On-Site Experience and Design Thinking

When you work in pure developer teams, you realize the following: You forget that you are influencing the lives of “real” people with your development. SAP is one of the largest providers of business solutions. What we do in our development teams impacts the work and lives of very many.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and the best teams are made up of a as many diverse set of cultures, experiences and knowledge as possible. This is where “Diversity and Inclusion” comes into play. In pure developer teams, you focus on competencies that bring technical expertise, but at the same time you neglect competencies that, for example, help you put yourself in the shoes of the (often) less technically averse end user.

I myself was very lucky: I worked a lot with customers and end users in my old team. I had some customer on-site experience before Corona, and I have a good idea of the people who use the software and the environments in which they are used. However, this experience applies to few in development teams.

First of all I recognized design thinking as a chance for SAP. There was an urgent need for a cultural turn towards a user-centric perspective in Walldorf and on a global scale. Design thinking reminded me of the good old days at SAP when we were closer to the customer. When we had this entrepreneurial spirit in everything we did. I had the feeling that we had lost this spirit.

Hasso Plattner, https://thisisdesignthinking.net/2015/08/ten-years-of-support-for-design-thinking-an-interview-with-hasso-plattner/

I share Hasso Plattner’s observation. At SAP, we appreciate that the founders of SAP spent most of their time with customers. We need to revive this idea. Design thinking is a start. I think that on-site experiences with customers is necessary and essential for development teams. End users are not abstract beings. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are creating “real” value for “real” people with your work.