It seems like often times in the SAP world, we get put into silos. Everyone is either MM, PP, EWM, SCM, CRM, and the list goes on and on. Even on the technical side, a lot of developers tend to specialize in a certain area. And that’s a great thing because every SAP customer needs access to knowledgeable functional and technical resources that have the great deal of specialized knowledge that it takes to work in any of these areas. But I am not one of those experts.
My current role is as a UX Architect. One of the tasks I have in this role, and my favorite part of my job, is leading Design Thinking workshops. Over the course of my career, I’ve been a part of many, many Design Thinking workshops, and they have spanned almost every possible area of SAP, from HR to field sales, and the shop floor to the back office. Inevitably, as I start to engage with a client, and understand their processes, I get asked if I am an expert in <blank>. Also inevitably, the answer is no.
Right about now, the sales team and my boss are all probably wondering where I am going with a blog about my lack of expertise. But that’s not what this is about. While I may not be an expert in any one particular functional area of SAP, which at times has made a client or two nervous, what I am an expert in is what allows me to be successful at what I do. I am an expert in applying the Design Thinking process, and I’ll give you 3 reasons why that’s better for me, and the clients I work with, than all the SD or FICO knowledge I could ever acquire.
- The client is already the expert in their current business processes. I have yet to have a design session where all of the business process, functional, and technical knowledge of the current state wasn’t known by members of the client team. My purpose is not to come in, provide a list of best practices for a given process, and walk out the door. I am there to listen, learn, and help identify key challenges and opportunities in a given area, and that’s done by observing and understanding the users, without any preconceived notions or judgment. To be able to do that, I don’t have to be an expert in that focus area, I have to understand and empathize with the people I am designing for, and help guide the team in identifying the right problem to solve.
- While I may not be an expert in any one functional area, I do have expertise in other helpful areas. First and foremost, I am an expert in the Design Thinking process. It is truly a passion area of mine, and I strive to learn more and more every day. I’ve also led countless design workshops, and hope I continue to lead many more. I also know the Fiori design guidelines inside and out. Primarily working with SAP software, a lot of what I do is in the Fiori space, whether it’s web, or native mobile. Lastly, I’ve spent a lot of time on the technical side, developing all kinds of applications, data services, integrations, etc.
- I am able to see things from a fresh perspective. One thing I love about Design Thinking workshops is the number of previously unknown things that end up being uncovered. A lot of that comes from the fact that in many places, the depth and level of conversations that take place during a workshop have simply not been had before. The best part of any design session is the “aha” moment where the team comes together and can see a clear path forward, forging a better path for the users.
Often time, to get to that clear path forward, we need a fresh perspective. There have been a number of times where I’ve been working on a particular piece of code and I am totally stuck. The two best things I can do in that situation are to either walk away and come back later, or bring in a friend to take a look. Then, what I couldn’t see before becomes so obvious, it’s nearly impossible to believe I didn’t see it. But that’s why a fresh perspective is so important in getting to those “aha” moments.
I think David Kelly, founder of world-renowned design firm IDEO, says it best in the video in the link below. He says that at IDEO, they aren’t experts in any given area, but that they are experts on the process of how you design stuff. For that reason, it doesn’t matter if you give them a toothbrush, a tractor, or a chair, it’s all the same to them. They strive to innovate by using the Design Thinking process.
So, if we are ever working together in the future, trying to innovate and improve some product or process, rest assured that whatever area we are working in, I am probably not an expert. It may be the first time I’ve ever heard of whatever it is we are looking at. But I am an expert in the Design Thinking process, and I am an expert at listening, and I’ll come armed with a hell of a lot of questions to help us uncover opportunities, and execute on that vision.