Sablono has just won an SAP Hana Innovation Award recently. The company is providing a web and mobile based platform to oversee complex construction and delivery management processes. E-3 had an opportunity to talk to Sablono Managing Director Lukas Olbrich about the company, solution and the future with SAP Startup Focus.
E-3: Process and Project Management – on mobile and in real-time -how and when did you have the idea for Sablono and what has happened since?
Lukas Olbrich: Basically, the idea was a combination of the results of a research project at TU Berlin and the requirements of our very first customers.
Together, we realized there was no existing digital tool, especially in the field of construction project management, which on the one hand facilitates process standardization in planning and, on the other hand, enables continuous monitoring during the execution of projects.
As other industries were far more developed, we also had a look at existing solutions in different fields. Today, not only construction companies benefit from our solution, but also suppliers, logistics providers and other companies along the entire value chain.
And of course, there are many hurdles in conservative industries – the biggest challenge for us was the initial, still widespread resistance to digital and mobile workflows – ‘tablets on the construction site!? No way!’- and also the monitoring and implementation of change processes for our customers.
E-3: How did SAP Startup Focus assist you in getting your company ready and your product on the market?
Olbrich: Project management in construction projects is a major challenge and it was clear to us that we had to give this topic a strong foundation, particularly in the corporate context as an end product for the customer.
Hana in combination with the Startup Focus program was a good match for this, and fortunately, we were also included in the program directly in 2013. At the beginning, the collaboration focused on the technology.
Together with experts from the SAP Innovation Center in Potsdam, we tested the feasibility of our concepts and then launched them into a first MVP.
Over time, however, the collaboration with SAP has grown far beyond the technology. As a member of the SAP Startup Focus program, we receive good support in the preparation and execution of your go-to-market, as well as in marketing and events.
E-3: Managing projects and processes can be complex – even more so in real-time. How does your platform and application deal with that?
Olbrich: Sablono’s customers use the platform in very complex projects. Typically, they are concerned with keeping an overview of the execution of thousands of individual activities that are carried out over a long duration of a project by different companies and different people at different locations.
One of the most important tasks for our product is to reduce the complexity of the daily work of our customers as much as possible. We achieve this, through a variety of views on the data, for example, according to the responsibilities or temporal classification of the tasks.
On the other hand, when designing our interfaces, we always ensure that, despite the underlying complex data model, simplicity in operation is guaranteed.
In addition, the real-time aspect is, of course, a very important one. If multiple workers are sending updates about their progress throughout the day, this information must be immediately available to everyone else, through dashboards, schedules, or push notifications.
We use and trust the special performance of the Hana platform, which enables us to perform real-time calculations and complex temporal evaluations. We have also opted for Hana to provide long-term integration with existing solutions such as SAP ERP, etc.
E-3: If you have to pick one thing that makes Sablono and your solution special and unique: What would it be?
Olbrich: Sablono’s greatest benefit is the simple and seamless integration of all project participants across company boundaries, locations and responsibilities.
Especially in complex and decentralized projects, almost every participant depends on the timely processing of others and therefore needs information about the current progress and project status at all times.
Our system enables people to implement project-related process and supply chain management in order to bring all relevant data centrally into one place. This ensures that everyone is supplied with information that is necessary for the successful performance of his or her work.
Illustrative examples are: How far is the production of certain components abroad, at what point is the expected supply of materials, and what is the state of the installation or construction work of a specific work on the construction site?
E-3: How does a customer get existing data into Sablono?
Olbrich: The platform consists of a web portal as well as mobile applications for iOS and Android. Through the web access, a process and lean weekly planning can be conducted on a very high level of detail – what needs to be done today, tomorrow, and next week by whom. Here, we offer the possibility of using existing data, for example from Excel spreadsheets, schedules or building models.
In accordance with their responsibilities, all workers, supervisors or managers involved in the process provide information about the current state of their work through our mobile apps. In addition to the confirmation of the activities carried out, this includes documentation with pictures.
In real time, the data is then merged, recalculated and processed on the platform. Within seconds, the central project management can recognize the progress made by all parties involved to intervene at an early stage and, if necessary, to counteract them.
In addition, we are already working with some customers on integrations for production management and billing systems.
E-3: What are the technical requirements regarding IT-infrastructure and data availability?
Olbrich: In principle, our customers do not have to fulfil any special requirements in order to work with Sablono. With our software-as-a-service (SaaS) offer, we take care of the hosting, maintenance and updating of the system in a multi-tenant cloud.
In addition, of course, other options such as Private Cloud or On Premises are also possible if the customer so desires. The web platform is accessible by any current browser and is of course also optimized for mobile use. In addition, the Sablono Inspect app provides a mobile application for all iOS and Android devices.
The topic of integration with other systems is of central importance for us. Early on we therefore created interfaces to a large number of common systems.
For example, customers can combine their data from Oracle Primavera, Asta Powerproject, MS Project, or simply from Excel, into Sablono. In addition to various export options, we also offer an API, which our customers can access.
E-3: How long does an implementation take on average and what kind of support do you provide for customers during a project’s planning stage?
Olbrich: The set-up of the system usually goes very fast. The classic SaaS model eliminates installation and configuration times, and the platform is ready for immediate use.
Depending on the customer’s requirements, learning the system and setting up a first project will take a few days. We support our customers in the form of workshops and training courses which can be held either online or on site.
During the course of the contract, we are, of course, always at our disposal for questions and assistance with our support. Personal customer support is, for example, directly accessible within the software.
E-3: What are the next steps for Sablono and how does the Startup Focus Program support you in those?
As a young company, we want to grow and push into other markets. We are currently recognizing an increasing demand for systems that ensure a more reliable realization and execution of projects.
As Sablono can already do this today, we want to optimally position our solution in the market together with the SAP Startup Focus Program and other partners.
Of course, joint presentations on events such as Sapphire Now in Orlando, at which we can present ourselves as this year’s winner of the SAP Hana Innovation Award, are also helpful.
This article is part of a series. If you would like to read Part 2, click here.