Innovation: The One Force That Really Matters

Steve Hurn

Last year, Forbes columnist Steve Denning (I’m a big fan) ran an article with the headline “It’s Official! The End of Competitive Advantage”. What his article was actually saying is that sustainable competitive advantage is dead – a concept with which I wholeheartedly agree. Competitive advantage today is transient.  It’s all part of our brave new world where big no longer beats small, where seemingly disparate markets are now interconnected, and where those with the ability to innovate and execute the fastest will trump the competition.

Technology has always had a traditional compass to innovationrole in supporting business, but even this role is now changing. Take cloud computing, for example. The primary driver for cloud adoption was once all about lowering costs, and reducing total cost of ownership. Today, there’s a marked shift from economics to innovation as the primary driver for moving to the cloud. Leading-edge companies are figuring out pretty quickly that by investing in cloud services as the very foundation for their new competitive offerings, they can innovate and execute faster, fulfilling the Holy Grail of delighting customers profitably

I believe we are sitting smack bang in the middle of an unprecedented time of innovation. Thanks to Big Data, Cloud, Mobility, and Social, low cost go-to-market models are fuelling growth. New interlinked ecosystems of suppliers, customers and industries are blurring what were once traditional corporate borders. It’s everywhere you look. Music, technology, communication, travel, consumer electronics, automobiles, and even education are facing competitive new situations in which commercial advantages are quickly copied. The industry giants taking profits from a deep well of long standing, loyal customer relationships are a dwindling minority in the context of wider commerce.

By changing the way companies consume and use technology, cloud computing is playing a crucial role as an actual foundation for innovation. The exponential growth in computing power, data storage and networking capabilities is the result not only of a new delivery model that lowers total cost of operations, but of new innovative engagement models for the business itself. That’s a huge shift, and I think we’ll start to see some really interesting advances in the way we do, use and consume things.

In fact, IDC predicts worldwide spending on public IT cloud services will reach $59.5 billion this year, and is expected to be more than $107 billion in three years’ time by 2017. That’s a public cloud CAGR of 23.5% – five times that of the IT industry!

Whilst cost undoubtedly remains an attractive driver, innovation and competitive advantage is the real prize. IDC’s latest report, ‘Innovation in the Cloud’, delivers a quick and easy read if you’re looking for a short synopsis on the role of cloud computing as an innovation platform.

Innovation is not an option: it’s an imperative. The only question for your organisation is how you’re going to support it.

Steve Hurn Senior Vice President and General Manager Cloud and Line of Business, SAP 


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Why Aggregation Is As Bad For People As It Is For Programming [VIDEO]

SAP Guest

by Cory Coley-Christakos

When SAP founder Hasso Plattner took the main stage at SAPPHIRE NOW this week, I expected him to talk about HANA. What I didn’t expect expect was for Clayton Christensen to pick up on Hasso’s theme and apply it to the Future of Work, calling it one of the most important concepts of management.

I was eagerly anticipating Hasso Plattner’s keynote with Clayton Christensen this week, expecting a head-on discussion about the innovator’s dilemma that SAP is facing. Hasso positioned SAP’s radical change as happening “on the inside”, through the data model and HANA, in a way that is non-disruptive to customers.  HANA simplifies the architecture, allowing companies to do things never before possible.  As Hasso said, “Simplify everything, so we can do anything” is not just a marketing slogan.

Much of this simplification comes from the elimination of hierarchies and totals (aggregates), enabled by the in-memory data.  No longer must programmers attempt to anticipate the needs and questions of users via pre-built hierarchies for reporting, and no longer must users be stifled by pre-defined information availability. All data is available for reporting, simulation, predictive modeling, etc.  Total flexibility.

There’s a parallel here to organizational design, as Christensen pointed out. Almost every successful company is formed based on a customer’s need for a job to be done. As the company grows, it adopts structure and hierarchy – with departments that are responsible for various aspects of the job to be done. As these become aggregated into boxes on an org chart, we are in effect aggregating people, and begin to lose the relationship between the people and the job to be done. Eventually, loss of focus on the job to be done causes organizations to lose differentiation.

Christensen’s proposal echoes the Future of Work principles we heard from others this week – i.e. we need the flexibility to reorganize on the fly in response to jobs to be done – and he calls it one of the most important concepts of management.

For a great summary of the full talk, see Paul Baur’s post and look for the video replay to be available here.

Originally published on SAP Business Trends. This article was republished with permission.


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These 3 Tips Will Help You Perfect Your Pitch To Investors

John Boitnott

As the founder of a startup, pitching your company is something that you must truly master if you ever want to win over investors and take your business to the next level. However, for many pitch to investoraspiring entrepreneurs, “the pitch” is one of the most difficult  and intimidating parts of the whole startup process. A myriad of organizations all over the world hold angel pitch contests that give entrepreneurs valuable experience in front of investors. With helpful advice, careful preparation, and plenty of practice, you will be able to deliver a perfect pitch that investors just can’t refuse. Follow these three tips to dial in your startup’s pitch and help grow your business into the next billion-dollar enterprise.

Do your research

Before you can sell anything to anybody, you need to know it inside and out. You need to have a deep understanding of what it is, how it works, and why people need it. It’s also extremely important to research the background of the people that you’re pitching to and understand the context as well. “Every angel investor or venture capital firm usually has some sort of specialty or preference when it comes to the industry and companies that they invest in,” says John Rampton, CEO of Adogy, a company that helps founders with their pitches. “Understanding who they are and what they’re into will help you create a pitch just for them. “

You must also take the context of your pitch into consideration. For example, are you pitching your company in a one-on-one scenario, to a board of people, or at some type of startup event or pitch contest? Knowing the who, what, when, and where of your pitch will give you greater insights into how you should formulate your pitch and help you really cater it to the people who are listening.

Really sell your pain point

Investors only want to write checks to a company that is able to demonstrate a product-market fit. In many cases the “market” part of the equation is born out of pain point, inconvenience, or a problem, and the product is created to effectively solve that problem. If you want investors to really buy into your idea and your company, you need to sell your specific pain point with all you’ve got. “You need to make them actually feel and understand that pain,” Rampton says. “Give them something that they can relate to, something that they may have experienced in their own lives.” For example, say your product is a battery saving app for smartphones. Tell a story about being on the road for work with no time or place to charge your phone, and the desperate need to respond to client emails and customer inquiries. This is an experience that almost every businessman has had at one time or another, and can be incredibly frustrating.

Think about ways that you can remind investors of a bad experience and describe those negative emotions. Then, tell them how your app can alleviate those problems and make their lives easier. A good pitch revolves around your ability to prove that there’s a need and a desire for your company in the marketplace, and the best way to do that is to hype up the problem and make investors feel your pain.

Don’t pretend to be something you’re not

Simply put, people want to invest in other people. Investors are looking for smart, driven, forward thinking people who are passionate about their brand because ultimately those are the attributes that lead to success. Moreover, investors will be curious about your company’s “culture” and the best way to show your brand’s personality is to embody it. Thus, it’s important to be yourself and not try to tell investors what you think they want to hear. Be open, honest, and transparent about your numbers, your data, and your ideas and try to establish a friendly rapport. “After you’ve sold the pain point of your target market, your aim should be making your investors feel comfortable with you and your product and believe that it’s the best solution to your market’s problem,” Rampton says.

Pitching a new company, product, or idea to potential investors can be an overwhelming and incredibly demanding task, but with the right approach you should be able to dial it in. Everything comes down to knowing everything you possibly can about your company or product and proving to investors that you’re the best company out there.


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Back To The Future Of Training And Education: Why We Should Listen To Millennials [VIDEO]

Barbara Geraghty

As a former professor from a family of educators, I’m encouraged to see Millennial-inspired discussions around critical human factors in the workplace. If innovation is the key to business growth, it’s important to recognize that people innovate. Ambitious, inspired, socially connected people innovate. And, yes, well-trained people innovate.

Thank you, Millennials, for reminding us all about the training basics: who, what, where, why, when, how. Like Boomers and Gen Xers before you, you want to be trained:

  • By people, or with materials, you respect
  • On relevant topics and practices that fit clearly with what you do and need
  • In classrooms or online – whatever works best
  • With a clear understanding of the goals, objectives, and value
  • At just the right time
  • As facilitated, self-paced, or blended training – whatever works best

A profile of technology innovator Robert Bosch’s success with training highlights many of these points.

Robert Bosch: Producing Top IT Experts to Drive Innovation with SAP Education

Expertise is the key to innovation

As an innovator, Bosch considers the expertise of its workforce as a critical success factor. It’s no surprise, then, that the company created a training program to:

  • Deliver training that matched the level of professionalism in place across the company
  • Build relevant knowledge and skills that fit into its unique business processes
  • Ensure user acceptance and knowledge retention through a balanced mixed of theory and practice
  • Design and manage company-specific qualifications for various levels of expertise

The effort resulted in a successful program for developing professional-level [SAP] software skills that Bosch expects will “ensure its solutions continue to define the cutting edge of industry innovation.”

Millennials will love working at Robert Bosch.


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Path To Success: Innovation Excellence

Denise Broady

innovationToday’s economic environment is more complex, less predictable, and more competitive. In order to thrive and not simply survive, many companies have only one option. They need to transform. Last week at SAPPHIRE NOW, I had the pleasure to host a panel discussion with three amazing companies. My last blog post introduced the disruptive innovations used by Visa, Kalahari and T-Mobile to transform their businesses. Now you can hear directly from them, how they created competitive advantage through innovation. These companies have three distinct business models with one common mission: creating business transformation that puts the customer in the center of everything.

When the largest omnicommerce platform in South Africa, decided to take its business platform through a complete transformation, they meant business. Kalahari created an integrated end-to-end omnicommerce platform in the cloud. The results: scalability of the platform, transparency in reporting, improved customer experience, and increased staff motivation. Visa had a similar business agenda to bring improved business processes to its corporate customers. Visa took its co-innovation program to the next level by replacing its legacy systems and transforming the business-to-business payment gateway through a more automated process. T-Mobile has gained market share faster than anyone could imagine. T-Mobile called its transformation “the un-carrier revolution of the year” and surely, they have a good reason to celebrate.

SAP is proud to collaborate with these companies on their successful transformations. We help our customers simplify and create competitive advantage through the cloud, powered by SAP HANA, the in-memory computing platform that provides real-time results to help drive informed business decisions. To accelerate co-innovation with our customers, we also have strong partnerships with multinational consulting and technology services companies, like Accenture. Here’s a short 3 minute video with my thoughts on how we can further our co-innovation program with our partners and customers.

Feel free to share your view with me at @dvubroady


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