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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

“Here I can be myself, here I like to shop.” This slogan is inseparably linked to the German drugstore chain dm-drogerie markt and its clear focus on both customer and employee well-being. To accommodate the employees’ desire to plan their own work shifts, SAP partner projekt0708 built four SAP Fiori staffing applications together with Find out about the user experience journeys of the UX champions Stefanie Sehm from projekt0708, Ralph Tonn from, and Christoph Ade from dmTECH.

More than 40,000 employees ensure that 2,000 branches of the dm-drogerie markt run smoothly in Germany. Reflecting the company’s dialogical philosophy, dm attaches particular importance to freedom of decision-making for employees. With leadership supporting self-management, the staffing applications aim to put employees in the center. With an average of 20 employees per store, an intelligent system was greatly needed to reduce data complexity.

Besides enhancing accessible self-staffing via smartphones, new features and reducing efforts were the main reasons to replace the legacy Web Dynpro application: “Offering high-quality self-planning with the best possible user experience” – the vision was clear.

From spreadsheets to digital, from spending days to hours

Staffing is organized by the employee as well as by the store manager in the form of the Manager Self-Service in the SAP HCM system. As the solution is running on an SAP HANA database, staffing data for stores and employees can be retrieved fast and frequently.

It now only takes a few hours to staff an upcoming planning period instead of several days before:

  1. Planning Calendar App: The store manager prepares the staffing requirements.
    Planning Period App: The store manager releases the planning period, i.e. for a month.

  2. Employee Planning App: Employees enter their working hours according to the store’s needs.

  3. Planning Calendar App: The store manager reviews and finalizes the planning.
    Planning Period App: The store manager sets the planning period to final.

  4. Store Working Times App: The employees receive the final staffing plan.

Before – after: The earlier paper-based staffing schedule has now been digitalized, showing the availability of co-workers. Alt Text: The first image shows the paper-based staffing schedule in a tabular form, highlighted by different colors and various handwritten notes. The second image shows a screenshot of the clear and structured digitalized version.

Balancing feedback overload

As employee satisfaction is a top priority at dm-drogerie markt, users were involved in every phase of the development process. At the end of 2017, the first site visits took place in ten selected stores throughout Germany to build a representative sample: Stores differentiate in their size and location, whether rural, urban, or situated in train stations. Stores also decide on how they manage themselves, for example by alternating shifts, demand-oriented planning, or scheduling created by store managers.

The conducted field research typically involved a combination of observation, interviewing, and artifact analysis. For data collection, the team around Stefanie, Ralph, and Christoph had the individual staffing process explained to them, why the system sometimes needs to be tricked, and which aids are being used, for example desk calendars and hand-written lists.

Afterwards, the first wireframes and a process image were created in a five-day workshop. Comparing the internal requirements to the different situations at the stores, it became obvious that balancing all the interests and ideas of employees, store managers, IT, and HR would not be easy The high amount of qualitative feedback has been overwhelming. “We deliberately refocused on features that brought value to the majority of employees, and not to every exceptional case,” explains Stefanie Sehm, project lead from SAP partner projekt0708. Additionally, it was clear that a staffing requirement chart resulting from sales forecasts, logistics, cash register needs, and additional campaigns would be helpful. The idea of commenting on the individual planning was also considered from the beginning, allowing employees to share reasons for their absence.

Stefanie Sehm
Director HR Technology
projekt0708Project lead
Ralph Tonn
User Experience Specialist, projekt0708 partner

UX Designer
Christoph Ade
HCM Inhouse
Consultant dmTECHProject manager

The UX Champions team for the staffing solution at dm. Alt Text: The table shows the images of Stefanie Sehm, Ralph Tonn, and Christoph Ade.


50 SAP Fiori apps yet – also thanks to extremely helpful design guidelines

dm-drogerie markt uses a set of SAP products and solutions benefiting from the SAP Fiori design system. The company’s core HR processes in three countries run on SAP HCM, SAP SuccessFactors is currently being implemented in all 13 represented European countries, and as a hybrid scenario with SAP HCM in the respective three countries. dm also profits from other SAP solutions, for example a HANA database is the basis in all their SAP systems.

With that setup, design consistency was of particular importance for the 50 apps developed, 20+ of which were SAP Fiori apps for HR. “SAP Fiori’s own design system and design guidelines are extremely helpful as the development focus can be put on the business use case,” describes IT expert Christoph Ade. Furthermore, dmTECH’s internal design guide team ensures the user interface harmonization from HR to retail by advising project teams and developing custom plugins.

However, even early low-fidelity prototyping requires preparation. “It is key to first take a close look at the controls, functions, and restrictions that SAPUI5 offers”, suggests UX Designer Ralph Tonn. “We’ve learned that early, rapid, and regular prototyping with a high level of detail keeps the delta between design and release low. Another best practice is to think about which function should be offered on which device at what time.” The Employee Planning App runs on mobile, whereas the Planning Calendar App for the local store managers runs on desktop so the complex content can stretch across the screen.

5 Tips for agile development

  1. Early reality check: What is resource-wise and technically feasible?

  2. Keep the technical effort for testing as low as possible.

  3. Use fast feedback loops. The faster you get input, the more quickly you can adapt to change.

  4. Agree to disagree: If the team cannot agree on a decision, it is faster and more effective to build and test two prototypes.

  5. Find a balance between nice-to-have wishes and added value for everyone.

Prototyping and tilting at windmills

Augsburg, Karlsruhe, München, Oldenburg, just to name a few: To shorten and simplify feedback loops, test stores were selected near the homes of the developers. Additionally, a virtually set-up group of power users provided a great way to quickly get a second opinion on minor matters.

To evaluate the functionality and user experience of the applications, usability testing sessions were organized on a larger scale. In thinking aloud tests, the participants were asked to continuously comment on the app while using it. For the Employee Planning App, a real-world simulation was offered: the staffing requirement graph was manually updated after each participant had entered their data. Another need that was revealed in the process was the option to see the availability of qualified colleagues, for example first aiders, to be able to draw conclusions for individual planning.

The staffing requirement chart visualizes staffing needs in real-time. Alt Text: The screenshot shows the staffing needs in real time. A timeline visualizes the timeslots via color-coding: Underbooked timeslots are marked in red.

The first prototype of the Planning Calendar App only shared high-level features to slowly approach the final product with its extensive functionality. “At first, usability testing felt like tilting at windmills,” explains Ralph Tonn. Some test participants were disappointed because they didn’t see much of a difference between the prototype and the legacy application, which simply needed clarification. However, usability testing was worth its weight in gold. For example, only from observing the Planning Calendar App in use could one see that store managers still used pen and paper to note down planning discrepancies. Now, an algorithm simply generates a checklist which can then easily be forwarded to the respective employees. “Computing power from the SAP backend now makes life much easier", he summarizes.

The Planning Calendar App is optimized for desktop use. Alt Text: The screenshot shows the Planning Calendar App. In a tabular format, all shifts can be seen at a glance.

Reducing technology fears

Continuous involvement of end users not only contributed to the development of a successful solution, but also led to its high acceptance: The straightforward user experiences provided by SAP Fiori even convinced those who previously had mixed feelings about using technology for scheduling.

Transparent self-management has increased employee satisfaction and store managers are freed up from the responsibility of staffing. Planning now only takes a few hours instead of several days – time that can be reinvested directly into their daily work with customers. Yet, for some stores, the preset process of self-scheduling was quite a change which required some getting used to.

However, agile development doesn’t stop with going live. Instead, continuous improvement is based on evaluating user feedback and further extensions. The next milestone is the rollout of the Austrian staffing application, planned for 2022 or 2023. The new derived features will then be available for the dm colleagues in Germany. “We have grown as a team and strengthened the mutual understanding of our different roles. It was quite a journey, but the result makes us very proud," says Stefanie Sehm, smiling.

To learn more about the SAP Fiori user experience, please visit the community topic page. Make sure to bookmark the UX Champions tag or follow the UX blog tag to catch all the stories in the series.

Also, have a look at the recording of the SAP Fiori Makers call from May 19, 2021 showcasing the application.