Today I’m talking to Andreas Hauser, who heads up the SAP Design and Co-Innovation Center (DCC). The DCC provides user experience design services for customers. Since 2011, SAP has launched several AppHauses in various locations around the world where groups of designers, product owners, developers and architects work together to design and develop new and innovative products in a new way.
Andreas, could you tell us how the AppHaus Heidelberg differs from its counterparts?
Sure. So the principle of all SAP AppHauses is the same: people, process and space. We bring together people from different disciplines in a creative space where they use agile working methods in a highly iterative way along Design Thinking principles. The difference with the Heidelberg AppHaus is that we focus on customer co-innovation. We have over 450 square meters of space just for customer workshops and almost every day, we have customers here doing Design Thinking workshops and design sessions. The space here – and the process we put at their disposal - enables them to craft new ideas and open up to innovation.
Design makes products competitive, and by bringing together business experts, designers, developers, customers and users in a creative environment like the AppHaus, there is no limit to the new and innovative products we can design.
Tell us about how you chose the space.
We knew, when we were looking for the AppHaus, that we had to find something different. We looked at various locations near the Heidelberg station, so that it would be easy for customers to get to us. In Heidelberg we can combine the best of both worlds: it is close enough to Walldorf to get all support from the headquarters of SAP and it is at the edge where we can try out new ways of working together with our partners and customers in an innovative non-standard office environment. After looking around, we chose this building for its great industrial style.
Did you have to do much renovation?
Well we gave the design responsibility to the team, who had a lot of great ideas. They had to work closely with SAP Facility Management, who also had some great creative ideas out of their previous projects, such as the Innovation Center in Potsdam. The two teams worked closely on designing the environment, everything from colors and materials used to how to best use the space. It was our intention not to plan everything, but keep it open so that we could adapt the spaces. We have four small conference rooms for when people want to do quiet work, but we now realize maybe we need a couple more.
Your opening was in November. How have your first few months been?
Amazing! The team loves working here. They all have permanent places in Walldorf and there is some rotation so that others can also sit here, but everyone who works here is happy. Our experience with customers has also been amazing. They are a bit skeptical when they get here – they say, ‘This is SAP?’ – but once they work here and experience it, they are excited. We see the ties coming off, we see people smiling and we see them being creative. We get them out of their typical environment and it’s great to see what they come up with. It’s not rocket science. It’s so simple. Empowering the team to design the space was the secret for success.
Please talk more about how the space inspires creativity.
We turn things on their head here. In a normal office, there is quiet space and people have to go somewhere to have a louder meeting. Here it is the opposite – we collaborate and people have to go into one of our meeting rooms in order to find somewhere quiet to work. I don’t think this kind of space would suit every kind of team. A sales team that has to be on the phone all day perhaps wouldn’t be able to work here.
We gave the team the flexibility to define the environment on their own, and their creativity rose to the fore. They went to Bauhaus and IKEA, even to some antique shops, and came back with accessories to decorate the four meeting rooms. They all worked hard, putting up wallpaper and painting the rooms. One colleague brought in her sewing machine to sew cushions and curtains.
Now we have these four great rooms that reflect the Design Thinking process – the green, Victorian style Sherlock Holmes room stands for the research and analysis that helps designers to ask users the right questions. The Lego room stands for the playfulness needed to find and assess solutions. The 1001 Arabian Nights room, decorated in an oriental style, inspires storytelling and imagination, while the Bauhaus room pays homage to Germany’s design heritage.
How does the space match your goals?
What’s amazing is the energy the space inspires. People identify with the space, and they become more energetic, more inspired. It takes them out of their normal experience, so that they are able to try new things. The Design Thinking methodology offers a chance to try a new way of working, to rethink things and reiterate. This experimental place supports the process and helps people to iterate change.
How many workshops have you held so far?
We held around 20 customer workshops in the first six weeks. We have also hosted internal teams, but our clear priority is customers.
And what kind of feedback have you had?
The feedback has been outstanding. Customers like the environment, and they also like the outcomes they get here. One thing about Design Thinking is that it is time-boxed, so people get to their first ideas and to their solutions pretty quickly. Customers have been astonished at the fast results, and then how quickly we get them to test and iterate on their prototypes.
Could you give an example of a successful project that the AppHaus Heidelberg has hosted?
Yes. We had a great workshop here with a large SAP customer. The CEO wanted the whole organization to be more innovative and he wanted to infiltrate Design Thinking into the company. He came here with 30 of his top management and we spent one and a half days with them doing Design Thinking. It wasn’t a normal workshop, in that they planned to emerge with a prototype, but they wanted to identify pain points in the organization. They did user research, took results and in doing so, learned and practiced Design Thinking. They learned the value of Design Thinking by practicing it. After the workshop they asked us if we can help them to set up something similar within their organization.
Thanks for your time, Andreas. Do you have anything to add?
Yes, just to say that it is about so much more than the AppHaus. This just a space. We offer a whole process, where companies can design new products, iterate on ideas, empower themselves and learn how to become Design Thinking coaches. We offer an amazing multi-disciplinary team that supports them through the process and we offer the Design Thinking methodology, which helps us all be more creative and more innovative.
How can customers contact you to book a workshop at the Heidelberg AppHaus?