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SAP Leonardo isn’t a product, it’s a “digital innovation system” — what’s the difference and why would you care?

The goal of SAP Leonardo is to help you “innovate at scale to confidently redefine your business.” It does includes key new technologies such as IoT, Blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence — but that’s perhaps the least important part.

Above all, SAP Leonardo has been designed to pragmatically help you with the steps you need to actually implement these technologies and make a difference to your organization and business models.

It’s based on the experience and best practices we’ve gained working with customers over the last few years. And in particular, the SAP Leonardo system takes into account the key differences between implementing “normal” IT innovation, such as ERP and analytics systems, and the very different processes needed for digital business innovation.

Solution Ideation & Vision

For example, one of the key problems in digital business is knowing where to start — there’s been an explosion of different technology opportunities over the last few years. Which of these should you invest in, in order to lead to the best future for your organization?

That’s why we’ve been investing heavily in Design Thinking for many years. It’s a unique approach to problem finding and problem solving with a focus on your customer experience, human meaning, and empathy.

SAP Leonardo includes design thinking workshops, where we guide your key stakeholders through the methodology to sort through all the possible innovation choices and come up with the ones that are most likely to succeed.

Rapid Prototyping

The next problem is that digital business isn’t just about innovation, it’s about new ways of innovating. Every aspect of the approach has to be agile and iterative, involving prototypes and customer testing. With SAP Leonardo, we provide services to help you try out and interact with your ideas before you invest too much time and effort in the wrong direction.

For example, our powerful BUILD technology turns application development upside down — you can test interfaces with your users before you write any code.

BUILD is an open-source, cloud-based and social platform that enables users, even those with no UI development knowledge, to easily create fully interactive prototypes with realistic data, share them with colleagues and consolidate their feedback. You can literally start with sketches like this:

You can then add basic interactivity and offer the prototype up to users for testing — you get to see where they clicked, what they found difficult, any feedback and suggestions, etc.

There are of course lots of predefined templates you can use to get started, and once you’re done, you can easily transfer what you’ve built into the SAP Fiori UX environment.

Business Case Development

SAP has over 45 years experience of helping organizations innovate. We know that the best ideas in the world can easily get killed unless large organizations get the financial assurances they need to confidently commit resources.

SAP Leonardo includes an extension of our existing SAP Value Engineering services. Our experts will work with you to create a solid return on investment business case for digital innovation.

By its very nature, the ROI on digital business is about more than just IT efficiency savings. The business benefits of increased customer and employee satisfaction, for example, can be hard to model in traditional IT spreadsheets.

Time and time again, we’ve seen our customers only realize what new business benefits were possible after projects have been implemented. Prototyping helps make the possible future benefits much easier to imagine, much earlier in the cycle. We can help you figure out what innovations will bring the biggest return sooner, and get them implemented faster.

This is especially important for innovation where changes to business models are involved, such as offering products as a service. In a fast-moving era where the the business status quo is being rapidly undermined by new competitors, “business as usual” may not be an appropriate foundation for your ROI calculations.

Technology Blueprint

We know your company already has millions invested in existing infrastructure, and any digital innovation has to integrate tightly with this environment. Without a thorough technology roadmap to get you where you need to go, innovation is just wishful thinking.

With SAP Leonardo, we work with you to make sure that the cool, disruptive application that you’ve successfully prototyped can actually work in the real world, at scale. This includes initiatives such as the new SAP Transformation Navigator, with detailed guidelines and instructions to get from the products you have today to where you want to go in the future.

It’s the antidote to one of the most common problems in digital business: lots of small, siloed projects that work well in small areas, but weren’t built to meet the technical, governance, and reliability requirements of the enterprise as a whole.

SAP Leonardo is designed to be modular, so you can implement just the parts you need, when you need them, and we’ve made it as easy as possible to connect to SAP and 3rd party technologies, data, and systems.

Industry Accelerators

SAP has deep experience in 25 different industries, and we work closely with some of the most innovative, forward-thinking companies on the planet. We know you don’t just want choices, you want advice and best practices. Why should you have to start from scratch when you know that others have already started down the same road you want to take?

We’ve taken our knowledge and experience and embedded it into a fast-expanding series of industry accelerators, including solutions for retail, consumer goods, manufacturing, and sports & entertainment.

These fixed-price accelerators are all based on co-innovation projects with customers that have been proven to work in the field. They’re designed to get you up and running in a matter of weeks, with price points to match.

The accelerator bundles include not only the technology, services, and methodologies above, but also data services where appropriate. For example, we can provide you with spend analysis data from the Ariba Business Network, or the new SAP Fieldglass Live Insights service that gives you up-to-date knowledge of contingent labor costs. And we can help you monetize your data assets with your partners or the market with the SAP Data Network initiative.

The SAP Ecosystem

As the undisputed leader in business applications, SAP has by far the largest digital ecosystem of customers and partners in the world. We are currently working hard to ensure that SAP Leonardo is tightly integrated with this ecosystem. For example, we are making sure our traditional services partners are amply rewarded for any help they provide to implement and extend the SAP Leonardo system.

We also believe that many of the most powerful digital innovation opportunities straddle existing organization boundaries, so we are working with our customers and partners on a wide variety of industry-level innovation solutions, such as SAP Vehicles Insights and the SAP Asset Intelligence Network (aka “LinkedIn for things”).

A Concrete Example of SAP Leonardo Innovation

Part of the difficulty of understanding SAP Leonardo is that the precise experience will be different from customer to customer, because no two organizations will ever have exactly the same innovation needs.

To hear a more concrete example of what’s involved, listen to flooring manufacturer Mohawk Industries’ experience with SAP Leonardo and how they were able to implement real innovation in just three short weeks.

The talk covers how the team selected the most appropriate project, quickly developed a prototype including third-party data sources, and realized real business benefits by working collaboratively and iteratively:

“If you take anything away from today’s meeting, it’s that innovation can happen today, even though you have other things going on…”

“We’ve been talking to the business for years, [but] I learned new stuff in that room… we got a lot of information [from Finance] that we didn’t know existed”

Don Morris, Global Vice President, Mohawk Industries.

Innovation at Scale

If there’s one thing that everybody knows about SAP, it’s that we can help you deploy solutions that actually work at scale, in real-world, complex environments. Any small boutique design firm can help you come up with cool ideas — but we can help you actually turn those ideas into profits and increased market share.

And analysts such as Dion Hinchcliffe of Constellation Research agree:

“Most organizations today badly need a leg up to close their digital gap… SAP Leonardo has the potential to help with these strategic challenges across the board and become an engine for digital transformation.

Leonardo can shorten the time needed to execute on a more ambitious digital business vision [and] goes beyond technology, by applying its system in key ways that are more likely to create competitive advantage.”

To find out more, visit SAP.com/Leonardo or contact your account manager to organize the first step in your SAP Leonardo journey, which is typically a one-day exploration workshop with senior IT & business executives.

You may also want to schedule a visit to one of our SAP Leonardo Global Design Centers around the world, such as New York, Paris, Bangalore, and Sao Leopoldo (Brazil), to get an immersive experience of new technologies and in-depth examples of real-world use cases in your industry.

The Future of SAP Leonardo

Digital innovation applies to all organizations, large and small. And of course, it also applies to SAP. Working with our customers, using our own design thinking methodologies, we realized we had an opportunity to change the way we do business and optimize our own customers’ experience.

Over the last few years, we had successfully implemented lots of different initiatives to make our customer’s lives easier, but these various initiatives and best practices weren’t always aligned in a consistent way across all of our customers around the world.

The result of this reflection is SAP Leonardo: rather than “just” a bundle of technologies and services, it’s an innovation system designed to help you succeed with your digital transformation.

And we look forward to practicing what we preach: we are committed to working with all our customers and partners to identify areas where we can prototype and iterate SAP Leonardo itself, in order to make it even better in the future.

If you have ideas and feedback, please take part in the SAP Leonardo community forum and participate in the SAP Listens program.

Finally, you can find out more about how SAP Leonardo fits in with the SAP’s overall digital strategy for customers in an excellent Q&A with CEO Bill McDermott.

[This post first appeared in my Digital Business and Business Analytics Blog]

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