Shipping useful features regularly is the result of a process that is often hidden from customers. SAP’s Product Lifecycle Management team announces new features in various channels, including blogs and events, but in this blog post I will reveal you a step that happen behind curtains: Co-Innovation!
What is co-innovation?
Ideas for new features or even apps can come from many different sources. The image below shows our funnel that collects these and eventually turns the best ones into an actual delivered feature or app. One of the input sources, and in my opinion the most exciting one, is co-innovation.
Customers often have ideas about solving problems that we may not even think about, but what makes co-innovation so special is that it involves multiple customers, sometimes even each others' competitors, who all bring their insights to the table and eventually together we create concepts that are useful to the whole market and not just one company.
Why is it hidden?
Software is intangible, but intellectual property is actually a very valuable asset. We cannot just go around and ask people for ideas, there needs to be a legal framework in place to protect us, and also our customers. While many of our events are open to the public, co-innovation is strictly invitation-onl. Customers participating all have signed special contracts that ensure not only that both them and SAP keep each others’ sensitive business information private, but also that we can use their ideas in our products.
Since the features or apps in discussion are not yet released, it is important that our competitors do not get notified about them while in the development phase.
How is it done?
Before Covid, I remember doing co-innovation via post-its or laptops in a meeting room. Now it happens virtually, using Zoom and breakout sessions for each topic. Some of these are held in parallel, because customers have less time, than in the old days when they travelled to a conference. This is time efficient, but sometimes it is hard to choose from multiple good sessions.
We held the co-innovation event in 2 days. The features that are currently being developed were showcased on the first day to help participants get familiar with them. Then, on the second day, URLs and passwords were handed out, so that everyone could try it out on their own.
Feedback is collected several ways:
Sometimes they are so relevant and a consensus is built around them that they go directly to the product backlog.
Some product owners like to use these sessions for prioritization of features and hold online votings to put them in order
In other sessions participants were asked to share their screens during testing and comment on what they were doing, what they liked, what they missed.
Each breakout room had a topic lead, but in the background there was also a dedicated note taker, whose only job was to make sure nothing important is missed. Due to the confidentiality of the event no recording was made.
How do customers see it?
SAP’s benefits of validating features with customers is quite obvious, but you might be wondering what customers think about co-innovation. We asked Gabor Palasti from our Canadian customer, Maple Leaf Foods to share his thoughts:
„Maple Leaf Foods has a long history co-innovating with SAP. Right after going live with PLM Recipe Development (10 years ago) we started collaboration on shaping the future roadmap of the solution via numerous channels: customer engagement initiatives, customer connect, Recipe Development Advisory Council. The collaboration helped building close personal connections with SAP, and broader PLM community. We feel important to bring the voice, ideas of our users directly to SAP and very pleased to see over time that SAP listens, and see some solutions fit also to Maple Leaf Food’s needs. Looking forward on further collaboration, networking via in-person and remote EPD council meetings.“
Daniel Juhasz works in the Cloud Acceleration Team within PLM & Engineering. In addition to hosting the SAP EPD Community, he is also a PLM Ambassador promoting PLM and EPD content throughout various social media channels.