How to Make Innovations Successful in Business?
I live by the rules: be honest, there is no stupid questions, and break down silos. I focus on bridging domains with the aim to make greater business impact than they would offer individually, combining software, IoT and industry know-how.
One often hears about walking the extra mile. In my work that takes its analogy by asking the extra question. The extra question is often what it takes to fully understand the matter of discussion and to be educated to a level where one can start playing with how different silos, i.e. domains, can work together. No-one will go about asking the next question if they are in a non-safe space. Building safe arenas is prerequisite.
I am fortunate being paid to be curious, to work in a safe space and be allowed and able to work with innovation. Innovation to me in this context is the process of combining different domain silos in new ways and bringing the infant R&D into industrialization.
Allow me to share with you some of the challenges one faces when industrializing R&D, i.e. implementing R&D full scale in industry processes. As example I will use a case study that we are doing together with the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) using SAP Enterprise Product Development – Connected Products. NPRA have been asked by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport to improve their asset management system, with the main goal to improve uptime, road safety, environmental and climate impact, and cost effectiveness. The objective is to do the right maintenance at the right time and in the right way. This condition-based and risk-based maintenance is possible with new technology, such as reliable IoT sensors and software.
The aim of this case study is to see how combining the three silos – software, IoT and public infrastructure – can add value for the customer to help achieve the goals set out by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport. More specifically, to help them determine how they can approach predictive maintenance as part of a condition-based and risk-based maintenance regimen versus current maintenance methods based on time-scheduled inspections and “firefighting.” Insights gained from implementing these new maintenance schemes can support operational decisions, as well as short-term and long-term budget decisions.
For the use-case specific background, see the article Bridge in Distress Sends Warning Using IoT Sensors and the Youtube video pasted above.
There are three main challenges to industrializing R&D: technical challenges, domain expert usage challenges, and business process challenges.
The first and easiest challenge deals with the technical challenges of combining different domain silos. The IoT sensors at the edge need to stream data to the SAP cloud environment where the raw sensor data is refined into robust and lower-resolution domain-specific indicators with meaningful information for the decision maker. For the Stavå bridge, we got this part up and running within a few months.
The second challenge incorporates how the industry domain expert makes sense out of these IoT sensor data. Where should the expert place his thresholds to be notified of anomalies? And how to make the quite different IoT units understandable and consumable by the decision maker?
A bridge domain expert is used to working in units of Mega Pascal (MPa) and can act on the data intuitively. But if a sensor is sampling acceleration in m/s2 that introduces a new quantity that the bridge domain expert needs to act upon. It must be acknowledged that the transformation to condition-based and risk-based maintenance requires upskilling and upscaling of domain experts. Correct interpretation of the results requires maturation to understand how to map observed values to the real physical situation, and thereafter the user needs to take actions based on these insights.
The third challenge is successful transformation of the business processes from the traditional inspection and firefighting mode to a condition-based and risk-based maintenance mode. This requires a clear vision on how real-time monitoring can provide insights that can be used to improve the current business processes.
Successful transformation relies on a clear strategy and a proactive company culture. Management needs to see the long-term business value of the transformation. And the management and company culture need to be able to invest money based on the principles of risk-based and condition-based maintenance, not on firefighting.
On top of these business processes within the organizations, also the regulatory bodies need to adapt to the new available technology to allow for changing the current business processes.
Only after these challenges have been addressed and overcome, can innovation in business be successful.
I have shared with you the three main challenges to industrializing R&D; combining and breaking down domain silos and placing innovation into the larger holistic pictures, not being afraid to ask the next question and honestly; have fun!