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Navigating the innovation highway is not for the fainthearted. Faced with a range of bright, shiny opportunities like mobile, cloud, and SAP HANA, few people automatically know which will have the best impact on their business at what time. This is why SAP recently launched a new Services offering called “innovation stewardship.” Its purpose is simple: to help customer unlock the promise of innovations.

Like a personalized shopper, the “steward” sits down with C-level executives and heads of lines of business in an ongoing series of conversations. The dialogues reveal where the customer is with their business and what’s important. Together, they map out an “innovation highway,” literally a roadmap to help the customer decide what products will best support the goals and objectives of the business.

“The steward helps guide you to the best possible experience. You get a clear view of where you’re going with these technologies so you can begin moving in the right direction,” explains Phillips Hofmann, Director of Communications and Marketing at SAP.

According to Hofmann, innovation stewards are senior consultants of the highest order. They need to be. The dialogue only works if the steward has the expertise to understand the customer’s strategy, and then can make a business case for the solutions that will help the customer reach their goals.

But everyone knows that innovation is an ongoing process, not an end in itself. Customers may have systems in place for many years. Some have hybrid installations, others a mix of software from different vendors. They need to ensure the platform can easily support new solutions.

So SAP Services also created the Lifecycle Management for IT Operational Efficiency. The customer works with an IT efficiency advisor who creates a custom-tailored plan for continuous innovation. As a single point of contact, the advisor helps create an operations efficiency roadmap with KPIs. For strategic projects, customers can out-task their IT operations to SAP with fixed service level agreements. The whole point being to introduce breakthrough technologies into the company minus the risk and expense associated with wholesale change.

I’ve blogged about what I call the ‘innovation long tail,’ and expert advice is definitely part of that equation. Knowing about the latest technologies is just the beginning. Genius is figuring out which products make the most sense for your business. Personalized shoppers exist for most everything else. Companies bent on innovation will surely welcome those with technology and business expertise.