Digital Transformation Needs More Than Technology

Andreas Hauser

Digital transformation is a hyped-up topic these days. But it is much more than a buzzword. Technology trends like hyper-connectivity, Big Data, cloud, Internet of Things, and security provide new opportunities for companies to re-imagine their business and how they engage with their customers and users.

But what happens if you develop an amazing technical solution that people cannot use?

Let me tell you a story.

On a business trip recently, I had an experience that some of you might have also encountered from time to time. I wanted to enter the parking garage of a hotel and had to get a parking ticket to get in — sounds simple. The machine looked pretty modern. It had an integrated monitor and several buttons on the side. First I touched the screen, but nothing happened — it was not a touchscreen. Then I pressed some buttons on the side, and again, nothing happened. The rounded button at the bottom finally got me a ticket. Great technical solution … but not usable.

Endurance testing experiences like this one are actually easily preventable when taking into consideration human needs (desirability). This makes very clear that we need to connect three elements—viability, feasibility, and desirability—to be successful and remain competitive in the digital era.

Wikipedia defines digital transformation as “application of digital technology in all aspects of human society.” This is why companies with the most successful digital transformations have focused on people and applied a design-led approach.

One company that has excelled at creating a pleasant experience is Uber. Their app not only tells you how long it will take the car to arrive, but you can also watch the arrival on your mobile device. I like the user interface. But here’s what I personally like most about the Uber experience: You get out of the car, keep your mobile phone in your pocket, do nothing, pay automatically without thinking about how much you need to tip the driver, and get the receipt via e-mail.

That is the difference between simply focusing on the user interface and providing a great customer and user experience. To design and develop such a solution, you need to know what people really desire. Technology certainly plays a very important role to make this experience a reality, and you must be clear about the business model.

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Design-led digital transformation means leveraging breakthrough technology trends, re-imaging business processes and business models, and re-imaging the customer and user experience to achieve design-led innovations.

In today’s digital economy, companies understand that the experience their customers and users have must be the core focus of its brand and survival. Customers and users drive the current and future state of any business. Products and services, whether they are delivered to internal or external customers, must create a value for them and the company. Therefore, customers and users need to be an integral part—not an afterthought—of the entire product development process.

Design thinking to focus on human needs

To better understand what that experience can be, companies are using design thinking – a human-centered approach to innovation – and are putting the customer and user into the center of all activities. Design thinking focuses on human needs, problem finding, working in inter-disciplinary teams across the innovation lifecycle, and a fail-fast, fail-early approach.

My observation from about 500 customer projects is that more and more IT organizations are starting to apply design thinking within their organization. They are hiring designers to better understand the needs of their customers and users and are translating these needs into an experience design. In the past, they simply collected requirements from the business and implemented functions, features, and business processes. This was sufficient in last-decade enterprises, but consumerization of IT requires re-thinking of this approach.

Create business value with human-centered design

The goal is to create business value by engaging with customers and users throughout the end-to-end process—from discovery to design to delivery—and apply design thinking combined with agile methodologies. It is not about simply creating a cool design; rather it is all about creating business value and outcomes.

To do this, business and IT need to work hand in hand to take the company toward that single consumer’s experience.Slide2.JPG

Let’s look at an example.

As part of its business strategy, Mercedes-AMG, the sports car brand of Mercedes-Benz, aimed to increase its production drastically while keeping the excellent quality standards that have always characterized its products. In a co-innovation project, we have engaged on an intensive research plan and applied the principles of design thinking and agile software development to bring the Mercedes-AMG vision to life: a customizable collaborative planning solution that supports cross-functional competence teams and increases efficiency during the three-year production process. The solution, based on SAP HANA, provides access to relevant data in a holistic way and enables a seamless team collaboration in the remodeled process. One of the key success factors was engaging with users throughout the entire process by observing how they work and iterating on solutions with them.

Digital transformation is a journey, not just a one-time project. Ultimately, enterprises want to prepare their organization for sustainable design-led digital transformation.

So how can you embrace the human aspect of design in your digital transformation? This is our credo: Apply design thinking to engage with your customers and most importantly, with users, right from the beginning, in an iterative, user-centric design process.

If you are interested in more customer stories, check out the UX Design Services website. You can also find more information in this presentation, or check out this video.

This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.


Andreas Hauser

About Andreas Hauser

Andreas is global head of the design and co-innovation center at SAP. His team drives customer & strategic design projects through Co-Innovation and Design Thinking. Before he was Vice President of User Experience at SAP SE for OnDemand Solutions.