In this exclusive interview with SAP News, Sam Yen, chief design officer at SAP, talks about why people buy business software, the secret sauce behind SAP’s new user experience (UX), and what’s next for app design as machine learning takes the industry by storm.

Yen is justifiably proud of SAP’s enterprise software design awards, and plans to realize the company’s vision by helping customers gain the skills they need to bring in a new user experience.

Q: How has software design evolved in recent years?

A: The adjectives describing enterprise software used to be about features, functionality, reliability, scalability, robustness, high performance and interoperability. Just as important in business today is ease of use, desirability and simplicity. Business applications have to meet these new end-user expectations. People will not buy software that’s not usable. It’s also changed how our partners are retooling their practices, acquiring design capabilities so they can co-innovate and digitally transformation for new customer experiences.

Q: What is SAP’s vision for enterprise software design based on these changes?

A: We began by bringing a consumer-like user experience to our enterprise customers with the introduction of SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and other solutions. Now our vision is to be the leader in enterprise design across the industry. We’re realizing that vision by helping our customers gain the skills they need to bring in a new user experience. It requires a different skill set and mindset.

Q: How is SAP innovating to realize this vision?

A: Many of our customers have limited design expertise, making it challenging to even get started on delivering a new user experience. We’re focused on empowering and enabling our customers to gain those important design competencies. It’s a combination of direct services covering processes, lessons learned and best practices, plus tools and technologies for our own solutions. One example is SAP BUILD that makes it easy to design usable applications whether a customer is modifying existing or creating new software. Our customers are already unlocking amazing value by increasing satisfaction levels among users of our solutions, extending the reach of their SAP investments.

Q: SAP recently won the Design Management Institute’s (DMI) Design Value Award. Why is this significant?

A: We’re very proud of this latest award, along with the seven Red Dot design awards SAP has received in the past few years. In fact, the German Design Council just gave Hasso Plattner the Personality 2017 award for his commitment to the international success of design thinking. This kind of recognition from world-renowned design experts demonstrates that SAP is living up to its brand promise. The DMI award is truly about improving people’s lives and the first DMI award in SAP’s history. Yes, we’re a technology company, but we bring a human-centered process to innovation which is what design thinking is all about.

Q: Can you give us the details on the Emerging Technologies in Cervical Cancer Screening (ETiCCS) project, and how user-centered design has made a difference here?

A: This is a great example of how usability is just as important as features and functions. We partnered with Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany to digitize cervical cancer screening in Kenya, where it is the number one cause of death among women. The medical technology to help aid workers conduct sustainable screening was actually in place. The trouble was people weren’t using it effectively due to a mainly paper-based screening approach. Employing our design thinking methodology, we gained a complete understanding of what aid workers were dealing with, and were able to develop technology that fit into their daily activities, and met the needs of the Heidelberg University Hospital from a monitoring perspective. Our mobile app connected to the SAP HANA Cloud Platform simplifies data collection, accelerates the screening process, and provides remote data access via the cloud for multiple roles locally and globally. We’re helping save people’s lives.

Q: What can customers and partners expect from SAP’s software design commitments?

A: We are committed to continue our journey with customer experience innovation represented by SAP Fiori. We’re redoubling efforts to make sure that we’re working together with customers in both consulting and technology helping them become more empowered to scale the impact of design. Equally important, we’re excited about the latest user interface and design innovations driven by machine learning, digital assistants and other trends. Humans are interacting with technology in different ways beyond the computer screen. Whether it’s virtual, augmented reality or voice assistants, we will be the leaders in helping customers use these advances to transform the user experience.

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