We’ve come a long way from the control and command working styles of the past. Now success at work requires collaboration and empathy.

“I never thought I would see the day that customers ask SAP to help them become more creative with design and design thinking,” says Andreas Hauser, senior vice president and global head of the AppHaus organization.

Innovation as a Service

At Mercedes-AMG, SAP engaged in a project to help reimagine AMG’s car manufacturing planning process. “We were approached to start the project with a design driven focus, because the design of a custom solution requires a thorough understanding of the end-users’ process and challenges. We introduced a gamified method to model the process with real end users and found out that only half of the challenges originated in software problems. The other half were rooted in organizational issues that apparently everyone knew about, but never voiced explicitly.”

The Daimler team with colleagues from DCC

According to Tobias Moers, CEO, Mercedes AMG GmbH, this solution will disrupt IT in the automotive sector. “The result of this first development phase is far better than I ever imagined,”​ ​he says.

Inspired by the successful outcome, AMG’s parent company, the Daimler AG, has chosen SAP as partner for its design thinking enablement.

The challenge that triggered this engagement was the creation of a new mindset with design thinking as basis for a cultural change towards creativity, collaboration and innovation.

“We trained design thinking coaches from different units and organizations at Daimler who serve as multipliers. We applied design thinking in real projects to prove the success and value of the approach, and set up a creative space to support the nfew way of working. It was all done together as partners,” says Andreas Hauser.

“The design-led co-innovation process at SAP’s AppHaus acted as a catalyst for changing the nature of our organization’s relationship with SAP,” said Dirk Zeller, Head of IT Consulting, Mercedes AMG.

Designing for Real People

Andreas Hauser says that empathy begins by putting yourself at eye level with the customer and working together to achieve the same goal. Customers feel the difference the moment they set foot in the AppHaus. The interior was designed and decorated by the employees themselves, in cooperation with Global Facility Management. “The team went to IKEA and second hand shops. They brought in the materials and tools and did it themselves – and all on the team budget,” he explained.

The space they occupy used to be a cigar factory in the 1880’s. The women who worked there rolled the cigars on wooden tables. A reader stood at the head of the room reading texts out loud to make sure their minds were not diverted by idle chitchat.

Today the rooms are abuzz with groups of people standing in front of whiteboards, creating personas that represent their end users and developing ideas for solutions by creating prototypes.

“When you watch these teams at work, you can’t tell who works for SAP and who doesn’t,” Andreas Hauser explains. But it doesn’t really matter – what matters is the passion people feel for their work.”

One of the main objectives of the SAP AppHaus team is to bring IT specialists, business experts, and end-users together to understand their needs and design a solution together.

“In the past we worked with stacks of lengthy technical documents and specifications. Today, we work with drawings. Everyone understands pictures. They say more than a thousand words. That understanding is essential, since our customers are just as complex as we are! Together, we observe the people who will use the solutions. Whether they are doctors or truck drivers, they keep us on track,” Andreas Hauser says.

Andreas Hauser

Co-innovation projects like these and others driven by the SAP AppHaus teams all over the world depend heavily on sending people out into the field to watch real people doing real work. This is a skill no robot has yet acquired.

The Way Ahead

Last year at SAPPHIRE NOW, SAP CEO Bill McDermott made a pledge to show more empathy to customers. Since then, SAP has taken substantive action to improve its end-to-end experience. SAP is already number 10 on the Empathy Index 2016. This report rates empathy based on the following categories: ethics, leadership, company culture, brand perception, and public messaging through social media.

More than anything company culture is shaped by the way people work and how they engage with customers. Collaboration has been a cornerstone of SAP’s working model from the very beginning. Agile methods and design thinking were introduced during the last decade to help anchor a collaborative mindset that has shaped the way we work now and continues shaping our future.

With this mindset, SAP will surely move up a few more notches on the Empathy Index.