SAP – How social media helps drive Product Innovation

pchatter    October 18, 2015


Organization Name:  SAP SE

Industry:  Software

Web References:  Company Website Twitter Facebook

SAP SE is a leading global software company based out of Waldorf, Germany. SAP specializes in the field of enterprise software, which helps leading organizations around the world manage their business operations and customer relations. SAP operates in over 190 countries affecting over 293,500 customers.

SAP has been on the cutting edge of providing its customers insight into their business operations, much of it driven through the latest S/4HANA platform. Accompanying this platform are solutions in the space of Analytics, Customer Relationship Management, Human Capital Management and others including the area I work with Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) as the Director of Product Marketing. Within the area of EPM, tools are provided to the Office of the CFO, which allow them to produce Budgets and Forecasts, Consolidate and Report their numbers, as well perform analysis on their financial health.   Since the financial crisis of 2008, the new normal of Finance dictates that finance executives must place a greater importance on the fiscal health of their enterprise. With this is mind it is of the utmost importance that the platforms the oCFO leverage and the features and functions SAP provides them come through mutually beneficial product innovation.

One of the more common platforms in use at SAP through which we can drive innovation is through SAP Idea Place. Customers connected with SAP as users (in this case finance users) have the ability through Idea Place to share ideas for product enhancements and vote on good ideas. The product development team at SAP then has the ability to review the ideas that are submitted, as well as the corresponding popularity of the ideas and then build it into an upcoming product release. For SAP, an organization with over 60,000 employees, this is an amazing way of engaging and innovating together to satisfy the needs of our finance customers. One of the products in this portfolio, SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver (SAP BPC) has over 760 ideas submitted, with over 830 comments, and 4,437 votes on various ideas.

The ideas for innovation aren’t just limited to social media channels such as SAP Idea Place, managed by SAP but rather through more conventional and yet possibly more important channels such as LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social media service that is oriented towards professional relationships. Within LinkedIn professionals can connect with other professionals in similar spaces, merging the worlds of professional networking with social networking. These same professional users within LinkedIn have created Groups that are based on interests. Groups often have topics that are employment related and in the case of SAP, users create groups dedicated to the various products they work with. In the case of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, there are over 100 groups and affiliated groups through which professional users discuss their experiences with the platform, desires for greater innovation and likeminded ideas with their peers.

In speaking with Derek Johnson, Senior Director of Product Management at SAP for Analytics (EPM) “With the new normal of finance, customers are looking for innovation that gives them a competitive advantage today, and not tomorrow.  With this reality we can’t just expect SAP Idea Place to be the only platform through which we communicate, rather it’s equally important to leverage LinkedIn to get the pulse of what the users of our products are experiencing and expecting.”

In my role as part of the Product Marketing Team, I also leverage Social Media to comment and communicate to the business users who use our SAP EPM solutions to understand what is available in the EPM suite now, but also coming up on the product roadmap. This way customers can also reach out to me and express their levels of satisfaction as well as their own personal vision for the future as they continue their journey using SAP EPM products. Twitter is also leveraged through the @SAPFinance handle to ensure ideas for innovation and messaging is constant.

Lessons Learned

At SAP driving product innovation in a silo is a non-starter. Innovating with the customer in mind and with their wants and needs first is the ultimate business driver. Understanding what their vision for innovation is and where they want to take finance tools can’t just work through face to face meetings but rather need to leverage the social media platforms. Even within the platforms, SAP has learned to equally use areas like SAP Idea Place where they can come together with their customers directly to collaborate on ideas for innovation, but as well scour tools such as LinkedIn to understand and get a pulse for what their customers are feeling and are directly and indirectly requesting as further innovation.

Submitted By: Pras Chatterjee

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