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The EBS Alumni Network is the alumni organization of the private EBS University (Wiesbaden/Oestrich-Winkel) with over 3,400 members in more than 30 countries. Since its inception in 1971, the EBS Alumni Community has evolved to one of the biggest promoters of the EBS with a cumulative financing volume of several million euros. With the EBS Alumni Academic Foundation they promote more than 400 talents financially and conceptually. The Accession rate of academic graduates to EBS has been above 90% in recent years. As part of the Alumni Alliance initiative, the EBS offers diverse bimonthly networking activities, often in collaboration with highly renowned partner organizations.

In November 2015, about 30 members of the EBS Alumni Network have visited the SAP AppHaus in Heidelberg.

“The EBS covers a number of geographic locations, but is not yet fully established at the Rhine-Neckar region. This is why, this time, we wanted to explore the metropolitan area. SAP has been well known to us, but we were not aware of SAP’s innovation programs. As we aim to offer our members more than a pure networking event, but also some additional value which broadens their horizons, the SAP AppHaus has arisen our interest”, explains Susanna Becker, purchasing and marketing at Heless GmbH, who organized the event together with Oliver Brümmer, driving the topic of innovation at Deloitte Consulting. 

Andreas Hauser, SVP Design & Co-Innovation Center, welcomed the alumni at the SAP AppHaus Heidelberg. He introduced them to SAP’s story as well as SAP’s commitment and thought leadership in user experience and design, and unfolded the value of design in an engaging presentation: “One of the biggest outcomes of the technology consumerization trend is how it has driven the importance of design. An unstoppable wave of interest in design centricity is hitting the business world, shifting the focus in product and service development from features to experience. Certainly there’s the human value gained through a better designed user experience, including increased user satisfaction, customer loyalty and solution adoption, as well as a stronger relationship between IT and the business. But there is also increasing evidence that design offers measurable monetary value, as well.

Most of the participants coming from diverse industries, such as architecture, building and construction, marketing, and IT, have not been in touch with user experience and design before. Some of them are users of SAP’s software and have issues with the usability of SAP’s products. Therefore, the alumni network at the SAP AppHaus was an eye-opening experience as they came to understand the Design & Co-Innovation’s Center’s mission to change the perception of SAP.

It is often a common perception that SAP does not distinguish itself from competitors as users are equally frustrated by the usability of ERP systems. So I was all the more surprised that SAP has put this change of perception and the dedication to design on its agenda. It was interesting to see that SAP keeps with the spirit of our times and is dedicated to continuous enhancements of user experience”, reflects Susanna Becker.

Andreas Hauser explains this mission: “It’s essential to find a new way to work that breaks free from traditional ideas and encourages a different way of thinking. Enter the innovation methodology of design thinking, which disrupts tradition by putting the user at the center. The underlying principle of design thinking is that by empathizing with users, we can better understand what motivates them, and once we gain that understanding, we’re better able to design a solution that fits their ideal working environment.”

The alumni got to know the benefits of the iterative and user-centric process of design thinking. Susanna Becker recalls: “Design thinking is a buzzword in today’s business world, but there are often no concrete suggestions on how to apply it. However, at the SAP AppHaus we came to see that this approach has many merits as it brings customers and users together to work on a concrete challenge and to find the right solution. Design thinking does not only represent a decisive advantage to remain competitive, but it can also support us in everyday business.” Oliver Brümmer who has already experienced design thinking at Deloitte in collaboration projects with the Hasso-Plattner Institute in Potsdam was impressed by the spatial design of the AppHaus: “The SAP AppHaus in Heidelberg is really different from other workspaces. I can imagine that this creative and innovative space inspires customers and offers various possibilities to guide them through a one-day to one-week innovation workshop due to its flexibility.”

The alumni also experienced the impact of space on innovation. Susanna Becker was fascinated by the SAP AppHaus which remembered her of the start-up culture: “I actively noticed that the set-up and atmosphere do not just inspire rethinking working methods in a creative way, but rather thinking out of the box.”

Andreas Hauser and the organizers received overwhelmingly positive feedback to this networking event which has enriched the understanding of today’s business challenges and has offered approaches on how to overcome them with the power of a user-centric process, the required skills, and the ideal space.