Co-Innovation Offers Modern-Day Survival Toolkit For Organizations

Vasanth Kumar and Vidya Gugnani

The ability to innovate – rapidly and continually – is a core competency for business growth. However, for a modern organization, a siloed and static approach is no longer an option. The fluidity of our technology-fuelled world demands a disruptive fusion of ideas.

One key to a company’s success is the foundational focus on co-innovation with its customers and partners. Co-innovation is the new innovation paradigm and, when purposely managed, helps organizations differentiate and maintain a competitive edge.

Co-innovation is a present-day survival skill and an extension of the ongoing convergence revolution. Incorporating elements of collaboration and co-creation, co-innovation is a coming together of diverse ideas, both internal and external to an organization. Co-innovation succeeds because at its core lies engagement across company boundaries to innovate and a compelling commitment to accelerate customer value creation.

Interactive, dynamic business ecosystems and agile, flexible processes are a critical part of most successful organizations today. However, proactive innovation is rapidly becoming the decisive differentiator. With disruption becoming the norm in every industry, inventive application of technology and collaboration-driven business models are now essential for an enterprise to remain relevant and competitive.

Creating co-innovation-driven synergies with clients, collaborators, and partners is a paradigm shift that can deliver the best innovation outcomes.

Co-innovation empowers highly adaptive models

Both partners and customers benefit from a co-innovation model. Where it can mean faster problem solving and improved business agility for customers, for partners, co-innovation enables new business streams, driving brand visibility, growth, and development of innovation-led alliances.

One of our recent co-innovation successes has been creating a showcase that demonstrates the confluence between the real estate and banking sectors. For instance, a seamless and highly integrated customer experience journey for home buyers, developed as a co-innovation solution, is set to increase property-related loans for a bank in UAE as well as improve property sales for the realty developer. The co-innovation solution created in the region has resulted in several accolades for the bank, including the Innovation in Financial Services Award at the Arab Innovation Awards. The Gulf Customer Experience Awards 2018 recognized the bank’s “High Tech + High Touch” approach, which combines digital banking with personalized advisory services.

Ultimately, co-innovation is extending your boundaries of knowledge. Innovation cannot thrive or be fostered in a vacuum. I believe these achievements for the bank came only through close, collaborative efforts and pooling collective insights, an amalgam of perspectives and interactions to create a viable solution that leapfrogged an existing experience.

Enabling agile organizations

As technologies like AI, the IoT, advanced analytics, and blockchain become mainstream, businesses must adapt or risk being left behind. If you wish to disrupt and not be disrupted, you need to join hands and bring participants together in a collaborative mode.

Experience says that optimizing success requires co-innovation to be anticipatory so it can be in sync with the next step in an industry’s evolution. Co-innovation supports such participants who: have a common purpose, leverage intelligent technologies, have diverse expertise, come together to solve challenges in new ways, or fabricate ideas to transform business models. This approach has proven to minimize risk and costs of innovation.

The whole idea is to get customers and partners involved early in discussions and collaborations to have a clear stake in the outcome. Under the umbrella of co-innovation, we are seeing touchpoints around newer technologies like blockchain that will connect systems from a business-centric perspective and add audit transparency and security to existing business processes. Machine learning engagements and robotic process automation (RPA) are other upcoming areas of co-innovation with limitless possibilities. This is changing the vendor-customer paradigm by adding empathy to the current model.

In aviation, for example, we are working with government agencies to understand the impact of AI and machine learning on ground clearance and safety procedures. Early warning systems, early insights, and system collaborations providing dynamic analytics are all possible in this paradigm. Overall, operations management in aviation can become far simpler. Workforces can be deployed for maximum impact and systems leveraged more effectively.

Multiplying the positives: cross-fertilization adds dynamic perspective and intelligence

Today, innovating using traditional roadmaps cannot yield fresh results or disruptive ideas. This requires cross-fertilization with other industries, partners, suppliers, and customers. Co-innovation helps bring new ideas, market knowledge, and skillsets to the table, which can result in myriad efficiencies for businesses – spawning new products and solutions, accelerating go-to-market, and enhancing customer experience and the ability to respond faster to changes in the marketplace.

Moving from a disconnected, unrealistic experience in retail malls to an enhanced, interactive, and personalized experience using content push based on individual preferences integrated into functions like navigation and directions using standard mall fixtures like lights, is now possible through co-innovating partnerships. Malls are evolving beyond app-based approaches and looking at integrated, contextual experiences using intelligent technologies. Based on parameters such as products, promotions, customer loyalty, past purchases, and preferences, customer journeys can be navigated more intelligently, while also enhancing engagement.

Smart city solutions offer yet another sphere of activities that we can enhance with this approach by delivering intelligent living. For instance, smart wastebins can help end users and civic bodies. Deploying workforces and professionals more effectively, through intelligent enhancement of basic security-oriented surveillance, can transform the delivery of everyday and emergency services.

Blockchain deployments can certify a building’s fire-safety compliance to assist auditors while simultaneously updating citizens. Utility services can gain unprecedented dependability through robot-assisted operations. For instance, inspections and maintenance, using autonomous robots equipped with sensors, can help navigate areas not accessible by humans with minimal disruption of physical assets. Mobility, 3D printing, and blockchain, empowered by AI, can enable logistical efficiencies that were barely conceived only a few years ago. These and many other transformations and benefits can be gained through the participation of involved, innovative ecosystem players, as opposed to trying to solve business challenges in isolation. 

We see customers coming forward and getting actively involved in addressing their challenges by running co-innovation projects and showcasing the right customer outcomes.

As our world stands on the threshold of an entirely new and radically empowered version of itself, co-innovation is the piece of the puzzle that makes innovation coherent, optimal, and efficient.

Learn more about how “Civic Innovation And Local Ecosystem Partners Are A Recipe For Smart City Success.”


Vasanth Kumar

About Vasanth Kumar

Vasanth Kumar is the head of SAP Co-Innovation Lab, Middle East, for SAP. He is fostering co-innovation with ecosystem and bringing success in the region for SAP. Vasanth brings over 27 years of rich and blended experience with the manufacturing industry and enterprise business software to create value for customers, partners, and startups by driving strategy and achieving execution excellence.

Vidya Gugnani

About Vidya Gugnani

Vidya Gugnani, Director and Lead of Co-Innovation Lab, UAE, is a co-innovation expert working with SAP Co-Innovation Lab, a global network of 16 labs that make digital co-innovation tangible and gives SAP a forum to drive innovations with local customers and partners in key industries to accelerate the adoption of strategic topics in the UAE. With over 17 years of experience in IT, she has donned different hats as a Development manager, Delivery manager, Product Manager, and Partner collaboration lead with extensive experience in agile project management. As part of the co-innovation network, Vidya has worked with key partners and customers in the region, showcasing the power of SAP technologies with new age innovations in AR, VR, robotics, blockchain, machine intelligence and the latest technology innovations. Vidya holds 3 technology patents, is an in-house SAP technology trainer, and is a trained design thinking coach.