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City of Boston InnoJam – Summary

The SAP InnoJam team recently hosted, together with the Public Services pre-sales team, an InnoJam event for the City of Boston. Besides City of Boston employees the event gathered a few participants from the Massachussets Commonwealth and a couple of MIT students.

We had about 25 participants; the participants were all recruited by the City of Boston. They were very diverse, coming from different departments and functions of the City of Boston. Most of them never met before the event. This was the most gender-diverse InnoJam event so far: 10 women. The venue at the Renaissance Boston waterfront hotel was great: one large room with large round tables, flipcharts, 1 whiteboard and 1 podium with a projector and a big screen.

Here is my summary of the event:

Art Dorfmann (SAP, National Vice President, State, Local & Education Sales) and Bill Oates (City of Boston, CIO) opened the event and welcomed the participants on Tuesday at 10am EST.

I followed and said a few words about InnoJam events, about the agenda and our expectations for the 2 days.

David Nero clarified participation rules for City of Boston employees.

Devin Quirk from the City of Boston then presented the challenges that the City of Boston had selected for the event. It was all around city performance management. At the end of Devin’s talk we had a first brainstorming session where participants shared a first series of ideas of concrete challenges that came to mind when hearing about the general challenges that Devin presented. I found this exercise quite good to warm up the room and spark creativity. This is also when we moved participants into teams. We initially had 3 teams, one interested in tackling issues around Public Safety and Education, another one on Transportation and Permitting and another one on Cross issues.

Then Jessica Griffin, our local Design Thinking coach, took over and gave a brief overview of the Design Thinking methodology and guided the participants through the various phases of Design Thinking. After about 3 hours of Design Thinking the teams were able to share interesting designs with post-its and drawings on flip charts. During the User Research 4 people moved out of their initial teams to form a 4th team around Predictive analysis for city bikers safety.

During the whole Design Thinking phases teams had a list of all data that would be available for them to use during the event and that had been shared with the SAP InnoJam team prior to the event.  Unfortunately the data was shared very late into the preparation of the event and the SAP InnoJam team could not load all data into the SAP InnoJam HANA server. Meanwhile having the list of data displayed while they were designing helped the teams to stay realistic with their design and helped them to identify what other data they wish they had.

At about 3pm our experts presented the technologies: SAP HANA, BI Platform (Explorer, Dashboard) and Text Analysis. It was a lot to digest for the participants who had not used SAP before.

By 4pm each team got one expert at its table and got its most technical members started with SAP HANA, BI or Text Analysis.

At this point we ran into several issues: with the data that the city shared: it had to be cleaned and cleansed before it could be used effectively with HANA and for implementing the designed prototypes – the SAP InnoJam team spent hours cleaning and loading data into HANA; some data sets that some teams wanted to combine could not be joined because they had no common attributes; many teams wanted to use geo data and maps but most data did not have geo information; there were compatibility and connectivity issues between HANA and Dashboards –that took our experts some time to solve; we failed to make text analysis work with the InnoJam HANA server.

Despite the above issues all teams ended up having working software for the Innovation Fire.

All participants had left the event at 9pm on Day 1. The first participants came back at around 7am on Day 2. Most of them were back at 8am. The experts worked non-stop during both Day 1 and Day 2. From the start of Day 2 participants got very engaged in building software and analyzing data.

Innovation Fire (teams presentations) started at 2:45pm. We had 4 judges: Bill Oates (City of Boston), Rod Massey (SAP), Dante Ricci (SAP) and David Dobrin (Independent analyst and Boston local). We had 4 teams: the A Team, Team Vegas, Team BAND, Team Curt and Dawn.

The presentations/demos were amazing: creatively solving a real problem.

The judging criteria were: Original Analysis, Innovative Collaboration, Compelling presentation, Usefulness and ability to affect change, and Public value vs Ease of development/deployment. The first four criteria were suggested by the City of Boston. SAP added the 5th one.

Team Vegas won with Mobile dashboards for easy and transparent permitting processes.

The A team won the “creativity” prize with their work towards defining services for youth at risk.

The winning team members got an InnoJam winner t-shirt. Team Vegas qualified for a demo jam spot at SAP TechEd Las Vegas. The SAP InnoJam team will follow-up with the winning team to help them to continue work on their demo until TechEd Las Vegas.


Overall everyone seemed very happy with the event and the outcome.

Thank you to all of you who supported the event, locally or remotely: the PS pre-sales team, the experts (aka SAP InnoJam gurus) and the City of Boston.

Here are pictures of the event.

Here are videos of the event.

See you at the next InnoJam!


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