From Idea To Reality: Get On The Innovation Fast-Track With Digital Design

Oliver Huschke

Part 3 of the “Kick-Starting Innovation” series

The whole notion of innovation has dramatically shifted from being a new product, idea, or method to upending even the most stable industries. In just a few short years, nearly every business has encountered digitally driven transformation, where exponential change creates mind-boggling advancements in a very short space of time.

As the innovation race continues to gain speed, companies are increasing their investment in digital technology. Everything from advanced analytics, automation, and the cloud to machine learning, blockchain, mixed reality, and cognitive computing is on the table. Yet very few companies understand that these technologies are just enablers of a much larger digital strategy.

Digital innovation: A matter of thought-provoking clarity before taking action

Innovation and failure are two sides of the same coin. Very rarely does a new product, service, or process go from concept to adopted practice without some disappointments along the way. But for organizations that chronically fail, I often see innovation failure stemming from two common misperceptions:

  1. Equating digital transformation with technology-enabled services, digitized channels, and automated processes. Under this premise, businesses usually realize the capture of new data, higher workforce and process efficiency, and more engaged employees and customers. While these benefits are, without a doubt, helpful in improving business operations, they do not permanently embed new ways of working that lead to groundbreaking business models that solve customer concerns and fulfill their demands.
  1. Placing too much focus on investing and doing, and not enough on processes and expertise. The threat of digital disruption is inspiring companies to take action, but no one really knows where to start. It’s always easy to come up with new ideas. Making them happen is the hard part – unless there’s a design-oriented process that can help tackle problem solving and create sustainable innovation.

Digital design zone: Turning innovative ideas into disruptive innovation

As a fundamental element of digital innovation, design principles empower people to collaborate and give technology the space it needs to achieve the intended outcome. But this is not something that comes naturally. It must be nurtured with a process-centric approach (also known as a digital design zone) from initial ideation to working proof of concept.

To kick off a digital design zone, businesses should go through an exploration workshop to identify a customer-specific portfolio of digital opportunities. A mixture of internal business experts and a third-party coach allows the company to create the detailed scope of a distinct business scenario and design challenge. From start to finish, the entire design process is coordinated, including the organizing of further service activities and facilitation of future workshops.

After the scoping and exploration stage, work done through the digital design zone follows three primary phases: discovery, design and prototyping, and delivery.

Phases of development of a working prototype in a digital design zone

Phases of development of a working prototype in a digital design zone

Phase 1: Discovery

The first phase of the digital design zone includes a discovery workshop with two days of onsite research conducted by a designated innovation coach and design expert. Together, these experts interview and observe business users to gain deep insight into current business practices. This information is then synthesized to create a road map for the digital journey, a set of user persona descriptions, the desired to-be process, and the prototype use case. 

Phase 2: Design and prototype

Next, the combined team of internal and external experts work together to form a proof of concept. A design expert converts the outcome of the discovery workshop into a clickable, high-fidelity prototype. The innovation designer frequently interacts with designated business users to validate the usefulness and performance of the prototype.

Phase 3: Delivery

Last, but certainly not least, the prototype is presented. The business is welcome to use this deliverable to demonstrate within the organization the value of an investment in digital technology. It can even undergo rigorous testing and further development and optimization after gaining executive buy-in. The design process comes to an end after overall service delivery is reviewed and future activities are initiated.

Create a one-stop shop to materialize your next big idea

Disruptive innovation is not a trick of magic inspired by technology adoption. It doesn’t automatically happen or occur quickly. Rather, it’s a long-term, sustainable process of five core capabilities:

  1. Knowledge creation
  2. Formation of a compelling, widely used solution
  3. Delivery of impacts that matter
  4. Sourcing of inspiration through a common goal
  5. Response to a variety of internal and external perceptions

With the help a one-stop shop for design-centric innovation, companies can turn a mere spark of an idea into an innovation that shakes up the competitive landscape and strengthens market leadership.

Find out how your business can benefit from unlimited access to a showroom, a set of empowering sessions, and an innovation platform. Read the white paper “Achieve Digital Transformation and Create a System of Ongoing Innovation.” 

And don’t forget to check every Monday for new installments to our blog series “Kick-Starting Innovation.” Next week, we’ll explore the impact of human empowerment on innovation.


Oliver Huschke

About Oliver Huschke

Oliver Huschke is the global head of Solution Marketing for Digital Business Services at SAP. He has worked for SAP since 1997, starting with development where he built up and led the central test organization. Oliver was head of application management and managed marketing activities at SAP Hosting. Further stations include strategic development and Active Global Support with responsibility for global product management of the SAP Premium Engagement Program. Share your thoughts with Oliver on LinkedIn or Twitter.