Yin and Yang: Innovation and Adoption

Trust (photo: fotolia)
The New Solution Adoption team makes sure a solution is ready for prime time (photo: fotolia)

SAP.info: Let’s start with the name of your team, New Solution Adoption. What’s that all about?

Jan Grasshoff: I could talk about that at length, but to me it all goes back to what SAP is all about: helping every customer become a best-run business. We work with other teams within SAP to ensure that new solutions that are set to go to market actually do meet customer expectations.

Like with any new piece of technology, there sometimes is a perception in the market that the first release never really works – and you had better wait for the next one before you buy. So, there are customers who are hesitant to adopt new solutions for fear of actually being part of a big field experiment.

We try to take away that fear by showing this is unfounded and by making sure that once a solution goes to market, it runs smoothly and easily. We give customers the assurance that we are on their side, and we make sure that any upcoming concern, issue or problem is dealt with immediately, be it technically or on the performance side, be it anything on the demo or proof-of-concept side, and just to ensure that they have trust and confidence in being early adopters of an SAP innovation. This makes for real new solution adoption.

SAP.info: So you seem to be taking on the role of a customer advocate between development and the go-to-market teams. However, isn’t this something that, ideally, should be part of the normal process? What is it that you do differently from other teams at SAP?

Grasshoff: In a nutshell, we are like glue. What we do is we bridge gaps. Innovation isn’t only about developing something new and groundbreaking; you also have to make sure people will use your product. Only then is innovation really successful. I call this the yin and yang of innovation and adoption.

Now, as you rightly say, this should actually always be the case, but sometimes it isn’t. And we do know for a fact that, in the software industry as a whole, early solutions don’t always have the best reputation. It’s easy to be excited about a product when, let’s say, there are 20 customers already using it productively. But how do you get there?

Development develops something, solution management comes up with a solid value proposition, the field thinks about selling, consulting focuses on implementing, but you don’t necessarily have somebody who oversees the whole end-to-end customer experience. That’s where we come in to bring it all together. We think about readiness, we think about sales, we think about implementation and go-live. We make sure a new solution is ready for prime time. And we are measured by customer success.

Read on: How to achieve success for customers

Jan Grasshoff, head of the New Solution Adoption team at SAP (photo: SAP)
Jan Grasshoff, head of the New Solution Adoption team at SAP (photo: SAP)

SAP.info: How do you help customers be successful?

Grasshoff: Looking at the new solutions we support, for example SAP HANA, I’d say the most important thing is our outside-in approach. We talk to potential customers, we talk to user groups and we collect their feedback and make sure it is heard within SAP. And we work with all the other internal teams, joining forces in one end-to-end approach to make sure the solution is of value to our customers.

With something as new as HANA, there is little experience in the market and there is also little experience within SAP. So we make sure to bring the people with the right skill sets together, we bridge silos. We train account executives, we augment industry principals, and we look at back office support and a lot of other things. Most of this happens behind the scenes, but the end result is very visible: a smooth customer experience.

SAP.info: What are the new solutions your team is working on right now?

Grasshoff: Some of the solutions we are working on are still in the very early stages, others are already on the market or in ramp-up, like SAP HANA, SAP IT Service Management, or SAP BusinessObjects Sustainability Performance Management. So as you can see, a wide spread across the portfolio, from new technology including the hardware side, all the way to analytics.

Actually, we spent quite a bit of time on the selection of the solutions we support. What is a new solution, really? Are we talking brand new, new industry, new market, new geography? For us, “new” means solutions that haven’t existed so far, 1.0 versions, if you will. Then we looked at addressable markets, completeness of the value proposition, the business case and all of that.

Also, where do we stand with the solution, is it in development, in validation, in ramp-up, or in general availability already? I believe we have a good mix of solutions to test-drive market readiness and adoption. Looking at 2011, we will expand our scope and engage in even more solutions across the SAP portfolio.

Read on: Plans for the next years

SAP.info: Moving forward, what are your plans for the next few years?

Grasshoff: I want as many companies as possible to benefit from the innovations we bring to the market. I want our customers to be really early adopters. As I mentioned earlier, what usually happens is that you have a few brave adopters running ahead, then there’s a big gap and only once a solution becomes almost an industry standard, then the majority will adopt it, but quite late. I don’t like that chasm. Think about SAP HANA.

HANA is one of the most beautiful innovations out there. Although initially a technological innovation, it drives tangible business value. I don’t want any company to feel they have to wait three years until they can reap the value. I want to bring them the value today. So we want to help build trust, we want to bridge the chasm and to create value earlier and faster.

Now that doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges and that every ride will always be a smooth one. But we listen to our customers, we bring their feedback into the organization, and we address their pain points. Looking at the nature of the industry and our customers’ businesses, I believe that’s the right way to go. And I’m very serious about making every customer a best-run business.