An Insider’s View On The Future of Innovation

Fred Isbell

276418_l_srgb_s_glIn Part 1 of this blog series, “Innovation Adoption: What You Need to Know,” I explored the concepts of innovation adoption and the market and customer segments to consider for driving successful innovation. In Part 2, “Innovation Adoption and Management: In Search of a Road Map,” I discussed how an innovation road map provides a structured framework for bringing innovation adoption to fruition.

In this third installment, I am thrilled to feature an interview with SAP executive and innovation expert Michel Sérié. Michel Sérié is the global head of the Service Innovation & Design Thinking Center of Excellence at SAP AG. During our conversation, he introduced the Innovation Management Framework (IMF) and discussed a variety of approaches that can bring successful innovation to fruition through leadership design thinking and innovation management.

Fred Isbell: We have heard a lot about IMF. Can you tell us more about it?

Michel Sérié: IMF was designed to structure our overall approach to innovation and clarify findings from our 2011 customer survey.

In this study, we discovered that innovation:

  • Has many drivers, including dynamic business environments, increasing competition, speed of technological change, and evolving customer needs
  • Is broad, forcing companies from various industries to look for different types of innovation iaround products as well as services, processes, and business models
  • Is distributed to the point where the role of IT is evolving from support to enabler and becoming a strategic partner in innovation management.IMF-1

Through IMF, Marco Cigaina created a conceptual blueprint to support innovation management at established enterprises. This document later became a book that answers critical questions about the practice of innovation.

Some companies have applied the framework in the context of business transformation projects aimed at increasing innovation capability. By accelerating the framework, a shared and logical view of existing capabilities is provided – enabling systematic and consistent design of future capabilities to build a foundation for a transformation road map.

Fred Isbell: One of the best ways to understand a theory is to see it unfold in real life. Can you tell us a personal experience with IMF that demonstrates these ideas and defines industry best practices?

Michel Sérié: Frequently, our innovation-related interactions with customers start with a design-thinking (DT) workshop. Effective innovation, however, is more than just applying and embracing design thinking.

Let’s keep in mind that a vast majority of IT organizations have a limited voice when it comes to innovation. They are often viewed as a solid utility that delivers performing platforms for running core processes efficiently.

A growing number of CIOs and their innovation teams realize that DT as a method or mindset is only the tip of the iceberg. When combined with other elements unique to their IT organization, DT can help them become a trusted innovation partner of all business units.

We then get into a discussion beyond DT, where elements of the IMF start to play a role. Discussion and projects then prompt questions, for example:

  • How do I build an innovative team?
  • What innovation services do I need to offer?
  • How do I run innovation campaigns?

In the end, it is about moving from an information services business to an innovation services business. We are experiencing a surge of companies and customers asking us to exchange practices. More important, they are benefiting from the experience we have gained running our service innovation function over the last six years. As a result, we see increasing demand for us to accompany IT departments along their journey – empowering these IT organizations to become innovation partners across business units.

Fred Isbell: What does “innovation adoption” mean to our customers and our worldwide support and services business?

Michel Sérié: Two different things are giving us two very different, but huge, opportunities to help our customers.

First, our customers need our latest technologies; therefore they adopt them. Consider, for example, the Internet of Things, the SAP HANA platform, and enterprise mobility. We drive these technologies jointly, and not just with DT workshops. We identify use cases that are unique, carry business relevance, and are invisible to customers most of the time. Those projects are about driving the first dimension of the innovation adoption. We enable customers to innovate better.

Second, there’s an opportunity for SAP Support and Services to drive innovation adoption. Most of what we do is centered on supporting companies as they transform and delivering IT innovation. Innovation management as a consulting market is the opportunity.

The SAP Service and Support organization delivers end-to-end DT workshops with the ability to create a recommendation that combines technological feasibility (with the help of custom development) and transformation through business transformation services.


Fred Isbell: How do you see innovation adoption affecting our customers’ daily business today and in the future? What are key trends to consider?

Michel Sérié: Besides the need to manage innovation beyond the traditional R&D department, there are two emerging major trends that revolve around the future of work and the impact of digitization.

Digitization, for example, demands capabilities that are more dynamic. This concept is based on the assumption that companies must adapt to external pressure and require more flexible and dynamic answers to do so.

The principle of dynamic capabilities revolves around four things:

  1. Knowledge and innovation management – Sensing changes externally, and combining it with internal knowledge and creativity to act on it
  1. Process and IT flexibility – Changing the way things are done in a much more flexible way
  1. Internal cultural resilience – Nurturing a culture of creativity, fault tolerance, open criticism, awareness, change, flexibility, and involved leadership
  1. Workforce flexibility – Enabling fast insights and innovation by creating tailored, short-term teams with diverse, yet relevant, skills and led by participating leaders

Fred Isbell: Fundamentally, the early and late majority are different from innovators and early adopters in terms of innovation?  How do you address them? And what about laggards?

Michel Sérié: We should consider different attitudes toward innovation adoption and adapt our approach as appropriate. We also need to proactively engage in activities that help organizations enable and foster the culture and capabilities that support innovation, generating increased willingness to capture opportunities from innovation.

Laggards tend to wait for refined, stable, and proven products. This is fair, especially for companies that do not focus on differentiated products and business processes. However, the ability and capabilities needed to innovate is also based on cultural questions and mindsets. This is something that needs to be developed. The ability for a company to react to market opportunities and evolving trends is dependent on its willingness and capability to innovate. The desire to enhance innovation capabilities also raises the demand for a flexible IT platform as an enabler.

This is the discussion we need to drive.

Fred Isbell: Thank you, Michel, for your time. We look forward to the exciting times ahead in design thinking and innovation management.

For more thought leadership on how to foster innovation within your organization, see Business Networks: The Platforms for Future Innovation.

See where you stand on your innovation journey. For related readings, visit the SAP Services Hub – Innovation Page and review the Innovation to Simple Flipbook.

IMF-3Michel Sérié is the global head of the Service Innovation & Design Thinking Center of Excellence at SAP AG. Michel holds global responsibility for service innovation within the SAP Services organization. Michel started his career at SAP France in 1989 as a financial consultant. In 1994, he ran and grew the services business in the French-speaking part of Switzerland before being part of the founding management team of an SAP-owned startup addressing business-to-business marketplaces and portals, which eventually grew to more than 200 employees.

Fred Isbell is senior marketing director for SAP Support and Services Marketing for Thought Leadership, Demand Management, and Planning for FMI Work SAPthe worldwide Services & Support Marketing team. A 15-year veteran of SAP, he formerly led SAP Global Services Marketing Field Engagement, the North American SAP Services regional marketing team and SMB Channels Marketing for the SAP Small and Midsize Business team. Prior to SAP, he held a variety of senior solutions, services, and partner marketing roles with Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Fred is an honors graduate of Yale University with a BA in Economics and Political Science, and has an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where he was a Fuqua Scholar.


About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.