Design thinking is quickly emerging as a popular problem-finding methodology, and companies across the globe are seeking to harness its power. However, knowledgeable practice remains critical to its success. SAP’s expert design team regularly hosts design thinking workshops with internal stakeholders and customers across various industries, their goal being to drive business outcomes by reframing problems and focusing on user experience. But what does that entail?

Key leaders from Baker McKenzie, the world’s largest law firm, gathered at SAP’s AppHaus Palo Alto for a one-day exploratory design thinking workshop to identify possible areas for innovation through a combination of warm-ups and user-centric activities. They left with a strategic action plan after mere hours of collaboration. Their experience speaks to what it’s like to participate, and what can be gained from a workshop with SAP.

Breaking the Ice

Crucial to any workshop’s success is the ability for participants to feel comfortable contributing. Warm-ups and icebreakers, albeit fun, are important introductory exercises that energize the group and prepare them for what’s to come. Not only do these activities break the ice, but they also unveil further details about the group, get the creative juices flowing, and level the playing field among employees with various titles and roles.

Baker McKenzie’s stakeholders were asked to begin by writing 3 Post-Its: one with their names, one with a little known fact about themselves, and one with a goal for the workshop. This allowed the group to loosen up, while also introducing themselves and setting the stage with general expectations, before diving into the design thinking process. A wide variety of other warm-ups and ice breakers can be used to precede different workshops.

Possibilities Before Particulars

In order to explore wider macro trends in each client’s evolving business context, facilitators use brainstorming activities to identify technology, industry, and competitive trends relevant to the company. These exercises drove Baker McKenzie to break away from their preoccupations about existing issues and challenges to explore the possible.

Brainstorming also helps participants gain a broader alignment on key trends impacting their business, before delving into technological innovations from SAP, and subsequently digging deeper into challenges and aspirations.

“The entire process was collaborative, but also very customized to Baker McKenzie…to the challenges that a law firm faces, particularly in and around innovation.”

-Jamie Lawless, Director of Implementation, Global Services

Tailoring Solutions for a Diverse Client Base

To best support the missions of a diverse client base, SAP’s facilitators first work to understand the scope of their clients’ challenges and aspirations, both in regards to providing better experiences for customers and improving internal logistics.

Baker McKenzie, for example, works to help clients navigate a constantly changing market and values lawyers who embrace new ideas and emerging technologies. Thus, recognizing possibilities to incorporate technology trends into their business model was a vital consideration throughout the group’s engagement. 

SAP’s Innovation Center, as well as other teams from SAP Labs, brought industry experts to the participants in order to inspire ideas of what could be possible with emerging technologies.

After a catered lunch, experts also introduced Baker McKenzie’s stakeholders to SAP’s innovations in Machine Learning, HANA Platform, voice-enabled user experience for enterprise applications, Digital Boardroom, and Natural Language Processing based interactions. They held innovation demos in the Silicon Valley Innovation Center and Executive Briefing Center, which were curated specifically for the workshop.

Human-Centered Exploration

Yet, to be successful, workshops rely on more than simply pushing for an end, technology oriented, goal. The facilitation of user-centric activities, designed to generate input from all participants, targets possible focus areas and generates priorities. During Baker McKenzie’s workshop, all members of the group wrote down challenges and aspirations relevant to their customer’s perspective and to their internal perspective. Then, they identified which were most promising and most problematic.

This exercise revealed that, for Baker McKenzie, being able to look ahead for customers, having to deal with too much data and internal logistic issues were priorities for the company. From this information, SAP and workshop participants can collaboratively develop a strategic action plan and roadmap to address the priority topic areas.

“It was exciting to learn we have an opportunity to come out and work with you on solutions that are critical to our business and solving the problems that we’re trying to tackle on a day to day basis. It’s been very helpful for me to go through this process…and I’m looking forward to doing it going forward as we encounter future issues and really want to take our business to the next level.” -Dan Surowiec, Global CTO

Clarifying a Vision for the Future

Though a one-day workshop scratches the surface of the design thinking process, organizations leave with major takeaways, which stem from the user-centric approach. Rather than focusing solely on utilizing new technologies, for example, a workshop encouraged Baker McKenzie to look at problems from their customers’ perspective.

Workshops also strengthen relationships with SAP, as they clarify SAP’s technology and innovation offerings.

“SAP is a critical innovation partner for us moving forward. We’ve put a large investment of time and money into implementing our SAP system. We think that is just a huge building block for us and kind of the center brain of our organization. And so using what SAP is doing in innovation to leverage that investment is critical for us.”

-Craig Courter, Global COO

Ultimately, the AppHaus team and Baker McKenzie collaboratively identified several areas open to possible co-innovation efforts, ranging from low hanging fruits, which could be completed quickly and easily, to long-term efforts. Their workshop serves as just one example the value and vision that can be gleaned from an exploratory workshop.

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