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I had the distinct pleasure of getting together with the Co-Innovation team at SAP some time back for a Fireside Chat and the following is some of what ensued at the said meeting.

In this Fireside Chat I had the distinct pleasure of talking to Sven Denecken, Head of the Co-Innovation program and Thomas Arends, SAP OnDemand Solutions, Co-Innovation & Communication at SAP, extending our boundaries of thought around our OnDemand portfolio of solutions offerings to the next level, where no other enterprise software organization has gone before.

Some of the discussion topics covered during this free ranging conversation to bring the world up to speed on Co-Innovation at SAP included the following points.

“Co-Innovation is a state of mind.” – Sven Denecken

What is the philosophy behind co-innovation?

  • Bring SAP development and customers closer together
  • Give customers the opportunity to influence solutions, before we even start coding
  • It’s a journey we all, SAP, customers, analysts, do together from first idea, thru development and the First Customer Success and Go-Live
  • We strive for a win-win for everyone. We build solutions the business users want to use, they did help and shape them. Our customers do get early access to advanced people centric solutions

How do you measure success?

  • Number of customer engagements
  • Input and feedback from customers reflected in the solution offering
  • Customers staying with us for the entire cycle from first idea, development, first customer success and go-live, and for the next wave to go thru the same cycle
  • Feedback from our development and product management organization, recognizing the value of customer feedback and on-going interaction in a co-innovation project

Do you feel a cultural shift at SAP towards co-innovating?

  • Today our product management colleagues are pushing us to bring more co-innovation customers into their development projects, because they see the value of on-going customer feedback and validation. 
  • A few years back we were encouraging everyone to embrace co-innovation and work closely with customers, and looking back now, it was a process to get to where we are today.
  • Switching from a model where you gather requirements upfront and then develop your solution, to an agile co-innovation model, where you have constant interaction with you co-innovation customers throughout the entire development cycle is quite a change, and it does take time.
  • You also have other parts of the SAP organization like the customer engagement initiative, providing a first line of support for product managers and developers to get started with solution specific customer interaction.
  • Jim Snabe is a big promoter of co-innovation, encouraging close collaboration with customers over and over again.
  • And looking at our newest member of the SAP family, SuccessFactors, this company has an incredible customer focus, and bringing their culture and
    our co-innovation approach together will be a big win-win for everyone.

Are there any recommended best practices?

  • Always shoot for the right mix and number of customers, don’t limit yourself to just one or two customers and go the danger of building a custom
    specific solution.  and make sure they fit the profile of the solution, like country, industry, size
  • Never stop to fill your co-innovation pipeline, you will have to talk to many account teams and customers to find the ones that have the right mind
    set, have an early adopter mentality, realize the benefits they can gain. Our experience is that you need a 10x to 20x pipeline to fill 5 to 10 customer slots for a co-innovation project
  • Start your co-innovation cadence as early as possible. The earlier you collect feedback by showing real working features and allow the business users to have a hands-on user experience, the better your chances to fix and fine-tune your solution, and do iterate on a frequent basis, that way you fix bugs before you even go to your test phase and you incorporate business user requirements to build a solutions they really want to use.
  • Co-innovation does offer a great opportunity to bring multiple parties like IT and business users into the same project, business users will provide you with great feedback, they are the ones who actually will work with your solution on a daily basis.
  • Use Design Thinking: it is desirable, feasible and viable
  • Go Lean: lean and agile development goes hand-in-hand with co-innnovation, for all parties involved

What are the benefits to Advisors, Review and Design Customers?

  • Early access to advanced user centric solutions
  • Elevate company profile/visibility as early-adopter / co-innovator
  • Gain 1st mover advantage – save time, gain financial benefits
  • Influence and co-define SAP solutions
  • Easy product adoption/fit across organizations, disciplines and users
  • Expand professional network – foster deep connections and trust
  • Better internal planning based on upcoming solutions
  • Leverage SAP design & development resources
  • Benefit from idea & info exchange
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