SAP has struggled from a perceived lack of innovation and have become synonymous with a current generation of green screen dullness. The NetWeaver platform looked to resolve this but in fact caused a further backlash, and many industry analysts believe that SAP is behind the curve in innovation.
Craig Cmehil, Community Evangelist at SAP, has been moved into a position leading an initiative that SAP are calling innojagd. Innojagd is aptly a mashup between 'innovation' and 'jagd', which is the German word for 'hunt'. The plan is to go looking for places within SAP that innovation is happening, and to 'out' them.
What is interesting from my perspective is that SAP don't have a problem with innovation. They have masses of small product groups all doing incredibly interesting teams. When I spoke to a lot of these teams in SAP Tech Ed Vienna 2009, the message was that the difficulty for them was not getting funding to complete small innovative products, but rather that they had problems being heard in the wider SAP community.
They cited the major reason for wanting to go to SAP Demo Jam (best described as Pop Idol for geeks) as a means to have their voice heard in the community. At Demo Jam they have 6 minutes to demonstrate their wares to thousands of screaming fans, and the demo with the loudest clap wins. These small product innovation groups have 6 minutes of fame, and rather like in Pop Idol, if someone in the SAP management ranks hears them (think along the lines of a Recording Producer!), their small innovation project may be productised.
Take what happened to Alexis Naibo from the SAP BusinessObjects Innovation Center last year. His small project was taken by note and thereby productized. Now, we have SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iPhone available on the iTunes App Store.
Craig Cmehil - who is apparently not related to Simon Cowell - has of course been instrumental in Demo Jam, presenting it for the last few years, and he has a passion for finding talent within the SAP community. And now he is taking the hunt to the back corridors of SAP, looking for those projects who just don't have the stones to stand up in front of thousands of people and peddle their wares.
But away from the red carpet and back to business reality, SAP's problem has never been creating talent and innovation. It has been turning these projects into a cohesive product strategy with innovation at its core. The challenge for Craig is not whether he can find innovation, but whether or not he can help SAP turn it into business as usual.
I'm hearing that SAP are likely to sponsor innojagd at the highest level, and I hope they do because this project needs sponsorship outside of Vishal Sikka's technology team to succeed and it needs to be infused into the culture of SAP itself. Good luck Craig!