Soccer team in a huddle

SAP Quality Awards: Teamwork Pays Off

April 14, 2016 by Stephan Magura 256

SAP invited its customers and partners from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to Walldorf on April 6 to recognize the past year’s outstanding implementations of SAP software. Henrik Wilken, Active Quality Management, EMEA, got things started by dispelling the common myth that SAP projects in growth markets are not carried out with just as much skill and success as anywhere else in the world.

The 2016 awards honored projects in the categories of Fast Delivery, Innovation, Business Transformation, and SuccessFactors Innovation. The SuccessFactors category appeared for the first time in response to the many HR projects nominated this year. Of the 212 total submissions, those that came out on top in the company’s various market units were nominated for SAP Quality Awards.

The external jury, which was once again made up of proven experts and former award winners, chose seven to eight favorites in each category. Its members eventually rendered the final decisions that determined this year’s winners, as well. The three customers with the best projects in each category then made the trip to SAP headquarters, but had to wait until the awards ceremony for the big announcement. Before the envelope was opened on stage, only a chosen few knew who had come in first, second, and third in the grand finale.

Like last year, the winners stressed how important it is to have the right people on board to ensure the success of a project. The Finnish freight-loading company Cargotec, for example, conducted a series of one-on-one meetings to identify employees with the right expertise and mindset, both internally and for the partner involved in its winning endeavor. The result? An implementation that could hardly have gone better, hence its selection for the gold award in the SuccesFactors Innovation category. SAP manager Thomas Otter, who is responsible for the SuccessFactors product portfolio, clearly enjoyed giving the audience a closer look at “his” winners. “It’s important to celebrate successes like these,” he declared.

SAP EMEA President Franck Cohen would surely agree. In spite of his tight appointment schedule, Cohen made time to congratulate the winners in person just as he had the year before. He used his brief speech to look back on his early days as a programmer, which included a project in which he himself failed due to a product that was impeccably designed, but ultimately impractical. “Even the greatest algorithms in the world won’t help if your solution isn’t workable,” Cohen pointed out.

Trial and Improvement

So what’s the best way to avoid pitfalls like this? Creative entrepreneurs experiment with their innovations in order to gauge the market prospects of new products in advance. Guest speaker Prof. Nathan Furr told the story of a US startup that advertised a solution online before it had even been created. When demand for the product turned out to be huge, the company set about making it a reality.

Among other pursuits, Furr teaches at the renowned business school INSEAD. The Stanford graduate also walked the audience through a condensed version of his “innovator’s method,” which guides companies through the phases of uncertainty they are sure to encounter on the path to innovative processes and products. According to Furr, identifying the problem in its entirety and devising a corresponding solution strategy is essential. “Getting the job done” means not just focusing on the technical aspects of improving a product, but factoring in the social and emotional dimensions, as well. Here, Furr cited Harley-Davidson’s ability to fend off its rival Honda some years ago by centering its efforts more on the image of “cool” Harley owners and less on fine-tuning its motorcycles.

These days, SAP itself has also begun concentrating on more than simply completing the task at hand. Cohen affirmed that while projects obviously still need to be carried out in line with a specific schedule, budget, and the customer’s expectations, that alone is no longer enough. In response to developments like the IoT and applications in artificial intelligence, SAP needs to show its customers all the things they can achieve now with forward-thinking IT.

In Cohen’s view, success depends more than ever on the “art of IT” and how companies implement it: “It’s the difference between a good product and an outstanding one,” he asserted.

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