Disrupt With Digitization

Sven Denecken

Innovation requires reimagined processes – and the CIO needs to lead this transformation.

Enterprises today must be prepared for the transformation that the digital economy is forcing upon them.

Now, you might think, “Another digital buzzword article.” Well, yes, some dismiss it as a buzzword, but the challenge for many has just started. But let’s not look at only the problems; there are opportunities if seized right – and you can win big.

For example, competing for new business, or even exploring a new revenue stream by creating a new business model, are things you need to look out for constantly – and for sure you can learn from startups, because that is what they do: challenge the status quo. In a fast-moving digital economy, the window to capture these opportunities closes quickly; companies that are unprepared to pounce when occasions arise will likely get stuck on the road to irrelevance. In my job as product manager, my team constantly screens such opportunities, as innovation needs to be weighted fast and implemented via co-innovation even faster if there is a chance of success – and it must also be adapted fast if reality kicks in.

Successful companies need to be willing to change: They must assess whether they are truly in a position to reinvent business processes every day, not just every generation. And here is where the modern CIO comes in. Yes, digital officers arise at every corner of every industry, and they are needed ambassadors or agents of change. But today I think we should be clear: If every company will soon be a “software” company (which I very much believe, as data will rule the world) you need a modern chief information (and innovation) officer to help business and the company board of directors to make this change happen.

Here are 3 key lessons we have learned from the CIOs we constantly speak with during our co-innovation work. (Of course, there are also many lessons we learn from CIOs who are not embracing it – but will they still be CIO next year?)

Lesson #1: Four trends to check if you are on track

As I stated earlier, there are four inescapable trends are creating the pressures that shape today’s digital transformation:

  • The empowered customer: Whether your customers are Generation Z consumers or multi-national conglomerates, they all share one vitally important characteristic: Each demands to be treated as a unique segment of one. You have no choice but to meet that expectation.
  • Competitive and regulatory pressures: Transparency is a necessary part of business today, and that means competitors and regulators alike can dissect any business process. Staying ahead of the former and meeting the standards of the latter requires operational excellence and accountability at every step in the value cycle.
  • Globalization: More businesses today must be prepared to go global in order to remain relevant. Expanding into new markets can no longer be done effectively with costly, infrastructure-heavy international build-outs. Enterprises need a pay-as-you-go strategy with scalable capacity, which can be adjusted rapidly to meet market conditions in any region.
  • Technological progress: The tide of innovations and discoveries is unrelenting. Businesses must be agile enough to quickly adopt new strategies, and be steered by insightful, knowledgeable leadership that can sort winning inventions from dead-end novelties.

Lesson #2: Unprecedented levels of business agility

The need for an unprecedented level of business agility to match the rapid pace of innovation and transformation present in business is not restricted to a particular industry. Rather, we see entire markets, including transportation, logistics, and e-commerce, being reinvented on a seemingly daily basis. For any industry in which the production, shipment, and transaction of a product is still relevant, transformation supported by digitization is fast becoming a necessity.

Pressures to reshape the business using a digital template are likewise common across the industry spectrum. Companies — both in the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) worlds — expect personalized interactions as a “segment of one,” which necessitates individualization of products and services, and freedom of choice. The business has no choice but to meet these demands — on the platform the customer chooses — or risk losing customers to a competitor.

The common solution that addresses these pressures is agility, and the way to achieve that agility is with a flexible, digital core at the heart of every organization that can meet the demands presented by increasing across-the-board disruption.

In my presentations I often state why we need to talk about a digital core: As long as something is produced (even if it is a service), as long as something is delivered or shipped, and as long as something will be paid – there is a need for a core. It is as simple as that. Every CIO surely knows that end-to-end processes often start at the edges or with systems of engagement, but they are of limited value if they do not connect with the core – the heart that makes your company run.

Now building on top of this, with a digital core, organizations can do far more than simply meet these pressures at a minimum level of success. They can pivot in near real time to capitalize on innovations in areas such as cloud, Big Data, and business network connectivity to completely transform the business, whether it’s to keep up with the growing influence of emerging topics such as the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, or augmented reality, or to defend against new competitors launching up all around them.

A digital core is an enabling platform for transformation and innovation, but what are its hallmarks? We find five key characteristics that make up a digital core:

  1. A digital core provides the enterprise with the capability to drive and anticipate business outcomes in real time.
  2.  It integrates the business seamlessly across all value chain processes such as client interaction, administration, production, and research and development.
  3.  The digital core increases efficiency by automating processes and distributing responsibility for customer insights across an intelligent business network.
  4. It increases effectiveness by converting signals in business data into tangible action, essentially bringing Big Data to the size and scale needed to turn insight into action for the everyday user.
  5. The digital core increases enterprise agility by elevating each employee’s view of the organization.

So how can the modern CIO help to disrupt with digitization?

Here is the modern CIO’s plan for success: They prioritize day-to-day operations that were formerly siloed lines of business to have complete visibility into the entire core business of the enterprise. Finance, sales, and manufacturing can then act in concert, basing decisions on the same information in real time. This is where the company wins big, and this is how the modern CIO will drive change for the better and help their company win in the digital economy.

Successful CIOs know that the race to digitization is on. Until recently, many of the clients I spoke with were still questioning the need for digitizing the enterprise. Now, they want to know the most efficient route to get there. And while SAP’s digital core S/4HANA Enterprise Management is certainly a monumental milestone, clients are surprised to discover that arriving at a digital core is not as difficult as it might seem to enable this level of transformation.

A digital core helps any business run faster and simpler, so getting there should not be as complicated as the siloed line-of-business applications and redundancies a business leaves behind.

Want more insight on digitization? See The Digitized Core At The Heart Of Reimagined Business.

Looking forward to your feedback! Follow me for the latest updates: @SDenecken (link to Twitter account).

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Sven Denecken

About Sven Denecken

Sven Denecken is Senior Vice President, Product Management and Co-Innovation of SAP S/4HANA, at SAP. His experience working with customers and partners for decades and networking with the SAP field organization and industry analysts allows him to bring client issues and challenges directly into the solution development process, ensuring that next-generation software solutions address customer requirements to focus on business outcome and help customers gain competitive advantage. Connect with Sven on Twitter @SDenecken or e-mail at sven.denecken@sap.com.

Six Tips To Avoid Project Team Attrition

Shannon Schupbach

Employee attrition can hamper your team’s ability to meet deadlines and negatively affect overall engagement. Productivity suffers when high employee turnover forces you to bring in new people on a regular basis. Your employees need clear expectations, interesting challenges, and opportunities for deeper engagement with the work they’re doing. Use these tips to keep your employees engaged and your team intact as you make your way through the workload.

1. Define roles and responsibilities

Team members have strengths and weaknesses that you can leverage to optimize productivity. Having everyone simply take tasks as they become available is not the best way to maximize skills.

By defining roles and responsibilities, you can best utilize your team in a way that boosts their effectiveness and helps them stay engaged. After all, if you never have workers doing what they’re actually hired to do, they end up dissatisfied, and retention takes a hit.

Team members will know exactly what they should be doing, the role that they serve in the group, and how their duties relate to their core skill set. They can have confidence in the work they’re doing rather than second-guessing their tasks or getting too far outside their comfort zones.

2. Develop a training program

Employees want the opportunity to grow their skills and move forward in their chosen career paths. If they’re doing the same things on a project, they have no opportunity to learn.

Develop training programs that provide the resources needed to advance your team members. You’re investing in their future and showing that you care about offering opportunities for professional development.

This strategy also works well if you have to bring in costly external partners for in-demand skills. You can develop this talent from within to cover your skills gaps so you remain competitive without paying massive recruitment costs. Keep your eyes open for recruitment trends over the next 5 to 10 years so you know where you should focus most of your efforts.

3. Rotate subject-matter expertise

You don’t want to keep the same subject-matter experts on the same teams when their knowledge is useful elsewhere. Assign them to the projects that make the most sense for their talents, and keep them engaged by challenging them with new environments. The subject-matter experts can find new ways to apply their skills, and the rest of the team can pick up new information from them.

You can also gauge the interest in cross-training among your team members. Some employees may find themselves intrigued by what the subject-matter expert does. They can pursue professional development training and certification courses to learn more about what that type of work entails. The knowledge pool in your organization becomes broad and is less likely to take a major hit if someone gets sick or leaves the company.

4. Automate processes

Many employees find that a significant portion of their working hours are dedicated to repetitive manual processes such as putting together time sheets, tracking expenses, and creating revenue reports. This work is little more than data entry, in most cases, which is not what they expect to do with their talents.

By automating these processes, you decrease the hands-on time that’s required to keep up with documentation and administrative requirements. The goal is to enter data once and have it automatically populate where it’s needed.

For example, consultants can log their time against work items so all the information is added to their timesheets. The project financials get updated instantly to give everyone on the team full visibility in real time. You enjoy improved agility and the ability to quickly adapt to unexpected disruptions.

5. In-context digital assistants

Digital assistants are common in smart homes and on smartphones, but they also have a place in the enterprise. Think about the way you use this technology on your personal devices—assistants process conversation and add context to it. They determine the user’s intent, the right application to perform requested actions, and how to present this information appropriately.

The benefits of incorporating digital assistants into your workflow are twofold: You give employees another time-saving tool to streamline their workload, and the assistant also uses context to analyze data and make suggestions based on the intended usage.

6. Self-service analysis

Having the right information at the right time can make or break a project. When employees need to search multiple layers to access essential data, they will likely miss potentially critical opportunities.

A self-service option reduces the amount of back-and-forth that occurs when a team is trying to get their hands on relevant data. They can put together ad hoc requests, see updates in real time, and determine the best course of action. They wouldn’t have the opportunity to do this if they couldn’t get data in the form that makes the most sense for the project.

Project attrition shouldn’t prevent you from reaching the milestones. While the reasons behind employee team turnover can be complex, you have many options to reduce or reverse the trend.

To find out more about how to recognize what’s causing margin leakage, check out our one-pager on the 4 Steps of Digital Value Creation.

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Shannon Schupbach

About Shannon Schupbach

Shannon Schupbach is a proven leader in helping customers and partners adopt “cloud first” architectures. Shannon is an expert in product strategy and go-to-market, having held many roles (presales, delivery, sales enablement and operations) at companies such as Salesforce, WebLogic, and others. Before joining SAP, he ran implementation services for a startup company and has firsthand experience with the challenges of professional services automation. Shannon is blessed to be part of SAP and its efforts to help customers adopt digital transformation via an intelligent ERP. Connect with Shannon directly via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-schupbach-57785/

Drones: Is That Buzzing In Your Ear An Opportunity Or Just A Pest?

David Cruickshank

Part 3 of the Co-Innovation Series.

Day-to-day adoption of drones for commercial purposes is increasing, and it’s leading to not-at-rest sensors going to work, sensing and sense-making the full spectrum of space between terra firma and outer space. The day may soon arrive where identified flying objects continuously pass you on your street, in the halls of your building, or on campus, dutifully and autonomously carrying out all sorts of assigned tasks. Or not. Sort of like when the first Blade Runner movie failed to reflect any notion of a mobile-enabled world in the year 2019. Instead they went for neon-light-handled umbrellas. A total miss? Sure. Yet prediction of future technology is never easy. There’s always the sequel.

While we may not yet be surrounded by swarms of drones buzzing about us in all directions (which of course does worry some), the technology is nonetheless sound enough and gaining real-world traction. The entire drone industry is now focused upon growth in commercial use, as the technology keeps advancing towards formation of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled and completely autonomous drones. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it estimates the commercial drone fleet will grow from 42,000 at the end of 2016 to about 442,000 aircraft by 2021.The aviation safety agency has said there could be as many as 1.6 million commercial drones in use by 2021. A number of valid use cases for select industries like construction, mining, and insurance are emerging today.

In my last post, I spoke to why I believe co-innovation is a reasonable approach to efficiently taking advantage of data extracted from your business operations using not-at-rest sensors. Such an initiative can take real advantage of what a co-innovated solution can be designed to do. Early adoption of any new technology is driven in part by the relentless belief in the return on investment – in this case from collecting important data from drones and automation, which is largely still nascent. That means you will likely be trying a few things before hitting on what works for your business.

Discovery through others

We are quickly advancing our understanding that this is not about just identifying and capturing more data. As we explore use cases in construction, we’ve already discovered the need to empathize with industries that have little interest in receiving more data than it has time or expertise to process. Co-innovation gets you focused on the solution and applying design thinking principles, which helps you recognize what concerns customers most.

While we may talk a lot about forming end-to-end solutions inside Silicon Valley (all in a day’s work), we also recognize that deciding to extract value from drone technology can be a big step for any given industry. Being able to leverage co-innovation, especially in cases involving nascent technologies and services, offers a chance for all participants to share knowledge and learn hands-on together. It can even spawn more discoveries with respect to the solutions possible. It’s usually the case that as we learn more (about anything), we also wind up finding out how much we still don’t know.

Fly solo or collaborate?

With the use of drones – or any not-at-rest sensor, for that matter – there will always be more to learn and discover. Even before the dust fully settles around final FAA regulations governing drones in industry, it is time well spent to examine what key dimensions of using drones in your business matter most and how they integrate with your business operational model. It’s important to gain a sense of the desired future state through understanding a day in the life of an end user trying to apply insights derived from data collected using drones.

Some early drone adopters, like in mining and construction, have elected to manage their own drone operations. They put their own product operations teams in charge of flying drones out of existing facilities, then transfer the drone’s images, captured on microSD cards, to someone else who identifies the images most useful to the requester. This is a serious undertaking, requiring flight control training and becoming familiar with federal aviation and other local regulations, among other complex tasks. It’s not that it can’t be done and done well. But the question to ask, given your business priorities, is whether it makes sense for your company to fly its own drones to get the data and then act upon it – or is it better to seek another way to consume and benefit from this data source?

In my next blog, we’ll look at how some companies are working to answer these questions.

For more on co-innovation opportunities, see The Future Will Be Co-Created.

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David Cruickshank

About David Cruickshank

David Cruickshank is senior director for strategy and operations for the SAP Co-Innovation Lab. He leads the lab's efforts in Silicon Valley to enable ecosystem-driven co-innovation between SAP, its partners, and customers. Additionally, he manages all operational aspects necessary to run a multimillion-dollar data center to provision private cloud infrastructures to deliver productive SAP landscapes consumed by co-innovation projects seeking a faster track to market for commercially successful innovations.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

Link to Sources


From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Blockchain: Much Ado About Nothing? How Very Wrong!

Juergen Roehricht

Let me start with a quote from McKinsey, that in my view hits the nail right on the head:

“No matter what the context, there’s a strong possibility that blockchain will affect your business. The very big question is when.”

Now, in the industries that I cover in my role as general manager and innovation lead for travel and transportation/cargo, engineering, construction and operations, professional services, and media, I engage with many different digital leaders on a regular basis. We are having visionary conversations about the impact of digital technologies and digital transformation on business models and business processes and the way companies address them. Many topics are at different stages of the hype cycle, but the one that definitely stands out is blockchain as a new enabling technology in the enterprise space.

Just a few weeks ago, a customer said to me: “My board is all about blockchain, but I don’t get what the excitement is about – isn’t this just about Bitcoin and a cryptocurrency?”

I can totally understand his confusion. I’ve been talking to many blockchain experts who know that it will have a big impact on many industries and the related business communities. But even they are uncertain about the where, how, and when, and about the strategy on how to deal with it. The reason is that we often look at it from a technology point of view. This is a common mistake, as the starting point should be the business problem and the business issue or process that you want to solve or create.

In my many interactions with Torsten Zube, vice president and blockchain lead at the SAP Innovation Center Network (ICN) in Potsdam, Germany, he has made it very clear that it’s mandatory to “start by identifying the real business problem and then … figure out how blockchain can add value.” This is the right approach.

What we really need to do is provide guidance for our customers to enable them to bring this into the context of their business in order to understand and define valuable use cases for blockchain. We need to use design thinking or other creative strategies to identify the relevant fields for a particular company. We must work with our customers and review their processes and business models to determine which key blockchain aspects, such as provenance and trust, are crucial elements in their industry. This way, we can identify use cases in which blockchain will benefit their business and make their company more successful.

My highly regarded colleague Ulrich Scholl, who is responsible for externalizing the latest industry innovations, especially blockchain, in our SAP Industries organization, recently said: “These kinds of use cases are often not evident, as blockchain capabilities sometimes provide minor but crucial elements when used in combination with other enabling technologies such as IoT and machine learning.” In one recent and very interesting customer case from the autonomous province of South Tyrol, Italy, blockchain was one of various cloud platform services required to make this scenario happen.

How to identify “blockchainable” processes and business topics (value drivers)

To understand the true value and impact of blockchain, we need to keep in mind that a verified transaction can involve any kind of digital asset such as cryptocurrency, contracts, and records (for instance, assets can be tangible equipment or digital media). While blockchain can be used for many different scenarios, some don’t need blockchain technology because they could be handled by a simple ledger, managed and owned by the company, or have such a large volume of data that a distributed ledger cannot support it. Blockchain would not the right solution for these scenarios.

Here are some common factors that can help identify potential blockchain use cases:

  • Multiparty collaboration: Are many different parties, and not just one, involved in the process or scenario, but one party dominates everything? For example, a company with many parties in the ecosystem that are all connected to it but not in a network or more decentralized structure.
  • Process optimization: Will blockchain massively improve a process that today is performed manually, involves multiple parties, needs to be digitized, and is very cumbersome to manage or be part of?
  • Transparency and auditability: Is it important to offer each party transparency (e.g., on the origin, delivery, geolocation, and hand-overs) and auditable steps? (e.g., How can I be sure that the wine in my bottle really is from Bordeaux?)
  • Risk and fraud minimization: Does it help (or is there a need) to minimize risk and fraud for each party, or at least for most of them in the chain? (e.g., A company might want to know if its goods have suffered any shocks in transit or whether the predefined route was not followed.)

Connecting blockchain with the Internet of Things

This is where blockchain’s value can be increased and automated. Just think about a blockchain that is not just maintained or simply added by a human, but automatically acquires different signals from sensors, such as geolocation, temperature, shock, usage hours, alerts, etc. One that knows when a payment or any kind of money transfer has been made, a delivery has been received or arrived at its destination, or a digital asset has been downloaded from the Internet. The relevant automated actions or signals are then recorded in the distributed ledger/blockchain.

Of course, given the massive amount of data that is created by those sensors, automated signals, and data streams, it is imperative that only the very few pieces of data coming from a signal that are relevant for a specific business process or transaction be stored in a blockchain. By recording non-relevant data in a blockchain, we would soon hit data size and performance issues.

Ideas to ignite thinking in specific industries

  • The digital, “blockchained” physical asset (asset lifecycle management): No matter whether you build, use, or maintain an asset, such as a machine, a piece of equipment, a turbine, or a whole aircraft, a blockchain transaction (genesis block) can be created when the asset is created. The blockchain will contain all the contracts and information for the asset as a whole and its parts. In this scenario, an entry is made in the blockchain every time an asset is: sold; maintained by the producer or owner’s maintenance team; audited by a third-party auditor; has malfunctioning parts; sends or receives information from sensors; meets specific thresholds; has spare parts built in; requires a change to the purpose or the capability of the assets due to age or usage duration; receives (or doesn’t receive) payments; etc.
  • The delivery chain, bill of lading: In today’s world, shipping freight from A to B involves lots of manual steps. For example, a carrier receives a booking from a shipper or forwarder, confirms it, and, before the document cut-off time, receives the shipping instructions describing the content and how the master bill of lading should be created. The carrier creates the original bill of lading and hands it over to the ordering party (the current owner of the cargo). Today, that original paper-based bill of lading is required for the freight (the container) to be picked up at the destination (the port of discharge). Imagine if we could do this as a blockchain transaction and by forwarding a PDF by email. There would be one transaction at the beginning, when the shipping carrier creates the bill of lading. Then there would be look-ups, e.g., by the import and release processing clerk of the shipper at the port of discharge and the new owner of the cargo at the destination. Then another transaction could document that the container had been handed over.

The future

I personally believe in the massive transformative power of blockchain, even though we are just at the very beginning. This transformation will be achieved by looking at larger networks with many participants that all have a nearly equal part in a process. Today, many blockchain ideas still have a more centralistic approach, in which one company has a more prominent role than the (many) others and often is “managing” this blockchain/distributed ledger-supported process/approach.

But think about the delivery scenario today, where goods are shipped from one door or company to another door or company, across many parties in the delivery chain: from the shipper/producer via the third-party logistics service provider and/or freight forwarder; to the companies doing the actual transport, like vessels, trucks, aircraft, trains, cars, ferries, and so on; to the final destination/receiver. And all of this happens across many countries, many borders, many handovers, customs, etc., and involves a lot of paperwork, across all constituents.

“Blockchaining” this will be truly transformational. But it will need all constituents in the process or network to participate, even if they have different interests, and to agree on basic principles and an approach.

As Torsten Zube put it, I am not a “blockchain extremist” nor a denier that believes this is just a hype, but a realist open to embracing a new technology in order to change our processes for our collective benefit.

Turn insight into action, make better decisions, and transform your business. Learn how.

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Juergen Roehricht

About Juergen Roehricht

Juergen Roehricht is General Manager of Services Industries and Innovation Lead of the Middle and Eastern Europe region for SAP. The industries he covers include travel and transportation; professional services; media; and engineering, construction and operations. Besides managing the business in those segments, Juergen is focused on supporting innovation and digital transformation strategies of SAP customers. With more than 20 years of experience in IT, he stays up to date on the leading edge of innovation, pioneering and bringing new technologies to market and providing thought leadership. He has published several articles and books, including Collaborative Business and The Multi-Channel Company.