Leo Ratzlaff Product and type designer based in Lisbon

Launching design as a service at SAP

Mar 31, 2020 ~ 4 min read

If you don't know me, I must introduce myself very shortly. My name is Leonardo, I have a bachelor's degree in design (which I got a few months after joining SAP as an intern), and I work as a designer/developer at SAP Labs Latin America. More precisely, for the Language Experience team, which is responsible for the translation tools of SAP.

In 2019, Invision conducted the largest global survey of design in business (2,200 companies in 77 industries) to discover how the science of digital product design has evolved and where it is today. Their report shows that 43% of the companies researched have a 1:4 designer:developer ratio or better. However, that was not the reality at SAP.

SAP Labs Latin America has more than 1300 employees, probably more than a hundred small teams, but, by that time, only two people officially hired as designers, which give us a ratio of 1:650. It's important to mention that I'm not one of them, and even though my design skills and knowledge contributed a lot to my hiring, I was hired as a developer.

So moving forward, in February 2019 I had now two allies working at SAP; Gabriel, my bother, and Carla, my sister in law. The three of us met at university while studying Design, graduated together and made our way into SAP also together—a beautiful story :) There were also some people interested in Design here and there, and amongst them, there was Marcio, a developer, and design enthusiast.

Me, Carla, and Gabriel were new at the company; we were trying to show up and make a difference. Quickly, we became close to Marcio, which by that time held a role called Design Evangelist, and the three of us started volunteering to work on design-related tasks to help him. In one of those opportunities, he asked Gabriel to create a service with the concept of Design Clinique, where people could bring their project to get some help and tips from designers. We brainstormed on the concept, made some adjustments, and, in February 2019, Design GO was born.

Logo designed with SAP’s typography and color palette.

Logo designed with SAP’s typography and color palette.

We started the service asking people to book a session choosing between five areas: Graphic design, UI design, UX design, User Research, and Design Thinking. This division between areas lasted until we realized that people didn't know what their problem was, like when HR contacted us to make the weekly newsletter prettier, and we identified that what they had was a critical process problem.

We supported the new Experience Center to redesign the visiting experience of SAP costumers and partners. We helped internal initiatives to build a brand and communicate with their public. We delivered design related training sessions for innovation leaders from other countries. We worked with amazing people to design their presentations and take them to so many different places in the world. We designed t-shirts, bottoms, posters, postcards, and board games. We made a difference.

First touchpoint of the visiting experience. Picture by SAP Labs Latin America.

First touchpoint of the visiting experience. Picture by SAP Labs Latin America.

By the time I'm writing this, one year has gone since we started Design GO. Carla has left SAP, Gabriel is leaving soon, and I'm the only one still there. During this last year, we helped more than 20 teams, over 30 projects, working more than 130 hours—most done during our free time, on weekends, drinking coffee in my mother's kitchen.

Numbers of the first year of Design GO.

When we joined SAP as interns, the odds were against us—I mean, that ratio is at least a little bit scary. But it was not enough to hold us down. By our initiative, we worked very hard to make sure people understood what design is and how it can help. We rarely did things for others—we helped them. We empowered our coworkers, so the next time they have a problem, they know the tools and may solve problems by themselves.

SAP has a long way to make progress in design, but despite that, knowing that three interns had the opportunity and very well used it to spread the word, that’s priceless. Sharing is caring, and that’s what design is all about.

This story was co-writen with Carla Musa and Gabriel Ratzlaff, the amazing designers and co-creators of Design GO.