Crowdsourcing in co-innovation: a SAP HANA example

Let me start by saying something we all already know: in the current digital world, innovation is critical. Disruption from new agile competitors becomes a continuous threat for many businesses.

As we all expect, innovation needs fresh thinking, open minds, experiments and new approaches. In the last years many new technologies were launched. However, in many cases it is hard to unlock the full innovation potential of these technologies – such as data analytics, mobile and digital. To unlock this potential, I claim that within big firms innovation leaders need to lead this innovation and use dynamic new approaches to co-creation and collaboration.

A great example of such a dynamic new approach is crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a dynamic approach to the generation of ideas, without being bounded to traditional (firm) boundaries. Crowdsourcing gives the possibility to include input from the entire business ecosystem, which includes the input from employees, partners, suppliers and customers.

An excellent illustration of such corporate crowdsourcing is the SAP HANA Innovation Challenge. HANA is SAP’s in-memory database technology. Yearly, also this year, they organize a crowdsourcing contest. The SAP HANA Innovation Awards were designed to showcase and honor customers innovating with SAP HANA. Because current year’s contest is still active, I will illustrate this example based on the 2014 contest.

The contest was organized the following. Customers using SAP HANA in production were invidted to enter their innovation story in a certain category. 22 finalists were selected by public voting. The social buzz for the conteste hashtag #HANAStory generated over 6 million impressions on Twitter, 6.7 thousand votes and 76.1 thousand website visits. SAP User groups were invited to nominate judges and 11 judges reviewed and scored each of the 22 finalists using a score card to select the final winners. This lead to a massive attention to SAP HANA innovation and mulitiple ideas were executed and implemented on a larger scale.


The crowdsourcing contest at SAP is every year a great success, as illustrated with the 2014 example. For the innovation leaders willing to lead the innovation in this collaborative way, there are some important considerations:

1. Open up innovation processes to third parties
CIOs can open up their innovation process by partnering with third parties who share their aims and are prepared to collaborate. To identify potential allies, innovation leaders must study their partners’ portfolios to find common areas of interest.

2. Accede collective brainpower
If a small group starts to define innovation opportunities, it can result in a very narrow approach being taken. Opening up for a wider group can give you a greater diversity of input. It also can give you insight in the end-user experience.

3. Decide how to evaluate ideas
The end goal of idea crowdsourcing is to implement innovative ideas. To reach this goal, it is important to have a clear appraoch towards prioritizing and selecting the best ideas. In most cases such an approach consists of two stages: structuring and selecting.

What can innovation leaders learn from this blog?
Very straightforward, that the people at their organization,  and the people around their organization, are full of innovative ideas. It is key to find new ways to unlock the potential innovative value of these ideas and exploit it.
Innovation leaders should start experimenting now: where can crowdsourcing be used to move product/service/technology from a deployment to a genuine innovation?


Click to access 1310_Success_Stories_and_Lessons_Learned_Implementing_SAP_HANA_Solutions.pdf

Cities: Skylines’ early success in community involvement

A decade ago, the city simulation genre was fully blooming with the PC game-series ‘Sim City’ taking a large majority of the market. The most recent edition of Sim City, released in 2013, was received with a large disappointment with even the most critic person stating that the game is not as sustainable and fun as its previous editions.

Fortunately for city simulation lovers, they were in luck with this years’ Cities: Skylines release. The game was developed by a significantly smaller team and distributed digitally only resulting in a lower price point in the market. On top of that, the biggest change Cities: Skylines made in contrast with its competitor was its refreshing take on communities.

The previous versions of the well-known Sim City series are still played today thanks to their unofficial modding communities. In short, modding extents the lifetime of a game by an unspecified period of time with developers adding functionality to an official release. In most cases, the Sim City series were not easily moddable out of the box, hence the unofficial nature of the communities. With the most recent release of Sim City, there was a big loss of functionality (including the infamous reduction of playable mapsize) and an outcry of the relatively new community to add official modding support in order to enable them to ‘fix’ the game to a playable state. The communities’ for change was never answered, and despite the outstanding graphical display of city simulation the studio of the Sim City developer ended being shut down in 2015.

Colossal Order addressed the desire for a playable game handsomely, with their game being launched with ‘built-in community support’. The market gap was answered by providing modding tools in the first version of the game, and steam workshop support out of the box (providing a platform to effortlessly share and download in-game content and see community user-provided ratings [Hong & Chen, 2013]. The contrast with the relative community failure of Sim City with the currently flourishing Cities: Skylines is stark.

The largest part of the community provides their content for free, and a very interesting development can be found in the case of Brian Shannon. He provides content to all of the community for free, and at the same time accepts ‘donations’ via a service very similar to broadly known crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, and accepts a committed donation per user per built add-on. With the current commitments in place, he effectively made an income out of nothing by providing add-ons for free. The kicker? He used to be part of the developer-team behind the failed Sim City 2013, and got laid off in 2014 during a restructuring.

Although the game is relatively new, it’s bet on community-provided content via already existing distributing platforms (steam, workshop) seems to have provided an early success [Hong & Chen, 2013]. The interesting part to see where future innovations lie: will new forms of communities flourish, now others start to notice that someone in the existing community is making an honest income by providing new content for free? Perhaps we can coin a new term: crowddonating? Only the future will tell us.