Team SAP Business One aka “Shanghai Knights” –Andrew Hinton, Oseyi Ikuenobe, Ryo Itoh and Yavuz Alkan– worked with SAP in Shanghai to help with the launch of a new software product in China and the United States. They were located at SAP Labs (the innovation and development organization of SAP) in Shanghai’s Technology Park at Pudong.
Part I – “Change is Gonna Come”
Prior to arriving in Shanghai we had several iterations with the client on the scope of our project. We oscillated between a validation of the launch strategy for China, and evaluation of possible launches in English speaking countries (including the US). We arrived in China with a clear scope in mind and armed with our “arrival presentation” we went to our kickoff meeting. We hadn’t gotten through half of our slides before our project sponsor Robert Chu (EMBA ’06) stopped us to tell us something that would change the course of the next 3 weeks.
He had decided that he was now a lot more interested in deciding between two courses of action for the product. SAP was trying to figure out if they should continue developing the product till it was complete or roll it out in a beta form and iterate based on customer feedback. He also wanted to understand how this decision affected a launch in the US.
This was a shocking development, but we were prepared for a change and were delighted that we would be focused on something that would be meaningful to Rob. But there was more! Rob also mentioned that he would be leaving a few days later for 2 week business trip to the US – ironically spending a few days in the Bay Area. But wait, there’s more! Since the product was still in development, and there was a major release that week so most of the people we needed to talk to, would be too busy to talk to us until the following week.
So our first week was off to a rocky start but we were up to the challenge! To help deal with the pressure we spent most of our time outside the office exploring the sights of Shanghai and going on culinary adventures all over the city.
Part II – Settling in
The bombshells dropped on us in the first 2 days seemed like an insurmountable number of hurdles, but all put together they actually gave us a chance for success. We were happy to have most of the first week to ourselves to do research related to our new scope – as most of the pre-work we had done was China specific. So we set about our task of researching and creating analytical models and lining up interviews.
We were surprised by how much we relied on what we had learned from our core courses as we began to piece together our analysis. We used marketing frameworks from marketing and strategic brand management, entry decision strategies and game theory from our strategic management course, and problem framing techniques from PFPS.
We had decided to reframe the questions we were asked by thinking about the real issue SAP was facing, ensuring that our work would be truly useful for SAP. True validation of our approach came at the end of the second week when after a presenting an update to Rob.
To celebrate our progress/success and to continue the tradition of exploring Shanghai through our stomachs we had some more great food and even managed to arrange a birthday cake for Ryo – thanks to expert usage of Google Translate (it pays to have the MBAA VP of Technology on your team) and smiles.
We ended the week with an amazing trip to Beijing with members of one of the other IBD teams in Shanghai. We visited the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square the Forbidden City. We also got to enjoy a great dinner at a famous roast duck restaurant. Our trip to Beijing also gave us the opportunity to experience China’s famous sleeper trains and the high-speed train back to Shanghai.
Part III – The Home Stretch
By week 3, we had interviewed a Senior Director in SAP’s main office (with a spectacular panoramic view of Shanghai) on Nan Jing West road, the owner of the product we were working on, members of the customer engagement team as well as a product evangelist. We were struck by how passionate they all were about this new product and the fact that it was the first major SAP product to be conceived and built entirely in China.
The highlight of our project was meeting with one of SAP’s customers in Shanghai. We got to spend several hours with them learning about their business and how SAP’s solutions could help them grow their business. It was amazing to see the impact that technology could make on small businesses.
The meeting was particularly memorable because they treated us to a feast for lunch after our interview was over. It was probably the best meal we had in our entire three weeks in China. Our lack of Mandarin or Shanghainese language skills were alleviated by two great SAP employees Bo and Yolanda who were great translators and guides throughout the customer visit.
Our time at SAP was rewarding as we feel we added value to a very important strategic area for SAP. We got to experience life as SAP Shanghai employees – complete with eating lunch in the cafeteria (and the local Family Mart), interacting with great people like Rambo who helped us with the temperamental AC in our team room (it was quite warm in Shanghai during the day).
We did our final presentation via conference call with Rob (who was in the US almost the entire time we were in Shanghai) and it was high fives all around when he ended the meeting by telling us we had done a great job and he was happy with what we had done – joking that he wishes he could email our professors to give us an A! We promptly shared our faculty mentor’s email address with him!
Thanks to SAP, IBD, and Shanghai for a great experience! Special thanks to Emily Tai who in spite of her busy schedule was our contact throughout the project and a great host!