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Sven Denecken is the SVP and Head of Product Management & Co-Innovation S/4HANA at SAP SE, and he is an expert in all things co-innovation. His job is all about balancing the needs of customers and partners to keep both happy and he’s accomplished much of this through co-innovating with SAP.
As a product manager, he needs to stay focused and automate many different functions that his team used to be involved with every single day. Co-innovating around these projects with his partner helps his team stay limber, build for the future, and most importantly, satisfy the needs of their joint customers.
Sven lives at the intersection of people, purpose, and technology. He loves to take tech and help create different beneficial outcomes for his clients. This is what makes his job as a product manager so exciting: It’s not just about products, it’s about people, and co-innovation is of paramount importance in understanding this.
We got together with Sven at this year’s #SAPTechEd to talk about collaboration, breaking silos, and the importance of openness with customers and partners.
The first benefit of co-innovating is allowing customers to run at their best. That has been the entire purpose of the SAP platform; it’s a promise in a way. Sven has seen customers and partners coming together and innovating around the SAP platform, and he finds this as the most exciting part of his job.
It’s a challenge to figure out how to bring engineers, partners, and customers all together at a round table. How do you ensure all voices are heard? How do you guarantee constant communication is occurring and no one is left in the dark? Without this type of communication and collaboration, problems don’t get solved.
“As a product manager, you’re actually between what the market wants and what the customer and partner wants.” - Sven Denecken
Sven has seen that upgrades to the cloud allow for much quicker co-innovation. Since this infrastructure and firm structure is in place the speed at which innovation can occur is unparalleled; it is almost instant.
Most importantly, this infrastructure allows customers and clients to control the speed at which they want to tackle projects and collaborate together. It enables clients and partners to do things at their own speed.
This is really why alliances matter: They allow groups with a common purpose and goal to come together and be better together than they were apart. Sven unapologetically says that his favorite platform is SAP because it makes him feel like a kid in a candy store. Alliances provide the ideas, platforms like SAP provide the tools to execute on these ideas.
2) Breaking Silos
By nature, co-innovation will challenge you and your partners to break silos. If the task at hand is to bring joint solutions to your customer, you will absolutely need to step out from your insular department and work with other teams (across your organization and others).
“[Co-innovation] is all about the right people coming together at the right time with the right purpose.” - Sven Denecken
In order to co-innovate, you need the right people with a seat at the roundtable. You need experts from each party with a common purpose, but it can be difficult to get the right people in the room.
Do you have the right engineers? Marketers? Salespeople? Sometimes product managers have the tendency to just think about tech, but you need to also be thinking about marketing efforts, joint messaging, and ultimately getting the right solutions to customers.
Breaking silos serve to put the “co” in “co-innovation.” That may sound obvious, but it’s a conscious first step that needs to be taken between partners.
If you truly want to delight your customers, you have to foster a spirit of openness. Finding the right partners and environment in which to co-innovate generates openness between you, your partners, and your customers.
It takes dedication to bring this openness into every interaction with customers and partners. Sven has seen several cases where his customers were pleasantly surprised by the open lines of communication he had with them and the information he was willing to share.
It all comes back to this at the core: you have to find the right partner to foster this environment of openness with. Trust between partners has to be established before you can truly be open with one another.