Innovation: The one and only goal for enterprises


Companies must constantly evolve. Market leaders in particular must not rest if they wish to avoid the "innovator's dilemma." How can a software company like SAS drive innovation? That's what I talked about with Andreas Gödde. He is the Director for Customer Advisory and a member of the executive board for SAS in DACH.

Andreas, how does innovation work today?

For years, consultants, entrepreneurs and experts have been working on the topic of innovation process. There are central departments for research and development, there are acquisition strategies for promising startups, or there are innovation labs inside or outside the company. I still believe that every company must find its own way – although I do believe in a common element.

I'm curious ...

The point of origin for innovation should be the customer's view. What problem can I solve for the customer? Rather than finding a use case for a new technology, this is the most important question.

Andreas Gödde, SAS Institute GmbH

Which role can a software vendor like SAS play in such a process?

A world full of data is ours. Today, a big part of value creation is generated through intelligent control and networking. Without software nothing works, as evidenced not least by massive investments in software in the automotive industry or at their suppliers. Obviously it's no longer the engine which gets the highest investments; it’s the software around it. Never has this utterance been more truthful than today: "Software eats the world." And to add to that, "AI eats software." Artificial intelligence technologies are what makes it possible to tap into the immense possibilities the universe of data provides. This sends us directly to SAS, the world's leading provider of AI and advanced analytics software. We invest huge amounts in our technology – and have already implemented many, many projects. So we are perhaps in a better position than others to drive innovation.

Better than others means better than who?

Many consulting firms draw their expertise from macroeconomic data and analysis. They monitor early movers in evolved markets, and they forecast developments in other markets. That is certainly often correct and also gives a rough direction. But more is needed to really translate such insight into new products and services.

In the age of data abundance, information about customer satisfaction, product use and ideas for further development can not only be estimated but surveyed. And at the other end, in production, sensor data make process flows more transparent than ever before. If you bring the two together, it is possible, for example, to serve increasingly individual customer needs in an efficient and scaled manner.

Regardless of the industry, something like data literacy is needed. What questions can I ask to data? How do I interpret the answers? This is the discipline where a company like SAS leads the way; we've been doing nothing else for decades.

Back to the initial question: How does innovation work today?

I would say trial and error! Preferably with lots of data together with customers and partners on one platform that is capable. By that, I specifically mean a technical platform that enables collaboration and experimentation. We like to talk about controlled play. Everyone has their favorite toy and yet everyone plays together. In the area of data analysis and machine learning, we integrate Python and R into our ModelOps environment just as we do our own SAS models. Quick experimentation is superior to any PowerPoint presentation, no matter how clever.

You often talk to CIOs. How do they comprehend innovation?

The same applies to CIOs as to their companies: Speed is critical. And only with innovation will they survive. Today, no one can afford to produce slideware for months. And by the way, no one purchases software on spec either. It's all about providing added value within the next four to six weeks. This requires not only strategic know-how but also a fair amount of technological expertise. And that's what we bring together.

What can you offer?

We have established an innovation initiative named #HackInSAS which will kick off in March. A wonderful opportunity to collaboratively develop ideas to market maturity using the latest technology. We aim to further build the best products from many ideas. Doable in a secluded group working on a specific topic or issue. SAS and our partner Microsoft provide the platform together. Whoever is interested, send me a note at


About Author

Thomas Keil

Director Marketing

Dr. Thomas Keil is a specialist for the impact of technology on business models and on society in general. He covers topics like Digital transformation, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence & Ethics. Besides his work as Regional Marketing Director at SAS in Germany, Austria and Switzerland he regularly is invited to conferences, workshops and seminars. He serves as advisor to B2B marketing magazines and in program committees of AI-related conferences. Dr. Thomas Keil 2011 came to SAS. Previously, he worked for eight years for the software vendor zetVisions, most recently as Head of Marketing and Head of Channel Sales.

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