Innovation done backwards

by Wiemer KuikJanuary 4, 2019

Behind my laptop at 01:30. I needed to get this written down. In all details, I possible could remember. Normally I don’t make notes, I just playback the video in my head and write down the keywords and actions. But this one was different, I was so impressed, I wanted to capture it all. And it had been a long day. Starting at 0500 as normal, ending at 01:30, not too bad for a days work.

It all started with the long-awaited CxO event. As we were starting the introduction in the Netherlands of our new cooperation with Apple and SAP we had planned a kick-off event.

Some cool speakers on stage. A very nice presentation off Apple@work, a real-life presentation on Artificial Intelligence by SAP, and the fact that AI is here, now and to stay. Solving real business problems. And the highlight of the evening in my mind: A customer telling about their journey on UX applied for employees. And the clear value in doing so.

The UX journey was about the combination of an SAP backend, perfect in the data and process sense, a design thinking approach to finding new, different ways to solve problems, and reduce the number of options at the same time, and a very slick, Ipad driven user interface, build with the Apple SDK. The whole case was a live testimonial how there is a tremendous amount of value in user adoption, the power of UX for internal users. Using SAP with the simplicity of Apple opens all sort of new doors. And with an ROI measured in months a financial sound story. What impressed me the most was the long, long list of new projects with the same setup, all triggered by the first one. The company-wide realization that if this can be done in a fast, financially solid way, there are many other projects where this can generate some real business value.

The evening ended with a really fancy dinner @Rijks, the restaurant in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The impressive stories about the food were matched with tiny portions and some really good wine, just to top of a great kickoff event for Trifork and the cooperation with SAP and Apple in the Netherlands.

And still, this was not the reason I was sitting behind my desk, in the middle of the bloody night, writing.

It was about the short tour Apple had organised in the Apple Store in Amsterdam. One of the managers, tall dude, dressed in sneakers, jeans and a red T-Shirt started the introduction downstairs. The red T-Shirt was for world Aids day. He talked about the vision, the approach behind the layout of the store, the personal touch in everything, the clear ideas about how to treat customers. We continued one level up, using the famous glass stairs. He continued talking about the Genius bar, and the recent change where you can order your device online and then get some training in the store.

Something was different, but it did not click, not yet anyway.

We moved to the last room, some of the larger rooms for business users. And he continued talking. But what was different I realised, was not the customer focussed stories by itself, but the fact that customer focus was a clear part of himself, of his internalised approach how to do work.

Customer centricity as the only logical way to do work, service as core to show up in the store every day. He talked about customer focus as a completely natural part of himself. And how that approach had evolved over the last 8 years he had been at the store. How up-sell of accessories was done by first asking what the typical use would be for the user. And only suggest what would make sense. How advice was done by analysing the use in daily life of work. How an Ipad might be perfect for a customer starting with a MacBook pro in mind. How the runners would fetch the device from the store, so he could stay with the customer in the store. How he could add text for the runner. Like: this iPad is for Liza, the little girl about 8, it’s her birthday tomorrow. And the runner then handover the iPad to Liza saying: happy birthday Tomorrow. How there was an insane focus on NPS. Every customer that for whatever reason score lower than a 7 would be called by the store manager to find out what could be done different, what could be done better. Every day.

Each app on his multiple devices would only have 1 function. 1 function only. And each function was constant explained in terms of customers, and the customer journey. Every app was explained in customer journey first and how tech could enrich that journey second. Make it better, even more customer focussed.

All innovation started at the customer and worked backwards from there.
He had an app on his phone whereas he said Angela (Ahrendts, head of retail) every week would post a short video explaining something important for the stores. Mainly mindset, approach, customer journey centred. And yet another app that would complement that top-down communication with a way to have a bottom-up sharing of ideas to the top. Apple store dude: I am bloody impressed!

Watching and experiencing how extreme customer focus, clearly part of the very DNA of the people working at the store was a great experience. It makes you wonder how our approach to bringing that very same approach to the enterprise is going to fly. Combining SAP backend, Apple UX Frontend, and Trifork design thinking in the middle, all starting with the internal business user. Start with clear business problems as starting point, focus in the UX. Business value through User eXperience, Innovation working backwards from the business user all the way to the backend. Innovating the backend in the process. Should be a fun ride.