Top Secrets For Ensuring A Successful Digital Transformation

Ruchi Verma

Buzzwords such as “disruption” and “uberization” seem to be on the tip of every executive’s tongue these days, but these are more than just trendy concepts. The reality is that organizations across all industries and types of business are rewriting the rules of strategy.

Business transformation is no longer just about digitization of customer experience, work, and resources, but taking customers by surprise with innovative and highly personalized offers and experiences at every opportunity available. A recent study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Accenture reports that companies that reach a higher level of digital maturity are 26% more profitable, grow 9% faster, and achieve 12% higher market valuations than their industry peers.

Customers trying to innovate or reform their business models are mainly driven by two strategic motivations: growth and protection.

They want to grow by becoming an always-on service provider, opening new revenue streams with IoT and connected devices, providing payment flexibility, and moving to multi-sided business models such as transacting on behalf of third parties. They also want to protect their core by providing go-to market agility and cost savings as well as automation and scaling.

Figure 1: 5 key imperatives for your monetization journey

One thing for sure is that a transformation journey starts with aligning the three primary elements involved: people, process, and technology. Following that, the biggest challenge lies in spotting new growth opportunities and being ready—i.e., being agile enough to respond quickly and able to successfully scale in the process of monetizing them.

In this blog, I will explore the imperatives from end customer’s perspective. This is important as customers are co-creating their own journeys today; they demand instant engagement and personalization. Understanding customer expectations and mapping them to the organization’s capabilities is the first step towards truly monetizing the digital transformation and aiding sustainable growth by multiplying ARPUs (average revenue per users) while keeping the customer churn low. The rapid growth of all types of devices (wearables, smartphones, tablets, good old desktops, among others) and app culture has made it imperative for service providers to remain highly contextual and consistent across multiple channels.

Top five customer expectations and associated imperatives

Figure 2: Customer expectations and associated impact on organizations

1. Visibility, predictability, usage controls, accurate charging, and responsive customer service

With the advent of the prepaid economy, customers expect full predictability on their consumption. They want to pay exactly for what they have consumed and have complete flexibility in managing the services in which they are enrolled.

This means that the “always-on” service provider must be able to create targeted subscription offers that are instantly available for quotes and orders across all channels, and that they can meter and rate real-time subscription charges and usage-based fees. These critical abilities should be backed up by strong self-care options that capture customers in one moment and allow them to navigate seamlessly – understanding that although happiness drives loyalty, simplifying processes and reducing the amount of input required from customers has an even greater impact on churn.

2. Rich, single-source, seamless services

Today’s companies, brands, and manufacturers have multiple distribution partners as the result of geographic and organizational spread. The ability to manage both channel and marketplace partners in a highly automated manner is essential for smooth operations in a distributed supply chain. It is imperative that disseminating details of revenue-sharing, apportionment, commissions, and royalties along the entire value chain be easy to apply and manage flexibly. A second imperative is to bill consumers in a rich, single-sourced invoice for any combination of consolidated products and services they may consume across complex supply chains.

3. Payment flexibility

From Venmo to Uber to Snapchat, the payment landscape is undergoing massive shifts, all of which point toward one overarching outcome: the gradual decline of “transactional uniformity.” Offering the freedom to choose a preferred payment option is a clear mandate in order to retain customers. Standard payment options such as credit or debit and online payments are expectations of the past. What today’s customers demand is flexibility in payment cycles such as prepaid, postpaid, deferred payments, and invoices per different cycles.

Offering differentiated billing and payment services targeting individual customer segments while automating payment handling from any channel is crucial. In an Ernst & Young paper on billing transformation, authors David Connolly and Rick Raisinghani point out that as a service provider’s first and most frequent touch point with its customers, billing presents an opportunity to create a positive experience and to build longstanding relationships.

Additionally, with the underlying objective of cost-savings due to automation, these prerequisites are mandatory: thorough review of customer history to avoid late or missing payments, and having an effective credit and collection management system along with a receptive payment handling and receivable system to continuously evaluate credit risk and thus lower DSO (days sales outstanding).

4. Error-free transparent billing and consolidated invoices

Often, the inability of invoicing systems to integrate multiple services and third-party charges leads to time-consuming, manual processes. Receiving complicated and unclear invoices not only frustrates customers, but it can also be directly responsible for loss in revenue.

Customers appreciate a consolidated approach as it simplifies invoice management and payment processes. Rather than having to manage multiple invoices for all orders placed with your company over the past week, month, or other time period, customers can manage and pay a single bill.

Every invoice you generate introduces additional opportunities for error, misplaced documents, and payment delays. Invoice consolidation makes sense for companies with customers that routinely place multiple orders per billing period. Some of the financial and operational AR benefits that can be achieved with a consolidated invoicing approach include more efficient receivables processes, higher customer satisfaction levels, reduced billing errors, and improved compliance and audit trails.

5. Quick and easy issue resolution

Quick, hassle-free issue resolution an important imperative for loyal and happy customers. Often, lack of process coordination between sales, service, and collections, and lack of common data model causes delays in processing customer issues. We see this often as the financial landscape of many companies was built in a highly siloed fashion, making it very difficult to obtain a 360° view on the customer financial and historical data.

Having a back-end system that integrates credit, collections, and dispute management with service processes improves agent efficiency by providing of 360-degree customer view, including interaction history, fact sheets, and detailed financial views resulting in lower TCO. Improved interactions and efficiency that focuses on customer needs supports seamless dispute handling and increases customer satisfaction.

Today, many organizations understand that the impact of billing processes are not limited to the back office. Billing affects customer satisfaction and customer retention, and a customer-focused billing strategy can create real competitive differentiation. As a common denominator for the business processes introduced by marketing, finance and accounting, customer service, and IT, billing systems run in parallel to a customer journey.

From designing monetization policies to managing and mediating sales and orders, handling collections, commissions and royalties, and analyzing consumption data to improve future pricing, an efficient billing system ticks off the imperative checklist and is instrumental in providing a truly seamless customer journey for businesses— inside and out.

For more on this topic, see Why Digital Transformation Is Not Just About Technology.

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Ruchi Verma

About Ruchi Verma

Ruchi Verma is a global market development specialist, supporting the SAP Hybris Billing solution suite, at SAP. She has wealth of experience in driving technological transformations and process improvements in retail, telecom, and banking industries. Her interest lies in analyzing technological trends and how they impact business model innovations. Based out of Paris, she is focusing on how strong billing solutions can aid monetization of digital transformation and help companies in tackling their business model transformation challenges. She holds an Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from HEC Paris with specialization in Marketing and Digital Transformation.

GDPR: Why Should Your Business Care?

Stefanie Haar

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is the fundamental modernization of European data protection legislation, taking into consideration the digital data evolution over the last decades. It aims to harmonize data protection legislation across the European Economic Area. Under GDPR, individuals who are in the EU can expect greater data protection, privacy, and control.

Given the widespread impact of GDPR, businesses around the world need to pay close attention. Here are two big reasons why.

Because it probably applies to you

GDPR is not only binding for EU companies. All companies worldwide that collect, process, or analyze data tied to individuals who are in the EU have to comply with the new regulation – or face significant financial penalties.

GDPR is applicable to personal data, including special categories of personal data called “sensitive personal data.” There are varying interpretations, but the GDPR clearly defines that any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (data subject) is considered personal data. Special categories of personal data are called out in Article 9 (1) of GDPR as data revealing: racial or ethnic origin; political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership; genetics, biometrics, or health; or a person’s sex life or sexual orientation.

Because it protects all individuals

GDPR protects all individuals, which could include your employees, your customers, your suppliers, and any other business partners you are working with. More specifically, individuals will have the right to access their personal data, correct errors, object to or limit processing, erase, and request an export of their data from companies. Companies, on the other hand, will have increased responsibilities with regard to data protection and privacy, including the following.

  • Safeguards and control: Businesses will be required to protect personal data using appropriate security measures, integrate the necessary safeguards into the processing, maintain records of processing activities, and notify authorities in case of a data breach.
  • Data subject rights processes: Organizations will need to provide notice and obtain consent for data collection and processing, disclose the purpose of personal data usage, and define data retention and deletion policies.
  • Process and people: All companies need to implement processes that ensure compliance with the principles relating to processing of personal data. Employees will need to be trained regularly. Companies will also have to audit and update data protection and privacy policies – and in some cases, appoint a data protection officer as applicable.

At SAP and SAP Ariba, we are committed to helping our customers meet these data protection and privacy challenges and protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data in our highly regulated world. We are preparing for GDPR by actively enhancing our products to help you get ready to meet these new requirements and others to come.

Interested in learning more on how SAP and SAP Ariba can help you on your journey to GDPR compliance? Please visit our GDPR resource center.

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Stefanie Haar

About Stefanie Haar

Stefanie Haar is Audience Marketing Manager at SAP Ariba. In her role, she drives market awareness and demand generation for source-to-settle solutions and business networks. She has almost 20 years of experience in marketing and business development in the procurement solutions space.

How To Stop Hesitating And Start Demystifying The Cloud For Your Business

Ted Basile

After a decade of discussion, cloud adoption is beginning to be viewed as a business necessity, not just another technology option. And if IDC’s 2018 prediction is correct, 30% of enterprises will spend more on public cloud operations than on-premises and any other datacenter IT operations this year.

Even though they may understand the benefits of the cloud or use cloud applications in siloed areas, most organizations stop short of moving all or part of their on-premises core solutions to the cloud. All too often, an all-or-nothing mindset inevitably stalls the business from proceeding – which is unfortunate, because this line of thinking negates the ultimate potential of investing in the cloud.

Many opportunities if you know where to look

Cloud platforms provide tremendous flexibility, with a choice of variations and combinations ranging from pure cloud to a mix of cloud platforms or a blend of cloud-based and on-premises solutions. However, with so many options available, it’s no surprise that CIOs and IT leaders are still overwhelmed when considering new cloud investments.

If you think about it, investing in a cloud environment is similar to purchasing a luxury car for the first time. We study mountains of brochures to evaluate the latest features and go to car shows to dream how the purchase will fit into our lives. However, no matter how much information you read or how many car models you see, nothing matches the peace of mind after a test drive.

The same should be the case when choosing a cloud platform. To turn the bottleneck of a “won’t move” mindset into an enabling “can do” commitment, businesses should explore a cloud environment that contains the functionalities the business needs and is not connected to existing systems. This approach allows every IT and non-IT organization to determine if a cloud option matches their requirements, delivers needed capabilities, and feels like the right direction for the future of the business.

For companies that are still unsure about moving to the cloud, this low-risk, simple entry point can confirm or dispel any doubt about whether a chosen cloud platform is a viable option. Plus, it can help fast-track the cloud implementation when the business is ready – without requiring additional training or acquisition of infrastructure components.

Turning a “won’t do” bottleneck into a “can do” enabler

It is challenging to know which technology options and implementation approaches enable the capabilities a business needs now and the freedom to grow at its own pace in the future. CIOs and IT leaders want a cloud investment that replicates the control, security, and confidence enabled by their on-premises systems. At the same time, they are eyeing an opportunity to not only reduce their IT costs but, more important, innovate their business model and practices at a pace and influence that was never possible in the past.

Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball that can foretell whether a cloud platform under consideration will provide all the capabilities the company desires. But this doesn’t mean that they have to dive into a cloud based on a guess. Sometimes, all it takes is a test drive in the cloud environment to know whether a cloud option will meet the needs of the business now and in the future.

See firsthand why SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud can help your business realize the full benefits of the cloud. Sign up for SAP Cloud Start today by contacting your SAP representative.

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Ted Basile

About Ted Basile

Ted Basile is the senior director responsible for global marketing for SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. His charter spans messaging, positioning, and building customer-facing assets to support all marketing and sales activities. @teddybgame | LinkedIn

The Blockchain Solution

By Gil Perez, Tom Raftery, Hans Thalbauer, Dan Wellers, and Fawn Fitter

In 2013, several UK supermarket chains discovered that products they were selling as beef were actually made at least partly—and in some cases, entirely—from horsemeat. The resulting uproar led to a series of product recalls, prompted stricter food testing, and spurred the European food industry to take a closer look at how unlabeled or mislabeled ingredients were finding their way into the food chain.

By 2020, a scandal like this will be eminently preventable.

The separation between bovine and equine will become immutable with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, which will track the provenance and identity of every animal from stall to store, adding the data to a blockchain that anyone can check but no one can alter.

Food processing companies will be able to use that blockchain to confirm and label the contents of their products accordingly—down to the specific farms and animals represented in every individual package. That level of detail may be too much information for shoppers, but they will at least be able to trust that their meatballs come from the appropriate species.

The Spine of Digitalization

Keeping food safer and more traceable is just the beginning, however. Improvements in the supply chain, which have been incremental for decades despite billions of dollars of technology investments, are about to go exponential. Emerging technologies are converging to transform the supply chain from tactical to strategic, from an easily replicable commodity to a new source of competitive differentiation.

You may already be thinking about how to take advantage of blockchain technology, which makes data and transactions immutable, transparent, and verifiable (see “What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?”). That will be a powerful tool to boost supply chain speed and efficiency—always a worthy goal, but hardly a disruptive one.

However, if you think of blockchain as the spine of digitalization and technologies such as AI, the IoT, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and drones as the limbs, you have a powerful supply chain body that can leapfrog ahead of its competition.

What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?

Here’s why blockchain technology is critical to transforming the supply chain.

Blockchain is essentially a sequential, distributed ledger of transactions that is constantly updated on a global network of computers. The ownership and history of a transaction is embedded in the blockchain at the transaction’s earliest stages and verified at every subsequent stage.

A blockchain network uses vast amounts of computing power to encrypt the ledger as it’s being written. This makes it possible for every computer in the network to verify the transactions safely and transparently. The more organizations that participate in the ledger, the more complex and secure the encryption becomes, making it increasingly tamperproof.

Why does blockchain matter for the supply chain?

  • It enables the safe exchange of value without a central verifying partner, which makes transactions faster and less expensive.
  • It dramatically simplifies recordkeeping by establishing a single, authoritative view of the truth across all parties.
  • It builds a secure, immutable history and chain of custody as different parties handle the items being shipped, and it updates the relevant documentation.
  • By doing these things, blockchain allows companies to create smart contracts based on programmable business logic, which can execute themselves autonomously and thereby save time and money by reducing friction and intermediaries.

Hints of the Future

In the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, we had no idea that the internet would become so large and pervasive, nor that we’d find a way to carry it all in our pockets on small slabs of glass.

But we could tell that it had vast potential.

Today, with the combination of emerging technologies that promise to turbocharge digital transformation, we’re just beginning to see how we might turn the supply chain into a source of competitive advantage (see “What’s the Magic Combination?”).

What’s the Magic Combination?

Those who focus on blockchain in isolation will miss out on a much bigger supply chain opportunity.

Many experts believe emerging technologies will work with blockchain to digitalize the supply chain and create new business models:

  • Blockchain will provide the foundation of automated trust for all parties in the supply chain.
  • The IoT will link objects—from tiny devices to large machines—and generate data about status, locations, and transactions that will be recorded on the blockchain.
  • 3D printing will extend the supply chain to the customer’s doorstep with hyperlocal manufacturing of parts and products with IoT sensors built into the items and/or their packaging. Every manufactured object will be smart, connected, and able to communicate so that it can be tracked and traced as needed.
  • Big Data management tools will process all the information streaming in around the clock from IoT sensors.
  • AI and machine learning will analyze this enormous amount of data to reveal patterns and enable true predictability in every area of the supply chain.

Combining these technologies with powerful analytics tools to predict trends will make lack of visibility into the supply chain a thing of the past. Organizations will be able to examine a single machine across its entire lifecycle and identify areas where they can improve performance and increase return on investment. They’ll be able to follow and monitor every component of a product, from design through delivery and service. They’ll be able to trigger and track automated actions between and among partners and customers to provide customized transactions in real time based on real data.

After decades of talk about markets of one, companies will finally have the power to create them—at scale and profitably.

Amazon, for example, is becoming as much a logistics company as a retailer. Its ordering and delivery systems are so streamlined that its customers can launch and complete a same-day transaction with a push of a single IP-enabled button or a word to its ever-attentive AI device, Alexa. And this level of experimentation and innovation is bubbling up across industries.

Consider manufacturing, where the IoT is transforming automation inside already highly automated factories. Machine-to-machine communication is enabling robots to set up, provision, and unload equipment quickly and accurately with minimal human intervention. Meanwhile, sensors across the factory floor are already capable of gathering such information as how often each machine needs maintenance or how much raw material to order given current production trends.

Once they harvest enough data, businesses will be able to feed it through machine learning algorithms to identify trends that forecast future outcomes. At that point, the supply chain will start to become both automated and predictive. We’ll begin to see business models that include proactively scheduling maintenance, replacing parts just before they’re likely to break, and automatically ordering materials and initiating customer shipments.

Italian train operator Trenitalia, for example, has put IoT sensors on its locomotives and passenger cars and is using analytics and in-memory computing to gauge the health of its trains in real time, according to an article in Computer Weekly. “It is now possible to affordably collect huge amounts of data from hundreds of sensors in a single train, analyse that data in real time and detect problems before they actually happen,” Trenitalia’s CIO Danilo Gismondi told Computer Weekly.

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, will change Trenitalia’s business model, allowing it to schedule more trips and make each one more profitable. The railway company will be able to better plan parts inventories and determine which lines are consistently performing poorly and need upgrades. The new system will save €100 million a year, according to ARC Advisory Group.

New business models continue to evolve as 3D printers become more sophisticated and affordable, making it possible to move the end of the supply chain closer to the customer. Companies can design parts and products in materials ranging from carbon fiber to chocolate and then print those items in their warehouse, at a conveniently located third-party vendor, or even on the client’s premises.

In addition to minimizing their shipping expenses and reducing fulfillment time, companies will be able to offer more personalized or customized items affordably in small quantities. For example, clothing retailer Ministry of Supply recently installed a 3D printer at its Boston store that enables it to make an article of clothing to a customer’s specifications in under 90 minutes, according to an article in Forbes.

This kind of highly distributed manufacturing has potential across many industries. It could even create a market for secure manufacturing for highly regulated sectors, allowing a manufacturer to transmit encrypted templates to printers in tightly protected locations, for example.

Meanwhile, organizations are investigating ways of using blockchain technology to authenticate, track and trace, automate, and otherwise manage transactions and interactions, both internally and within their vendor and customer networks. The ability to collect data, record it on the blockchain for immediate verification, and make that trustworthy data available for any application delivers indisputable value in any business context. The supply chain will be no exception.

Blockchain Is the Change Driver

The supply chain is configured as we know it today because it’s impossible to create a contract that accounts for every possible contingency. Consider cross-border financial transfers, which are so complex and must meet so many regulations that they require a tremendous number of intermediaries to plug the gaps: lawyers, accountants, customer service reps, warehouse operators, bankers, and more. By reducing that complexity, blockchain technology makes intermediaries less necessary—a transformation that is revolutionary even when measured only in cost savings.

“If you’re selling 100 items a minute, 24 hours a day, reducing the cost of the supply chain by just $1 per item saves you more than $52.5 million a year,” notes Dirk Lonser, SAP go-to-market leader at DXC Technology, an IT services company. “By replacing manual processes and multiple peer-to-peer connections through fax or e-mail with a single medium where everyone can exchange verified information instantaneously, blockchain will boost profit margins exponentially without raising prices or even increasing individual productivity.”

But the potential for blockchain extends far beyond cost cutting and streamlining, says Irfan Khan, CEO of supply chain management consulting and systems integration firm Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group company. It will give companies ways to differentiate.

“Blockchain will let enterprises more accurately trace faulty parts or products from end users back to factories for recalls,” Khan says. “It will streamline supplier onboarding, contracting, and management by creating an integrated platform that the company’s entire network can access in real time. It will give vendors secure, transparent visibility into inventory 24×7. And at a time when counterfeiting is a real concern in multiple industries, it will make it easy for both retailers and customers to check product authenticity.”

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials. Although the key parts of the process remain the same as in today’s analog supply chain, performing them electronically with blockchain technology shortens each stage from hours or days to seconds while eliminating reams of wasteful paperwork. With goods moving that quickly, companies have ample room for designing new business models around manufacturing, service, and delivery.

Challenges on the Path to Adoption

For all this to work, however, the data on the blockchain must be correct from the beginning. The pills, produce, or parts on the delivery truck need to be the same as the items listed on the manifest at the loading dock. Every use case assumes that the data is accurate—and that will only happen when everything that’s manufactured is smart, connected, and able to self-verify automatically with the help of machine learning tuned to detect errors and potential fraud.

Companies are already seeing the possibilities of applying this bundle of emerging technologies to the supply chain. IDC projects that by 2021, at least 25% of Forbes Global 2000 (G2000) companies will use blockchain services as a foundation for digital trust at scale; 30% of top global manufacturers and retailers will do so by 2020. IDC also predicts that by 2020, up to 10% of pilot and production blockchain-distributed ledgers will incorporate data from IoT sensors.

Despite IDC’s optimism, though, the biggest barrier to adoption is the early stage level of enterprise use cases, particularly around blockchain. Currently, the sole significant enterprise blockchain production system is the virtual currency Bitcoin, which has unfortunately been tainted by its associations with speculation, dubious financial transactions, and the so-called dark web.

The technology is still in a sufficiently early stage that there’s significant uncertainty about its ability to handle the massive amounts of data a global enterprise supply chain generates daily. Never mind that it’s completely unregulated, with no global standard. There’s also a critical global shortage of experts who can explain emerging technologies like blockchain, the IoT, and machine learning to nontechnology industries and educate organizations in how the technologies can improve their supply chain processes. Finally, there is concern about how blockchain’s complex algorithms gobble computing power—and electricity (see “Blockchain Blackouts”).

Blockchain Blackouts

Blockchain is a power glutton. Can technology mediate the issue?

A major concern today is the enormous carbon footprint of the networks creating and solving the algorithmic problems that keep blockchains secure. Although virtual currency enthusiasts claim the problem is overstated, Michael Reed, head of blockchain technology for Intel, has been widely quoted as saying that the energy demands of blockchains are a significant drain on the world’s electricity resources.

Indeed, Wired magazine has estimated that by July 2019, the Bitcoin network alone will require more energy than the entire United States currently uses and that by February 2020 it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

Still, computing power is becoming more energy efficient by the day and sticking with paperwork will become too slow, so experts—Intel’s Reed among them—consider this a solvable problem.

“We don’t know yet what the market will adopt. In a decade, it might be status quo or best practice, or it could be the next Betamax, a great technology for which there was no demand,” Lonser says. “Even highly regulated industries that need greater transparency in the entire supply chain are moving fairly slowly.”

Blockchain will require acceptance by a critical mass of companies, governments, and other organizations before it displaces paper documentation. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue: multiple companies need to adopt these technologies at the same time so they can build a blockchain to exchange information, yet getting multiple companies to do anything simultaneously is a challenge. Some early initiatives are already underway, though:

  • A London-based startup called Everledger is using blockchain and IoT technology to track the provenance, ownership, and lifecycles of valuable assets. The company began by tracking diamonds from mine to jewelry using roughly 200 different characteristics, with a goal of stopping both the demand for and the supply of “conflict diamonds”—diamonds mined in war zones and sold to finance insurgencies. It has since expanded to cover wine, artwork, and other high-value items to prevent fraud and verify authenticity.
  • In September 2017, SAP announced the creation of its SAP Leonardo Blockchain Co-Innovation program, a group of 27 enterprise customers interested in co-innovating around blockchain and creating business buy-in. The diverse group of participants includes management and technology services companies Capgemini and Deloitte, cosmetics company Natura Cosméticos S.A., and Moog Inc., a manufacturer of precision motion control systems.
  • Two of Europe’s largest shipping ports—Rotterdam and Antwerp—are working on blockchain projects to streamline interaction with port customers. The Antwerp terminal authority says eliminating paperwork could cut the costs of container transport by as much as 50%.
  • The Chinese online shopping behemoth Alibaba is experimenting with blockchain to verify the authenticity of food products and catch counterfeits before they endanger people’s health and lives.
  • Technology and transportation executives have teamed up to create the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a forum for developing blockchain standards and education for the freight industry.

It’s likely that the first blockchain-based enterprise supply chain use case will emerge in the next year among companies that see it as an opportunity to bolster their legal compliance and improve business processes. Once that happens, expect others to follow.

Customers Will Expect Change

It’s only a matter of time before the supply chain becomes a competitive driver. The question for today’s enterprises is how to prepare for the shift. Customers are going to expect constant, granular visibility into their transactions and faster, more customized service every step of the way. Organizations will need to be ready to meet those expectations.

If organizations have manual business processes that could never be automated before, now is the time to see if it’s possible. Organizations that have made initial investments in emerging technologies are looking at how their pilot projects are paying off and where they might extend to the supply chain. They are starting to think creatively about how to combine technologies to offer a product, service, or business model not possible before.

A manufacturer will load a self-driving truck with a 3D printer capable of creating a customer’s ordered item en route to delivering it. A vendor will capture the market for a socially responsible product by allowing its customers to track the product’s production and verify that none of its subcontractors use slave labor. And a supermarket chain will win over customers by persuading them that their choice of supermarket is also a choice between being certain of what’s in their food and simply hoping that what’s on the label matches what’s inside.

At that point, a smart supply chain won’t just be a competitive edge. It will become a competitive necessity. D!


About the Authors

Gil Perez is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Tom Raftery is Global Vice President, Futurist, and Internet of Things Evangelist, at SAP.

Hans Thalbauer is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Dan Wellers is Global Lead, Digital Futures, at SAP.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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Four Retail Technology Trends To Take Off In 2018

Shaily Kumar

Over the past few years, technology has seen a significant shift from cyclical, invention-led spending on point solutions to investments targeting customer-driven, end-to-end value. The next wave of disruption and productivity improvements is here, which means a huge opportunity for digital-focused enterprises – if you are following the right roadmap.

Technology trends have significant potential over the next few years. Establishing a digital platform will not only set the stage for business innovation to provide competitive advantage, but it will also create new business models that will change the way we do business. Technology trends in 2018 will lay the foundation for the maturity of innovative technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning and will prepare both businesses and shoppers to be ready for their consumption.

Like any other industry, retail is being disrupted. It is no longer enough to simply stock racks with alluring products and wait for customers to rush through the door. Technological innovation is changing the way we shop. Customers can find the lowest price for any product with just a few screen touches. They can read online reviews, have products sent to their home, try them, and return anything they don’t want – all for little or nothing out of pocket. If there are problems, they can use social networks to call out brands that come up short.

Retailers are making their products accessible from websites and mobile applications, with many running effective Internet business operations rather than brick-and-mortar stores. They convey merchandise to the customer’s front entry and are set up with web-based networking media if things turn out badly.

Smart retailers are striving to fulfill changing customer needs and working to guarantee top customer service regardless of how their customer interacts with them.

2017 saw the development of some progressive technology in retail, and 2018 will be another energizing year for the retail industry. Today’s informed customers expect a more engaging shopping experience, with a consistent mix of both online and in-store recommendations. The retail experience is poised to prosper throughout next couple of years – for retailers that are prepared to embrace technology.

Here are four areas of retail technology I predict will take off in 2018:

In-store GPS-driven shopping trolleys

Supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s now enable their customers to scan and pay for products using a mobile app instead of waiting in a checkout line. The next phase of this involves intelligent shopping trolleys, or grocery store GPS: Customers use a touch screen to load shopping lists, and the system helps them find the items in the store. Customers can then check off and pay for items as they go, directly on-screen. These shopping trolleys will make their way into stores around the last quarter of 2018.

Electronic rack edge names

Electronic rack edge names are not yet broadly utilized, but this could change in 2018 as more retailers adopt this technology. Currently, retail workers must physically select and update printed labels to reflect changes in price, promotions, etc. This technology makes the process more efficient by handling such changes electronically.

Reference point technology

Despite the fact that it’s been around since 2013, reference point technology hasn’t yet been utilized to its fullest potential. In the last few years, however, it’s started to pick up in industries like retail. It’s now being used by a few retailers for area-based promotions.

Some interesting uses I’ve observed: Retailers can send messages to customers when they’re nearby a store location, and in-store mannequins can offer information about the clothing and accessories they’re wearing. I anticipate that this innovation will take off throughout 2018 and into 2019.

Machine intelligence

The technological innovations describe above will also provide retailers with new data streams. These data sources, when merged with existing customer data, online, and ERP data, will lead to new opportunities. Recently Walmart announced it would begin utilizing rack examining robots to help review its stores. The machines will check stock, prices, and even help settle lost inventory. It will also help retailers learn more about changing customer behavior in real time, which will boost engagement.

Clearly, technology and digital transformation in retail have changed the way we live and shop. 2018 will see emerging technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence using structured and unstructured data to deliver innovation. As technology develops, it will continue to transform and enhance the retail experience.

For more insight on e-commerce, see Cognitive Commerce In The Digital World: Enhancing The Customer Journey.

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Shaily Kumar

About Shaily Kumar

Shailendra has been on a quest to help organisations make money out of data and has generated an incremental value of over one billion dollars through analytics and cognitive processes. With a global experience of more than two decades, Shailendra has worked with a myriad of Corporations, Consulting Services and Software Companies in various industries like Retail, Telecommunications, Financial Services and Travel - to help them realise incremental value hidden in zettabytes of data. He has published multiple articles in international journals about Analytics and Cognitive Solutions; and recently published “Making Money out of Data” which showcases five business stories from various industries on how successful companies make millions of dollars in incremental value using analytics. Prior to joining SAP, Shailendra was Partner / Analytics & Cognitive Leader, Asia at IBM where he drove the cognitive business across Asia. Before joining IBM, he was the Managing Director and Analytics Lead at Accenture delivering value to its clients across Australia and New Zealand. Coming from the industry, Shailendra held key Executive positions driving analytics at Woolworths and Coles in the past.