At SAP’s Design & Co-Innovation Center (DCC), we are a global design studio that provides end-to-end design and innovation services backed by SAP technologies. In the past three years, we have completed over 400 customer projects and conducted over 100 Design Thinking workshops. From our experience, one common issue we face during our research phase is the (mis)understanding of roles–the expert and a typical end user. Ideally, we want to talk to both. While these roles have a lot of overlap, they are not interchangeable.
In an organization, the “expert” is usually a person who has holistic knowledge about the subject matter (e.g. app, software, service). They are the ones that the “end users” turn to when they have questions or problems. The “end user,” on the other hand (usually in IT, training or management), is often assigned to perform specific tasks on a daily basis. They may not have a broad view of the subject matter, but within the scope of their task, they know how to get the job done.
Recently, we did a project on improving the direct store delivery experience. We got to interact with both the end users (the sales representatives) and the experts (their managers and IT staff) from the same company. The experts provided us with the holistic view on how direct store delivery fits in relation to their business strategy, what their tools are capable of today, and who the stakeholders involved in the company are. Our end users provided us with thorough information on how they performed their task from before they left the warehouse to the end of their delivery day.
Sometimes, talking to both the experts and end users can yield additional insights that we would not get if we talked to only one side. For instance, a question came up on how the products are organized in the truck before delivery. The experts answered right away, “By store. That’s the most efficient way to do it.” When we asked the end users the same question, they answered “By item. I’ve done it that way for years.” While experts may know how to ideally perform a task, the end users are the ones who actually perform it. With this little piece of data alone, we were able to identify issues that required further investigation right away. We would not know that this discrepancy existed at all unless we talked to both the end user and the expert.
Understanding the end user is an integral part of our design process at DCC. At the end of the day, they will be the ones who use our design. Without talking to the end user, we may be able to come up with a good design solution that solves the wrong problem. Additionally, we also try to speak with experts, as they are also an integral part of the workplace ecosystem within which end users perform their functions.
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