Fast-track innovation in the digital era:  that is what the SAP Prototype-to-Live (P2L) program is about. As entrepreneurs for innovative use cases, we help to improve SAP employees’ productivity and drive adoption for the related app solutions. The first three results were made available internally this quarter – a journey with five major challenges to overcome.


Under the umbrella  #innotakeoff competition (formerly Mobile app Competition), our team, SAP’s CIO Center for Digital Leadership (CDL), hosted the “Olympics for mobile application development”. Last August in Walldorf, Germany we brought together three competition tracks: SAP employees, students and startups with teams of two to five, out of which three winning use cases were selected to further mature towards pilot applications (see video below).

Effectiveness is key

Yes, innovation competitions have become trendy these days – but what is key for the effectiveness of those innovation competitions is what is happening post the competition to further drive and mature the use-cases towards productive usage. Several dimensions are necessary and to be addressed with different intensity depending on the use-case, team, and solution maturity. The key dimensions we provide with in-depth support (coaching, mentoring) in the fast-track innovation program are: people, business, technology and GTM.

Soon after the end of the competition, the teams from the competition were complemented with the missing roles, an innovation project lead was assigned to each project and complementing resources assigned along the four dimensions where needed. A milestone plan was agreed with the respective winning innovators of the Mobile App Competition to take their solid prototypes built during the competition to an agile development track including …, beta-testing, end-user validation, …, among others. Customized support from our team on the dimensions of people, business, technology, and GTM was provided to complement the teams and to ensure that the right people are taking the driver seat pushing down the gas pedal against the backlog items.

Five challenges on the innovation high-way

Connecting the dots

Not all ideas were novel, some may have had already discussed or even at an earlier stage prototyped but those ideas and prototype did not survive. Each idea and team has its different necessities and challenges. Getting the virtual team right from the start on the bus is a key challenge. We saw that is it key to understand the needs and priority of the Lines of business on that basis identify the adequate business owner and business project lead as innovation counterpart to be able to run full speed on the innovation track. Aligning ideas with the respective right LoB and cross team contacts to form a virtual team with the necessary roles, as the right passenger on the accelerated journey, to drive the fast track innovation are significant ingredients. The speed at which the maturity of the application and its positioning is developing depends on its supporters – be it coaches, mentors, P2L Project Innovation leads or the CDL team driving the innovation agenda.

Piloting for business shaping

It can raise surprise when IT is participating in business shaping not the usual way if a traditional waterfall model is followed. However the line of businesses quickly understood the value of having a fast track project highway to bounce their ideas and reflect on the basis of a tangible software solution, supporting the creation and pilot of business rules based on a PoC application. This lead to interesting discussion basis and focus on maximizing the business impact and putting the user and employee in the centre of attention.

Starting with the end-user in mind

Building an application, which puts the employee in the centre of view sounds easy, but is a challenge and the key to success. Involving the end-user at different stage not only sharpens the use cases and confirms the target persona but also support insight on the consumption behaviour and what tools are currently been used to overcome the need the software solution is expected to address and also how the user expects to access and use the application. Our internal beta-tester community has been here a great support to find the adequate beta user and innovation interested colleagues to work together with User Experience Advocates and designer to prepare a great user experience. Based on early prototyping, wireframing, regular beta-user feedback, user experience review session with UX designers and UX experts and finally a run in the usability lab we helped in a step by step approach to incrementally include employees’ needs into the application before its first release.

Braking the mould

Grass-root innovation are bottom-up raised ideas from employees, students, or start-ups with considerable business value on a line of business and or product level. However, these ideas might not be on page one of a groups’ agenda or supporting strategic topics – which can be challenging despite their potential business impact.  The challenge consisted of incorporated the innovative business case into a focus LoB agenda point such as the SAP Room Booker happened with the Catch a Room / Adhoc room booking extension where based on QR room codes scan employee can identify closest room available rooms. We at CDL support those winning innovators from the #innotakeoff challenges to access the necessary support and room to drive their ideas post prototyping stage. At the end of the fast track cycles a stage towards recognition and reward is provided to the innovators and their supporting managers.

Driving the innovation journey from A-Z

Last but not least, driving innovative ideas towards a live application is an end-to-end challenge. The hard part is the execution, where the raw diamonds are shaped in the prototype to live phase .The starting point is determined by the team strength resulting from the rigorous selection which are conducted in preparation of the #innotakeoff events, or called the idea to prototype phase of our E2E innovation fast track Journey. The shaping of team and idea and solution are running against our dimension of people, business, technology and Go-to-Market. Connecting the innovators with the complementing experts to mature their ideas on an accelerated path while keeping the flame of the passion, is key. The adequate executive sponsorship has smoothed the innovation path and ensured that the fast track innovation engine is building up its momentum and hence a key ingredient for a successful innovation journey. While running through all the challenges entrepreneurial perseverance to enable, collaborate and stay focused on the goals helped to convert concepts into tangible applications – watch our brand new video to see the first results. Since this has just been our first fast track innovation cycle we are excited about the next use cases and further disrupt on speed of innovation.

Key lessons learned are:

  • Build a virtual team with the needed support to connect the dots 
  • Partner with the lines of business early on in the process and be tangible (e.g. prototype) 
  • Involve the End-user as soon as possible to bounce back the idea, use case, prototype… 
  • Be bold and use diversity to break the mould and allow grass root innovation 
  • Start with the end in mind of on the innovation journey , drive iteration as experience is built with an entrepreneurial mind-set towards accelerated speed from A-Z

About us

SAP’s CIO Center for Digital leadership paves new ways for doing business and shapes the future of IT by being the role model for digital leadership with an entrepreneurial spirit and delivering proven digital services, assets, showcases, and stages.

Steve Rittinghaus is the responsible Program Manager of the fast-track innovation program in the innovation incubation team as part of the CIO Center for Digital Leadership.

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