Part 1 of the three-part interview series, “Unlocking Intelligent Innovation,” with Maggie Buggie, senior vice president and global head of SAP Leonardo Services at SAP.
Innovations may come in many shapes and forms, but they all have one thing in common: the need to drive real outcomes for the business, as well as its users and customers. Otherwise, what’s the point of investing time, money, and talent in the first place?
To innovate successfully, businesses need a clear view of how they can experience mid- and long-term sustainable impact. According to Maggie Buggie, senior vice president and global head of SAP Leonardo Services at SAP, “the best innovations are the ones that are applied and deployed in ways that make the most of their existing assets while seizing opportunities to enter new markets and experiment with emerging technologies.”
Recently, I had the opportunity to expand on this idea with Maggie by discussing how businesses are inspiring innovation and which approaches can help bring their ideas to life.
Dominik: Over the past year, you have heard and told countless stories about businesses and their continuous search for competitive advantage. What are some of the most exciting strategies that companies are using to inspire and deliver new innovations?
Maggie: When it comes to innovation, businesses can fall into one of five categories.
- The internal innovation unit: More and more companies are beginning to set up, on their own, an organization that is purely focused on innovation. This innovation factory is set up like an incubation lab and serves the main business as it experiments with different ways of using technology. It boasts a well-designed physical space that encourages employees and third-party experts to come together and brainstorm ideas through the process of ideation.
- The ecosystem-reliant innovator: These organizations are bringing in their entire partner ecosystem by running regular hackathons either by themselves or through an outside facilitator. Some are even going as far as working with local accelerators, incubators, and a cross-section of universities to engage with experts from a broad range of backgrounds and co-create solutions to more significant problems or opportunities.
- The innovation fashionista: By focusing on the shiny, bright, new technology of the moment, these businesses are taking a less-disciplined, shallow-competency approach to innovation. They love anything that aggressively drives top-line growth through hot new technology areas. These innovators tend to be the ones working on a lot of high-profile projects – with the intent to grab the attention of the market and customer base.
- The prototype builder: In most cases, these businesses are building these working models internally as well as with partners prolifically, if not expediently. They may, for example, have eight prototypes focused on eight different markets funded for hundreds and thousands of dollars each. But here’s the catch: Few put sufficient time into governance to ensure that all of these projects are not broadly testing the same thing and have visibility into each other’s efforts and results. Governance is key to create business impact.
- The disciplined innovator: Companies that subscribe to this behavior usually look at innovation in terms of how they modeled the desired outcome, intelligently applied it, prototyped it, and prepared it for a live environment. They are asking questions such as how to rule out multiple markets and factory sites or what employees need to do differently. And all of this is considered in the context of a business idea, emerging opportunity, or particular risk.
Dominik: How can these different innovators improve how they explore a future enabled by intelligent technologies that will help them evolve their business more competitively?
Maggie: One of the most fascinating aspects about these intelligent technologies – such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things – is that they’re actually pretty straightforward and accessible as well as low-cost. They acquire their transformative and disruptive power when applied – to context.
For example, when used in terms of the customer experience, the technologies can improve buyer and user insights and increase sales. When leveraged to optimize the employee experience, they can reduce the time and assets consumed during that process.
Without context, there’s no value in innovation whatsoever. Having technology wrapped up in a shiny new prototype is not the end goal. Instead, technology is the enabler of the desired business outcome – whether businesses are looking to achieve business growth, improve finances, simplify processes, or evolve the workplace culture. Companies can save an awful lot of time, money, human emotion, and frustration if they remember this principle.
Dominik: Very quickly, businesses are learning that they need to be more judicious in their technology investments. What should they consider when choosing technology that will deliver the outcomes they want without losing too much money, time, and effort?
Maggie: Paradoxically, they should start with an open mind and avoid getting locked in an obsession over a single technology.
Some of the biggest failures happen when people are hyper-focused on a particular technology. For example, a business may want to use the Internet of Things but forget to put it in the context of the business benefit they are trying to deliver.
The company may think it’s starting an intelligent technology engagement at the time. But it first needs to look at the business question at hand through the lens of the industry.
That’s the beauty of working with a trusted partner that has a long heritage in technology – not just intelligent technology, but also traditional technology. Experts who understand the old world and the new world help hedge or defend businesses against risks when innovations are being modeled and prototyped and, if there is value, deployed and delivered.
Balance deep consumer, technology, and business knowledge to generate novel ideas and progress them to scaled deployments. Find out how your business can apply innovations – such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, the Internet of Things – with SAP Leonardo Services.
About Maggie Buggie
Maggie leads SAP’s digital innovation services business globally, helping companies create and maximize business value through the use of intelligent technologies such as IoT, machine learning, AI, blockchain, and advanced data analytics. She has significant experience building fast-growth digital businesses and previously led digital sales globally at Capgemini and global cloud sales & consulting for Fujitsu.
Maggie holds both a Master of Letters and a BBS Lang in Business and French from Trinity College, Dublin. She also holds a degree from the Grande École de Commerce de Rouen, France.