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Bilafer’s BHAG: SAP-Accenture Co-Innovation Centers Catch Fire in Asia

     Here’s something to watch in Asia: Accenture Innovation Centers for SAP. These are joint resource centers where both companies can bring prospects and customers for intensive 2-day workshops to learn about new technologies and see how they can use them to solve their business problems.

     Not only do we expect the Innovation Centers to drive significant revenue for both companies, we’re excited about the kinds of solutions we’re going to see coming out of the region.

     The Innovation Centers are an extension of a program launched in San Jose in 2010. It was an immediate success, so we expanded to Chicago, Europe and Canada. The Asia offering doubles the size of the program. We officially opened in Melbourne last month, and we’ve got customers lined up ahead of our launches in Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo and Bangalore later this spring.

Accenture Partner Nicola Morini is the driving force behind the venture on the Accenture side. The key to success so far, he says, has been keeping the message anchored in business problems. Otherwise, he says, “it becomes just a technology showcase. People say, that’s great, I can do things faster and better and bigger but what does it do for me and my business?”

     The key to success to Asia specifically he believes, is building a strong local team to tailor the message to each region. “Flying 20 Americans into China to talk to Chinese people and make an impact—it’s not that simple,” he says. “We have created this team over there to have the conversation in the proper Chinese way. We enable them with global knowledge, and they repackage it in a way that’s relevant to the market.”

     Talking to Morini, you can feel his passion about this global cross-pollination. “There are complexities and opportunities in each one of these regions that I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot from, and then take that experience everywhere else,” he says.

     “You can’t imagine what it’s like in China—we’re seeing companies that have millions of employees. There are telecoms with five or six hundred million customers in a single geography, and retail businesses on a scale that no one else has seen.”

     “In Australia, they have a small population and lots of natural resources, so how do you maximize production for that? In Japan, Analytics is huge. They’re all about efficiency, and the market really gets it. We’re seeing companies in Korea aggressively looking at Analytics as well,” he says.

     To solve for these diverse challenges, both Accenture and SAP are working alongside customers in the innovation process, sometimes even jointly funding activities to build the next generation of solutions. “This is not just a sales tool, this is almost like research and development for us,” says Morini. “It’s to acquire knowledge so that we can export it to another market.”

     This is good for the customer. Very good.

     One of the things we’re seeing now is that customers are very sophisticated in terms of understanding what’s happening in their industry. “There was a time when the first question was, ‘what are my competitors doing?’” says Morini. “Now it’s ‘what is happening in other industries that I can take into my industry to create a competitive advantage?’”

     As the Innovation Centers generate answers to that question, look for them to play a vital role in developing global cross-industry business perspectives that will inform the next generation of solutions. It’s a win for everyone.

     For the latest conversation from SAP APJ, follow me on Twitter @bilafer and look for the #SAPAPJ hashtag.

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