I got inspired by Vijay Vijayasankar’s blog on Innovation and Scale, where I think he made excellent points on which I add some 5 cents of thought.
Innovation is absolutely needed and there are many examples that show us that the disruptive Innovations are clearly the ones that change the world. I am a huge fan of Apple for a couple of simple reasons. They make great products, which work very smooth and extremely well and also have a cool look. But if we look back it is only 5 years ago that Apple launched itself into a space where they have not been playing before which was telephony. It was only in June 2007 that when the iPhone was launched. At that time it was revolutionary because it had the touch screen, you could manage it with gestures, was a phone and iPod at the same time, in short the smartphone was born. Well it was maybe born before but it started to make its way to mass adoption. An interesting fact might be, that the 1st generation iPhone was not really up to standards of cell-phones of that time. A simple example to me is that in the first version you could not send a single sms simultaneously to several recipients, which was a mere standard on all phones by the at the time market leader Nokia. But besides these “details” it made it’s way and has revolutionized the market.
It was all about the innovation of having different devices joint in one device, the “cool” effect of having an iPhone but also the disruption of making things all of a sudden very easy and smooth. Innovation has proven to be successful.
The iPhone example shows us some very important points that are often times forgotten.
It is not only about features and functions
The features and functions on what would be the main part of a phone would be clearly the phone and text messaging functions. But Apple was able to convince their customers that either those features or functions (the ones that the players like Nokia and the likes defended) were not important and that there was something else. Despite that Apple has fixed those “issues” rather quickly, they have shown another thing. It is easy to fix minor issues but it is very complex to make a complete philosophy shift.
Applying this to yet another example I look at SAP HANA. SAP HANA is in the market for a little more than a year. Yes, it is a database just like the iPhone is also a phone, but yet SAP HANA is much more than just a database that runs in memory. It is a completely new and thus as well disruptive philosophy on how to treat data. Whilst in the past Data was considered something that has a fixed format and has to fit into tables today we see more and more unstructured data that becomes increasingly valuable. SAP did not just take an existing technology and apply what I call “brute force” to it but created a new concept in which not only the data is kept in RAM memory but also compute is taking place there. This allows for tremendous performance increases, which in turn allows completely new ways of looking at business and consequently doing it.
Interesting enough to see that some parts of the HANA story are coinciding with the iPhone. It is probably not yet the best with regards to all features and functions compared to traditional RDBMS, but once passed this point it offers new whole new view. And yet again it is relatively easy, SAP has shown it throughout the last year, to add new functionality to it, yet it is much more complicated to change course for the traditional RDBMS vendors. I credit Archie Hendryx with his article for giving me this thought insight.
Of course iPhone and SAP HANA are not playing the same game, neither do they play on the same level yet there are those things in common, imho.
But what is next after having innovated a disruptive product?
I have had great inspiration by listening to Simon Sinek “How great leaders inspire action”. Steve Jobs showed that he truly believed in what he was doing and the products his company has produced. Simon talks about the Golden Circle and I can only encourage you to listen to it. It is necessary that you spread the word with true believe to the field. The field in this case is not only the customers (either existing or potential) but also to the Ecosystem. The Ecosystem in today’s IT World is fundamental for success. Evangelization is a first step but it is very important to understand that it requires preparation for the next wave to enter and to follow up on the initial impact.
It is important to understand that the Evangelist is not necessarily the person who is prepared or focused on securing the second wave. Convincing people to follow is a different task then convincing them to lead by themselves.
It is as well important to keep the spirit of the Evangelist high but feeding him/her continuously with updates. Maybe it would be even true to say that the Evangelist needs to change every now and then to a new subject to keep his excitement up.
Burn the Boats?
A good friend of mine told me once of the story Hernan Cortés and his Burn the Boats. At first I thought that it was crazy and stupid to work in a fashion where you make sure that there is no way back. After a while I came to the conclusion that it might be probably a great tactic. Extending this case and taking it to Apple’s iPhone, it was clear that after the launch there was no way back for Apple to say we are going to make a “standard phone”. This is double important since it shows that you really have to believe in what you do. Muhammad Ali said once “to be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” This goes exactly into the same direction.
To me it seems that SAP is following this strategy with HANA as well. They have landed (launched HANA), they burned the boats (they are not going to play the traditional Database game). And now they are deemed to just succeed. The game is far from being over and decided but imho all signs for them to win are set.
– Disruptive Innovation
– Evangelizing (not only SAP themselves but their Ecosystem)
– Ecosystem to support them
– Good & Fast adoption of the market place
Best of all is we see that there is capacity and will to listen to the market & ecosystem to make the adoptions just like Apple did with the missing features or functions.
I have made the personal bet on SAP HANA and I can only say one thing. I am so glad that I did !
Stay tuned for more !