Ann Rosenberg
SAP executive Ann Rosenberg has a passion for innovation.

Ann Rosenberg drives "innovation with a purpose." 

As vice president and head of Global SAP University Alliances and SAP Next-Gen Labs, she's tasked with aligning SAP's efforts with the United Nation's global goals for sustainable development. While gender equality is one of them, others include "decent work and economic growth," "good health and well-being," "industry innovation and infrastructure," and more.

Rosenberg at MWC

Rosenberg shared SAP's vision at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last month. Her talk centered on the SAP Next-Gen Labs, which encompass a network of students, startups, academic thought leaders and researchers, accelerators, venture firms and other partners.

Next-Gen Lab participants meet to ask "what's next" and are then linked-up to experiment and to build products. There's some matchmaking involved — sort of like Tinder, but with a very different end goal, Rosenberg said.

The pairings usually involve more than two people and, ideally, everyone can learn from each other.

"It is sort of like crowdsourcing," said Rosenberg. After all, the academics and researchers know what's theoretical and leading edge, while managers from industry know what's useful — and students can provide insight about the next generation of workers.

"Millennials may understand things differently than we do," Rosenberg told CMSWire. "When you employ young people, listen. Act less like a manager and more like a coach."

The Future of Work

At present, projects at SAP's Next-Gen Labs include blockchain, machine learning, the Internet of Things, drones, robots and enterprise apps with Apple.

Rosenberg is especially interested in defining the post-PC world. "Think about it. Most workers won't need them (PC's) to do their jobs," she said. And Rosenberg is talking about more than personal computers being replaced by mobile devices like phones and tablets. She envisions enterprises with artificial intelligence powered user assistants.

In the future, workers will be freed to do the more important work, she said, adding that she is eager to discover what a day in the life of a smart enterprise will look like.

Linking Universities, Innovation Centers

The SAP Next-Gen Labs program connects companies to more than 3,100 universities and the Silicon Valleys of the World in places including Germany, India and South Africa.

Projects at the Next-Gen labs typically leverage SAP technology and the engineers and the researchers at the labs are trained in the same. 

There's a potential high return on investment: After all, seeding the innovative landscapes of the world with people who know your software is a good idea. 

For Rosenberg, her job has evolved to a passion. She told CMSWire that she wakes up each day thrilled by her job and her life.

"This is my way to give back (to the next generation)," she said.