Having Trouble Making Digital Real? Just Build It!

Jesper Schleimann

There is a lot of talk about the digital journey we all need to embark on, but for many organizations, it is still an elusive destination. When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and other exponential technologies, many companies are somewhat stuck. We know it holds great promise, but the challenge of learning and realization is an issue, especially for mature organizations with current commitments to deliver in the short term. Shifting resources from day-to-day operations and devoting them to accelerate the long-term digital agenda can be troublesome at best.

Start with the data you have

Organizations need to stop the talking and the drawing and the discussion and just do it. By starting with the data they have and adding the use of exponential technologies – often cloud-based – organizations can now work in entirely different ways to deliver tangible outcomes and accelerate their digital agenda. With a slight moderation to a famous slogan, you might say: Just build it!

Imagine if you could start building your new home by simply placing your favorite furniture and wallpaper and dragging-and-dropping a wall here, a fireplace there. This extreme user-centricity or outside-in-approach is in contrast with all the complexity involved in a building process in real life: foundation, plumbing, cabling, and so forth. Normally this is handled first, and at the end of the process you design your rooms (user experience) – often in very confined space with less flexibility and agility.

Basically, the same overwhelming complexity and consequences are what we look at in digital transformation processes. There is plenty of early uncertainty and lots of integration issues to address, especially when we look at new innovative possibilities in data streams from devices and processes. But as we have matured in our understanding of the topic, so have the technology platforms that are now available to directly address these issues.

The best toolkits are changing the development scenario for utilizing IoT, Big Data, machine learning, and other disruptive technologies. They integrate different physical assets, represent them as “digital twins,” use different data sources, work with multiple platforms and sources of intelligence, and package all this complexity for the developers and business architects and business leaders to focus on the desired functionality and end-user experience. That’s the part that adds end-customer value, not the part that just adds complexity: integration and scalability.

Build the prototype and work backwards

So you can actually start by building the prototype of the user experience and then work backwards to the plumbing. Just build it!

Wait a minute—is this just a far-fetched idea or reality? The technology industry has a long and well-earned reputation for under-delivering on visions. Therefore, let me outline three premises for this approach:

  • Don’t think of prototypes as reality: Do not expect the first prototype to be fully actionable and deployable. A cloud platform technology does not dissolve the laws of gravity in the real world. But what it really does is to help you move much faster from idea to “something with a look and feel.” It qualifies the discussion by giving you a hands-on experience with new innovative features and potentially provides context to the discussion that is often too theoretical and unrealistic. A prototype speaks louder than 1,000 words. By building it you can learn from the process and the result.
  • Leverage true cloud to unlock your data: The speedy development of IoT, Big Data, machine learning, and blockchain as applications in your suite of digital technologies relies on cloud technology. Only by having it in a cloud environment can you meet the massive need to unlock your organizational data to support speedy delivery of data-driven services. Markets and businesses move so fast that the concept of building your own stack and putting IoT on top to expose your data and enable new business models is a hopeless endeavor. But cloud is not enough: To leverage the full potential of the cloud, you need a truly open and portable platform that you can port from one cloud to another and realize the promise of having many options for deployment, not just a hosted service by one provider.
  • Assemble, don’t build: This is obviously a tremendous and lucrative opportunity for developers. There are lots of jobs to be done, and nearly everyone on the C-level acknowledges the business potential, but the ability to execute slows them down. The price of meeting business aspirations is a fundamental shift in the development task itself. It is less about coding and much more about connecting “Lego bricks” of prepared software functionality. Just click the box and have a look.

The digital future holds great promise; make yours real. Stop talking, start building!

In the Nordics, we have just launched the SAP Experience Center Copenhagen, an open platform and space for Inspiration, Ideation, Innovation, and Illustration of digital opportunities today. A part of this is our maker space where organizations can test ideas and build digital and physical prototypes.

To learn more about the SAP Experience Center Copenhagen, click here. 

For more information about the maker space, read this blog on LinkedIn. 


Jesper Schleimann

About Jesper Schleimann

Digital Transformation Officer, EMEA North region. In his role as Digital Transformation Officer, Jesper's mission is to help customers unlock their business potential by simplifying their digital transformation. Jesper has an Executive MBA from Copenhagen Business School as well as a Masters from University of Copenhagen.