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Agile Internet of Things: SAP Digital Studio, the Makerspace for IoT

February 20, 2017 by Andreas Schmitz

Design thinking workshops are a great starting point for business ideas. But when working on solutions for digital transformation and IoT, it helps to put ideas to the test right away, make them tangible, and even turn them into prototypes. This is exactly where SAP Digital Studio, SAP’s makerspace, comes into its own.

When Kai Wussow gets out the Fischertechnik construction sets, he wants the managing directors, student employees, design thinkers, and SAP employees on his courses to see exactly how the ideas they have just come up with would look if they were implemented for real.

They set about constructing a miniature high-rack storage system, a production line, and a sorter. Wheels and belts start moving, controlled by software that analyzes each production step.

“Only when you have processes up and running in front of you can you begin to understand what manufacturing really means,” explains Wussow, a strategy consultant at SAP, who recently began incorporating SAP and software aspects into his design thinking sessions.

The technology he needs to do that — sensors, 3D printers, virtual reality glasses, analytics software, modern interfaces like SAP Fiori, SAP Asset Intelligence Network, and applications for predictive maintenance and quality assurance in IoT — is all there in the SAP Digital Studio.

SAP’s makerspace opened at the end of November of last year, giving workshop participants a dedicated place to build their prototypes.

New Consulting Approach: Incorporating SAP Software

The design thinking process weaves an enterprise’s own approaches to ecosystem modeling and business model creation into a “business story,” a kind of dramaturgy that provides guidance on why and how certain technologies are used, particularly for experts from the user departments. Then comes the practical part of bringing the story to life. Wussow calls this “tangible software prototyping.” It might involve sensors connected to the SAP IoT platform, finely granulated analyses displayed over three screens in SAP Digital Boardroom, or production planning for a model factory built with Fischertechnik. This concept, which Wussow describes as “a bit of demo, but not too much,” works in two ways.

Employees from companies that participate in pure design thinking workshops tend to know SAP, if at all, as a “company that does accounting.” Now they’re getting to know SAP solutions and discovering SAP as an ergonomics-friendly, agile, and innovative company, and as a digital pioneer.

CIOs don’t need to be told who SAP is and what it does, but they are not always familiar with the “new SAP,” the SAP that is reinventing its image, investing heavily in IoT, the digital transformation, and more, and belongs to the top flight of technology companies.

Two Workshops: Design Thinking and Prototyping

The SAP workshops consist of two parts.

The first part is about using design thinking methods to explain the potential impact of digital transformation and Internet of Things on the company. Not all employees are aware of the latest trends.

For Wussow, this means bringing people up to speed and devising new approaches together. What do we understand by IoT, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), business networks, and crowd funding? What could a viable digital ecosystem look like, and which companies would belong to it? What is an “outcome-based economy” and what do companies need to do to transform to an outcome-based business model? SAP’s method toolkit for design thinking is specially tailored for digitalization.

“This strategy development process can produce a simple mockup,” explains Wussow.

The next stage is the workshop which aims at building specific, operational prototypes. And this is where the SAP Digital Studio comes into play.

“It’s partly about using design thinking to help people better understand the effects of digitalization, and partly about creating an SAP experience,” explains Wussow.

Participants should leave the workshop saying, “Now I understand!” In other words, what the impending digitalization and IoT means for people and processes.

Customer Examples: WEIG Group and Mapal

It’s usually large SMEs and corporations that approach SAP. “Many are looking to transform their business from the bottom up,” says Wussow. “Standard solutions are passé. Today, it’s about creating something completely new.”

Paper manufacturer WEIG and precision tool supplier Mapal are both in the middle of a business transformation and receiving support through workshops with SAP. The WEIG Group’s vision is to augment its existing business model by offering machine capacity to other companies. This requires digital end-to-end connectedness. “The goal is clear; how to get there less so,” explains Wussow.

As a first step, the WEIG Group has turned to SAP S/4HANA; design thinking workshops will provide practical ideas and approaches for tackling the next steps.

Meanwhile, Mapal’s aim is to manage its tool data more efficiently on an IoT platform by making all the data relating to a tool across its entire lifecycle available in the cloud. This new approach, known as “collaborative commerce,” is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Future of SAP Digital Studio: Expanding Worldwide

So far, there is one location that supports the new consulting approach of bringing design thinking and prototyping together, an SAP Digital Studio in Ratingen, Germany. But the concept is currently being showcased at various SAP events worldwide, and the plan is to equip similar rooms with the necessary SAP software and hardware at other locations as well.

Wussow believes in what he calls “an alliance of willing parties” and in an energy that evolves from collaboration and gives rise to something new. He is convinced that the concept will set a trend outside the company too.

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