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Author's profile photo Jutta Lachenauer

Going Beyond Customer Service: How SAP Application Innovation Services Created a Culture of Innovation to Fuel Product Development

SAP hosts a number of innovation challenges throughout the year. One of the latest challenges is the Application Innovation Challenge (AIC 2018), launched by the SAP’s Application Innovation Service (AIS) team. As part of the Products & Innovation team, AIS is responsible for the support and maintenance of SAP customers. The team leads, Gert Bizer and Uma Rani, realized that their team not only has a deep understanding of SAP customer needs, it also has a wealth of experts with the latest insights on technologies like Machine Learning, IoT, Cloud, API Hub and Blockchain. This powerful combination of technology expertise and customer requirements can help envision and build the next generation of SAP products and services.

With a focus on weaving innovation as part of the daily work, the AIS leads initiated an innovation challenge that encourages employees to use new technologies, such as blockchain, cloud, or artificial intelligence, to deliver new SAP business applications for the intelligent enterprise. Submissions to the challenge are reviewed like startup ideas. The suggested business applications need to be scalable and have the potential to generate revenues for the company. In its first year, more than 500+ developers across India, Germany, United States, Canada, and France, submitted 114 business application ideas as part of the challenge. Twelve teams made it into the final round. Two ideas out of the final twelve are now on the path to productization and will be revealed in 2019.

“Our goal was to build a hands-on innovation culture that infuses the knowledge of modern technologies into the daily work with customers and product development. An innovation culture not only makes the team future ready by building critical skill sets, it also helps SAP create new products and services that help our customers become an intelligent enterprise,” said AIS co-lead Uma Rani.

“Our mission is not only to be the best development support but also being a catalyst to digital transformation for our customer,” added AIS co-lead Gert Bizer. “Team members are delivering what our customers need today, while creating what our customers need in the future.”

Teams whose innovation challenge submission have the potential to create value for customers, are given ten days of training within a three-month period develop a business and product roadmap. Then the teams have 50 days to develop a prototype and use case scenarios. Many of this year’s submitted business application projects centered around the approach of using the cloud as a path to the intelligent enterprise in combination with adopting new technologies, such as voice, machine learning and blockchain for specific domains and industries.

“A culture of innovation is based on giving team members the freedom to apply their insights and ideas for product development, supported by training and development. It also needs to be guided by the same criteria that apply to measuring startups: scalability, profitability and overall impact on the industry. Initiatives like the Application Innovation Challenge inspire employees to become part of the innovation process,” commented Dilipkumar Khandelwal, President of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and Managing Director of SAP Labs India.

Today the AIS team is adding value across SAP latest technology enablement, including Co-Pilot, Cloud, SAP Fiori, Machine Learning API, and creating new API in the SAP API Business Hub.

Team members welcome the opportunity to invent new products and solutions. More than 35 percent of the 1,400+ AIS team members participated globally in the inaugural innovation challenge.

“Team members welcomed the opportunity to help build the business by turning their insights into products that create value for SAP customers.  Making innovation part of their daily job offers them a tremendous growth opportunity. They need to learn new skills every day to turn their idea into a product. It’s be best way to upskill and adapt to the workplace of the future,” reflected Gert on the program.

The team is getting the first two products ready for roll-out as part of the 2019 SAP product road map and a steady stream of ideas is filling the pipeline. “Every conversation with a customer can lead to a new idea. But not every idea is worth pursuing. Our innovation approach makes sure that the team members can focus on ideas that bring the most value to the customer, SAP, and their professional development,” concluded Uma.

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