In April 2014, 41 students in International Management for Business and Information Technology at cooperative state university DHBW Mannheim participated in a one-week workshop about user experience (UX) at the SAP AppHaus Heidelberg.
A former assistant teacher at HPI School of Design Thinking and freelance executive coach in Design Thinking, Sabine Hoyer from DHBW Mannheim initiated contact with the SAP User Experience Design Services team.
“We aim to keep our curriculum current and attractive for our students and allow them to get insights into new developments in a business context. Especially in the information technology sector, the user’s acceptance is a decisive factor in the success of a product. At the same time, methods are needed to provide access to knowledge and ideas within a company and to allow fast testing of user-centered solutions. It is key to develop products the user really wants,” explains Hoyer.
The students’ design challenge was to improve the orientation process for international students so that they feel at home within one week of arriving at the university. To come up with different solutions, the students were split up into eight groups. Four coaches from different backgrounds, including technology, product design, and media supported the students so they could benefit from their different inputs. “You should find a way which works for you. Try things out. If it doesn’t work, change it,” said Mauro Rego, Designer, SAP.
Finding a User-Centered Solution
As educated problem solvers, the students first focused on the orientation process, but soon realized that they had to go one step back. To prepare for interviews, they created a questionnaire, designed posters and brought flags of several countries to draw attention to their research. They went out and interviewed other students about their experiences abroad, the challenges and obstacles they encountered. “The user research has helped us to see the users as humans and to take the story behind them into account,” reflected one of the students.
While creating their personas, the students were careful not to create a stereotype, but a real person. They came up with different questions to lead them through the workshop, such as: “How might we help Julie the multi-cultural translator to use her childhood memories to overcome her homesickness and feel at home?” During the brainstorming session the students used all the available space of the SAP AppHaus Heidelberg and wrote their ideas on post-its and the flexible walls to bring their creativity to life. They clustered their ideas and transformed the concept to a physical and usable design product.
The students’ ideas ranged from apps to TV shows and a cookbook of friends, “Remember Me(al).” As prototypes are a means to get feedback, this session was followed by another iteration. A TV show to prepare for integration was changed to a quiz about different countries, which should run on a mobile device. Other ideas were taken one step further. One group came up with the idea of video walls in the sense of augmented reality, which enable an international student to stay in touch with their family and to feel much closer to home.
Experiencing the Benefits of Design Thinking
The workshop ended with a presentation by the eight groups of what they had developed. In a three-minute pitch, the teams presented their ideas and prototypes and afterwards received feedback from the SAP AppHaus employees.
“For us it is always interesting to experience young professionals working collaboratively on a design challenge and see them having fun. This is a great opportunity for us to pass on empirical values with the special emphasis on creative teamwork. It is not about focusing on the financial results right from the start, but about opening new perspectives”, outlines Daniel Markwig, Design Thinking Coach, SAP AG.
The students reflected positively on the workshop in the “I like, I wish” session at the end of the week. “We experienced a way of teaching and working totally different to our lectures at university and our jobs. Even though we will not be able to apply all the methods at the companies we work with, we will benefit from the brainstorming technique and the structured approach of solving a problem step by step,” said a student.
“The workshop has given us fresh insights into creative jobs that we did not know about before. I have learned that it is necessary to leave your comfort zone to start being creative. You will never achieve your goal spending lots of time discussing. You have to make decisions. The workshop has encouraged us to do this faster.” Another student adds: “Now we know that we sometimes might have to give up good ideas to come up with even better ones.”