Katrin Lehmann is head of Customer Innovation and Maintenance at SAP. Here she shares what customers can expect from the company’s new co-innovation strategy.

Lehmann explains how SAP collaborates on co-innovation projects to help create solutions that extend the value of each customer’s investment and quickly scale for more companies, generating immediate and industry-wide business value and results.

Q: How has SAP transformed customer co-innovation and what is different now?

A: Co-innovation with customers has long been foundational to SAP’s evolution, driving our extraordinary growth. It remains an important piece of our strategic journey as we’ve renewed our commitment to listen to our customers’ experiences and act on their feedback.

What’s changed is how we’ve doubled down on co-innovation that extends SAP Cloud Platform with standardized, scalable solutions that seamlessly integrate with our intelligent digital core. A great example is our industry cloud solutions. We’re bringing together customers and partners to co-innovate vertical-specific extensions at scale. This allows many more customers to quickly apply the latest intelligent technologies for faster business results that meet their company’s objectives for differentiation and growth.

What role does customer support and maintenance have in co-innovation?

It’s not unusual for support and maintenance requests to become co-innovation projects. We continuously analyze incidents, and when we find a critical mass of requests with relevance for many customers in a certain industry, those can morph into projects that our team handles. We also collaborate regularly with other SAP development teams to create new solutions.

Why did SAP make this change?

Customers want our guidance in understanding what standardized processes make the most sense for their particular industry and how they can use SAP solutions to quickly apply them to their business. This is why our new co-innovation strategy involves SAP teams company-wide, including services and support, sales, and product engineering. Working closely with customers in the context of their unique challenges and objectives, as well as market dynamics, we make sure they receive the solution extensions they require for business innovation, including seamless integration with the intelligent digital SAP core.

How does this new co-innovation model reflect the company’s Intelligent Enterprise vision?

We want our customers to move to the cloud with us. However, we understand that customers are at very different starting points. This co-innovation model is designed to bring every customer to the next level for modern business – whether they have our on-premise systems or have already begun moving forward with cloud.

Can you share examples of how companies have co-innovated with SAP for business results?

We are co-innovating to help numerous customers generate quick results from their investments in SAP S/4HANA. A pharmaceutical company involved in clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccine was using our on-premise solutions, so we are building an extension that will allow them to connect a key process to SAP S/4HANA. The solution will address blinding and randomization needs in clinical trials, facilitating important processes including demand forecasting, manufacturing, and shipments of clinical trial materials.

Another co-innovation project is in the automotive industry, where we are exploring how a manufacturer can inject artificial intelligence (AI) into their logistics processes to increase speed and reduce errors. The public sector is a major growth area too, where we have projects that have included procurement extensions, allowing governments to significantly simplify complexity. Co-innovation projects like these can become strategic partnerships that bring new solutions to entire industries.

What advice do you have for customers that want to co-innovate with SAP?

Be bold and challenge us. We want to understand your evolving business aspirations and challenges so we can work together to co-innovate solutions. We’ll find the best engagement model to explore innovations for your company. Technology-wise, keep your core ERP system with no additional modifications – or as standardized as possible – and build extensions in the cloud so you can quickly take advantage of innovations as they become available. The biggest benefits of moving to the cloud are speed and the resultant business agility. These capabilities are critical to success in today’s environment.

Looking ahead to 2021, what should customers expect from SAP?

As we continue massively investing in cloud solutions, co-innovation with longtime and new customers is central to our strategy. We will deliver new solutions and redefine markets together, jumpstarting innovation across industries. We’re looking ahead to faster new solution delivery and measurable business results for even more customers in 2021.

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