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From October 10th to 13th of this month, SAP professionals provided a unique business challenge project to MBA students at the University of Notre Dame. Twenty-One MBA students participated in the exercise. Led by Andrea Anderson, Vice President - Design Thinking at SAP Labs and Julia Steier, Product Manager SAP IOT Smart Connected Business team, the goal of the course was to work on how sensor information can be used to generate insights and ultimately business outcomes and transform the way retailers do business today. We used Design Thinking as a methodology to help the students hone specific skills such as Empathy, Synthesis, and Prototyping.

The design challenge was sponsored by SAP’s Global User Experience and Design Team, and SAP’s IoT Smart Connected Business team. That team believes in creating useful, usable and delightful solutions. Our passion for design thinking is applied to all our new products and solutions. A core tenant of design thinking is the deep understanding of end user and stakeholder needs, behaviors and feelings. Digital transformation has become the new motto in any industry that even remotely touches technology, and understanding the entire system of opportunities and challenges has never been more important.

The Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame is a premier Catholic business school that fosters academic excellence, professional effectiveness and personal accountability in a context that strives to be faithful to the ideals of community, human development and individual integrity. A leader in values-based education with the message of Ask More of Business™, the College offers innovative coursework that integrates real-life case studies, a faculty renowned for teaching and research, international study opportunities, and interactions with some of the foremost business thought leaders. One of the college’s innovation offerings is its Interterm Intensive sessions.

These classes provide learning opportunities that are not easily available in the standard course format. Some workshop-style classes focus on specific capabilities students can add to their business “tool kits.” Others, such as the deep-dive corporate opportunities, give students hands-on opportunities to apply, test, and extend what they have learned in previous courses. In other courses, students expand their learning by using their time and talents to assist a not-for-profit organization. All of the courses develop skills and perspectives that will be beneficial in summer internships and full-time jobs. All courses require a high degree of student participation and involvement. The courses offered to MBA students provide opportunities to extend and apply skills and knowledge learned in the core and elective classes. They provide direct, practical experience using simulations, projects, or live problems. The classes add to students’ experience base, helping prepare them for a strong start as they begin their full-time jobs following graduation.

We were fortunate to have two outside executives and another SAP leader join us for the final student presentations. Geoff Scott, CEO of ASUG, Jeff Hutchinson of Honeywell, and David Fowler of SAP served on our review panel and selected the winning team. They all were very impressed with the quality and depth of the work produced by the four student teams in just four days. The students absolutely blew us away with their terrific ideas and creative retail solutions. The winning team was provided with a small prize to recognize their outstanding work and SAP will use the presentations as important input to our solution plans.