Sep 09 2008

SAP TechEd 2008 Day 2 Part I: InnoCentive to the Rescue

Categories: General Dave Rathbun @ 3:41 pm

The general session this morning featured a presentation from Jon Schwarz, the CEO of Business Objects. We also heard from Zia Yusuf, and his title is listed as “Executive Vice President Global Ecosystem and Partner Group” which is quite a mouthfull. :) One of the interesting things tha Zia shared was that 50% of the financial transactions globally pass through an SAP system somewhere along the way. That’s an interesting statistic, to be sure, but not that surprising really. When you consider the global marketplace and how much information passes back and forth, and how popular SAP applications are, it stands to reason that somewhere along the line a piece of data is going to be touched by at least one company using SAP. It sounds impressive though. :)

SAP and InnoCentive Team Up

One of the interesting things announced this morning was that SAP is taking part in what I think is a very interesting service from a company named InnoCentive. There is an article on the SDN web site with more details, but in a nutshell InnoCentive is taking the idea behind the “X Prize” and extending it to other business or technology problems. In fact their first area of expertise was in the pharmaceuticals arena. The X-Prize, if you are not familiar with it, was created to offer an incentive for the development of a commercially viable space flight. To win the one million dollars a company had to launch a craft into space and return safely to Earth, followed by a repeat flight within a limited time frame (I think it was 30 days). The winners of the prize spent far more than a million dollars to get to that goal, but the idea behind the incentive wasn’t to make a profit but to get people to think about solutions.

InnoCentive (obviously a combination of “innovation” and “incentive”) seemingly was formed out of that same idea, but with prizes ranging from smaller amounts (about $5,000) up to one million dollars. A “seeker” company will post their challenge and the cash reward. A “solver” is someone registered on the web site as well. The team of solvers will pick challenges that they feel they have some area of expertise in, and attempt to solve them. If their solution is selected, they win the prize.

One of the things that fascinates me on a personal level is finding things that are only possible because of the Internet. What I mean by that, is, something like could have worked as a mail-order company. Stock brokerages have a different way to interact with their customers now, but at a basic level it’s still buying and selling securities. Nobody really buys a car online. My point is that the list of companies that are on the Internet because the Internet exists is long. But the list of companies that could not exist without the Internet is what’s interesting to me.

Online communities like BOB are only possible because of the reach and availability of the Internet. The basic concept is not new. We’ve had Usenet newsgroups. We’ve had bulletin boards. So the concept of “community” isn’t new. But until the web really became pervasive the concept of a thriving online community really wasn’t possible. According to yet another statistic shared this morning, if SDN were a city in the US it would be the 8th largest city in the country. :)

I had a chance to visit briefly with the David Ritter, the CTO of InnoCentive and I asked him if companies might be wary about posting problems or challenges because of potentially giving competitors some sort of indication of their future product direction. David said that the majority of challenges posted are posted anonymously, and that was one of the reasons. One of the services that InnoCentive provides is related to the creation of the initial challenge in such a way that it is accurate and communicated effectively without revealing more information than required. One of the other services they provide is related to the intellectual property management… once a solver provides a solution, they have to determine that:

  • The solution works
  • The solution is acceptable to the seeker
  • The solver has the proper ownership of the solution, and finally
  • The solver has the right to transfer the IP to the seeker company

It’s an interesting idea to base a company on, and I plan to follow the development when I can.

The rest of the day so far has been lunch, client conversations, and more interactions with other SAP mentors, so I have not managed to get to any other sessions. I hope to see some this afternoon. The TechEd sessions range from one hour to four hours long, and many of them are “hands on” workshops. That makes for an interesting change from the Insight conference, and I want to see how it all works.

More to come. 8)

Anyway, this is probably more than enough about the topic… as you can see, it’s something I’m interested in but I don’t want to spend the entire blog post talking about it.

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