New Digital Transformation For Santa Claus At The North Pole

Over the last fourteen years we’ve been involved in a lot of digital transformations for a huge variety of organisations, but even we were amazed back in early 2017 when Santa came to us for help!

The Problem

The population of the world is around 7 billion people today. That’s a lot of gift ideas to come up with, a big manufacturing problem and that’s before we’ve got to the peak delivery demand bottleneck! Beyond that, Santa and his elves need to manage a naughty / nice list of about 1.75 billion children!

Agile And Lean At The North Pole

Our first port call at the North Pole was to work with Santa, Rudolph and the Chief Elf on some value stream maps. We discovered that the real value every Christmas was based around Santa delivering working presents to the good children within a specific 24 hour period (although timezones give us a little more flexibility here). We were them able to create small, cross functional elf teams who were able to go all the way from Letters To Santa (concept) to deliverable presents. Each Elf team formed part of a larger “Polar Express” Release Train which focused on a particular region of the world.

The primary constraint on the value stream was identified as the “naughty” list. There were a lot of delays getting reports in from the “Elf On The Shelf” teams on how good the children were being. Our solution was to incorporate an Elf On The Shelf into each Elf Team and eliminate the transport batch. This meant that less waste was being generated by the Elf Teams (we identified waste as toys that were being made for children who it turned out were actually on the naughty list) as they had more up to date information on childrens’ behaviour.

Each Elf team now has a “Toy Owner” who has the responsibility of working out what each child would like for Christmas based on the ever-changing and unpredictable desires of their group of children. Prior to this, different elves were making multiple copies of the wrong toys for good children! An Elf Master was also appointed to each team to coach them through the transition and facilitate communication with the other teams, and also to lead each team in joyous Christmas songs and carols to keep morale up.

Augmented Reality

Once we had cracked the management issues at the North Pole, we moved on to implemented some new technology in Santa’s workshop. First of all we used Microsoft’s Hololens technology to create an Augmented reality experience for the cross-functional Elf Teams whilst building the toys. This meant that they could see in realtime a three dimensional image of the toy they were creating. This led to a greatly reduced defect rate in the production system as the produced toys always matched the original specification.

Elf Cloud

From late November until the end of December, Santa’s workshop is very busy. The previous paper-based system did not scale very well and it took a long time to find individual letters from children and the reports from the Elf On A Shelf teams were often mislaid. We implemented a new cloud based system using Microsoft Azure that would automatically scale up as demand increased rapidly over the festive period. The robustness of the data storage and Azure Function solution meant that no letters were lost and all Elf On The Shelf reports were received by Elf Teams in less than one minute.

Santa’s App

Santa and the Elf Masters also wanted a way of Elf Teams monitoring the naughty and nice lists in realtime so that they could decide on which children would receive which gifts. We created a bespoke App for iOS and Android that any of the Elves could download on to their mobile phones giving them instant access to the latest data in a format that was easy to understand. The App even included the sound of Christmas bells to cheer the Elves along as they worked!

Remote Elves

The Elf On A Shelf teams were also wasting a large amount of time travelling back to the North Pole every night to submit their behaviour reports and so we created a Progressive Web App which they could use from their laptops, phones or tablets to submit their reports. This meant that they could spend more time in mischief around the childrens’ houses and less time travelling. Some of the elves even formed local chapters and guilds to spend their freed-up time improving their behaviour monitoring skills!

Smart Workshop

The next stage of the improvements at the North Pole was to convert Santa’s Workshop into a Smart Workshop. We created Internet Of Things software that allowed the various toy making tools and machines to talk to each other and also to an App we created for the Chief Elf. This meant that the tool usage could be monitored and pre-emptive maintenance of tools could be undertaken. This led to a reduced failure rate of tools which meant that the elves could focus their time more on creating spectacular gifts for good children! The Chief Elf could also see and predict which tools were under-utilised and which which tools the elves needed more of. All of this led to happier children!

Rudolph’s Artificial Intelligence

Finally, we were able to hugely optimise the delivery of gifts to good children by integrating an artificial intelligence program with Rudolph’s red nose sensor. Rudolph’s existing nose sensor was excellent and needed no improvement! Rudolph’s nose provided realtime information on speed and position to the AI. This was combined with delivery address, timezone and daylight savings information so that the AI could generate, monitor and adapt an optimal route for present delivery on the big night!

The Conclusion

Christmas 2017 was one of the best Christmas holidays ever for children all over the world! Since then we have further refined and added new features for Santa, his Elves and Rudolph, and so Christmas 2018 is looking even better! Remember: we’ve been able to give Santa more accurate, up to date information on the naughty / nice lists than EVER BEFORE! So this year, more than any other, BE GOOD!

Your Workshop

If your workshop could do with a digital transformation, please fill in the contact form below to find out if we can bring the magic of Christmas to your organisation!


Nick McKenna
Nick McKenna is a (polymath) computer programmer and scaled Agile consultant. Nick has been a professional programmer for over 20 years and an Agile guru for nearly as long! Nick's specialities include progressive web app development, mobile app development, the Internet Of Things, Azure cloud development, systems integration, Scaled Agile Framework, Scrum, Lean, LeSS, Scrum At Scale and much much more.

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