SAP is a global trailblazer in enterprise software and software-related services. With over 58,000 employees in over 130 countries, effective communication and collaboration amongst its widespread workforce and its expansive customer base is a highly important factor in maintaining the company’s role as a dynamic and innovative leader in its industry. Like with many corporations, ready access to resources that can support these connections is vital to day-to-day productivity.

A few years ago, SAP’s North American arm of their Global Real Estate and Facilities (GRF) division recognized that their conference room technology landscape lacked consistency, both in terms of provisions and performance. This not only hindered user comfort and familiarity with their technology tools ¾ particularly for employees who conduct business from multiple offices ¾ but also presented a challenge to support staff, some of whom are responsible for supporting multiple offices remotely. In response, SAP America engaged The Sextant Group to help create an assortment of technology-rich and highly collaborative yet simple-to-use and cost-effective spaces that could be deployed throughout their portfolio.

Lori Morrissey, SAP’s Head of Planning & Projects GRF Americas noted, “The audiovisual technology standards program allows us to provide consistency throughout our meeting spaces.  As technology and furniture evolve, GRF will expand the standards to add technology functions in a variety of open collaboration settings as well.”

ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGE

In the United States and Canada, that real estate portfolio consists of over forty office locations for SAP and its umbrella companies. These offices are occupied by various lines of business with differing requirements. Aesthetically, each facility is often designed to be mindful of local or regional references as well as to respond to local cultural influences. Architecturally, their work environments must be able to adapt and evolve over time in response to changing needs. While all these variables tend to shape each facility into its own unique personality, GRF seeks to also maintain a certain level of uniformity to ensure that the spaces fit within SAP’s brand and culture and delivers a united workplace experience. To that end, it is critical that SAP’s technology solutions not only offer similar capabilities from one site to the next but operate and perform in the same manner as well – all while being flexible enough to adjust to the variables noted above.

To address this challenge, The Sextant Group developed a set of Audiovisual Design Guidelines that established various technical criteria that should be implemented for any new fit out. These guidelines included details on infrastructure requirements, key functions and features, and a shared system topology ¾ intentionally avoiding specific component make/model or a finite system solution.  This was developed for the full spectrum of typical space types, from Focus and Huddle areas to Divisible Multi-function Rooms and Boardroom spaces. The resulting Guidelines offer a planning reference that can support the desired standardization, while also flexible enough to allow spaces to adapt over time as needs change, and to accommodate the rapid and continual changes in technology product and service offerings.

This proved critical as SAP has continued to move towards build-outs that include more and more informal meeting spaces and a variety of workplaces for virtual workers and visitors, which has allowed them to gain more efficiency within their spaces.

For example, small group collaboration “Stations” or “Booths” are planned in open plan areas as well as common spaces such as Work Cafes. Staff can quickly find an open collaboration area for a discussion or alternate workplace, while still having access to the same collaboration technology and experience available to them in more formal conference room settings.

MEETING THE NEED FOR UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS

In response to the mandate for a unified technology experience, SAP implemented Skype as their single conferencing platform to be used throughout their global enterprise. This was to be a core part of the technology offering in virtually all meeting spaces where communication with remote participants might be required. Different space sizes and layouts require different tools and components to successfully deliver the same Skype experience.

For example, camera and microphone elements that work wonderfully in a Huddle space cannot deliver the necessary quality and performance in a Training Room environment. However, with the assistance of The Sextant Group’s design expertise, this hurdle has been overcome to enable a fully scalable rollout in virtually any space.

In Atlanta, SAP recently fit out new office facilities in both the Buckhead neighborhood as well as in the northern suburb of Alpharetta. Using the established Design Guidelines as a basis, The Sextant Group designed audiovisual systems for a variety of space types at each location, including open collaborative zones, customer conference rooms and divisible Demo rooms.

One of the Atlanta conference rooms features one of SAP’s proprietary platforms known as “Digital Boardroom,” where real-time digital insights of a customer’s enterprise are presented and visualized in real time on touch-enabled displays for direct interaction with the data. While this is a custom platform designed to perform specific tasks, the room is also designed with the flexibility to support more traditional presentations or conferences with remote participants.

IMPROVING THE USER EXPERIENCE

Another initiative that has helped to unify the user experience has been standardizing the User Interface (UI) on the touch panels used to control the various rooms’ technology systems. Instead of having this developed independently for each location, The Sextant Group developed control software that delivers the same simplified look and operation that can be deployed throughout the portfolio. This allows users familiar with the control and operation of a Training Room in Alpharetta to be readily familiar with how that same space works in Toronto.

These same concepts are extending to other parts of SAP’s technology environment. In their Newtown Square (PA) North American HQ, Hudson Yards (NYC) and Palo Alto facilities, SAP features Executive Briefing Centers (EBC).  These are locations where SAP meets with potential clients. Each EBC includes advanced technology environments that promote highly interactive engagements with their customers. In Hudson Yards, The Sextant Group designed an intimate theater space with floor-to-ceiling video display and configurable surround sound that enables SAP to showcase their technology solutions in a very immersive environment. This concept is expanding to Newtown Square and Palo Alto, as well as other EBC’s around the world, in order to deliver a branded experience that is uniquely SAP.

THE RESULT

The Technology Standards program has provided SAP with a strategically planned set of technology tools that are consistent throughout the enterprise — anywhere SAP employees and customers collaborate. The program provides simple-to-use and easily accessible, yet flexible and highly effective resources that promote interaction and collaboration along with a unified “branded” experience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

With nearly 20 years of industry consulting and design experience on hundreds of projects throughout the country and abroad, Gregory Clark, CTS, INCE, has specialized experience in all aspects of technology design, project management, and delivery. Clark’s credentials span dozens of high-visibility clients, such as TD Ameritrade and SAP, and includes Fortune 500 companies and headquarter offices for financial, law and advertising firms. Clark’s extensive portfolio includes consultation on millions of square feet of corporate, multi-use, high-end residential, higher education, hospitality, institutional and government projects. He can be contacted at 412.323.8580 x127, or gclark@TheSextantGroup.com.

This article first appeared in the June 2019 issue of CoreNet Global’s THE LEADER magazine. Images © The Sextant Group, Inc. with permission from SAP.