Step-By-Step, How-To Guide To Digital Transformation

Florian Wagner

OK, maybe this headline exaggerated. There probably is no one step-by-step guide to digital transformation, but it’s safe to say that a thorough evaluation of five clearly defined areas can help companies assess digital business readiness based on a Digital Business Innovation framework developed by Digital Bridge Partners & SAP. This assessment of the key elements we have observed in successful digital innovation stories serves to identify strengths, weaknesses, gaps, and opportunities on the road to digital transformation.

A framework for success

The Digital Business Innovation (DBI) framework is a system of assessing the CIO’s and IT’s readiness for, and progress along, a digital transformation journey.

The framework consists of four pillars supported by DBI leadership:

  1. Define a digital strategy to raise awareness, set direction, and drive decision making
  2. Apply a best practice organizational innovation model and culture, including agile solution development processes to drive digital business value
  3. Establish a collaborative and agile IT operating model that allows for incubation of new approaches
  4. Deliver the right platforms ‒ technical and commercial ‒ to support enterprise-wide transformation and innovation required by digital business model changes

 Where should your digital transformation start?

According to the 2015 MIT Center for Information Systems Research survey, board members think that 32% of company revenues will be threatened by digital disruption by 2020. This should create a sense of urgency in any company. But preparing for transformation requires clarity in two areas: a strategy that outlines the scope, depth, and size of the change needed to realize your goals, and an assessment of what is required in terms of culture, capacity, leadership, models, and tools.

Many digital maturity assessments exist, but most are quite complex and time consuming, or lead toward a specific vendor’s solution. However, this assessment was designed to bring quick, clear focus to proven key success factors. The sample assessment questions below are a starting point for the conversations we have with technology leaders across a range of industries, so they are necessarily high-level. This approach focuses efforts on the degree to which maturity has been achieved and identifying strategic next steps rather than simplistic, tactical snapshots of the status quo.

The assessment

1. Leadership

  • To what degree do the CIO and IT recognize the importance of leading/driving a digital business innovation agenda?
  • To what degree is the CIO a key leader of digital business innovation?
  • How mature is IT’s drive of the digital business innovation function and culture?

2. Digital strategy

  • How well defined is the company-wide, CEO/board-driven business transformation agenda?
  • To what degree has the company committed to a comprehensive digital strategy that is aligned with your business transformation agenda?
  • To what degree does your leadership have a clear portfolio management approach to evaluate the risks and rewards of digital transformation?

3. Innovation model

  • To what degree do business peers look to IT as their co-innovation partner?
  • To what degree does your innovation model work enterprise-wide through agile, cross-functional teams working a well-managed portfolio of innovations?
  • To what degree is your organization ahead of competitors in its ability to leverage technology to drive innovation and financial results in both business processes and business models?

4. IT operations

  • To what degree has IT built a roadmap to close its tools and skills gaps between what is required and what is in place today to deliver on your digital strategy?
  • To what degree do business teams leverage IT’s tools and skills to drive digital business innovation?
  • To what degree does IT blend security, reliability, openness, and agility to support both ongoing operations and innovation work?

5. Platform

  • To what degree does IT have the end-to-end technical and commercial platforms required to facilitate effective digital transformation?
  • To what degree does IT have a clear plan for developing the technology platforms (owning or joining industry platforms, Big Data analytics, and APIs) required to facilitate value creation across your entire ecosystem?
  • To what degree is your organization clear about its relationship to the platform business models emerging in your value ecosystem (own, co-develop, join, counter)?

If a far more granular view would be helpful, use SAP’s Digital Innovation and Transformation Assessment.


Florian Wagner

About Florian Wagner

Florian Wagner is marketing director for IT audience messaging at SAP. Together with his team, he is responsible to address the IT audience and to drive relevant thought leadership topics. He writes about technology trends on digital transformation, cloud and platform strategies with a focus on customer experiences.

Answers To Two Burning Questions About Conversational AI

Warren Miller

Fire: one of civilization’s earliest and most groundbreaking technological advancements.

Two million years ago, when the first homo erectus shared his newfound discovery with his hominid peers, they likely ran for the hills. But once they realized everything they could achieve with fire—from seeing in the dark and keeping warm to cooking food and fashioning tools—they quickly came around.

People have always feared the unknown. Even today, innovative technology initially intimidates most people. But if a tool proves sound and benefits individuals in some tangible way, they’ll eagerly embrace it.

One technology that people are currently on the fence about—particularly in the enterprise space—is conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

While voice-activated digital assistants powered by conversational AI have been a mainstay in the home for the past several years, organizations are just beginning to bring them into the workplace. Many companies remain skeptical, however. They wonder whether these digital assistants can truly help them simplify the lives of their customers and employees. They wonder if they can leverage the technology to save time, cut costs, and increase productivity.

But most of all, they wonder if they can rely on these digital assistants to support people around the globe who speak different languages, and if this technology can securely protect their most sensitive data and proprietary information.

Here are two burning questions companies have about adopting conversational AI tools—and reasons they can finally put their reservations to rest.

1. Does conversational AI support my native language?

Multilingualism is an impressive characteristic, and the ability to fluently speak multiple languages opens up whole new worlds.

What if you could speak 21 different languages? Imagine what you could achieve. Imagine how much you could help others.

Apple’s Siri can do just that. In fact, the company’s digital assistant is way ahead of its conversational AI competitors when it comes to the number of languages it supports. Comparatively, Microsoft’s Cortana supports eight languages, Google Assistant supports four, and Amazon Alexa supports two.

The important thing to note here, however, is that because conversational AI is a branch of machine learning, it has the ability to support any native tongue—eventually.

First, your digital assistant needs a strong knowledge base in each language, be it one widely spoken around the globe, like English, or one used in a specific area of the world, like Shanghainese.

It then requires deep learning algorithms that help your device process structured and unstructured language data in the form of e-mails, online chat logs, or phone transcripts. By studying this data, digital assistants can iron out complex communication issues and improve how they interact with users, no matter the language.

Rather than using a linguistic, rules-based approach—where the device would have to identify nouns, verbs, and adjectives—machine learning is a more scalable solution that enables digital assistants to figure out how words are connected and what phrases do or don’t make sense. In other words, no one has to continue defining specific syntactical rules for the device. It learns them on its own.

If a voice-activated digital assistant doesn’t currently support your native language, rest assured—it can and it will.

2. Will digital assistants threaten the security of my company’s data and proprietary information?

Security is a major concern for companies in today’s digital age—and understandably so.

Cybercrime affected nearly one-third of all organizations in 2016, according to a PwC survey. And Vanson Bourne research found that 87% of CIOs believe their companies lack the security controls necessary to adequately protect their businesses in the future.

While security breaches are certainly something to worry about, sharing your data with digital assistants is more helpful than harmful. And the more data your digital assistants collect, the more their conversational AI capabilities improve, and the better they can assist you.

So, the solution to protecting your data isn’t to stop communicating and sharing your data with digital assistants. Instead, your security depends on taking the proper safety precautions. These include:

  • Muting your device: Although digital assistants wait to hear a trigger word or phrase before helping you, their microphones are always listening—unless you mute them, of course. Find the mute button on your device, and only unmute your digital assistant when you’re actively using it.
  • Sharing only what’s necessary: Giving your digital assistant access to your calendar is one thing. Sharing confidential financial information is something else altogether. Exercise caution in what details you provide your digital assistant.
  • Deleting old recordings: Digital assistants retain audio files of the questions you ask them for months or even years. You do, however, have the option to erase these recordings, and you don’t need to be a magician to make these files disappear; simply visit a website and hit the delete button.

There are also steps that technology companies and developers can take to protect your data. For example, they can ensure that your information is inaccessible to unauthorized users. Today, digital assistants cannot tell the difference between voices. But in the future, with greater conversational AI capabilities, these devices will come equipped with biometric-based authentication such as voice recognition technology—so if your digital assistant is hacked or stolen, an unauthorized user will be unable to control your device and access your data.

Technology companies could also impose severe restrictions around the use and sharing of your company’s proprietary information. If an organization develops a digital assistant for both you and an industry competitor, it can keep your trade secrets private. Your knowledge base will be reserved for your business only. That means no other company can benefit from the questions your employees ask your digital assistant.

By taking the proper precautions with your device—and trusting that the enterprises developing them will do the same—you can rest easy that your company’s data and propriety information will remain safe.

Hesitate to adopt a digital assistant and you’re playing with fire

Two million years ago, our ancestors took a revolutionary step when they discovered how to control fire. But they also learned that if you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned.

Today, if you fear emerging technologies like conversational AI and hesitate to adopt a digital assistant in the workplace, you risk the painful sting of missed opportunities.

Interested in learning more about conversational AI and how digital assistants can empower your enterprise to thrive? Join Juergen Mueller’s strategy talk at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, September 25-29, or sign up to attend an upcoming SAP TechEd event in Bangalore on October 25-27, or Barcelona on November 14–16 to hear from inspiring industry thought leaders and see innovative technology solutions in action.


5 Reasons To Consider Managed Detection And Response For Cybersecurity

Dakota Murphey

There was once a time when you could install a firewall and say with relative confidence that your business was protected from cyber attacks. But as hackers, crackers, and cybercriminals get smarter, businesses need to invest more resources to keep data secure. This had led to increased demand for managed detection and response (MDR) services.

These services monitor your computer system at all times, detecting and neutralizing potential threats before they can become a big problem. Here are five reasons that you should consider investing in MDR.

1. Increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks

It is unfortunately true that cyber attacks get more sophisticated every day. Many businesses, large and small, have suffered data theft, ransomware attacks, and more as they relied on defenses that had simply become ineffective against the problem. In some cases, businesses were alerted to breaches and data loss only long after the incident had occurred and there was nothing they could do about it.

2. Inadequate in-house expertise

Small businesses are especially at risk because they are unlikely to have a skilled IT team in house. Even those with a dedicated IT support team are unlikely to have the kind of cybersecurity expertise required to prevent cyber attacks 24×7.

3. Incoming GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will apply in the EU from May 2018 and is set to have major ramifications. GDPR essentially put much stricter controls on how personal data is collected and stored. Additionally, however, there are much harsher punishments that will be imposed on businesses that lose key customer data. Fines are set to increase massively, which could mean that cyber attacks affecting businesses can have major financial implications beyond the inherent impact of business disruption and potential reputational damage.

4. The risk of being an easy target

According to Gartner, detection and response is going to become the most important form of cybersecurity for businesses by 2020. As companies upgrade their defenses and put new systems in place, they become harder to hack. The knock-on effect is that cybercriminals are less likely to target businesses with powerful defenses and instead will focus their efforts on those with outdated security. Those companies that don’t invest as soon as possible will find themselves behind the curve and make themselves an easy target.

5. A good investment

A service like MDR is able to detect a huge range of different cyber threats and deal with them appropriately. When you have MDR in place, you will be immediately notified of any threats, and cybersecurity experts can help you deal with the problem and provide advice. In short, MDR can save your business a significant amount of time and money that you would otherwise have to spend dealing with problems after suffering an attack.

Learn more about the importance of strong defenses in The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.


Dakota Murphey

About Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is a tech writer specialising in cybersecurity, working with Redscan on this and a number of other GDPR, MDR, and ethical hacking projects.

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

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.


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


Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!