Making innovation a cornerstone – case of SAP India

The lush campus of SAP Labs India looks more like an idyllic resort than an office complex. The main quadrangle with Zen-like fountains and sitting areas makes the atmosphere very serene, almost lazy. It’s difficult to imagine this is place that has been coping with unprecedented growth. Key data released by SAP on its 2007 business performance India highlights a growth of over 100 percent, both in terms of revenues an customer satisfaction.

Over the last 11 years of its India operations, SAP has been the market leader in the Indian enterprises software market. The first few years were spent in earning the trust of SAP. Talent in India according to SAP is so good that it can be trusted with core work. This was followed by a phase that posed a different set of challenges. Moving forward, SAP wants to change the growth story and want to grow in terms of knowledge, product expertise and drive innovation from SAP Labs, India.

Innovation to Instant perfection:

Faces with the task of making innovation a cornerstone of the tech giant’s competitive strategy, SAP labs India aspires to create learning organization one that facilitates the generation of new ideas from the entrepreneur energy of its people.

SAP has a very robust Global idea management system. The best part about their idea management system is that it is not relegated to single department; there is always across functional team working on the idea. Collectively the service operational support function colleagues get together once a fortnight and evaluate ideas and decide how they are to be implemented. SAP India encourages employees to build demos, prototypes and these go through evaluation committees and then get presented to their senor vice presidents, who take the decision regarding the production of the idea or otherwise.

There was a myth that existed that innovators were mavericks who sat in dingy basements away from the world. That myth was shattered when organizations saw that innovation takes a lot of teamwork. The development people are technology savvy and are unfamiliar with the business aspect of a product life cycle. SAP ensures appropriate intervention so that a good idea is transformed into a business case and taken to its logical conclusion.

One example of innovation to right now in the productisation phase is in the CRM space. It is a product that ensures that a handheld device, talked in backend to the CRM software (applications), by which a sales person on the field can retrieve real time information related to the intended customer, including basics things like his/her contact details, previous track record, more importantly delivery status. SAP senior leadership team is in the process of productizing this idea. You begin with a concept, the team goes to work, creates something gets feedback from the audience or users, and modifies it. Their management system has the tolerance for improvisation because they don’t know at the beginning exactly what the product will look like.

For those on the front line , the challenge is how to organize people and systems so that organizations can generate and exploit new ideas. One of the ways we do this is a well entrenched learning and development program. Scholar@SAP is SAP’s vocational training program and only conducted with BITS Pilani. In this year collaborative earn while you learn program SAP impart an MS in software engineering degree to the enlisted students. In this program, students will work Monday-Friday on live assignment at SAP, while the academic classes will be conducted on Saturdays by BITS Pilani faculty at the SAP Campus.

SAP also believes in being a catalysts in knowledge dissemination across the IT sector. To this end University Relations (UR) efforts at SAP Labs became prominent since the launch of the university Alliance Program (UAP) for India.

One sure way to kill innovation is to believe that only the top management has good ideas. Every organization’s propensity to innovate depends on their ability for a top down view. Along with innovation, SAP focuses developing on thought leadership. They want to ensure that their product knowledge is so strong that leadership in India is not only influencing the Indian IT industry, but also emerging as influences in the SAP ecosystem.

To complement this effort, once a year, in every line of business, SAP India identifies top talent and tailor made specific development plans for these people. As part of this, they are given opportunities to work on challenging projects, travel forums and executive education options. They also have the opportunity for a 6 month fellowship and it could be anywhere in the World. SAP also has the top talent marketplace initiative where top talent can post their profiles they are earmarked as experts, so the company can leverage their knowledge in projects anywhere in the world.