This post is a bit of a ramble, actually more thinking out loud than well crafted missive, but then most of my posts probably fall into that category. I’ve been reviewing various Sapphire bits and pieces- sad thing to be doing on the May day public holiday, I know…
One thing that stuck with me was Henning quoting the CEO of Procter & Gamble, AG Lafley:
In 2000 a little more than 10 percent of our innovation was partnered …last year a bit more than 40 percent of what we commercialized had at least one external partner.
Henning also talked a lot about the Business Transformation Network. I expect he will explore that more in Vienna, and I’m looking forward to hearing Geoffrey Moore on the topic too.
Joe McKendrik from ZDNET picks up on the SOA angle of Henning’s talk, with title collaborate or die Technically speaking SOA makes it a whole lot easier to build systems that react faster and facilitate collaboration, but I’m not going to dwell on SOA here. There are many others out there that can debate SAP and SOA far more adeptly than I can.
The business transformation network is partly about delivering a product set that makes it easier for SAP customers to co-innovate and network. But the implications of co-innovation for SAP as an organisation is the target of this meander here. I think it has significant bearing not only on products, but on the very nature of how SAP as a company will function.
The nature of product development is fundamentally changing (or changed) across many industries. Product development is no longer just about what clever internal labs can come up with, but what can several organisations working together deliver. This requires a more cooperative and trusting way of working, lets call it co-innovation. To co-innovate there needs to be a level of trust between the organisations, a lowering of the walls if you like, new business models and new ways to look at IP.
I sense that the development organisation at SAP is internalising this, and this episode below may illustrate that. Susan Scrupski posted about SAP SDN using the Confluence wiki. (I was hoping that Susan would be at Sapphire as a blogger, but perhaps she will come along next year.)
What struck me about the post wasn’t the post itself (no offence Susan), but a comment from an SAP solution manager:
To your comment about innovation on the edge, I agree completely. Technology titans like SAP benefit incredibly from the larger world of innovators, startups, and smaller established companies. Even within the world of SAP, we are well aware that most of the best SAP developers and most of the innovation is outside SAP walls – at our customers and partners. That’s the true strength of the SAP community, the conversation and co-innovation between community members
It would be easy to label this as a cluetrainy statement , and yet another case of Thomas’s SAP flag waving, but if we look beyond the Cluetrain and my bias into the academic research into innovation, then Von Hippel’s sources of innovation and his more recent book, Democratizing innovation, point the way to the fundamental importance of customer and partner driven innovation. Enabling folks to innovate themselves with SAP stuff is just as valuable as what we cook up in Walldorf, Bangalore or Palo Alto. And if you follow Von Hippel’s arguments, he’d say that customer led innovations are what makes the difference. (I’m not denying the importance of the lone inventor; breaking the mould, but that shouldn’t be the starting assumption for most innovation)
Developments such as the BI accelerator and enterprise search appliance with Intel, Cisco and GRC, and the Duet appliance with HP and Microsoft are also a step in the right direction. Enterprise services too, are evidence of a deeper customer centric co-innovation mindset. SDN itself is a big leap forward to openness and conversation, but there is much more to do.
I don’t think the SAP can afford to be smug about SDN. It is just the beginning. It would be a shame to say we have SDN, therefore we get this community- co-innovation thing. We need to continue to focus on how to expand, enrich and deepen the conversation, not how we market the fact that we are having a conversation.
I think we can learn a lot from other companies – IBM for instance. We need to look more proactively for co-innovation partners and opportunities, and sometimes in unlikely places. We need more customer centric design thinking and execution – immersing the customer in the software design process. Salesforce.com deserves respect for idea exchange – its simplicity is entrancing.
SAP must to be easy to co-innovate with, not hard. Much blog ink has been spilt on the Colgate fellowship, but I’d love to see these going on all over the place in SAP. I’d also like to see more of this happen the other way around. Let’s have more developers deep in customer sites, not just firefighting, but as a real part of the customer IT function.
The recent move to consolidate partner management and ecosystem under one leader will hopefully herald a quantum leap for simplification in co-innovating with SAP. I cringe when I hear of the loops that we sometimes make people that want to work with us jump through.
Henning mentioned more than once that Innovation occurs on the edges. He is right. I hope that it is on our edges, and to do that we need an Oktoberfest’s worth of Cluetrain kool-aid. Simply put, we need to become the best company in the world to co-innovate with. It starts with listening.