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How IT Teams Can Stop Obstructing Digital Transformation

Rob Glickman

In every boardroom across the globe, digital transformation is a top agenda item. Company leaders might frame it as digital engagement, evolution in customer expectations, or seamless delivery of new experiences. But in the view of Deloitte Consulting CTO Bill Briggs, digital transformation represents an existential threat of disruption – even for IT.

According to Bill and his colleague Mike Brinker, global practice leader for Deloitte Digital, it’s time for executives to wake up and recognize that technology is eroding traditional product-based advantages – providing fertile ground for a new competitive battleground. To examine this new reality, Bill and Mike appeared together on “The New Business Battleground – Digital Technologies,” a “Coffee Break with Game Changers Radio” episode on May 9, 2017, presented by SAP and produced and moderated by Bonnie D. Graham (follow on Twitter: @SAPRadio #SAPRadio). Click to listen to the full episode.

Ready or not, digital transformation will go on

When it comes to digital transformation, there’s no longer a clear goalpost. Bill believes that well-planned strategies are a necessary element for digital transformation; however, the days of extended, clearly defined transformation initiatives are gone. “Businesses never know exactly how the world will look when they get to the intended finish line,” he noted. With the courage to plot a course and correct it later on, executives can shift how they think about an opportunity at any moment and take immediate action.

Mike agreed that the digital economy is about the “fast beating the slow,” not giants beating the small. “This new environment requires the ability to pivot,” he remarked. “So many organizations are addicted to delivering performance results that they are afraid to shift their plans, make a new investment, and move forward in a new way.”

Digital transformation cannot be viewed as IT’s albatross

The piece that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is IT. Bill remarked that there’s always a question of how the IT shop will transform itself in line with the ambitions laid out by the business. “The right speed for IT is ‘faster,’ and keeping up might require fundamental reimagining of the skill sets on hand,” he advised. “For example, we’ve seen financial services companies acquire creative agencies because they believe that visual design is a core part of delivering solutions.”

However, Mike advised that CIOs must also extend IT systems to the edge of the technology infrastructure, where the majority of innovation is happening. “We all live immersive, digital lives,” he observed. “We have mobile devices, Internet of Things sensors, wearables, and much more. There are hundreds of use cases across every industry where we can bring to life new ways of doing business, boosting productivity and creating more intuitive ways to work by using these tools.”

Imagine boldly, but keep your eye on today

Undertaking a digital strategy may be a forward-looking exercise, but businesses cannot divorce themselves from todays’ realities. “Boldly imagine tomorrow, but be aware of how the vision fits into existing facilities, operations, talent, business model, and technology,” Bill cautioned.

Mike added that it is equally important that businesses think beyond their existing product and service offering to drive change deep within the organization. “A great example is an engine manufacturer that shifted to a leasing model because customers were no longer committing large amounts of capital. And it monetized flight data for use in maintenance, and is now making more money by offering data as a service.”

To achieve this level of innovation, Bill argued that IT organizations cannot afford to confine themselves with biased thinking. Instead, digital transformation needs new ideas. “We are hiring more analysts directly from a university campus who are coming in with fresh perspectives,” he remarked.

Predictions for the post-digital era

Mike and Bill expect that within a very short time, the digital landscape will become invisible as mixed reality, the Internet of Things, machine learning, cognitive intelligence, advanced analytics, and much more become a seamless part of people’s personal and professional lives.

As the word “digital” disappears from our vernacular, Mike predicted that computing will become exponentially cheaper and more ubiquitous. “Sensors will be embedded in everything in our work and personal lives. We’re going to see more artificial intelligence and more robotic process automation. Businesses that start up with no employees will deliver full-service operations through automation. I think that trend will continue to disrupt a lot of incumbents.”

While Bill concurred, he envisioned that businesses will stop emphasizing which technologies are adopted and focus on what they should deliver next. “The future of health and wellness, finance, and government – you name it, technology will be fueling what’s possible.”

 Listen to the SAP Radio show “The New Business Battleground: Digital Technologies” on demand.

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Rob Glickman

About Rob Glickman

Rob Glickman is Vice President of Audience Marketing at SAP, where he leads a team chartered with the articulation of SAP’s point of view of the business value of Cloud computing both internally within SAP, as well as externally to customers, partners and influencers. He brings 20 years of marketing experience ranging from lean startups to large enterprises, including running Product Marketing for Symantec and seven years at eBay where he had various marketing leadership roles globally. A dual EU and US citizen with extensive international work and life experience, Rob has a BA from Skidmore College and an International MBA from Thunderbird Graduate School.

Driving User Adoption: Making Sure Your Employees Are Engaged

Brian Berns

Although technology should make tasks faster and easier, it doesn’t always succeed. Despite significant investments in new technologies over the past decade, many organizations are actually watching their operations slow down due to underutilization of technology. Furthermore, as an increased number of processes are being automated or being infused with artificial intelligence, human-centric processes are lagging further behind in terms of efficiency and optimization.

Why doesn’t technology innovation always lead to a commensurate increase in efficiency? Substandard user interface design, confusing user experience, and/or badly crafted processes are partly to blame.

Technology innovation has followed an upward curve since the beginning of the century, but worker productivity has largely remained stagnant. Poor user engagement related to technology usage is part of the problem. A Gallup study found that 32% of employees who work in the United States are engaged, while worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged.

People are working harder, but they’re not working smarter. Due to job complexity, poorly designed applications, and a general lack of training, many employees are just not accomplishing enough to leverage the innovation and drive growth that successful businesses require.

The organizational symptoms of technology underutilization include:

  • Low user productivity
  • Slower, complex processes
  • High employee turnover
  • Time wasted putting out fires rather than strategically planning and training for change and software upgrades
  • Increased time required for training
  • Poor onboarding process

survey of our customers revealed that only 8.4% of enterprise software errors are system-related; the remaining 91.6% of errors are related to the user experience, design, or process. It’s not that employees aren’t working hard—they’re just busy dealing with rapid technology changes and constant workflow interruptions. Did you know that the average worker switches tasks every three minutes and five seconds? Or that when severe interruptions happen, they wreak havoc: It can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover and get back to the task at hand. That means the average worker wastes three to five hours of each work day. That’s 40-60% of their work week.

Homing in on user needs

By understanding the reasons behind process bottlenecks and other errors, enterprises can more effectively allocate IT and human resources. User experience (UX) analytics help target investment in change management, IT, and other end-user functions to help organizations deploy best practices globally.

To improve technology adoption and usage, you first need to understand how the workforce is actually doing things. Using real-time analytics will give you a holistic view of organizational capabilities so you can:

  • Manage business change with minimal impact to end users and customers
  • Improve IT response to potential user errors before they are reported
  • Immediately notify IT as errors occur in order to proactively correct them before they impact operations
  • Better understand and address performance issues
  • Improve application design to drive efficiencies
  • Ensure smooth migration projects

This allows organizations to cut costs associated with human error—by identifying why and how employees experience and often create bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

Paying attention to knowledge workers’ needs is essential to improving organizational performance. Higher user adoption has been shown to bring about increases in productivity and efficiency.

You need the right information

To ensure a successful user-adoption program, you first need the right information. Collecting detailed information about your IT assets is not enough. You also need to understand how these IT assets are actually being utilized by your employees.

An IDC report indicated that organizations that analyze relevant data and deliver actionable information will achieve productivity gains equaling $430 billion over their peers.

Consider the following recommendations:

  1. Understand your users and their needs: How are employees interacting with the applications they rely on for their day-to-day job? Do they find them intuitive, or do they get often stuck? Do they waste time waiting for the system to respond to their requests?
  2. Identify the issues: Find out if your current technology and solutions platform is being used properly before moving to a new one. Evaluate whether custom code, developed ad hoc and over time, needs to be replicated in the new environment.
  3. Measure actual user behavior with the business applications: Assess time spent on screens, wait time during screen refreshes, idle or think time, the number of process steps required to complete a task, volume of screen interactions, number of work-stopping errors, etc.
  4. Implement and evaluate: Sample actual user workflows to uncover inefficiencies like repetitive screen interactions, unnecessary steps, confusing warnings, and scenarios that require switching between applications or screen clutter that leads to excessive downtime.
  5. Always optimize: Identify opportunities to refine your workflows, minimize process complexity, and reduce the overall time to execute mission-critical tasks.

Encouraging effective adoption of new technology—by executives, mid-level managers, other employees, suppliers, vendors, and even customers—requires a thorough, relevant strategy for organizational change management. It’s a continuous process, one that requires creating positive expectations before an implementation, building skills during the implementation, and sustaining engagement and motivation after going live.

For more digital transformation adoption strategies, see Give Me Technology, But Help Me Deal With It.

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Brian Berns

About Brian Berns

Brian Berns is CEO of Knoa Software. He is a successful software industry veteran with over 20 years of executive experience, including as president at Ericom Software. Brian also held the position of Division VP at FICO and SVP of North America at Brio Software (acquired by Oracle). Additionally, Brian has been the founding member of several successful software start-ups including Certona and Proginet. Brian has a BA from Yeshiva University, an MS from NYU, including studies at the NYU Stern School of Business MBA program, and computer science at the graduate school of the NYU Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

IT Roadmap For The Future

Daniel Newman

As new IT technology is introduced in the workplace, it’s likely that what worked last year won’t work in the next five years. It might sound like a cliché, but the only constant in the world of IT is change. While this continuous evolution isn’t always predictable, there are certain ways for CIOs to plan to help IT professionals achieve their goals for the organization. Here are a few suggestions to help CIOs create a roadmap for the future:

1. Consider the big picture

IT departments must no longer be merely concerned with their departmental goals. CIOs and the department in general need to realign with larger organizational goals to stay relevant in times of constant change.

According to Simon Chapleau, CEO of Green Elephant, measuring things like calls to the help desk, closed tickets, and so on are a thing of the past, catering only to the interest and investment of IT teams. “However, if you are including user satisfaction and happiness in there, if you’re giving IT a little more time and space to resolve issues to users’ satisfaction, then you’ll see improvement across the board,” Chapleau says. In this way, IT departments and CIOs need to consider the bigger picture, focusing not only on measurement and accountability, but on how to improve the overall customer experience to boost business. Gone are the times of an isolated IT department led by a CIO with limited capacities. The future demands that CIOs are versatile and refocus their strategy in a way suitable for the entire business.

2. Collaborate with other departments

CIOs will increasingly need to collaborate with other departments to meet organizational goals, as outlined above. Rather than the IT department being a place filled with tech professionals that other departments tend to avoid, more engagement and interaction will become the norm. The shift toward collaboration is partially driven by the younger generation in the workforce. Millennial workers are driving a shift that focuses on engaging and communicating across departments. What this means for IT teams is more engagement with each department and its staff, paired with a willingness to explain and provide strategies that are based in reason and logic. Business analysts will make up a growing percentage of IT staff, and it is the CIO’s job to integrate these members into the department while also facilitating inter-departmental collaboration to reach important decisions affecting both technology and the overall business.

3. Focus on innovation

Historically, the role of the CIO has been characterized by caution and predictability. With the new dynamism in the IT industry, CIOs will have to be more innovation-oriented and willing to take risks. “This new kind of CIO, who will move from chief information officer to chief innovation officer, will focus much more on being agile and adaptive,” states Alastair Behenna, principal analyst serving CIO at Forrester. The ability to continually adapt is integral and demands that CIOs be able to quickly rise above and learn from failure. Rather than organizations slowing innovation down, the next few years will see an explosion in creativity that can be met only with a focus on innovation and its implementation.

4. Continuous employee training

It’s no surprise that the transformation of the role of the CIO will require a transformation at the employee level, as well. CIOs will have to build a workforce that can focus on innovation and adaptability, provide excellent customer experience, and foster business development. It will no longer be sufficient to excel at one side of IT operations only. Rather, CIOs will need to train employees to consider the bigger picture in terms of technology. As I wrote in a previous article on Forbes, “Reskilling existing teams will be necessary to maintain agility, so it’s important to construct a team of employees who can handle the peaks and valleys of business.” Current employees need to get on par with the changing face of IT and learn to adapt to avoid failure. CIOs will play a key in role in facilitating these processes by reskilling legacy processes and seeking out adaptable talent.

Even with unpredictable and ever-changing technologies, the CIO’s role is far from redundant. In fact, as the workplace continues to evolve, CIOs will play an integral part in the leadership of any business and should appropriately be prepared for the same.

Don’t let your digital transformation break what’s working. See 4 Ways to Digitally Disrupt Your Business Without Destroying It.

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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

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

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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.

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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.”

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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.