Everyone likes attractive, comfortable surroundings, but to what extent do the spaces in which we work affect how we work? The answer, a lot! As Director of AppHaus Enablement at SAP, I have personally witnessed the amazing transformative power of how changes to furniture, lighting, sound proofing, and floor space layout encourage creativity and collaboration by bringing designers, developers, and product managers closer together. The flexibility to tailor the office layout to individual teams’ needs allows employees to create an environment that supports the collaborative nature of their work. The “unfinished” workshop style encourages employees to experiment with the space. It is one of the pillars of the intellectual renewal going on at SAP.

From Bauhaus to AppHaus

The transformation of the work spaces at SAP has its roots in an innovation experiment that SAP engaged in 4 years ago in Silicon Valley. SAP took a small group of designers, developers and product owners out of the Palo Alto campus and founded a start-up like environment nearby for these employees called the “AppHaus.” The concept was inspired by the Bauhaus movement that started in Weimar, Germany in 1919.

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The movement brought to the forefront: multi-disciplinary teams working together in one single building, architecture and design influences of the early 20th century and many modern design processes that are still prevalent today. And the experiment was a great success. People working in the AppHaus felt rejuvenated. They thought that the set up created the right environment to encourage creativity. Once they experienced this type of atmosphere, they didn’t want to move back into traditional office spaces.

Since then, many SAP campuses around the globe now have their own AppHaus office spaces. Additionally, SAP has been leveraging the lessons learned and the AppHaus approach to renovate and reinvigorate work environments throughout the company worldwide.

My team works to ensure that SAP embraces the best forward-thinking ideas when it comes to collaborative spaces. In this post, I will share with you the key aspects of the AppHaus concept and our lessons learned.

The SAP AppHaus Concept

Depending on the model that a site has embraced such as creating new AppHaus office spaces from scratch or revamping traditional office spaces, you will always find the following characteristics:

  • The work environment should be open and collaborative
  • Spaces should be fun and colorful
  • No cubicles and no status symbols
  • All walls should be treated with a special coating so that people can write on them with dry erase markers
  • All furniture is on wheels to enable space flexibility

Different spaces for different needs

If you have the means to create new office spaces or you want to renovate your current ones, you need to look at all the different spaces in your building in which you may make an impact.

Workspaces – This is the area where employees and managers work.It is designed to create an atmosphere of collaboration and flexibility. The intent is to group people together who are working on the same project. This can be done by having movable furniture. Ideally all the shared work and discussions should be visually displayed at all times within the group.

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Breakout space – This is a space aimed at enabling team members to meet up in an informal manner. It should provide a warm touch to the workspace. It is clearly linked to the team’s workspace as it is inside of it. In most cases it is open, although some sites have set up curtains to close it off if needed.

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Meeting rooms – Collaborative floor plan layout does not necessarily mean you don’t have meeting rooms. In fact, you need many small, soundproof meeting rooms to allow for private meetings and private telephone conversations. Medium-size meeting rooms are obviously set up to gather a bigger group and clearly those are still useful.
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Workshop space – This is a specially designed meeting room useful for facilitating dynamic teamwork. Some can also be used to create lively workshops with external clients; in that case, workshop spaces should be ideally set near the building entrance. Workshop spaces can also be used to share work results and experiences in plenum sessions.DT Space

Coffee break area – Coffee break areas should be open to allow
colleagues to meet up in a very informal manner. They should provide a pleasant, comfortable setting as if employees were at home. They should be located away from the workspaces to reduce potential noise disturbance. If the site does not have a cafeteria, it is critical to plan a large coffee break and / or kitchen area.
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Hallways – Hallways obviously are used to navigate through a building and meet emergency exit requirements, but they are often overlooked at the design level. If you design hallways with bright light, vivid colors or even add a writable surface, it completely changes how people move through a building as it is no longer just a way to get from A to B, but instead becomes a useful and cheerful space in your building.
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Key Lessons Learned

  • Work very closely with your facilities organization so they understand the concept as they will be the ones proposing a solution based on your requirements. Communicate openly and often with them, but don’t do their job.
  • Start small. Try it out with one team. Move them in and see how they react. This will enable you to improve your concept further down the line and also create a buzz on site.
  • Take the time to present the concept to the people, both at the management and individual contributor level, who will be working there.
  • Don’t sell the dream if you know you don’t have the needed budget to get the job done.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. Whatever guidelines you provide will be adapted based on country regulations, culture preferences, budgeting and so on. At SAP we have many different variations of the AppHaus concept and this is perfectly fine.

Closing Words of Advice

If you are looking to transform the work spaces in your organization, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you truly believe in this concept. Change is never easy and you will invariably run into a few critics. That being said, once a company has embraced the idea of multi-disciplinary team work, these spaces are the perfect setting to enable innovation and creativity.

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  • Marcio Martins   5 years ago

    Hi Alan, nice article! How can I contact you within SAP? I didn’t find you on Address book. Thanks!