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Inspiring Innovation in Small / Medium sized Businesses

One of the main concerns for anyone moving from a Tech Consultancy / Agency background to an End User is about inspiration and creativity among new work colleagues. If you work for any company who provide Technical Services in any form you will normally be exposed to the latest technologies and work with a large number of different organisations and get to see different ways of working. You will also be able to bounce ideas around with peers, customers and suppliers – Sometimes it’s just a sanity check on an idea but often collaboration can lead to some really interesting results. For typical Small / Medium Businesses (SMBs) they tend to be quite isolated from what is going on in similar organisations in “The Outside World”. The staff work in a way the business has always worked because they don’t have any reason to change and if they did want to change, what would this change look like? The environment is not ideally suited to inspiring any innovation or spawning creative thoughts about how to do something better, faster or for less cost or coming up with new ideas for Marketing Campaigns or different sectors of business to work in.

Recently I have been to a number of SMBs and seen the way they approach this issue. I also have many of my own ideas and will be helping members of the SAP Business One community to implement these initiatives and start working together. Some of my initial ideas are below, any comments / thoughts on developing these would be appreciated.

I was trawling You Tube for some material to use in a presentation on Innovation and I found this. It talks about a Challenge set for Children by Lego but really emphasises what Innovation is and the key points “Collaboration” and “Team Work”.


SAP Business One users should look to find other users who are in a similar industry sectors like Wholesale Import / Distribution or Process Manufacturing and are a similar size and form a partnership with them. Arrange quarterly visits to each other’s sites for key team members to see how the other organisation uses SAP: What they are getting out of Crystal Reports, how they are using Dashboards or the Mobile Application, clever ways of using Additional Modules etc. Get your chosen team members to meet their opposite number and swap email addresses so this collaboration can continue after the site visit. Having someone on a similar level, doing a similar role to talk to outside your organisation will be a valuable asset and beneficial for both parties. – Task your staff with bringing back a number of ideas / process changes to their team and working on these together to see if they improve the running of your business.

Innovation Days

Once you have got your team thinking about ways they can make changes / improvements to your business, it is important to keep the enthusiasm alive and make sure they are followed up. Having one “Innovation day” per month will help to keep people interested and also to involve other team members in the activity. Pick a good day for your business when you can afford to take staff away from Business As Usual duties and start working together, if you usually operate a dress code it may be an idea to allow “Dress Down” so everyone feels more relaxed. Start white boarding ideas, do some Balanced Scorecard work to see which will being the most benefit and is the easiest to implement then set the wheels of change in motion setting tasks for each person.

Internal Collaboration

So you have a team who are enthused and keen to make a start on implementing some key changes, but how do you keep the momentum? Start to use a Collaboration Tool like SAP Streamwork Sharepoint Base Camp or Evernote where the idea can develop and the staff can contribute, make suggestions and monitor progress. This also ensures that everyone is involved and can contribute regardless of pay grade or experience. Some of the best ideas come from the most unlikely sources! It may also be an idea to invite some of the staff from your Partner organisation if you are comfortable sharing the information with them.

As with any idea, it is important for Senior Management to follow it up and make sure a proper Project Management technique is used once it is actually realised.

SAP Community Network

If you are reading this you are probably a member of SCN! It is a great platform to find information and network with your peers. Encourage your staff to get involved, find answers to questions and also start helping others with theirs.

Suggestions Box

In the early stages of change you may find that some of the business users are reluctant to voice their suggestions in front of the other staff. Install a “Suggestions Box” and make people aware they can make suggestions on any aspect of the business (anonymously if they want) which will be considered at the next Innovation Day.

Annual Award

This may sound a bit cheesy but implementing an award scheme that recognises staff members who go out of their way to think of ways to improve the business will really work. If the people “at the coal face” of your business feel a sense of ownership and inclusion then they are the best people to think of ideas and implement them.

Job Shadowing

If your business environment will allow it, get team members to see what their colleagues do all day. Firstly it may give them more understanding of each other’s work loads but could lead to some great ideas for improvements. A fresh pair of eyes looking at a process and asking “why do you do it like that?” is a good way to self-analyse.

If you are an SAP Business One user and you want an introduction to a similar business as a potential partner I would suggest joining The User Group as a first port of call. If you want me to introduce you then I will be happy to help. If anyone has other ideas or activities like these that they have implemented themselves please feel free to comment. Many thanks for reading.

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