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Are augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) just a few more buzzwords or will those become real trends in a world where IoT and Industry 4.0 are increasingly important? According to Augmented/Virtual Reality Report 2016 by Digi-Capital1, $686 million were inested in AR/VR in 2015. By 2020, this number is expected to grow towards $120 billion2.

Therefore, more and more enterprises already start today to identify valuable and innovative AR/VR use cases optimizing current processes and bringing their business to the next level.

In September 2016, the SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center and SAP Switzerland were invited to organize a one-day exploration workshop with IT and business stakeholders of Swiss Post at their offices in Bern. The goal of the workshop was to identify new innovative augmented and virtual reality use cases for the organization units Swiss PostMail and Swiss PostLogistics that can be presented to the Swiss Post board. Scenes, an intuitive storyboarding tool designed by the SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center, was ideal to prepare the investment pitch for the board.

What is “Scenes”?

Scenes is a tool and a method to create visual stories about products and services quickly, collaboratively and iteratively without the need of refined drawing skills. Scenes empowered the business and IT professionals from Swiss Post to shape their AR/VR ideas and to-be scenarios in the form of easy-to-understand, illustrative storyboards.

Why AR/VR for Swiss Post?

In order to stay competitive, Swiss Post is constantly seeking to grow their services and products connecting virtual and physical experiences. This includes for example SuisseID, a digital signature that is officially approved by Swiss authorities, E-Post Office , eCommerce solutions, E-Health, E-Voting etc.

Therefore, Swiss Post reached out to SAP to identify innovative and end-user relevant augmented and virtual reality use cases for their Swiss PostMail and Swiss PostLogistics divisions. The DCC Design Thinking Coaches pulled together a team of postal and AR/VR technology experts to jointly run this workshop with SAP Switzerland and the business and IT employees of Swiss Post.

The focus was to improve Swiss Post’s internal business processes instead of end consumer scenarios or services. The AR/VR expert from the SAP Innovation Center Network (ICN) brought smart glass devices like the HoloLenses to the workshop for testing and provided an overview on SAP’s strategy and experiences in this context.

The workshop participants were then divided into 3 groups and each group created a persona, like a typical Swiss Post employee, who would benefit the most from AR/VR scenarios. Based on the selected persona, each group worked on the respective as-is process and to-be process that should be optimized by augmented / virtual reality.

Scenes Brings Maria’s new workday to Life

Communicating new, innovative ideas to others is sometimes a challenge and may lead to long functional specifications which are hardly read. To avoid that, storyboarding can be a very useful tool. However, most people are hesitant to draw storyboards on their own and might not have the skills to create an easy-to-understand visual sketch of their idea or re-imagined business process to convince colleagues and their management.

And this is where Scenes comes into play. Scenes includes a set of pre-defined illustrations that can be physically or digitally combined in a 3D storyboard. Storyboards are used throughout the earliest stages of the design process to capture ideas, communicate them to others and validate them before they are fully designed or implemented. At Swiss Post, Scenes was used to create a storyboard of existing business processes that will be significantly improved by the use of smart glasses.

One of the Swiss Post workshop groups focused on the manual mail sorting process trying to understand the needs of a Swiss Post mail sorter.

The group initially created a persona of a mail sorter, called Maria, to understand goals, tasks and challenges involved in her daily routine as of today.

One of Maria’s key challenges is that the speed of mail sorting workflows is determined by the sorting machine that puts a lot of pressure on her.

Based on the identified needs and challenges, the group framed a how-might-we question to have a common understanding of the problem space as preparation for the ideation and prototyping phase.

“How might we enable Maria, a 43-years-old immigrant, to earn more money so she can better support her family while experiencing more diversity at work, being able to work at her own pace and to better see the results of her work.”

After a short ideation phase, the group designed the to-be mail sorting process on a whiteboard. One of their key ideas was to make Maria’s mail sorting process more efficient by using a smart glass to combine allocation of mails to an optimized delivery tour, while rewarding her for correct work with a virtual currency called Q-Coins. As an additional feature, the team integrated the option of a personalized home security check to make sure her kids arrived safely at home while she is at work. The group was then able to transfer the storyboard from the whiteboard into a 3D visualization of the new to-be process with Scenes. To make Maria’s emotions, challenges and needs visible during the new sorting process, Swiss Post participants could write on the Scenes elements and place them with magnetic card holders on the blank magnetic boards to create Maria’s new mail sorting process using a smart glass. Everyone was immediately excited to use Scenes independent of their age or job level.    

At the end of the workshop, the DCC team challenged Swiss Post to prepare a “shark-tank”-like investor pitch, summarizing the group’s workshop results of the entire day including Scenes, personas etc in order to convince the critical Swiss Post board. After presenting the new sorting process for their persona Maria, all participants were impressed about the ideas and results that had been generated in only one day.

What’s next at Swiss Post?

Thanks to the visual and easy-to-understand 3D Scenes storyboards, the smart glass-enabled mail sorting process is one of the selected innovative AR/VR use cases being presented to the Swiss Post board.

More about Scenes

Curious about “Scenes”? Feel free to download it here and get started with your own storytelling session.

About Swiss Post

As a diversified company, Swiss Post operates in the communication, logistics, retail financial and passenger transport markets. Within the communication market, its services include delivery of letters and newspapers, direct marketing, and information and document solutions. In logistics, it operates in Switzerland and internationally as a parcels, courier and express service provider, and provides tailored and comprehensive logistics solutions. In retail finance its subsidiary PostFinance Ltd offers extensive services for payment transactions, savings, investments, retirement planning and financing solutions, and has had a banking licence since 2013. In the public passenger transport market its subsidiary PostBus Switzerland Ltd operates regional, municipal and urban bus services, and also develops value-added system and mobility management services. Swiss Post operates in approximately 25 countries. The company employs more than 62,000 members of staff worldwide and generated turnover of over CHF 8.2 billion in 2015.