SAP adopts user-centered design and gains valuable product innovation.

Since the beginning of their ENJOY SAP initiative in 1998, many SAP product teams, marketers, user interface designers, and usability professionals were going to the field to understand how their customers work before starting to develop products. It was at this time that Joerg Beringer, then a User Experience Architect at SAP, learned of Contextual Design when he read InContext's book, Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems. According to Joerg, the book addressed many of the issues the SAP teams faced in handling the customer data they were collecting.

Collaboration

Joerg’s initial reading of the Contextual Design book led to a series of collaborations between SAP and InContext. SAP and InContext have worked together on a number of projects including those listed below to introduce customer-centered design techniques into the skill set of those working in the company.

“I see InContext’s core expertise as analyzing markets in depth and then deriving design implications from that analysis. The designs have a long-term effect and a general value and expertise in the process has a long-term effect.”

Joerg Beringer, SAP

Delivering Results

“For projects that address very innovative or new markets, we prefer InContext,” Joerg concludes. “InContext designs are grounded in an in-depth analysis of the user work practice and user population. They’re a derivation of the insights about the needs of the work practice. They’re not just tool design; they’re really work practice design.”

The Process

Knowledge Transfer in Customer-Centered Design

Intrigued by InContext’s book, Joerg took a Contextual Design course as an introduction to InContext’s approach to customer-centered design. SAP followed this initial training with onsite, side-by-side coaching from InContext in the Contextual Design process as a team developed a key travel planning application. Based on that success, Joerg and several other SAP employees completed InContext’s Leadership Training, which is designed to help companies adopt customer-centered techniques throughout their organizations.

“We were very interested in InContext’s knowledge transfer into the company,” explains Joerg. “They offered a process to run an entire project, and we wanted to enable our people to run similar processes at SAP. This was part of our ENJOY SAP initiative to make the company more customer-centered.”sap2.jpg

“The travel application project produced design goals that were really beyond the initial release, so the team benefited from the project for the next two years,” Joerg explains.

Re-defining the Enterprise Portal

SAP engaged InContext in a series of outsourced projects leading to the framework design for the future Enterprise Portal. “The starting point for the framework was the Developer’s Workplace project. We began by looking at just one role and designing for it,” says Joerg. “The larger insight we gained was that not all employees use the complex ERP applications that have been SAP’s core business. A company-wide program such as the Enterprise Portal brings coordination, collaboration, and communication issues.”

“Once we had a concrete design for one role, we could extend the general insights we gained to other roles,” adds Joerg. The Team Workplace project followed, with the goal of designing a shared workspace based on the insights gained from the Developer’s Workplace, but with a more detailed look at coordination patterns. InContext then worked with SAP on their Enterprise Portal framework, extending and validating the current version of the product, and creating a complete product vision with concrete design recommendations and product directions.