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.

Does Your CIO Have A Vision For The Future?

Daniel Newman

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of culture in building and sustaining successful organizations, especially in the digital age. With employees facing so much change – from software and tech changes to org structure and service offerings – companies need strong leadership to guide their employees through the ever-present transitions. But where – or better yet, who – should that vision come from?

That’s one of the most hotly contested questions in the workplace today, as CEOs seek to find the right mix of talent to fill positions in the C-suite, from CIO and CMO to CDO, CUEO, and CDO. That’s a lot of C’s – but one that is often lacking is “Clarity.” To me, the most important leader tasked with creating that clarity is the CIO, who can play a pivotal role in bridging the vision and technology that are so critical to today’s business market. Still, research last year showed that more than half of CIOs were struggling to be taken seriously when it came to strategic vision. Why?

They’re charged with a lot – but not enough

The biggest problem I see is that, although CIOs carry the title of “chief,” they’re often tasked more with managing day-to-day operations than playing a true leadership role in the organizations they serve. For instance, if a CIO is involved more with purchasing software or cutting costs than communicating the significance of the tech being purchased, often the entire company will bear the cost. My view: there’s never been a better time to give the CIO true authority – most importantly, in communicating the purpose of your company’s tech change.

There are too many chiefs in the kitchen

The digital age is all about breaking down silos, but with so many C’s in the ever-expanding C-suite, who really has the reins? This is a time to consider what the term “CIO” means at your company. Does it mean managing menial day-to-day operations or helping build a clear tech vision? And further, is your organization willing to make room in the CIO’s day to be a leader? Or does the organization prefer to keep him or her busy just “keeping things running”? If the latter, you might have an efficient workplace, but I doubt your company will be running for very long. Take a look at where the power is in your organization and whether it needs to be redistributed.

Are they holding the power – or empowering others?

It can be easy in today’s digital landscape to jump from one shiny new technology to another in trying to stay at the forefront of innovation and change. CIOs should avoid promoting tech just for the sake of making use of their own power. Ideally, organizations need a leader who empowers departments throughout the entire enterprise to find new and innovative ways to serve customers, save money, and improve efficiencies – not just because tech is cool, but because it aligns with your company’s goals.

Does the CIO have opportunities to lead?

As I’ve noted in previous articles, tech itself is never enough to build a successful company or sell a company on change. The CIO must be given the authority to communicate how new technology will grow and change the business, make customers’ lives better, and lead to more abundance across the board. That means CIOs need to be great thinkers, but also great communicators. While they don’t need to create the entire tech vision, they must be able to collaborate with the CEO and explain how tech will best suit the company’s business needs. That means identifying goals that will achieve growth, but also outlining an overall long-term tech strategy so that your company can “stay the course,” even in times of volatility and unrest.

One could argue – and many have – that CIOs are just one of many C-suite executives fighting for a piece of leadership in the new digital world. But from my perspective, a CIO’s insights should go far beyond marketing, data, analytics, or user experience. They should help define and develop a company’s place in the digital age.

Make sure your digital transformation doesn’t break what’s working. Learn 4 Ways to Digitally Disrupt Your Business Without Destroying It.


Daniel Newman

About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

IT And HR: Working Together To Keep Employee Data Safe

Meghan M. Biro

High-profile companies like Sony, Target, and Yahoo – along with the U.S. government – have been victims of data breaches. If these companies, with the best resources at their disposal, can be compromised, what hope do average small and midsize businesses have to protect their data? And how can HR departments help keep employee data safe?

Most small and midsize businesses haven’t had to think about network security, much less a breach of security, but times have changed, and keeping employee data safe is yet another HR department responsibility. However, there is an answer. By working together to understand and face the cyber threats in the workplace, HR and IT can keep employee data secure.

Key threats and trends

In the past year, 50% of all businesses experienced a ransomware attack. Employee information, followed by financial data, and then customer information, was most at risk, with ransomware hackers denying users access to the data until they paid a fee. Even more alarming, 48% of the businesses attacked believe an opportunistic hacker – not an organization of professional cyber criminals – committed the crime.

It seems employees are making it easy for hackers, too. According to the 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations report, 63% of data breaches occurred as a result of a “weak, default, or stolen password.” Other mistakes:

  • Confidential information sent to the wrong person
  • Company data disposed of improperly
  • Lost or stolen devices storing sensitive company data
  • Misconfigured IT systems

How to protect employee data

Even if the IT department sets up the necessary firewalls to help ensure cybersecurity in the workplace, many breaches occur because of phishing or password theft. The HR department should work with IT to provide employee training to help keep data safe, monitor employee activity to minimize risk, and track threats and trends through predictive analytics.

Here are a few steps the HR department and IT staff can take to promote cybersecurity in the workplace.

  1. Educate employees on password best practices. A strong password is the best line of defense against cyberattacks. Install or recommend password management software, which can make it easier for employees to set strong, unique passwords for their programs and applications.
  1. Prohibit Wi-Fi use on unsecured networks. With the prevalence of telecommuting in the workplace, many employees work from coffeehouses and other public places. Employees traveling for business may tap into unsecured hotel Wi-Fi networks. Prohibit this practice, and consider equipping employees who travel frequently with secured mobile hotspot devices they can use instead. In addition, employees should never leave their devices unattended in public places; hackers can equip devices with software that can log keystrokes and steal passwords.
  1. Deploy software that wipes lost or stolen mobile devices. Losing a smartphone, tablet, or laptop is not a crime – it can happen to anyone. Employees should know they must report lost or stolen devices immediately. All devices, including BYOD, should be equipped with software that remotely wipes data as soon as a device is reported stolen.
  1. Employ the latest in predictive analytics. Network monitoring helps identify breaches. Unfortunately, most technology today spots attacks only after they occur. By the time an attacker breaches a firewall, it takes just minutes to install ransomware or steal data, so alerts can help minimize damage, but not prevent it completely. Thanks to advances in machine learning, however, new techniques can recognize anomalies in network traffic to detect a threat as it occurs. This technology is still in its early stages, but experts say cybersecurity will rely on predictive analytics in the near future.

IT and HR: Working together toward cybersecurity in the workplace

Good cybersecurity consists of having the right technology and training employees to keep the data on their devices secure. When IT and HR work together, organizations of any size can minimize the chances of a data breach.

Data breaches can damage your company’s hard-won reputation. See The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.

Photo: bradsterling Flickr via Compfight cc


Meghan M. Biro

About Meghan M. Biro

Meghan Biro is talent management and HR tech brand strategist, analyst, digital catalyst, author and speaker. I am the founder and CEO of TalentCulture and host of the #WorkTrends live podcast and Twitter Chat. Over my career, I have worked with early-stage ventures and global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent. I have been a guest on numerous radio shows and online forums, and has been a featured speaker at global conferences. I am the co-author of The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Revolution of Leadership One Person at a Time, and a regular contributor at Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and several other media outlets. I also serve on advisory boards for leading HR and technology brands.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:

Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.

Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain


Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.


4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”


Vivek Bapat

About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.