Who’s In Charge of Digital Transformation? You Are!

Timo Elliott

Each year, I present at about 50 conferences around the world, talking to business and IT audiences about the impact of the latest technologies. I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I’ve recently noticed a change.

When I talk about topics such as analytics and Big Data, audiences are clearly looking for lessons learned that they can apply to their own organizations. But now many of my presentations are about digital transformation, and the reaction has been subtly different.

Audiences are still very interested in hearing real-life stories about organizations that have embarked on digital transformation. But the feedback is less “how can I make that work for me?” and more “wow, that’s interesting! I wonder who’s going to do that in my company?” In other words, they think it’s important – for somebody else.

It’s a big difference, because digital business is a big deal. IDC believes that by the end of this year, two-thirds of global companies will have digital transformation at the center of their corporate strategy. And these transformations are changing how companies operate, calling into question the role of today’s IT in tomorrow’s business innovations.

CIOs have always been told to get closer to the business – but now their very survival may depend upon it. New executive titles such as “chief data officer” are proliferating, and Gartner says there are two different types of CIOs emerging: the “chief innovation officers” who spearhead the technology-led business models of the future and the “chief infrastructure officers” who are relegated to looking after the IT plumbing.

IDC’s research shows that digital business has thus far relied on a culture of experimentation and innovation driven primarily by the business and shadow IT – and this is set to continue. For example, Gartner says that in 2017 – for the first time ever – the average chief marketing officer will spend more on technology than the average CIO. These funds are being used to create “islands of innovation” outside the realm of core IT, creating standalone cloud or mobile applications for customer experience, new analytical applications, or new Internet of Things use cases.

The key challenge for traditional CIOs is that these innovation use cases have tended to deliver new revenue streams and significant business value. Instead of “just” enabling business processes and services, technology now creates new ecosystem platforms for partners and new product offers for customers.

This has emphasized the differences between the revenue-generating agile digital business teams and “costly, slow, and inflexible” core IT systems. But the easy innovation wins are coming to an end and consumer expectations are rising. IDC emphasizes that in next phase of digital transformation, having a strong company-wide digital platform will separate the “thrivers” from the “survivors.”

But business leaders and shadow IT have an awful track record when it comes to taking innovation from internal project silos and turning it into a robust corporate standard. The core skills of traditional IT are essential for the next phase of digital transformation success. But IT staff need to step up and lead the creation of these new platforms, not just wait for the business to come to them with fully formed plans.

You may think of yourself as providing data services and support to business users, and that it’s their job to change the way the company does business. But they can’t do it without you. Managing data is the most important strategic skill in your organization, and business people just don’t have the expertise required.

So who’s responsible for digital transformation in your business? You are!

It’s time to Unlock Your Digital Super Powers: Learn how digitization helps companies be Live Businesses.


About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in articles such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics. 

Open Source Is Inspiring Digital Transformation

Thomas Di Giacomo

Today, many companies face the challenge of preparing their IT infrastructure and processes for digital transformation. IT environments that have grown over many years cannot adapt to digitization requirements in one swoop. This is often evident when companies outsource certain applications to new IT infrastructures – such as (hybrid) cloud scenarios – while other workloads continue to run on the existing IT infrastructure.

To ensure everything functions smoothly, any new solutions deployed must support integration or at least be compatible with legacy systems while enabling migration over time. Open source software is becoming an increasingly common way for businesses to make their digital transition successful.

Bridge between old and new

Open source software is considered the engine of digital transformation. This is because:

  • Open source software is not bound to proprietary license costs.
  • It is always up to date, and often more innovative and forward-looking than proprietary solutions.
  • Open source software is carried and further developed by a global community of developers and numerous manufacturers.
  • Having multiple expert eyes on the open source code also ensures that security gaps are discovered and closed quickly.

Digital transformation with open source: a team effort

In order to have a successful digital transformation, companies can’t just dive into the realm of open source software without knowing how to use it effectively for their business and in tandem with their existing IT environment. That’s why it’s important to have a dedicated development and operations (DevOps) team in place for effective communication and collaboration between product management, software development, and business operations.

With DevOps principles, companies can implement agile working methods and continuously improve their products. At the same time, effective collaboration in DevOps teams reduces and possibly eliminates traditional silo mentality and simplifies communication between development, operations, and quality assurance (QA). This makes employees more flexible and promotes innovation.

On the technical side, companies need transparent, measurable tools that enable maximum automation and change – like the software-defined data center/infrastructure or OpenStack cloud – both of which originate from the open source environment. This enables automated testing and incremental development, which is why containers and software-defined infrastructure (SDI) also deliver the foundation for DevOps. This example also illustrates that DevOps would not be conceivable without the open source environment.

Rely on the right partner

Many companies have IT environments that have been operating for decades. So during any digital transition, it’s crucial to have an effective DevOps team partnered with the right open source and enterprise Linux provider to help create a suitable infrastructure environment and serve as a bridge builder into the digital age.

Enterprise open source and Linux providers can help create the necessary preconditions for digital transformation of an enterprise IT environment for the following reasons:

  1. They have expert knowledge of open source software.
  1. They have been instrumental in closing the gaps between open source solutions and established systems since 2000.
  1. They have been working with the underlying innovative development methods of open source approaches for years, which gives them a deep understanding of DevOps principles like continuous delivery.

Companies with legacy IT environments cannot realize the benefits of digital transformation immediately – and they don’t need to – because step-by-step migration to DevOps, cloud native applications, and cloud infrastructure is possible. Companies should rely on the right partner to ensure that the migration – which can take years – runs smoothly.

Learn more about partnering with an enterprise open source and Linux provider.


About Thomas Di Giacomo

Dr. Thomas Di Giacomo is Chief Technology Officer at SUSE. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Geneva, and has over 15 years of experience in the IT industry serving in various global leadership roles in engineering and product innovation. He has expertise in open source platforms, development, and support of global information systems and technologies applied to various industries such as telecommunication, hospitality, and healthcare.

The IoT Data Explosion, IPv6, And The Need To Process At The Edge

Chuck Pharris

Part 2 in the 3-part Edge Computing series

The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing. By how much? IDC predicts there will be 30 billion connected things worldwide by 2020.[1] After 2020? That’s anybody’s guess—but one clear indication that this growth will be big is the move to a new Internet addressing system: IPv6.

The problem is that the current system, IPv4, allows for only 4 billion addresses or so, which requires some devices to share addresses. With more and more sensors embedded in more and more things—each requiring an IP address—this state of affairs is unsustainable.

IPv6 solves this problem by bumping up the universe of available addresses to a number that’s hard to comprehend —something like 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (or 340 trillion trillion trillion).[2]

But what about the data?

I can’t say that I expect 340 trillion trillion trillion IoT devices out there anytime soon. But as the IoT grows, the amount of data generated by proliferating sensors embedded in connected things will grow as well. And for organizations deploying IoT devices to move all this data back and forth via the cloud is simply untenable.

Hence the idea of edge processing. Edge processing, as I explained in a previous blog, is the idea of processing data on the “edge” where IoT devices are deployed—rather than sending all sensor-generated data back to mission central over the cloud. Without edge processing, I don’t think the IoT could be a reality.

But even if we were to revamp the planet’s Internet infrastructure, would you still find value in all that data? In fact, much of the data produced by sensors is not particularly useful. So instead of doing a rip and replace of the Internet, why not just process data at the edge and use an IoT gateway to run the analytics on site, sending back only what’s useful to mission central?

The four pillars

It is such practical concerns that make edge processing an appealing approach for real-world IoT deployments. But how do you move forward?

In a recent white paper, SAP explores some of the primary concerns, categorizing them according to the 4 P’s of intelligent edge processing: presence, performance, power, and protection. The paper examines these four pillars and focuses on better ways to cleanse, filter, and enrich the growing volumes of sensor data. Let’s a take a quick look.


Intelligent edge processing requires your systems to be present at the creation, as it were—on the edge, where the action take place. Using machine learning and smart algorithms on the edge, you can generate insight and take action without human intervention. This is good, because running in a more autonomous fashion is an imperative for the digital economy.

As an example, the paper dives into automated reordering and receiving using warehouse shelves equipped with sensors. A different example, though, is automated work orders triggered by analysis of events. This is interesting because the automated action—creation of a work order—requires a follow-on action involving humans, like putting a technician on site, let’s say. In this way, many organizations will use edge processing in conjunction with human beings doing things. It all depends on the scenario that works best in context.


Intelligent edge processing can improve performance for IoT scenarios by solving the problem of overwhelming traditional data-storage technologies. Take the example of processing in manufacturing where the goal is to approximate a standard set by the “golden batch” for all subsequent manufacturing runs. Combining operational technology with information technology, you can process the complex events that happen on the edge, and bring new batches closer into compliance with the golden batch. This helps improve manufacturing performance, from the perspectives of both speed and quality.


Intelligent edge processing gives you the power to execute processes where they take place—without the latency of data transfer in the cloud. Take, for example, a remote mining operation with limited connectivity. Whatever processes occur on site—say, the ordering of replacement parts for mining equipment—can still be carried out with edge processing. Workers can record the order, and replacements can either be made where parts are locally available or put on hold until the part arrives. In either case, the need for the part is recorded, and the information can be synced opportunistically when a connection becomes available.


Intelligent edge processing can help deliver the security needed for IoT deployments. By their very nature, such deployments emphasize openness and are designed to work with other networks—many of which may not be under your control. With intelligent edge processing, you can track the unique identities of sensors in your network, encrypt any data sent out, and run the necessary checks on data coming in. On-site processing in this fashion, in fact, is required—because managing such security via the cloud would not only introduce data latency into the equation, but could also open up holes to be exploited by malicious actors.

So, yes, the IoT is growing—and along with it, the volumes of data companies are required to manage. This volume of data cannot be managed entirely via the cloud. Edge processing is a solution to this problem. Take a look at the “4 P’s” paper here: “Excellence at the Edge: Achieving Business Outcomes in a Connected World.” And stay tuned for my final blog in this series: “Edge Computing and the New Decentralization: The Rhyming of IT History.”

[1] http://www.idc.com/infographics/IoT

[2] https://www.google.com/intl/en/ipv6/


Chuck Pharris

About Chuck Pharris

Chuck Pharris has over 25 years of experience in the manufacturing industries, driving sales and marketing at a large controls systems company, overseeing plant automation and supply chain management, and conducting energy analysis for the U.S. Department of Energy’s research laboratory. He has worked in all areas of plant automation, including process control, energy management, production management, and supply chain management. He currently is the global director of IoT marketing for SAP. Contact him at chuck.pharris@sap.com.

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!