The prestigious Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany, has named SAP the “Best Innovator 2014” for what it calls “exceptional achievements in three award categories.”
Zeppelin University began presenting coveted innovation awards in three categories ― “Best Open Innovator”, “Best Cross-Industry Innovator”, and “Best Business Model Innovator” ― in 2010. This year saw a first for the annual award competition, though, with SAP submitting three examples of how it is helping enterprises generate ideas and collaborate with experts inside and outside the organization to systematically convert those ideas into tangible innovations.
Each of the three innovations ― SAP Ganges, a network that links retailers, distributors, suppliers, banks, and telecommunications providers throughout India; the “Connected Car” pilot with Toyota, BMW, and Volkswagen; and new approaches to creating more value for SAP products in SAP’s own services environment ― are the result of employees, customers, and external partners answering the clarion call to submit ideas and co-innovate on them. This impressive combination of business model innovations and the new SAP Innovation Management solution, paired with matching innovation management services, led the competition jury at Zeppelin University to name SAP Best Innovator 2014 in all three categories in recognition of its “exceptional achievements.”
SAP Innovation Management: not straight from the ivory tower
SAP Innovation Management, a new solution that has only been on the market for three months, is a prime example of how SAP co-innovates with its customers.
“SAP Innovation Management has not been plucked straight from the ivory tower. It’s the result of intensive collaboration with our customers, selected partners, and our own service organization,” explains Chief Solution Expert Jochen Mayerle, who, together with Michel Sérié, Global Head of the Services Innovation & Design Thinking Center of Excellence at SAP, was involved in developing the tool and associated services.
Three companies are currently implementing SAP Innovation Management, including consumer goods manufacturer Beiersdorf and chemical group BASF.
SAP’s innovation management process is very simple: If someone comes up with an idea, he or she enters it straight into the SAP Innovation Management tool, which is accessible via desktop PC, smartphone, or tablet. The submitter receives immediate feedback about whether someone else has already entered a similar idea, and has the option to add a comment or evaluation or to get in contact with his or her fellow “innovator” directly.
“People are welcome to submit ideas on any topic, whether it’s Industry 4.0, sustainability, disruptive applications powered by SAP HANA, or something else entirely,” says Mayerle. A structured expert evaluation process that involves creative approaches like design thinking, he says, is the best way to identify the most promising ideas and channel them through to product development.
“In most companies today, it’s the research and development department that comes up with the ideas, but it doesn’t systematically involve people from other areas of the enterprise in the process,” says SAP innovation management expert Mayerle.
What gives SAP’s approach the edge is that the SAP Innovation Management solution overcomes departmental silos and therefore encourages employees from any discipline to submit their ideas.” It’s important to remember, though, that establishing and expanding an effective and efficient innovation management system in the enterprise usually requires a fundamental rethink.
“On the one hand,” says Michel Sérié, “you need a professional tool like SAP Innovation Management; on the other, a change in mind set. In other words, you need to create a culture of innovation. This is where SAP Services comes in ― to supply the consulting and business model innovation advice that companies need.”
Design thinking workshop
At a recent workshop in the US, SAP invited 1,500 consultants to spend an entire day using design thinking techniques to come up with new ideas, which they then captured in SAP Innovation Management.
“Even if we only end up with a handful of ideas to follow up on, then it was well worth the effort,” says Sérié. He and his team have been driving the design thinking innovation methodology at SAP since 2010: Four years on, SAP has over 700 trained design thinking coaches whose task is to support ideation and idea enhancement both inside and outside the enterprise. So there should be plenty of high-quality entries for the next innovation contest!