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One piece of feedback that I hear on Idea Place is “Why should I contribute on Idea Place when so few ideas are delivered?”  This comment is referring to the statistics on the front page of Idea Place (https://ideas.sap.com) that today show 11,693 Ideas and 342 Completed Ideas (Delivered). I am here to say that this is good, SAP is listening and we’ll make it better so please keep contributing.

Why is the current number of Delivered ideas good?

Why  good? Because this has been expected. When looking at the industry, the number of Delivered ideas is comparable to other sites. For example, DELL Idea Storm (http://www.ideastorm.com)  at year 3 had roughly 10,000 ideas and 100 implemented.

But Idea Place has bigger plans as did DELL. DELL Idea Storm now 5 years in, has 17,000+ ideas and 500+ ideas.  So why the jump? Well, for SAP, the challenge has been timing of Product Development Lifecycles.

How do Product Development Lifecycles affect the number of Delivered ideas?

The Product Development Lifecycle describes how a product goes from gathering ideas to product delivery. And for most mature on-premise products the lifecycle occurs within a 2-3 year time frame. So if you submit an idea now and it is ‘Accepted’, it won’t make it in the product for next 2-3 years. And I do need to clarify these are ‘ideas’. If you have a bug or a critical enhancement request then these need to be submitted via the SAP Support portal and the chosen submissions will likely make it in a service pack delivered much earlier.

Either way, if Idea Place continues along its current progress, I expect we will see the number of Delivered ideas, triple in the next year or two.

So how is Idea Place really doing?

But, to get a more accurate idea of how Idea Place is performing, do not look too broadly. There is a lot of activity; it just requires some drill-down. Some sessions are doing better than others and ideas can be in several stages including ‘Under Review’, ‘Accepted’ or ‘Not Planned by SAP’. We can see some idea sessions which have Delivered many ideas:

The best way to validate for yourself, is to find your favourite idea session from the navigation and on the idea session click on the ‘Delivered’ tab. There you will see all the ideas delivered for this idea session topic.

Example with SAP Business One.

Idea Place Filter Widget - Delivered Ideas.png

The Status Quo is Not Good Enough. What else can be done?

There are several areas we are currently looking to improve the delivered ideas:

Shorter Development Cycles

First, Idea Place has many product/solution idea sessions that allow any ideas. These broad areas correspond to major product releases and represent the majority of Idea Place Idea Sessions. Moving forward we will expand Idea Place to focus on shorter time Idea Sessions. Idea Sessions that have a timed idea submission combined with a short delivery cycle will deliver more ideas in a shorter period of time. These could be targeting a specific push on an area in an existing product or perhaps the ideas being provided are for a faster delivery product/solution including onDemand, mobile, partner solutions and startups.

Increase quality of Ideas

One change we are going to make is to start focusing on higher throughput of quality ideas.  More efforts will be put into the beginning to increase the quality of ideas. This of course will reduce the amount of submission. Of course more quality submissions means, more people will understand them, vote on them and as well make the ideas more clear for product and solution managers to review.

Get the Votes Up

This is where product and solution managers need your help. When good ideas do not get a lot of exposure, they may only have 5 votes on them. An idea with 5 votes is no better than a small focus group. Idea Place has the potential to create a significant value add by showing 1000s of votes on ideas. This sort of ‘market’ validation provides a stronger weight to product and solution managers to pay attention. With enough votes and thus demand, SAP has a stronger business argument to get features into a product.

Idea Place started as an experiment and we have learned a lot along the way. Some areas are more successful than others. But current success isn’t a reason to stop improving, let’s keep the momentum, and as Richard Branson says ‘focus on successful practices’.

Please share your thoughts and I am specifically curious for ideas on how to improve the number of delivered ideas.

Cheers

Kuhan

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19 Comments

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  1. Stephen Johannes

    How do Product Development Lifecycles affect the number of Delivered ideas?

    The Product Development Lifecycle describes how a product goes from gathering ideas to product delivery. And for most mature on-premise products the lifecycle occurs within a 2-3 year time frame. So if you submit an idea now and it is ‘Accepted’, it won’t make it in the product for next 2-3 years. And I do need to clarify these are ‘ideas’. If you have a bug or a critical enhancement request then these need to be submitted via the SAP Support portal and the chosen submissions will likely make it in a service pack delivered much earlier.

    That’s the problem exactly with idea place.  SAP is treating the ideas submitted via this channel as “second-class” non-deserving of full attention.  I don’t see a problem with how many ideas are executed, but your statement is the exact attitude that is going to allow all the Software as a Service(SAAS) vendors steal away your core ERP/CRM/SRM and other businesses, because you are too focused on analytics and mobility and won’t pay attention properly to the core products. 

    The Business Suite Innovations 2010 debacle is proof that even with proper lifecycle that failure to deliver enhancements on-time instead of when you think is good for development will cause problems. However, the good news with support ending on 2020 and ERP rip and replace taking an average of three to five years, SAP has nothing to worry about until 2018.  Oh BTW most of the 2010 innovations that were delayed probably won’t end up in a customer system until this year or 2013.  That means given your comments above if we submit the idea now, it might end up in a customer system by 2018.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick

      Great comment Stephen as you read my mind with your comment. I re-read the 2-3 year comment several times wonder where the paragraph on how SAP was going to solve that problem (never came).  If SAP thinks that 2-3 years to “maybe” deliver a minor customer change (many of which are pain points) is acceptable than they are going to have their SaaS competitors eat their lunch. Look at Workday for example who delivered 58 changes in the last 4 months that came from customer ideas which given their size and area of focus (HR/FI) appears to show a real commitment to working with their customers to implement new functionality.

      I have long taken a skeptical approach to the idea place and the more I see it in action the more I think it is the right approach to have. Check out this article ASUG HCM Community Helps Usher in Replacement to SAP DRQ Process and my comment as 8 months later we are no closer to getting any of these changes.

      On a side comparing yourself to Dell not only is a stretch but not anything close to what I would consider a gold standard.

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  2. Rebecca Hughes

    What Stephen is saying I think echos frustration some customers and partners generally feel about SAP’s requirements-gathering process.

    There is an article today in the Portal about the role of “Development Angels” in the Logistics and Transportation product area, where Bernd Leukert talks about this one-customer-to-one-developer relationship, which happens to include submitting requirements to the Suite. That’s a model every customer dreams of – and it’s also diametrically opposed to the IdeaPlace model of requirements gathering!

    The most frequent question I’m asked in Solution Management is “How do I get this (gap/requirement) built? How do I get my voice heard?” My answer is “It depends.”

    Customers are willing to work through *a* process – but when they find out that some customers have a ‘short-cut’ to getting what they want – e.g., Dev Angels, Board escalations, etc. – it de-incentivizes them to participate in strategic processes like IdeaPlace.

    For the most part, IdeaPlace is functioning as designed – but the ambivalence from the community over it’s efficacy reflects, in my opinion, the larger issue that we have some inconsistencies in our roll-in process(es), and our messaging to the customer community about how requirements roll-in works is therefore more obtuse than it should be.

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  3. Kuhan Milroy Post author

    These are great points and discussion. Adding to Rebecca’s comments, Idea Place is here to enable a new way of idea exchange, community collaboration and engagement from SAP. Is it right for all products? Can it force a back-end requirements gathering process to change to any product? – No, I do not believe so. It’s not even appropriate in all cases. For a product with 10 customers contacts world wide, there is no point for an idea session.

    For Idea Place, we will continue to focus on products, teams and scenarios that are ready for the type of community engagement that warrants an Idea Place model. Opportunities that require a fast, innovative, collaborative approach. But the individual SAP teams need to decide whether to adopt that approach vs another approach (e.g. purchase SuccessFactors for HCM).

    And Jarret, your comment about DELL makes me smile. I agree in so many ways. At the time Idea Place started, DELL was the gold standard and from a product delivery time cycle and I believe SAP and DELL have these factors in common. From a vision perspective, SAP and DELL differ greatly. DELL brought in Ideastorm to manage a lot of negative feedback around products. Idea Place was brought in to offer a new way to co-innovate with customer, partners and the greater ecosystem.

    Also to clarify, Customer Connection and Idea Place are not the same thing. Simply, Customer Connection is a ‘program’ and Idea Place is a ‘program’ with their own innovation processes. But they both use the same ‘platform’. The Idea Place team was nice enough to provide the Idea Place ‘platform’ for the initial phase of Customer Connection ‘program’. This enabled a quick start to Customer Connection but has caused some confusion. I’ll write another blog on this.

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  4. Ian McAlpine

    If there is a general perception that taking time to submit an idea is a waste, then we have lost a golden opportunity to connect en masse with our customers. However with 11,700+ ideas submitted I sincerely hope this is not the case.

    There are over 130 different categories where ideas can be submitted and the individual product owners/managers may treat Idea Place differently. But when I think generally of the SAP BusinessObjects products and particularly of SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP, where I am a Product Owner, we take all the suggestions submitted to our category in Idea Place very seriously. In fact it is one of our primary sources for product enhancements.

    There are many ways for a Product Owner to get product enhancement ideas; conferences such as SAPPHIRE and TechEd, Influence Councils, user groups such as ASUG and DSAG, usability testing, general market trends, etc. But Idea Place remains a unique way where customers can genuinely introduce, influence and prioritise the features that are added to a product.

    It is also why it is so very important to vote on ideas. Do not just visit Idea Place to submit an idea but take a few minutes to review the ideas that other customers have submitted and give them a thumbs up (or a thumbs down)!

    One reason why it can appear that few ideas are delivered is because ideas can only be flagged as “Delivered” when the product is generally available. Thinking again of the SAP BusinessObjects products, our customers want stability so new features are only made available at key products releases. In recent times this was BI 4.0, BI 4.0 Feature Pack 3 and the next planned release will be BI 4.1. Consequently the number of delivered ideas will increase in large steps, and Kuhan alluded to this in his original blog.

    But there are other indicators. Ideas flagged as “Delivered” are available today, but ideas that are flagged as “Accepted” or “Under Review” are usually good candidates for the next major release (but it’s not a guarantee). When I look at Analysis, edition for OLAP, we currently have 120 ideas. We have already delivered 24 ideas but currently have a further 12 ideas accepted and 7 under review. In short, when Analysis edition for OLAP is shipped with BI 4.1 we will have implemented over 30% of the all submitted ideas to our category… and we will have done that over a period of 2 years.

    As a Product Owner I’m very pleased of these facts. It’s a clear message to our customers that we are delivering the features they need and making the product that they want.

    Please keep submitting ideas and please keep voting. We *are* listening.

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    1. Stephen Johannes

      It’s not that I don’t think the IDEA place is a good concept.  It’s just that from my experience the time it takes to see any innovation enter the business suite is way too long.  Let’s pick on Innovations 2010 for the business suite.  It is safe to assume that the ideas were created in 2008/early 2009. Then the innovations were delayed and did not become available until late 2010/early 2011.  Once becoming GA in 2011 this meant most customers couldn’t implement these innovations until late 2011/2012.  In other words we are looking at three to four years for something to appear in use at customer site.

      So my point is that if it takes two to three years for any idea place idea to end up in the product, then based on the SAP ramp-up methodology and customer adoption, my idea submitted in 2012 may not end up being available for use on-site until 2016 to 2018.  Why should then someone even contribute to IDEA place when it will take four to five years for the idea to show up where they are at on the on-premise solution.

      Yes I know about the early release to customer via notes and the advanced delivery, however that requires people to be on the recently release EHP for the business suite.  Once again adding another year to when people can get those “innovations”.  I’m glad to see that in some areas this process is working, but I’m really not sold that the business suite applications have this type of focus or success.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  5. Andreas J A Schneider

    Where the stats for MS Analsyis, MS Office edition look really great to me Webi paints a very different picture:

    Webi: 918 ideas submitted

    Webi:   37 ideas delivered (about 4 %)

    Webi :  11 ideas accepted

    And I think SAP as a company has proven it can be more nimble and implement features faster than this, see SAP HANA. We need the same nimble and fast approach for other products such as #SAPBI4.

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    1. Kuhan Milroy Post author

      WebI is a great example of an area will loads of customer support. But it also shows how quickly the gap between delivered and submitted ideas can occur. In April 2011, Webi had delivered the 37 ideas but only had 260 total submitted. So a large portion of total ideas. Since that time there have been a huge amount of ideas submitted (10% of all of Idea Place). Having a look at the Accepted Ideas I see there are 11 more in the queue. Not too mention there are 188 Under Review.

      Actually, the feedback people ask for more is to show this pipeline better. This is an idea we are looking at for Idea Place.

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  6. James Oswald

    I wonder if data quality is largely the issue here. How many of these ideas are duplicates (or very close to being duplicates)? Do they need to be categorized differently? Also, it probably makes sense to include other “customer” ideas that get implemented into your numbers (via ASUG Influence councils, dev angels, board escalations, etc.) and possibly just load those into Idea Place as they are gathered from other locations.

    I think SAP is listening to customers, but the numbers represented here aren’t doing a very good job telling that story (which, I hope, is the story you are trying to tell).

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    1. Stephen Johannes

      It’s not that SAP is not listening to customers, but instead the lifecycle time to get any minor innovation into the business suite is very long.  The best analogy is the scene in the hitchhikers guide to galaxy where the vogon ship does not catch up, due to having to fill out the proper paperwork.  I feel that whole synchronization of the business suite is SAP’s equivalent of Vogon paperwork.  I’m just hoping that the awful poetry does not follow.

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    2. Kuhan Milroy Post author

      Data quality is an issue in several ways. We are looking to address making the ideas of a higher quality and perhaps even ‘requesting more details’ for ideas that are lacking. This will help reduce duplicates and poorly defined ideas that count in the total but have less than 3 votes. As a guideline to help manage a product managers time we do encourage them to look at ideas with over 10 votes. Looking at Webi it has 227 ideas over 10 votes out of 919 ideas submitted. (Just to put it is perspective)

      The WebI team has been good and looked at lower voted ideas too. A good reasons is to what you mentioned Jamie, 5 votes on Idea Place may be combined with 20 virtual votes comining in from ASUG, influence councils, etc…

      If Idea Place was the ONLY channel this would be more transparent but alas it is not. We are pushing teams to adopt and many teams including some of SAP support have been encouraging customers to post on Idea Place.

      Of course, it is always nice to tell your product manager in person what you want but even though it is difficult to track idea status and typically requires more one-to-one time for updates.

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  7. Rebecca Hughes

    @Jamie – I do think we have an issue with the data – but the bigger issue I think we could have, beyond duplicate ideas, is actually the TYPE of ideas that are being submitted… One person submits and idea “Improve Payroll transactional performance by ….”, and another submits “Add a print button to transaction XXXX”. These are apples and oranges ideas, but they are all coming in through the same channel. So we may have a situation that if 80% of the Ideas submitted are actually discrete, tactical enhancements, that materially affects the rate of delivery.

    @Andreas – I think you hit another point, something related to Kuhan’s original post… That we also must differentiate discrete application statistics versus general enterprise application stats. HANA is a new product, with a high level of active investment, massive resources – and is still in expansion mode. It is not a mature product. ERP is mature, and not all areas of the product have significant ongoing investment… we cannot expect that IdeaPlace ideas for ERP will be anything like what is submitted for HANA. So again, we have some apples-to-oranages comparisons.

    This is why it comes back to the multiple roll-in channels, and customers understanding which channel is approrpriate for different types of requirements. We do not want to limit people’s submissions, I know – but as long as we are silent on what is an idea suitable for IdeaPlace, versus CustomerConnect, versus ASUG Influence Councils, etc., we’re going to have a certain disparity in idea delivery across different product areas.

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  8. Jarret Pazahanick

    Not to add more “fuel to the fire” but it is my understanding that SuccessFactors (a SAP Company) strives to respond to EVERY idea submitted by a customer within 90 days with one of these status:

    1.Under Consideration

    2.Accepted for Roadmap, No Release Date Yet

    3.Scheduled for release

    4.Already implemented

    5.No plans to implement

    I always hear that SAP claim it cares so much about their customers is it to much to ask to follow a model that SuccessFactors is doing as it would make a lot of sense and help customers in their roadmap planning.

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    1. Rebecca Hughes

      To follow the SuccessFactors model, we have to figure out how to take a model based on 3500 customers and scale it for a company with 30-50k customers, with multiple LOBs and products in various states of acquisition and integration.

      If we take the current Lean model, it means the backlog owner for each area would be tracking the submissions and responding to them – but that backlog owner doesn’t make decisions in a vacuum about what gets prioritized or delivered … solution managers must also weigh in.

      Also, Legal is very strict about what we state, in terms of any future roadmap functionality – that has been a bone of contention for a long time… if we give even a hint that we may deliver something, it can cause revenue recognition problems for the Field and for our bottom line!

      I’d love to see us take on this challenge – we pay a lot of lip service to becoming more agile. But there are just inherent advantages to being a smaller company, and that kind of direct feedback is one of them.

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    2. Kuhan Milroy Post author

      A bit on this, so for Idea Place

      1.Under Consideration => Under Review

      2.Accepted for Roadmap, No Release Date Yet => Accepted

      3.Scheduled for release => As to Rebecca’s point this is a tough one for SAP. SAP can say when an idea is Delivered . Accepted for most teams suggests the idea is on the backlog without committing. So Accepted for Roadmap and Scheduled for Release are sort of the same for SAP. Also, we try not to Accept ideas that are too many years away. It’s just not useful to tell someone that. But with long product cycles this is a challenge for providing updates.

      4.Already implemented => Archived (and a commented added why)

      5.No plans to implement => Not Planned by SAP

      I would love to see SAP take the agile challenge across the org and I think we are. But like any business, you have $100 and you need to decide where to spend it.

      As well, there is some differing in priorities when deciding to go agile – like on-premise vs on-demand and stability. If SuccessFactors goes down for an hour people will be mad, if a customer’s ERP systems goes down for an hour they could lose millions. It’s probably worth waiting a little longer for that well tested stable ERP release.

      I do see the opportunities to open up idea gathering and participation with new products while the development process is forming. The organization changes required inside SAP and outside SAP (customers, user councils,etc…) are much more flexible and amendable to change.

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  9. Nick Daniels

    Too many ideas sit apparently unnoticed by SAP.  I’ve a number of ideas which have no commentary from SAP whatsoever, despite having respectable numbers of votes and being in existence for nearly 5 months.  The same is true for many of my international colleages.  I appreciate its a big task.

    If ideas are not reviewed regularly, they just sit there gathering dust.

    Surely if an idea is in the top 10 or top 5 for its subject area it should at least merit a once-over from the relevant team at SAP?  Even if the only update is “We’re looking at this” with no change to the status of the idea it would be better than the complete ‘silence’ currently experienced.

    I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to speak to SAP Support to be told a standard piece of functionality from the previous version of the software has been ‘missed out’ and the best way to resolve this is to raise an idea.  Getting to that point can take several months.  To then raise an idea only to see it roundly ignored month after month is a terrible customer experience.

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  10. Erika Atencio

    I do feel my ideas have been listened and accepted. I even have one marked as accepted but I think they misunderstood it, and won’t execute it as I expected. But at least I can say I feel I’ve been heard!

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