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Former Member

And while you’re at it you can do the same with so-called ‘use cases’!

Okay now, let’s take a quick breath. This isn’t meant to say that best practices and use cases are worthless – in my world they just play a very different role in a specific place.

So what do I mean ‘in my world’?

I am a Design Thinking coach and part of the SAP Services Innovation team. I work with our customers not only on topics across the entire spectrum of typical SAP engagements but also any other that might need to be addressed – business processes/models, culture, internal politics to name just a few examples. It really moves the focus to people, what they want and need, to drive successful business outcomes supported by appropriate technology.

You might notice I put 'technology' only at the very end of that last statement. Meanwhile it seems that currently more often than not the discussions start with technology. The driving force behind what I do as a Design Thinker is to push away from starting with those more typical feature/function discussions with presentations about best practices and use cases. Because what do you think those lead to??? That’s right, more details about features and functions than you can shake your fist at! I see it played out again and again. As I see it, the problem is two fold:

  • Software and technology customers largely ask first for use cases and best practices from their vendors. After all, isn’t that what their value proposition is?
  • We too often can’t even get out of our own way. We have a fleet of experts at the ready to deep dive into the features and functions of everything we offer.

How do we break this cycle?

First we have to change both the perception and mindset of people around best practices and use cases. No longer should we expect that demos and presentations will garner the greatest success as a starting point. Let’s think of them absolutely as enablers for implementing and delivering value; but bearing that in mind, what is still often lacking is the touch point to both the people- and business-side of the holistic equation. Design Thinking is one way to change the game and bridge the gap between desirability (people), viability (business) and feasibility (technology). It accomplishes this by focusing from the start on possibilities and outcomes rather than feature sets.

Next let’s consider where we are with technology – there are possibilities today that we cannot even comprehend or understand yet as they relate to topics such as big data, the Internet of things, social, mobile. As endless as the possibilities are in these realms to be creative and even innovative, the ‘tried and true’ approach of presenting best practices just will not work to uncover them. In fact, that traditional approach is pretty much by definition not creative nor is it innovative! Design Thinking has tremendous momentum in the business world today because of this realization and it’s time for you to think about coming along for the ride if you aren't already.

What’s one to do?

In a few words, try to adjust your expectations. Don’t ask for best practices and use cases. Instead, have a genuine discussion about your business together with representatives across your entire organization - even with your partners. Be multi-disciplinary! Focus on your stakeholders, users, customers – really your entire ecosystem. And hey maybe, just maybe, Design Thinking is a great methodology that can help you embark on a new journey to boldly go where no one has gone before…

I look forward to discussing via your comments, questions, even challenges – engage!

Follow me on twitter @jeremycthomas

About the author:

Jeremy works in the Services Innovation and Design Thinking Center of Excellence in SAP Services. Jeremy is a design thinking and innovation coach, practitioner and evangelist. He facilitates design thinking workshops and projects with SAP customers to address a variety of different business problems. He supports the DT enablement and training activities as a mentor for the Services organization in North America and collaborates across other lines of business within SAP. He also teaches design thinking both in customer and university settings.

Jeremy holds a JD degree in Law from Rutgers School of Law in NJ and completed his Bachelors and Graduate work in Applied Economics from the University of Georgia, Athens, GA.