Innovation, by itself, is useless. No matter how brilliant the idea, it won’t get you anywhere if no one understands its value. And digital transformation is no exception to this truth: Technology, program skills, people skills, and proven business value are needed to turn ideas into valuable outcomes.

According to John Gibson, head of platform and technologies center of excellence at SAP, this idyllic goal remains elusive for most companies. “People tend to think of communication as being something that comes easy to everybody—we go to a meeting and naturally talk. But it's not communication that’s a critical skill in innovation. Instead, it’s communicating with users,” he said during his session at the ASUG Next-Generation SAP Center of Excellence Virtual Conference.

Gibson makes a great point: Organizations must think about customers and users first, then communicate with them by showing empathy toward their challenges and a keen understanding of their needs. But it’s also important to note that leading this conversation is not a skill that comes naturally, which can be unsettling when the business is forced to pivot quickly.

Navigating Rapid Change with Expertise and Commitment to Users

When innovating business models, processes, products, and services, organizations can get away from the fact that they need expertise and must be obsessed with satisfying users. This is no different than taking a car to the mechanic: You want to know that the person fixing your car can expertly navigate the vehicle’s operating system and resolve the issue quickly.

“Everything you do in the business has to be customer focused. You're dealing with an internal customer that deals with an external customer—so you have to understand every connection across that value chain,” Gibson shared. “What exactly are the customers’ requirements? You have to keep rethinking that answer because there is so much to handle on a daily basis in terms of existing and new technology, architecture, business issues, and process complications.”

Parkland Health & Hospital System, based in Dallas County, Texas, knows firsthand the magnitude of this line of thinking. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Parkland's hospitals needed to make significant changes to its patient-facing processes, as its capacity for critical care was beginning to become overwhelmed. For example, it required bed availability and patients reporting and analysis, level-one contact tracing, a chatbot for automated patient symptom checking, predictive demand through algorithmic modeling, and a critical inventory checker.

Parkland relied on SAP's center of excellence team to cross the bridge between technology and business value. Together, they organized ideas into a program and communicated the vision with the right people to establish empathy and commitment, focusing on providing the capabilities necessary to handle an unprecedented patient load. This exercise included a thorough evaluation of how SAP Business Technology Platform can help the system connect processes and experiences, innovate with data intelligence, and move forward with its ideas with confidence, integrity, and speed.

“We needed to help Parkland move quickly and radically. We were able to apply senior-level resources that had the right expertise, understood the customer's situation, and knew how to deliver on expectations without delay,” Gibson reflected. “Within 15 days, Parkland had the foundation it needed to work within its new reality with speed and efficiency.”

Enabling Intelligent Innovation Along the Value Chain

The heart of any successful transformation story is connecting an excellent idea to the internal customer's needs with program skills, people skills, and comprehensive technology. And if the IT and non-IT organizations don't have every box checked off in their innovation strategy, they will not achieve their ultimate vision.

This advice may seem simple, but it takes a lot of hard work to reach this level of excellence— unless the right expertise and help are available. Luckily for SAP customers, Gibson's center of excellence team is always ready to provide that assistance.

Explore how the platform and technologies center of excellence at SAP can help support and accelerate your business’s value-driven innovation. Watch the on-demand session, “Future-Proofing Your Business with SAP Business Technology Platform,” featuring John Gibson, head of platform and technologies center of excellence at SAP.

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