Mission-Focused Innovation: Why We Created NS2 Labs
How do you know if what you are doing is the best way or just the way you know to do it? That underlying question is why I came to SAP NS2 after 20 years as a DoD systems integrator where I worked primarily on data integration and analysis projects. I wanted to learn about commercial approaches to data management and try applying these to the DoD space.
One thing I learned at SAP is the frequency with which companies co-innovate with their commercial customers.
Each company puts their own spin on this process, but at a macro level they all involve bringing in a customer and related partners, discussing a problem in depth, and crafting a proof of concept solution at no cost to the customer. The intent is to prove out the technology in a customer environment that is specific to that customer’s problem. SAP has a network of 19 of these co-innovation environments around the world. Each center has a combination of innovation space, collaboration space, shared workspace, and demonstration space.
SAP and its partners conduct over 6,000 co-innovation engagements annually through this network. At NS2, we leverage this ecosystem whenever we can, but there are some logistical challenges with using the SAP labs: the closest SAP lab is more than two hours away from DC, the SAP labs are focused on solving commercial problems that don’t always resonate with our mission customers, and there is no ability to do classified co-innovation work.
So We Are Building Our Own!
NS2 Labs will open in early 2020 in Chantilly VA. We are taking the best aspects of commercial co-innovation and adapting them to the mission community. In particular we will focus on mission-oriented problems, with a network of partners to match.
NS2 Labs is co-located with a 60,000 square foot SCIF to allow co-innovation and product development at all security levels.
So, what does that mean for you? If you want to work together on next generation capabilities for the mission, then you should be part of NS2 Labs. Whether as an advisor, partner, or customer, there is a need for your skills. We will build solutions from the best of open source, partner, and SAP technology, so it’s a great time to get involved.
Idea Studio: Leveraging Crowdsourcing for Innovation
If you’re anything like me, you spend most of your time both at work and at home bouncing from one project to another. Building something, repairing something, breaking something – there’s no shortage of interesting things to dig into, learn about, and piece together in different ways.
That’s exactly how it is at Labs. There is simply no end to technologies and problems that we can leverage and address.
Read any technology article and things like machine learning, internet of things, signal processing, blockchain, DevSecOps and quantum will pop up – these are great areas for NS2 Labs.
Similarly, DoD publications identify problem areas such as space situational awareness, long range targeting, maritime domain awareness, predictive maintenance, cyber warfare, intelligent health management, and deep fake detection. These are meaty problems that Labs can address. Of course, if you try to do everything at once you won’t accomplish anything. It’s essential that we ensure that we target our efforts appropriately.
How We Determine the Best Way Forward
NS2 uses Idea Studio, our collaboration space, to determine our focus. We can capture and discuss problems, technologies, solutions, and opportunities. Anyone who participates in NS2 Labs can participate in Idea Studio. This includes everyone in NS2, our Labs partners, customers, and government personnel. If you have an idea, or want to weigh in on an idea, or just want to brainstorm about technology, then this is the place to be.
As ideas come online, the collective organization works to flesh them out.
- Are they mission-relevant?
- Are they unique?
- Do they push the envelope?
- Is this an area of interest to customers where they want to co-innovate?
Idea Studio has tremendous reach and is a level playing field. While typical strategy meetings can be useful, invariably there is someone who should be part of the session who not in the discussion.
With Idea Studio, we hold these strategy discussions online. This means that everyone can participate – on their own timeline – even individuals whom leadership didn’t realize had information to share. This online aspect is the equalizing aspect of Idea Studio: the value of your contribution is not tied to the loudness of your voice or your place in the organization. This ethos of inclusion is intentional in NS2 Labs.