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Open Innovation to me.

A couple of weeks ago I What is Open Innovation? in the community, “What is Open Innovation?”, now I want to talk a bit about what I think Open Innovation is to me. 

I received a few comments when I posted that blog and I’m hoping to address at least one of those comments in this post, however the other two comments I’m going to save for another post. The comment I’m hoping to address in this post was from, Vijay Vijayasankar,


After racking my brain on this – I found no good definition that made sense to me. So I am very eagerly waiting to find out what you come up with eventually. Till such time I will put it away with a tag of “buzz word”.


Vijay had a similar thought to me and therefore hopefully the following will  help him decide as well. I even partially addressed this in my response to Ignacio in regards to his comment on that first post as well.


In reality this is something of course that has been happening for a very long time – you were thinking along these lines in 2006 as was I and many others; I stated in another comment yes this could be seen as a buzz word but the notion of it and the desire to achieve it is very real and there are very real things happening.


So what is Open Innovation, or rather what is Open Innovation to me? Well for starters yes, I truly believe it is nothing more than a new term to describe things that have been happening for many years now. So why then does my new role excite me and motivate me each day to dig into the trenches? What motivates me to listen to, engage with and interact with individuals all over the world with new and interesting ideas around SAP technologies?

For me it’s actually obvious because those questions are the very things that I think Open Innovation is all about, the new and interesting ideas and technologies connected to SAP technology and of course things that can be and maybe will be connected in the near future to our various products and platform. Not to mention the people that are talking about those technologies and how they might be connected to our technology, products and platform.

Those who know me know I’m a geek through and through and I love the enterprise software space and therefore being able to get my fingers into the mix and see and hack around with these various technologies is just part of who I am, in my role in the community I kept myself in the space as much as possible in order to better relate but also because it’s what I love to do and now with it being a focus and the community being a place I can share what I learn and find on the way seems to be as perfect a fit as the previous role was.

The ability to work together with others with technology and experiment with and enhance existing technologies is an exciting time and for me is core to the idea of Open Innovation. There are many in the world that see along these lines, in fact one, a friend Vinnie not only blogs about it but is also writing a book (Facebook) all about his thoughts on it. 

So that’s what Open Innovation, one one level is to me, on the other level is the combining of technologies both those you own (you as a company) with those owned by others in the most acceptable way for both parties to achieve something new, more efficient and more suitable for the task at hand. So I am also very much focused on the Open Source topics within SAP as I was in the past with Scripting Languages and the various Scripting Languages and in the month and half or so that I’ve been on the team I’ve been under an avalanche of new information around things that happening both within SAP but also out side of SAP.

I will share a lot of this as time allows and when they become available to the community, so stay tuned…

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    • Hi Bill, I read your post twice now but I’m honestly trying to see where you differ in thought from what I am seeing now?

      Isn’t this the process most companies actually do take now?

      Certainly many are too focused on some of the hype aspects of Web 2.0 but the “model” you describe in the end is something I see taking place all over.

      I look forward to the article you mention since perhaps that may very well answer my question and show me where your model differs from what I am experiencing now.

      I’m also very happy to chat about this if you have the time, I’m on vacation next week but afterwards if you have a free time slot how about a call to talk in depth?


  • Craig, thanks for this post.

    So, apparently, the UCB Professor just coined a nice term for something that most good companies have been doing for a while.

    In most cases that I can think of from the past – most of such innovation happens inside a company. Smart, forward thinking people like you find others within the company and get some innovative idea going for a significant part of its life cycle. Then, at some point – you get corporate and legal blessing, cross over the firewall, and get some other company or community involved. And despite community or partner involvment, the “original” company still controls the result in some fashion.
    In these scenarios, can we say we did “open ” innovation, or just plain old innovation as we know it? Since there is nothing that is really free, is it even right to call this “open” other than for marketing reasons?

    I am not trying to be difficult intentionally 🙂 It is just that I am not convinced yet that truly “open” innovation is unattainable, and I am just thinking aloud and trying to get my arms around it.

    • Hi Vijay,

      I’m not sure I would break it down to such an blank statement that he “just coined a nice term” I think he’s done a lot more than that but yes I do believe that he has successfully described what many knew but maybe were not yet able to put into terms that the masses could understand.

      Now what you describe is in lines with what Ignacio was saying in my first post about describing the environment he was trying to create and goes to the bigger picture question here – when is “innovation” actually “Open” is it only in an environment that Ignacio describes a more or less Utopian environment or is it something that can and does exist in every innovation project you’ve ever come across? At what point do you determine and define something as “open”? Does “open” mean free or does it mean transparent?

      This of course is what I am trying to focus on or at least these aspects in what I am doing and my next post (week after next) will focus on when is “open” actually “open”.


  • I am going to think aloud and share my thoughts. My thoughts may appear to imply that I already knew what Open Innovation is. Since we are just discussing, please excuse my ignorance.:)

    I guess SAP Discovery System and BWA are two great examples for Open Innovation based technologies. Companies such as SAP, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel worked together to develop these products.
    I guess there are at least two types of open innovations:
    Type 1: You start developing a product without identifying the consumers. In other words, before beginning to develop, you can’t explain very well the need for such a product to the potential consumers (who would eventually become your customers) or the consumers are either busy doing their business caring less about your innovation idea or don’t see a need for such product or technology. In this case you work with other technology companies and develop the product/technology. BWA and SAP Discovery system are examples for Type 1 Open Innovation.

    Type 2: In this case, you have identified the customer through either market surveys or  meetings with a customer;then you both decide to develop a solution to solve a problem together. SAP industry based packages such as Public Sector, Beverage Solutions, Education etc are probably examples of this type.
    I believe only very few institutions who are expected to work in some level of secrecy don’t practice open innovation. I also believe open innovation has been probably going on for centuries in other industries.

    The questions I would like to ask are:

    I guess there is a fine line between trade secret(s) and open innovation.
    1) What is(are) the difference(s) between trade secret(s) and open innovation?
    2) What factors determine trade secrets?
    3) How to measure the quality of Open Innovation and what influences the quality?
    4) Is there any limit on the number of companies or people participating in open innovation? If so, what that limit is and how to determine that limit?

    Thanks for your time, Craig.

    • Hey Bala, why do you think BWA was developed without a clear strategy? I always thought IBM,HP,SAP,Intel all had a clear idea of what they were going to do.

      Type 2 in your example is a great example of innovation – I think most SAP industry solutions were done via a co-development model between one or two pilot customers and SAP, with customer paying SAP some amount for that development. Then SAP gets to sell it to wider audience and make some more money. Customer gets a sandardized product that SAP will support going forward. So this is a very innovative model. This is usually refered to as “Co-innovation”. If this falls under “Open Innovation”, then this would be a great example. 

      • Hi Vijay,

        In my opinion, open innovation project is similar to undertaking a “proof of concept” project. The success of such projects are influenced more by future (future here doesn’t mean several years down the road, but a timeline within the “open innovation” development timeframe) trends than the quality of innovation’s output itself. Since future trends are unknown, I believe the success of any innovation (open or closed) can’t be determined at the time of starting or during the development of such innovation in spite of having a clear strategy on product or idea.
        You-as an IBM’er-might probably know more about  BWA. I don’t hear a lot about BWA. I have seen BWA’s benefits to companies using BPS module with cubes containing hundreds of millions of records. I don’t know if the cost-benefit analysis would favor BWA for companies who use BW purely as DSS. Again, this is my opinion. Please feel free to correct me.
        In addition, I hear a lot about BO these days. I don’t know if BO solution for BWA is generally available. This solution was announced in Sapphire ’09. BO was a future trend at the time of BWA development.

        Short answer to your question:  IBM/SAP/HP/Intel probably had a clear development strategy for BWA but not a clear marketing strategy for BWA.

        Thanks for your time and comments, Vijay.