Letting SAP partners track the status of their application

B2B

Enterprise

SAP partners were being left in the dark after applying for the PartnerEdge program with no way to check their status. PartnerEdge Application Tracker is a tool that gives applicants visibility into the recruitment process and access to enhanced support.

Collaborators 🙏

Alexander Lockhart, Hsu Huang, Wasiullah Syed

Timeline

Q4 2021 – Q1 2022

Role

Lead designer

A brief introduction to SAP

Founded in 1972, SAP SE is a multinational software company headquartered in Germany that develops enterprise software for managing customer relationships and business operations. I worked on the Partner Technology team, where built and serviced tools for the PartnerEdge ecosystem. SAP partners build, extend, customize, and enrich SAP software to deliver innovative and tailored solutions that meet the exact needs of customers all over the world.

What was the problem the business faced?

Companies that applied for the PartnerEdge program must wait weeks to months before their application is approved. During this lengthy process, there was no visibility into the recruitment process. Because there was no visibility, applicants didn't know what was happening. What stage am I on? Are there even multiple stages? Why was I rejected? How long will it take to get approved? Who can I reach out to for help? These were applicant questions that went unanswered.

Motivations behind the project

Our team worked in a waterfall model, where we relied heavily on our business stakeholders in Germany to provide the requirements before we could start the work. I wanted to hold conversations with them to better understand the business goals and motivations behind this project. I find it important to have these conversations when design is not involved at an early stage. There are three main goals, from the business perspective, something to keep in mind for later when I discuss results.

Increase NPS

Improve the NPS score which suffered as a result of poor recruitment experiences.

Reduce operational costs

Free up support agent resources spent on status requests from applicants.

Improve processes

Reduce complexity in supporting and onboarding applicants.

Conducting research with limited resources

There was a lot of resistance to user research with actual customers despite efforts to connect the dots with research to business goals. I had to be scrappy here and find other ways we could gather data to inform our design. One of the paths of less resistance was talking to our customer support agents. These are the champions at the front lines, dealing with support tickets from frustrated PartnerEdge applicants. Our conversations revealed that CS agents were struggling with inefficient internal processes and vague email tickets that come through. These take lots of time and effort to follow up on.

Actual user research took a bit more effort to get buy-in on, but I succeed. Together with Alexander, we conducted four, one-hour moderated interviews to understand the applicant experience. Participants were globally recruited based on how recent they achieved partnership status. More recent participants were favoured as we wanted the application experience fresh in their minds. Through these interviews, we identified four key issues and themes.

Difficult to get updates on application status

Applicants want to know their current status, because it takes so long to get approved.

Support options are limited and hard to find

Available options are generic and not partner-specific.

Poor transparency into the recruitment process

There’s no information on the different steps in the process.

Frustration, lack of trust, low confidence in SAP

Applicants have negative feelings towards SAP before they even become partners.

Key solution elements

After the interviews, results were synthesized into a report. Insights were shared with my product owner and business stakeholders. That helped us decide on three key solution elements to address pain points.

Ideation

We conducted industry research and identified common elements across various package tracking pages. These included a visual tracker, detailed updates and an order summary. Our early ideations included these three elements so applicants would be greeted with a familiar experience.

Explorations

We explored lots of different designs to ensure that it would remain scalable and useful, while still looking modern and clean. You may notice two different designs below, which is because we were unsure in our early ideations how to use a design system meant for brand and marketing websites. The cleaner designs are when we gained access to a newer design system, meant for enterprise applications.

Constraints and tradeoffs

Our project was challenged by some constraints and technical limitations. The first one was the fact that we were struggling with a design system meant for SAP.com and not complex applications. The typography, color palette and components had several accessibility and usability issues. After conducting some research, I was able to have our team be one of the firsts to implement the Fiori Horizon theme which met all our needs. This greatly reduced our go-live time because we could implement an existing theme, rather than use a design system with issues or spend time modifying it to fix those issues.

We also had to give up searching by partner name. It was an immense increase in scope and effort, thus we had to find an alternative. Speaking with support agents, we learned that PRM and CRM IDs are values they use to identify partners today and would be sufficient in meeting their needs.

Solution

As we moved onto the final design, the home page required special attention as it displayed the list of applications for users. There were multiple scenarios that we had to consider. While support agents had a search bar displayed, we hid it for applicants because the applications were loaded based on their user account.

Recruitment process transparency

Rather than providing detailed updates, we described the recruitment process in detail. Applicants provided feedback that this change made the tracker far more useful. This change allowed them to understand what SAP is doing at each step as well as where they are in the process.

Building trust and reassuring applicants

On the Application Summary tab, you can find information about the partner and the application they submitted. The tool also offers additional fields that support agents can use to provide better service. By including this tab, we help build trust with our applicants, who sometimes believe SAP didn't reach out to them because they possess incorrect information.

Improved support experience

Imagine if applicants didn't need to go to SAP.com for support options and send five emails back and forth before getting an answer? The Support tab is designed for this purpose. Our Support section also includes a contact form and answers to frequently asked questions based on user interviews. Using an API integration, submitting the contact form automatically creates a ticket in our support system along with applicant metadata. It improves the efficiency of support agents and saves us time and money.

Impact

Our discussions with support agents and applicants resulted in great feedback from both parties. As a result, we anticipate that this will positively impact the partner NPS score and make support agent lives easier. When the tracker launches, we also intend to monitor emails to see if this reduces the number of emails related to the application process.

I really love this idea and thank you for the support – we’ve been struggling with the open-endedness of the email for some time.

PxD Head of Software Partner Experience

This doesn't look like an SAP application. Everything is very clean and simple!

Applicant

This is going to make it much easier to look up partner information and see their status at-a-glance.

Support agent