Co-Innovation: Recently companies are coupling their ideas with those of customers and partners to jointly achieve progress.
That innovation is a central key to sustainable business development is nowadays seen as elementary. From intuitively tangible innovations of physical products to the abstract innovation of services – the trust and the investment in one’s own innovative strength form the foundation of business success.
If a company however limits itself solely to the foundation of the so called “Closed Innovation”, it disregards the fact that each business activity does not happen in empty space but always within a complex network of customers and business partners closely interlocked with the own enterprise.
In the last decade many technology companies have made the experience that the own innovative strength can be considerably increased by specifically combining it with that of one’s own business ecosystem. This procedure has established itself under the name of “Co-innovation” and circumscribes a special form of the more general “Open Innovation”.
In the context of software creation, IT companies use this term for the process of well-directed development of customer and partner solutions through integration with own base innovations, but also the driving of own innovations on the base of latest products and solutions from partners. Through co-innovation it is possible to serve marginal areas of the own portfolio (which might be significant for certain customer segments) with seamlessly integrated solutions, that could neither be provided solely by the “co-innovating” company nor by its partners.
The increasing importance of co-innovation for businesses led to the opening of the first SAP Co-Innovation Lab in Palo Alto (USA) already in 2007. Initially starting with a strong focus on the technology ecosystem in the Silicon Valley it has by now developed into a global network of co-innovation labs. Here the focus is on globally relevant topics such as mobility solutions or in-memory technology. In addition the local presence allows for the consideration of cultural characteristics.
In essence the labs support the project-based co-innovation for prototypes. In the case of success the prototype evolves into a product or solution – either individually for a customer or through partners from the network. A present example is the development of solutions on the base of SAP HANA (High Performance Analytic Appliance), a new database technology that enables the analysis of huge amounts of data through the combination of software and the usage of in-memory technology.
HANA is the current innovative flagship of SAP. As technological base innovation this solution yet requires additional innovative approaches for embedding into real business processes. Already end of last year SAP (Switzerland) therefore opened a Center of Excellence. With partners Cisco and NetApp the necessary infrastructure was set up in just a few months and mid of May the operations started. The goal is to identify suitable business scenarios together with customers, that deliver a determinable value add for the customer or that only become possible thanks to the new technology.
[Author: Hans-Joachim Odlozinski, Director Global SAP Co-Innovation Labs Network | from Swiss Handelszeitung, June 14th 2012, Special "Consulting" | original in German | translated by the author]