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Café Innovation – Succeeding in an increasingly digital world

If you live in the Bay area (Silicon Valley) you know that recently there have been hot days when one would have expected it to be not so and there have been some uncharacteristically chilly nights. Some might argue global weirding is behind this, others might have yet another set of ideas. Be that as it may, it appears that the world is no longer as predictable as it used to be. This is increasingly true for businesses as well who have to strive for survival and success often while balancing competing priorities that make very onerous demands in our increasingly hyper-connected world – a more digital world.

I recently chanced upon a Harvard Business Review blog post titled, “The 5 Paradoxes of Digital Business Leadership” by Tomas Nielsen and Patrick Meehan (July 2, 2015). The authors stress that leaders of digital businesses should focus on five key paradoxes (or, issues) in order to succeed.

They conclude that “…if a product is to succeed with a wider audience, the integration of technology must be seamless and virtually invisible, as customers generally do not see technology as a goal in itself, but seek improvements in what the product can do for them.” They further state that business leaders must “…create offerings that, while increasing products’ technological complexity, simplify the user experience and generate increased value.”

As I read this piece, I wondered if most companies can succeed along these fronts going it alone, especially at the speed they must. In my mind, this is a perfect scenario for collaboration with other entities. In fact, I found that the paradoxes or issues dealt with in the article resonate strongly with what we do in the realm of co-innovation at SAP. We find that businesses are often trying to “innovate while optimizing operations” which is one of the 5 paradoxes that Nielsen and Meehan would like us to focus on. In my experience, it is often necessary to guide these businesses to adopt an approach that recognizes “that providing immediate digital value plays a large role in sales but that more value is delivered over time.” This is another paradox they discuss. Also, almost without exception, our guidance to these businesses is to encourage them to “provide technologically enabled offerings focusing on value, not technology” – yet another matter stressed by Nielsen and Meehan.

As I continue to become more intimate with how we do things within the SAP Customer Innovation & Strategic Projects group, I find that our use of Design Thinking and our approach to customer success is designed to help businesses and their leaders with precisely these matters. What sets SAP apart from others in the technology world is the fact that our approach is rooted in decades of solid business experience and unique technology brilliance. In fact with respect to the latter point it is evident, when you read a recent blog post, “The Impact of Intel’s Haswell Architecture on SAP’s HANA (SP10),” written by SAP Co-Founder and Chairman of the SAP Supervisory Board, Dr. Hasso Plattner, that there is impressive co-innovation between SAP and Intel that helps bring a special luster to the increasingly brilliant SAP HANA platform. In Hasso’s own words, “The cooperation between the two companies in research and development produces stunning results.”

Whether it is with customers or with partners, co-innovation is central to attaining success in our increasingly digital world. Going it alone is not a really smart option anymore. It is not only cool to co-innovate, but almost an imperative – there’s no excuse any more to not engage with your business network to generate value you couldn’t before.

Chime in with your thoughts!

P.S. For more on this topic, check out a radio show (Co-Innovation: Your Path to a Digital Future) which I recently participated in as a panelist.

Follow me on Twitter at: @puneetsuppal

NOTE: This was first posted on on July 9, 2015 –

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