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Siemens and SAP Team up with End-Users to Develop Simple Solution for Sustainable Buildings

Feature Article | November 11, 2014 by Susan Galer

In today’s customer-driven world, the consumer’s voice is one of the most important ingredients in technology design that dazzles with brilliant simplicity. Whether people are at home or work, their experience with software has to align with how they work and what they do.

The commercial real estate market is no exception to this phenomenon. Stringent regulations, along with skyrocketing costs and changing tenant demands, have corporate real estate companies scrambling for management tools that provide greater data transparency to make sustainable business decisions. The overarching goal is to align property resources to company objectives.

This was the challenge that the Siemens Building Technologies Division (BT) posed to the team at the SAP Design and Co-Innovation Center (DCC) a short time ago. This division of Siemens is a leader in building automation delivering solutions for efficient, safe and secure buildings and infrastructure. The project was to give real estate operators, many of whom are both SAP and Siemens customers, fast and easy access to real-time insights about building performance. Real estate managers needed a unique combination of data – technical infrastructure numbers crunched with sustainability and energy efficiency calculations. They also wanted to integrate energy and infrastructure data from the Navigator, the BT technology platform.

“Major corporate customers with extensive real estate portfolios have told us that simply collecting and evaluating energy consumption data is not enough to efficiently manage their building portfolios. They need significantly more data from different sources,” explains Dr. Johannes Milde, CEO of the Siemens Building Technologies Division.

Ten weeks from idea to prototype

The co-innovation project resulted in a prototype called the Real Estate Cockpit (REC), which provides real estate managers with full transparency of building performance. In just 10 weeks, the team transformed the idea into a prototype which became a pilot for an SAP solution now in development at the SAP Innovation Center in Potsdam.

End-user feedback was crucial throughout the ideation process. The team worked closely with actual building operators from SAP Global Facility Management and Siemens Real Estate. During a two-day workshop at the SAP AppHaus Heidelberg, these employees from Siemens and SAP designed and tested a Real Estate Cockpit framework adjustable to four roles: CEO of Real Estate, Real Portfolio Manager, Sustainability and EHS Manager, and Head of Location Manager.

Drawn from real-life working experiences, the REC is a marvel of building performance transparency, serving up insights that help real estate managers make fast and precise decisions to optimize building-related costs – the software can analyze up to 18 million square meters of offices and factories. End-users can customize profiles based on their job, and the cockpit automatically displays respective key performance indicators (KPIs) for each role. Colorful, visualized analytics on the dashboard work on any device. Managers can quickly turn insights into actions by downloading data, making comments, performing tasks, and contacting colleagues to share information.

Peter Marburger, Head of Sales Energy Efficiency, Siemens Building Technologies, said response to the prototype has been very positive. “Before we started the project, we talked to our Real Estate Management team members who were skeptical due to the massive amount of information and the underlying complexity. But if you extract meaningful data from underlying systems, you get a picture of what you actually need to manage buildings. Real estate managers now have all the information they need in a much faster way, and many KPIs can be combined for easy access to all the relevant data.”

Customer input is the cornerstone of effective user experience

The project with Siemens is one of hundreds that the SAP DCC has been involved in, relying on direct end-user engagement to transform the user experience (UX) for customers, just as it has for its own enterprise software solutions.

According to Andreas Hauser, Senior Vice President of the Design & Co-Innovation Center at SAP, increasing the focus on the user experience is a change process that happens across the organization. Employing the practice of Design Thinking, which consists of collaborative workshops with customers and partners, the DCC at SAP helps transform the development process along with overall company culture. The objective is to engage users early in the development process, so that their real needs are incorporated into design decisions. This results in solutions providing users with the best experience.

“It’s not enough to understand the technology,” said Hauser. “Developers building apps today need to know how people actually work on a daily basis. We are seeing a shift from focusing on features and functions, to a focus on delivering great user experiences. The is the insight we are bringing to our customers.”

User experience is much more than a nice-to-have. As the Real Estate Cockpit shows, UX done well creates business value with efficiencies that ultimately address larger corporate objectives like sustainability.

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