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I've been with SAP for twenty years. A lot has changed over the last two decades, both within the company and without; through all of those changes, at least one thing has remained consistent: I love the SAP family. I love the SAP culture. I love the SAP can-do attitude, where everyone embraces change and faces the future with a positive outlook.

For me, that SAP culture and can-do spirit is exemplified by the Customer Innovation team, where no idea is too crazy to consider, no proposal too outlandish to contemplate, no innovation too bold to tackle. All that matters is the outcome: does the solution work for our customers?

The Role of the Customer Innovation Team
The core mission of the Customer Innovation team is not only to make adoption of SAP technology, like the SAP Business Technology Platform, as easy as possible for our customers but also to make sure our technology delivers the best business outcomes possible. To that end, we spend time testing out our new solutions for ease of implementation and ease of consumption from different business and technical perspectives. We also apply a human-centered innovation approach to determine possible use cases that are relevant to our customers and to discover the real challenges they face. We implement that knowledge into our customer-facing prototypes and business models, and, acting as ambassadors for SAP customers, we relay a constant stream of feedback to the development teams, to our field organization and to the SAP Board.

The Customer Innovation team brings the customer's perspective to strategic technology development and pricing/licensing decisions within SAP, but we do so by collaborating with other teams throughout the organization. In order to arrive at the SAP Cloud Platform Enterprise agreement, for example, we worked closely with several different SAP teams. Currently we are incubating a new pay-as-you-go model, where no upfront commitment is required from customers. We’ve learned throughout our engagements that customers want that flexibility—they want to truly get the feel of a product before they commit to buying it. Of course, in order to implement a pay-as-you-go model, the Customer Innovation team needs the support and buy-in of many units across the company, from IP to sales, so we collaborate to make sure our ideas work not only for customers but also have the backing of the SAP family.

A few Customer Innovation projects that stand out in my mind include one with a well known beverage company, where we worked with their landscape to help them adopt different services from different vendors. Endress and Hauser started out as a small IoT scenario and evolved from a customer to an SAP partner, extending the footprint of SAP technologies within their landscapes. And, most recently, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we supported Parkland Hospital in a very agile and unconventional way to help them leverage their SAP Cloud Platform to track how many COVID patients, beds, and supplies are on hand at any moment. The team also deployed SAP technologies to create a symptom-checker chatbot, which has been instrumental for hospital patients and staff alike as they grapple with this pandemic.

What the Future Holds
As we look to the future, the Customer Innovation team is focusing on two important challenges:

One: scale. We've learned that it's crucial for customers to immediately see the value of our technology. How can we package what we do with one customer so that we can multiply that in the blink of an eye for ten or twenty or a hundred other customers?

Two: digital engagement. At SAP we have so much important information spread across different websites and communities that it can be overwhelming for customers who want to be able to quickly find what they need without asking an account executive for help. My goal is to be able to give customers a concise, digestible, personalized guide that highlights a few key assets to consider. We are actively working now to make this a reality, combining how-to guides, best practice and implementation guides, etc., in order to offer relevant, resonant, easily accessible information to our customers so they can quickly find and understand the SAP products that will meet their needs and add value to their organizations. If we can take this important step toward a more streamlined, coherent digital engagement model for our customers, I know that we will be able to accomplish even more in the future.

The Customer Innovation team is always looking for ways to make SAP products more useful, more valuable, more desirable to our customers; we are always driving SAP technology to its best iteration— especially now, with the unprecedent challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever the next twenty years brings, I know SAP will rise to meet the challenge, and the Customer Innovation team will be there, looking for the next big idea that will bring SAP technologies to life for our customers in ever more meaningful ways, so that they, too, can face the future with the confidence and optimism of the SAP family.