Building a Culture of Innovation

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Last month we held our successful Innovation SIG alongside AgilityWorks in the brilliant Experience Centre at SAP Clockhouse Place. Gathering tons of useful information from the day, we looked at real-time business use cases where SAP products have led the way to a transition in culture and an increase in innovation.

Building a culture of innovation is at the top of most corporate agendas, and if you don’t think it’s of paramount importance, 64% of CEOs worldwide would disagree with you, believing that innovation and operational effectiveness is of the utmost necessity. This statistic came from a recent PwC study that also highlighted that balancing operational excellence and innovation will help to drive true success in today’s world; helping to bulletproof your company from disruption.

So, in conjunction with AgilityWorks, UK based management consultancy specialising in IT enabled change, we took to the stage to tackle this very subject, looking closely at what exactly innovation is and what it means to business owners, as well as looking at real-world use cases and how SAP technology comes into play here.

What is Innovation?

When you think of the most innovative companies in the world, who comes to mind? If you were to say Apple, Google or Tesla, you’d be correct, as they are the top innovators to date; and it’s not difficult to understand why. But what makes them innovative?

AgilityWorks say that innovation is “the process of translating an idea or invention into a product or service that creates value”. And they’re right. In fact, it is widely believed that there’s three different levels of innovation - breakthrough, breakout and incremental.

  • Breakthrough Innovation - new to industry - changing the game
  • Breakout Innovation - new to category - leading the game
  • Incremental Innovation - new to company - playing the game

In Apple’s case, they’re leaders in the game, making some of the best smartphones on the planet. For both Google and Tesla, they’re game changers, introducing new concepts and products like the driverless or electric car into the ether; always pushing boundaries. So how does this way of thinking translate for wider adoption?

For businesses, it might seem difficult to innovate when you’ve always been doing the same thing, perhaps not knowing how you can move outside of your comfort zone. But, to make room for innovation you must; breaking down barriers. Change or lead the game; don’t just play it. Innovation is all about creativity and discipline, and with these essential ingredients, you are on to a sure winner.

For both the IT department and the business as a whole, there will be an inherent need to drive strategy and insight through innovation, which means that your vision and future goals should not be restricted; be interested in ‘the art of the possible’. Of course, with IT, you need to ensure that you always approach new technologies with an impartial view, making sure that it’s absolutely aligned with your business, but don’t let this judgement curb you. As long as you are allowing costs to be controlled but adding value simultaneously; not only to your company, but to the business overall, you’re doing fine.

Barriers to Innovation

A report by the Chartered Management Institute, entitled ‘Innovation for The Recovery,’ which was published in December 2009, identified 10 different barriers to innovation:

  • Excessive financial constraint
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of resources
  • Risk aversion and fear of failure
  • Organisational hierarchy
  • Unclear leadership
  • Insufficient incentives
  • Insufficient training
  • Insufficient talent
  • Lack of autonomy

Any of these sound familiar to you? There are many businesses that will be guilty of one or two of these things, if not more. But, in business, from the bottom up, there needs to be a culture in place to spark the change that’s needed to tackle all of these barriers. Whether that means more support from management, the encouragement of autonomy and freedom, or the right teams being set up, breeding innovation will only help to contribute to the solution, especially at a time of real economical challenge.

Typical barriers that we come across when it comes to the innovation of processes within IT departments and the adoption of SAP products are that they believe: “it’s all too expensive,” “we see value but can’t get internal buy-in,” “we need S/4,” or “SAP isn’t in the innovation game”. All of these comments are common misconceptions, as well as a need for approaching a new way of thinking at senior level; looking at why this is the current way of thinking and what you can do to spark transformational change. This all comes down to company culture more often than not; and this is where attitudes need to be altered. Don’t allow employees to put up these barriers, welcome ideas and products with an open mind.

Company Culture and Innovation Roadmap

Growing and nurturing the right attitudes within any business can only be implemented by the leaders, whether this is CEO or IT Manager. The right ideation, plans, strategy and support will help to grow a high performing team that will lead and innovate that all-important path to success. If you put the right foundations in place, then the trust that you instil in your employees will only enable autonomy in the future; for the greater good of the business.

To address this, you should think about creating an innovation roadmap, which will require buy-in from every member of the company to make it happen. For example, a technology roadmap is often driven by upgrade cycles, support and maintenance requirements. However, this particular roadmap will also be influenced by the overall company vision, as well as the overarching business roadmap and the central roadmap for innovation. Essentially, they are all part of the same machine and feed into one another.

An innovation roadmap will become the core of the business’ forward route and planning and is measured against the company vision whilst delivering initiatives that deliver on both technology and business needs. Within each of these roadmaps you will outline the requirements needed to help that part of the business function properly, so for example, streamlining warehouse management or to expand production facilities; or to update your CRM system. Every single one of these business and technology goals will flow into your overall company vision, giving you the insight and direction to find the right solutions to each one, making way for innovation in the future. Thinking about a customer portal or perhaps a mobile app? Checking off the business and technology goals within your individual roadmaps one step at a time will help you to achieve everything within your innovation roadmap, and more.

SAP Cloud Platform

Every Chief Information Officer knows the business value behind building innovation in IT; improving efficiency and aligning IT and business goals. But it's the successful CIO who knows just how to engage the creativity and idea generation needed for true ground-breaking outcomes.

Of course SAP technology can fit in comfortably here, allowing you to improve every part of your IT team and its processes. Think about UX and agile working for example; there are tons of benefits that you can reap from products like SAP Cloud Platform that will allow you to be more efficient in how you work and drive business toward laying down the building blocks for innovation.

AgilityWorks also offer an App-in-a-day workshop, which gives an overview of the position of SAP Cloud Platform in the broader SAP landscape, including its relationship with S/4HANA and other SAP products, painting a picture of the future state of a SAP landscape.

Advantages of SAP Cloud Platform and the doors that it opens for you to work towards building a culture for innovation are endless. Best described as an enterprise platform-as-a-service, it comes with comprehensive application development services and capabilities. Enabling customers to achieve business agility, it creates a truly integrated and optimised enterprise, accelerating digital transformation across the business - all without the requirement of maintaining or investing in on-premises infrastructure. Other features include:

  • Collaboration - Bring together people and securely access and share business content
  • Integration - Securely integrate your cloud and on-premise applications
  • User Experience - Deliver personalised, responsive, and simple User Experience at scale
  • Analytics - Embed advanced analytics into your solutions to gain real-time insight
  • Security - Tightly manage and monitor user access and security services
  • Business Services - Utilise services from SAP, partners, and ISVs
  • Data and Storage - Eliminate the divide between transactions and analytics
  • Machine Learning - Power intelligent applications with machine learning
  • Internet of Things - Quickly develop deploy and manage real-time IoT applications
  • Runtimes and Containers - Leverage various runtimes and programming models
  • DevOps - Increase developer productivity by simplifying development and operations
  • Mobile - Deliver enterprise-grade native and hybrid mobile apps

Hopefully, by now you have more of a grasp on understanding what business requirements you need to be able to pave the way for an innovative culture. You should also have in mind specific needs to allow your IT operations to thrive, while bringing real value to your organisation. If not, we are more than happy to provide guidance through our User Group membership. Just contact us on 01642 309930 or support@sapusers.org and we will come back to you.

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