“imagining, developing and evangelizing Web 2.0 innovations–social networks, widgets, RSS, blogs, wikis, SMS, virtual worlds, etc.–across various SAP’s various product divisions and 39,300 employees in 50 countries.”
Incorporate new ways of using emerging Web 2.0 technologies to harness the power of its customer relationship management (CRM) (define) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) (define) software into tools that are easy to use, engaging and eminently attractive to an increasingly younger and tech-savvy mix of employees and customers.
Barrett’s article has some very interesting examples of CRM applications such as widgets that Browne’s group is pioneering. There is a whole other post to write to comment on some of there innovations discussed, I’ll leave that for another time.
Overall, Browne appears to have quite a cool job and leads quite an intriguing team. At Dow Jones, we do these type of tasks a part of our daily jobs in the product organization. Having a group such as this one is very advantageous because it fosters an active pipeline of ideas coming to different areas of the organization with a good degree of market validation directly from internal users and customers. It is always an ongoing challenge of trying to pioneer and run the business day-to-day such as releasing products, doing fiscal budgets, visiting customers and engaging the sales force.
There are a couple of elements that do strike me about the “imagineering” concept:
- A risk I see (or something to remain conscious of) is that you don’t want your organization to rely on the imagineering team for all new ideas. You want your teams always thinking about how to improve the products and the lives of customers. It is part of everyone’s job, not just an edge organization. That is one of the wonderful elements of Google’s 20% program.
- The balance between innovation and commercialization is critical. Farber notes that SAP’s philosophy is a conservative one when it comes to taking their new concepts to market. This I question. Yes, you need to be careful about alienating your customer base but not at the expense of waiting too long to bring value to your customers. Jeff Nolan, former SAPer, agrees. Customers will let you know if you are on the right track. And as a large organization, you run the risk of getting disinter-mediated by a more agile start-up that brings that value to YOUR customers first. If you are innovating your next disruption, it probably means someone else is or is thinking about it too. Now Thomas Otter has something to say about this in his rebuttal and he makes some very valid points. You have to be careful releasing new stuff. Just don’t make it black or white, release to customers or don’t.
SAP is definitely doing the right thing with the Imagineering team so they have the hard part nailed… investing in R&D in a big way. The elements I speak of above are much more process and effectiveness related which all goes to execution upon the base fundamentals.