BUILDING THE ULTIMATE GLOBAL LEARNING COMMUNITY WITH DESIGN THINKING AND GAMIFICATION
BY KAREN HUFFMAN
The inability to adapt has long affected society at both individual and organizational levels. In today’s world, the exponential rate at which technology is advancing further complicates the ability of organizations to adapt to change. Additionally, organizational success is often dependent on the ability to recognize and take advantage of technological advancements through innovation.
SAP discovered it had to transform from a traditional on-premise software company into a simple Cloud-based software company. The transition was enabled with design thinking and gamification during periods of innovation.
Within the software industry in particular, innovation is crucial; organizations that fail to innovate and struggle to keep pace with technological advancements and consumer expectations become irrelevant sooner rather than later. As software technology evolves, organizations are finding their customers demanding user experiences that are commensurable with smartdevice applications. Their customers want lower costs of ownership over their enterprise applications. Because of these consumer demands, smaller and more agile organizations are able to disrupt the market share from traditional larger organizations. Simply put, if organizations are unable to reinvent themselves to meet consumer needs or become complacent, they will become obsolete as technology inevitably evolves.
STAGE 1: CHAOS
When an organization chooses to transform in order to meet consumer needs, the journey is often filled with seen and unforeseen challenges. During these periods of innovation, organizations can find themselves devolving into chaos, because employees are unable to keep up with all of the changes. Finding the time to educate themselves on new products and existing workloads often results in a bottleneck of employee learning.
SAP found this to be true after a period of extreme innovation that resulted in creating and rewriting more than 100 different line-of-business solutions and industry applications after creating an inmemory database, SAP HANA. Managers discovered that the area of consulting particularly experienced a bottleneck of learning because consultants were responsible for knowing a product inside and out. With more than 100 products to master, consultants struggled to find the time to learn on top of meeting their aggressive targets. At the time, while SAP had a vast amount of user-created content related to SAP HANA across community platforms, the information was difficult to navigate and lacked governance.
STAGE 2: SILOES
By recognizing that knowledge management governance was lost during this period of innovation, Darren Louie, an SAP program manager, proposed a harmonized community with organized and relevant content after learning of the consultants’ struggles via knowledge surveys. As one of the community platform owners, Louie led an initiative to consolidate the extensive knowledge base of existing community platforms into one singular HANA community with one point of access.
“My proposal to the other community owners was successful, and the big challenge for me was to deliver and build this one HANA community,” says Louie. “Over the years, I had attended training conferences and took workshops on design thinking and gamificationI wanted to put in place everything that I had learned to build this community.
” Design thinking is a solution based problem-solving method that allows organizations to resolve complex issues by incorporating consumer needs and wants through the exploration of possible solutions. The focus on needs and wants when seeking solutions then leads to desired outcomes that are often innovative and meet the expectations of consumers. Louie knew that having continuous input of the consultants throughout the process of building the community would result in a knowledge management system SAP consultants would want to use.
By participating in the five distinct phases of design thinking (empathy, define, ideate, prototype, test), organizations can take advantage of creativity and rationality in order to meet user needs and deliver an innovative solution.
During the initial phase of design thinking — empathy — organizations construct a deep understanding of end-users. A variety of methods can be used to learn about consumers (e.g. observation, interviews, shadowing). This up-front investment in end-users results in the organization empathizing with consumer needs, motivations, likes, dislikes, etc. Empathy is arguably the most crucial element of design thinking, because the process cannot be successful without an organization willing to immerse itself in the consumer experience. The more an organization immerses itself into the role of the consumer, the better the solution.
Once an organization truly understands consumer needs, it can then identify the problem it is trying to solve during the define phase. Afterward, brainstorming occurs in the ideate phase. It is important to encourage idea generation and then go through the process of prioritizing the ideas generated in order to determine which ones are the most feasible. During the prototype phase, a prototype is presented to consumers. As Louie points out, “the prototype does not have to be high-tech; it can be something as simple as stickynotes on a whiteboard. ” The purpose of the prototype phase is to provide something for which end-users can provide feedback. And finally, during the test phase, organizations test the solution. Louie stresses the importance of end-user feedback, “going back to the end-user and making incremental improvements based on their feedback is what makes the design thinking process so powerful.”
By interviewing SAP consultants and asking what would help them do their jobs more effectively, Louie and his team came up with a top 10 list of information needs. They then needed to figure out how to combine these information needs with a large volume of content that covers a vast array of products and solutions into one HANA community. By using taxonomy, Louie and his team were able to logically structure the content by finding themes and creating categories and subcategories. He was able to map the categories and subcategories directly to a set of folders and subfolders. The folder structure then determined the community design.
STAGE 3: SUPERHEROES
Throughout the process, Louie worked with people who saw the benefit of one HANA community and sought collaboration to make it happen. While not everyone wanted to participate, the major players were on board. Focus groups were important to the design thinking process, because they allowed Louie and his team to collect information from multiple end-users at the same time. By using design thinking, SAP identified information needs and then designed a community to meet those needs.
Once Louie and his team built the HANA community, they used gamification as a strategy to incentivize the consultants to actively participate in the new community and contribute to knowledge management.
Gamification is the application of game-playing elements in an effort to encourage engagement with a product. Louie implemented a simplified game design by identifying the players (consultants) as “HANA Heroes” within the community. As players, the consultants are trying to implement SAP software, which can be a perilous journey due to challenges such as tough requirements, tight deadlines and bug-infested software. Survival depends on teamwork and collaboration. Sharing knowledge reduces risk of failure — and within the HANA community, sharing knowledge is defined by participating in forums, sharing project documents, and delivering expert information sessions.
Measurement and reward are imperative for gamification success. If the busy consultants do not have incentive to participate, the vast majority won’t engage in the forums. SAP decided to tie knowledge management contributions to consultant year end performance bonuses and gave prizes to top contributors, complete with a leaderboard recognizing top contributors. On the HANA community leaderboard, consultants initially start off as a Junior HANA Hero, and as they contribute more knowledge to the community, they become a HANA Hero and then eventually a Super HANA Hero. Louie and his team found the consultants receptive to this superhero theme, which is a metaphor for healing one another and for making a difference. SAP consulting projects are challenging; the only way to survive is through teamwork and collaboration.
The HANA community using design thinking and elements of gamification is the largest and most comprehensive community within SAP with more than 5,000 members. Content is extremely cohesive and available in a variety of styles, such as learning plans, case studies, best practices and lessons learned. The community continues to grow; 98 percent of members find the content either valuable or highly valuable.
SAP community leaders recognized a learning problem during a period of intense innovation. By working together, they created a community to inspire thousands of consultants to be superheroes. As a result, they helped mitigate some of the chaos necessary to bridge some of the silos present during periods of significant technological innovation.
—Source: Darren Louie presented this case study at the Enterprise Learning! Conference. Related sessions: www.2elearning.com/events/web- seminars-series