Driving Innovation: A Conversation with Oliver Betz

It’s no accident that the word innovative is in both Oliver Betz’s title and his team’s name.

The general manager of SAP Innovative Business Solutions organization, experts in building tailored software innovations, offers his view on the Intelligent Enterprise and the biggest trends companies are facing in their approach to innovation.

Oliver Betz, general manager of SAP Innovative Business Solutions

Q: To kick things off with a quick, fun question, how would you describe yourself in three words?

A: For myself, I would have to say passionate, inventive, and collaborative.  I am all about working with our clients to help them adopt technology to elevate their performance, it’s all about enabling new processes and business models that bring real value to their business. And there is nothing that gets me more positively charged than when I can do that collaboratively with talented colleagues, clients, and partners. It’s both fun and rewarding.

How would you describe your vision of companies as they evolve into intelligent enterprises?

I constantly talk about how becoming an intelligent enterprise is not a destination, it’s a journey of continuous exploration. And as technologies evolve and international markets shift, enterprises find themselves on a continuous loop of exploration, implementation, and learning.

I like to think of that journey along the lines of what Simon Sinek refers to as the infinite game. It’s not about using technology to become an intelligent enterprise to just beat the competition. Business doesn’t work that way. After all, there is — and always will be — new technology and another competitor just around the corner. Instead, the companies that understand that they must continuously innovate with state-of-the-art technologies are the ones that will be around for a long time.

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation can be an ambiguous term. It can mean one thing to one client and something completely different to the next. Regardless, innovation means transforming business and delivering real-life tangible business outcomes.

According to a recent Oxford Economics study, digital transformation is a core business goal for 96 percent of leaders, 85 percent of them say that digital transformation efforts have increased market share, and 93 percent view technology as critically important to retain competitive advantage.

So, it’s no surprise that as companies invest in next-generation technologies to drive these transformational outcomes, many are building prototype applications that explore what is possible.

But, you can’t stop at the prototype stage. That doesn’t deliver any real business value and doesn’t keep you in the infinite game. These prototypes must be evolved into real and live business scenarios, so enterprises can truly reap the benefits with tangible business outcomes.

Having been in this field for more than 18 years, what would you say has changed the most in the enterprise market and is changing the way organizations approach innovation?

There’s so much to mention, but the first thing I’d say that’s really changed the most is the speed at which new technologies are being introduced and the pace at which disruption is happening in every industry. Companies can’t take their eyes off the market or they will be out-paced by their competition.

One of the levers customers can pull on to compete is how they use the latest technology to build innovative software solutions to support their differentiation. When it comes to building these solutions, long and drawn-out development cycles and implementation projects are a thing of the past. Businesses now demand an immediate time to value, that means delivering solutions in quick, agile, iterative sprints where every sprint delivers purposeful value.

What gets you excited as you work with clients who are pushing the boundaries of innovation?

Two things get me excited. In the past, when I would sit at the dinner table with my family and start talking about something I was working on, their eyes would roll to the back of their heads and they would completely tune me out because they couldn’t relate to the story. But today, innovation is everywhere and is touching experiences that they can relate to as part of their everyday lives. For example, the National Hockey League (NHL) just launched an amazing new solution that can help coaches better manage the game on the ice. That’s innovation that positively impacts the game as well as my family’s experience as hockey fans.

And the second is when it makes a social impact. For example, Bumble Bee Foods is tracing the journey of yellowfin tuna from the Indonesian ocean to the dinner table, as more and more consumers demand to know whether their food is safe and sustainably sourced.

For those that aren’t familiar with your team, can you explain more deeply the mission and focus?

Our mission is to empower our clients to achieve their greatest goals, whatever they may be, through leading-edge software innovation. We can do that by either extending an existing SAP solution or building a brand-new solution to fit the client’s exact needs.

We have more than 2,200 industry experts, with skill sets and expertise in the latest intelligent technologies and platforms, and have delivered innovative solutions to more than 1,750 happy customers. We work in close collaboration with our clients, from initial idea to delivering a robust high-value application. We use a fast, agile development approach where the end user is always at the center of every stage of development. And our solutions are fully maintained by SAP through their entire life cycle, so our clients can spend more time innovating while we focus on ensuring that their solutions always run seamlessly.

Ultimately, we aim to help our clients make innovation real for their enterprise and I truly believe that the work we do delivers on the SAP promise to make the world run better and improve people’s lives.


Mary Odabashian is global vice president of Marketing Strategy and Communications for SAP Innovative Business Solutions.