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SAP focuses on product 'desirability' through design to lure customers

Company putting designers - or developer designers - at the centre of software development

SAP admits it is struggling to make its products more "desirable" and is changing the way it is designing and developing them as a result.

At the SAP Labs India press trip in Bangalore and Mumbai this week, managing director of SAP Labs India VR Ferose said: "The key to great software products is feasibility, viability and desirabiity."

Many software users will be accustomed to using software and being flummoxed by the apparent lack of consideration for users in how they would like to use those products. This problem is often put down to developers who are more concerned about getting the code down quickly rather than making the software attractive and easy to navigate and use.

Ferose said: "At SAP we believe we are already addressing feasibility and viability but when it comes to desirability we have more to do when it comes to design."

As a result, said Ferose, SAP Labs India and its other development labs across the world were now putting designers - or developer designers - at the centre of software development.

He said, "We are completely changing our mindset, the best software design is built from being entrepreneurial. We now have an app house here that allows people to work like a start-up within our campus, with the designer at the centre of the app, and developers around it."

He explained that software designer engineers were now tasked to go and talk to specific industry customers to gauge their attitudes to particular apps that could be added to SAP's various business software suites.

They will work on the idea of a user interface after going through with the customer as to how they work in their jobs, well before any developer comes up with any code to build an app.

SAP Labs India's new app house supports team working around app ideas and development and one of its latest projects was to come up with an app for collection specialists - those staff at companies tasked to collect unpaid invoices.

Rana, an app house developer designer at the app house, said: "I went to meet collection specialists to hear what they wanted from such an app, which included the facility to better communicate with their managers, and many of my developer colleagues here were genuinely surprised to hear what they had to say."

Rana didn't immediately come up with any coded application interface, but instead produced story boards that were approved by the collection specialist end users. Within a 90-day period application interfaces were built to again be passed by end users, and only then would the developers write the code that would drive the app.

Ferose said that SAP's new product development thinking was partly driven by the approach the late Steve Jobs at Apple took when bringing products to market that addressed the specific needs of users and which worked first time.

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