The Benefits of Design Thinking

Millennial Nonsense

Design Thinking can sound like one of those woolly, arty-farty terms often used by designers who have no idea how a real business is run. How often has a meeting been started with the words:

“Our aim is to create a simple, clean, modern…blah blah blah”

As if anyone would want to create a “complex, rough, old” product. Meaningless drivel.
Design Thinking can seem to live in the same dreamy, pointless, redundant space as those words, but it absolutely shouldn’t.

What Does Design Thinking Do Then? Quickly

We will discuss this in more detail below but in short, it helps you pinpoint the real problem and create an innovative, efficient and superior solution.
Imagine that you’re a 14th Century German craftsman. You want to improve the sales of your book and increase your customer base. However, there aren’t very many literate people around to copy out the text for you.
Possible solutions to that problem could be to teach more people to read and write, to invent a better pen, ink that doesn’t dry in the nib, increase your employee’s target words per minute etc.

Or you could create the first printing press. That’s Design Thinking.

The problem wasn’t a lack of people to copy the text.
The problem was one of replicating the pages.


What really is Design Thinking?

In short, design thinking is a methodology and a set of tools to help solve problems creatively. It’s used when a team or company is trying to create something new or solve a complex problem and focuses on the human side of the issue and the design they need.

As the name suggests, this process has been developed for designers as a strategic procedure to develop and innovate new products, ideas and solutions in a well-thought-out way. This focuses the designer to create the right thing rather than just a thing that looks pretty- there’s a big difference!


Stages of design thinking

Design thinking methodology is typically a 5-stage process. They may not always be followed in exactly the right order or with equal attentiveness to each step. It’s common to revisit steps to get closer to the right solution. However, there is always an end vision in mind and that is producing the right solution for the user.

In short, the 5 steps of the design thinking process consists of empathising, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing. To understand them more, let’s explore them in more detail below.


When creating a UX solution, you can’t get a human-centred perspective without thinking about whom you’re making it for and what is their problem. You’ve got to be in their shoes and understand it from the ground up. This means empathising. A common way to do this is by interviewing the users, breaking down their struggles and frustrations and anything that’s holding them back to build a portrait of why their current system isn’t working.


Take everything learned about the user in step 1 and break it down into a definition. It’s looking at the observations, the problems, the insights and making the defining goal that will drive the project or product. It’s this step that gives you the mantra and reason for creating the solution, so it’s imperative this step is absolutely spot-on as the focus should be on delivering an innovative solution that mitigates the users’ issues.


Synthesise everything from the past two steps and match it to the solution. This is often done in the form of a brainstorming session and is the best time to get all ideas on the table. Ideas are the name of the game in this step, so it’s important to have creative freedom. A good note for this step is to come together as a team and share these ideas. We’ve found this is a powerful way to quickly build an effective solution.


In this step, the most realistic ideas are explored as solutions. They won’t yet be finished or the full thing, but it’s about building a few variations of what the solution could be. These prototypes need to be built to a point where the users can be brought back in to get hands-on with the products and allow you to test them. This stage is as much about designing the GUI on a whiteboard with cardboard cut-outs and sticky notes as it is about coding and building- just a little tip.


As the previous point mentions, once you have a working prototype, you need to see if it works for the users. This means getting them to use it, getting feedback and measuring if it delivers on what you set out to solve for them. We do this in our Usability Lab where we can measure usability with software so both the quantitative and qualitative data can be measured. After this, it goes back to the grindstone- editing the prototype, then back to testing until you have the finished solution.


Why is design thinking important?

Focused creativity

Creativity is inherently qualitative. It’s not always the best thing to complete a project and deliver the right solution. Design thinking is a great way to harness the creative process and standardise it to guide creatives towards a strategic aim. When you combine strategic methodology with creativity, you innovate- for businesses that use SAP, innovation in essential.

Breaking down the problem

The principles of design thinking are to break down a problem into its basic elements- no matter the complexity of the system. This makes the actual cause easier to diagnose giving UX designers the scope to create solutions that cure rather than relieve symptoms. By following the design thinking steps, this can be done at any organisational level- which is why it’s been so widely accepted in SAP, where 80% of the biggest 100 countries use SAP.

Getting to the solution faster

Whereas other methodologies favour hard research- which is time-consuming and looks externally for the answer, design thinking is more about getting hands-on with prototypes. Testing these prototypes is a much faster way to build a solution that favours the user. This means organisations can run faster and more effectively.

Solving human issues

At the heart of design, thinking is a human-centred approach. UX designers can use design thinking to uncover the pain points of clients that they hadn’t already discovered, or that the client was even aware of. When Identified, these pain points can be dealt with head-on.


How is design thinking used in SAP

We all think of SAP as the back-end workhorse of any organisation that uses it. Processing data and keeping it flowing to the right places. However, what turns that data into information is how we use it and, unless it has the right UX it can be tricky to get the best result.

There’s been a shift in recent years for SAP designers to move to design thinking for a human-centred approach. By focusing on the human side of software, innovation can be made on productivity and business agility. This is due to taking into consideration the user, if we empathise with the user we can quickly get to the crux of an issue and discover their true needs. If the user is happy with the system, they will be more likely to adopt it, faster when using it and the organisation prospers as a result.

What we are seeing, as a result, is our clients being left with a culture for innovation as mundane, manual, time-consuming processes have been optimised for user experience.


How can companies benefit from design thinking?

A voice for the user

Rather than treating the issue as a technical one, a pillar of design thinking is engaging in a dialogue with the user. This dialogue opens up the users world to the designer, often giving them deeper insights into how the system is being used and what is causing these pain points.

Minimises risks

By engaging with the user, the risk of innovation failing is minimised. Users have valid input into the final result, tailoring the solution to them. This makes user adoption and satisfaction highly likely, which in turn, drives productivity.

Tailored competitive advantage

As mentioned, a key benefit of design thinking is the solutions are built and tailored around the user and their pains, making it the ideal solution in the users’ eyes. The implied user satisfaction and adoption make them more productive with the tool, as well as the gained associated agility which comes from having a bespoke solution in an organisation.



Design Thinking is a worthwhile investment with measurable, qualitative benefits to a business and has been proven to return far more than its cost.


Believe it or not, the origins of modern design thinking in SAP goes back hundreds of years. Check out our tribute one of the origins of design thinking here.

Discover how we have used design thinking to develop some of our most innovative products with our introduction to Maextro here