We’ve all heard the sayings about innovation coming out of adversity — and in 2020, there were many stories that brought that adage to life in an all-too-real way. People stepped up to make a difference in tough, sometimes dire, circumstances.

So I wondered what kind of examples we’d see in the SAP Innovation Awards entries. Would customers still prepare award submissions given how busy they’ve been? Were there strong examples of business results despite all the hardship? And would customers want to share their examples of overcoming pandemic-related adversity? Also, could we please get some good news to cheer us up?

The answer to all those questions was a resounding yes! The entire SAP Innovation Awards team was blown away with the responses – 385 submissions this year. That’s a new record. I am so amazed by this vibrant community of people from all over the world.

Many entries described SAP customers and partners overcoming new challenges related to COVID-19, and I want to share a few of those inspiring submissions here.

Healthcare Transformation in the Throes of a Pandemic

Parkland Health and Hospital Systems operates one of the busiest emergency rooms in the U.S. As COVID-19 quickly swept across the Dallas area, Parkland needed real-time access to data and insights, such as how many testing kits, ventilators, and COVID-19 beds were available. In just four days, the Parkland analytics team created an actionable dashboard built with SAP HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud, mapping where COVID-19-positive patients live to identify hotspots. The company also leveraged SAP Conversational Artificial Intelligence to build a symptom checker chatbot, in English and Spanish, that helped ensure patients with COVID-19 symptoms had swift access to healthcare practitioners. Read the full story here.

Innovating HR Systems in the Age of Remote Work

Combining two global companies is a challenge in the best of times. But imagine trying to do that integration during a pandemic without travel and in-person contact. That’s the challenge that Italian firm Magneti Marelli and Japanese firm Calsonic Kansei faced last year. Despite no travel and the pivot to a new normal, Marelli implemented a common human resources (HR) platform to manage both administrative and talent process across 24 countries. The entire project moved quickly and 100% remotely. Marelli implemented SAP SuccessFactors solutions for 60,000 employees in only six months and had a 97% system adoption rate for the first performance campaign in just five weeks. See how the company did it here.

Purpose-Driven Submissions

The mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives is so important to SAP that we pledged to make a charitable contribution for every submission, up to $20,000. And I’m proud to say we’ll be donating the maximum across a pair of charities: The Acumen Fund and Global Business Coalition for Education.

With that mission in mind, I wanted to share a couple submissions that use SAP solutions in ways that demonstrate positive social, environmental, or economic impact, as well as a shared purpose in helping the world run better and improving people’s lives.

Preserving Life in Africa through the Cloud and on the Ground

Africa loses one rhino every four hours and an elephant every 15 minutes due to illegal killing. The non-government entity Elephants, Rhinos & People (ERP) uses SAP technology to feed sensor inputs into an artificial intelligent (AI) engine and receive automated anti-poaching threat alerts in near real time. There was zero poaching last year in ERP operating areas. During the course of its work to save elephants and rhinos, ERP also saved people. Food security was highlighted during South Africa’s hard COVID-19 lockdown, and ERP fed families near its projects. ERP’s emergency relief campaign delivered 250,000 meals, and will deliver 1 million total, feeding 2,700 families. Watch an ERP video here and read the award submission here.

Saving Lives in Morocco with COVID-19 Real-Time Monitoring System

Morocco’s Ministry of Health needed a digital system to manage COVID-19 patient, treatment, and test data at scale instead of the paper forms. The ministry built a COVID-19 real-time monitoring system in just two weeks using SAP HANA for data collection and analysis, along with SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP Digital Boardroom to give health decision-makers a real-time overview of the situation. The new system supports a 10x increase in laboratory test capacity and a four-times faster provision of data by hospitals and laboratories. Morocco’s Health Minister used SAP Digital Boardroom to provide an overview of the pandemic situation on Moroccan television. The video and submission are inspiring stories.

Selecting Finalists and Winners

I don’t envy the job our judges will have, as it will be harder than ever to pick finalists let alone winners out of all these incredible stories. Stay tuned for more about the winners when they are announced on April 14. In the meantime, I hope these stories of real-life heroes brought a smile and a reminder that there is hope out there, along with some inspiring innovation. One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein, “In the middle of a difficulty lies opportunity.”