challenging. Yet, the workshop exercises soon ignited our creative energy. I learned that the coaches strategize to enhance teamwork, and their methods indeed sparked our idea generation. By the end, our diverse team was buzzing with vibrant discussions and innovative ideas.

Day 3: From Dream to Reality – Prototyping, Validating, and Iterating

The final day was all about bringing our ideas to life by creating a prototype of our solution. We could use Scenes by SAP AppHaus, which included sketches of characters, speech bubbles, and backgrounds, but we could also draw or insert images from the internet. Creativity knew no bounds.

Before regrouping, we learned how to pitch our prototype using storytelling techniques. We only had about 5 minutes to convince the audience of our persona, problem statement, and solution!

We then presented our prototype to the other participants. It was fascinating to see the diverse range of solutions other teams had come up with. Audiences asked questions making it feel a bit like being part of an episode of Shark Tank, only less intimidating.


The Verdict: Is Design Thinking Still a Game-Changer

Is design thinking still relevant? Undoubtedly. The workshop underscored its enduring importance in innovation. It highlighted the necessity of understanding users—their needs, their struggles—before even laying your hands on code. Global leaders’ continued use of this strategy affirms its enduring relevance.

The session also showcased how collaboration and iteration on others’ ideas could spark innovative concepts.

We recognized in our closing discussion that quality development requires time. However, by focusing on users’ needs, design thinking can save time and resources in the long run. Despite the constant pressures of competition, a balance must be found.

We’re not just creating services and products to have a market presence but to meet people’s needs. This is why addressing their needs and easing their pain points is vital.

The workshop was just the start. Denise shared more methods within design thinking that can be applied to our daily lives. This approach allows us to understand a problem deeply and create a solution, rather than react blindly. Plus, fostering empathy can greatly improve the world.

In conclusion, design thinking is more than relevant—it’s a vital tool for problem-solving in business and beyond.

Thanks to Design Thinking Coaches, Participants, and Interviewees

My heartfelt thanks to the knowledgeable design thinking coaches at SAP, whose expertise and dedication ensured a smooth, engaging learning experience. Equally, the unique insights and collaboration from my fellow participants brought the workshop to life, making it a dynamic and rewarding journey. I also appreciate the interviewees, who kindly shared their time and insights, enriching our design process.

I’m looking forward to the next workshop!


Denise Wildner
John Julian
Viktoria Klement
Johannes Hefft
Mengbing Guo
Carsten Schmitt
Michael Kronfeld
Annika Gonnermann
Petia Nikolova
Florian Schnarr
Benjamin Kelsey


Assigned Tags

      Be the first to leave a comment
      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.