The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Social Media Rock Star [INFOGRAPHIC]

Michael Brenner

Social media began as little more than a place to find and connect with old friends from high school, but it has grown to become a massive marketing opportunity that stretches across numerous platforms and offers a way to reach, quite literally, billions of potential customers through the World Wide Web.

Today’s major platforms offer huge potential for new customers to find and connect with your brand, and for you to promote your content and generate sales leads and new business for your company. Social media also allows you to instantly engage, interact with, and reach existing and potential customers who need immediate assistance, helping your brand to deliver a positive customer experience they will love.

So if you are just getting started with social media today, here are the tips and tricks you need to get the most out of your social media marketing efforts and to help you take your brand to the next level.

1. Facebook

Launched in 2004, Facebook has nearly 1.4 billion registered users around the world and continues to be the platform with the most engaged users. According to Pew Research Center, 70% of Facebook users log on to the site daily, and 43% do so several times a day.

Here are a few mind-blowing stats about Facebook: 1.3 million pieces of content are shared every minute. More than 49 million of posts are created every 15 minutes. Facebook adds 8 new users every second. An average Facebook user spends 21 minutes on the platform every day.

If you have just created a Facebook page for your brand, here are a few useful tips to help you get started with building your page and community:

Image sizingFor your Facebook page’s profile photo, the image should be at least 180 by 180 pixels. The final image will be displayed at 160 by 160 pixels, and the thumbnail will appear on Facebook at 32 by 32 pixels. For your cover photo, the image should be at least 399 by 160 pixels. The optimal image size should be under 100KB. If your images contain text, for best results you’ll want to use the file type PNG.

When sharing photos on your wall, the optimal size is 1200 by 900 pixels. Similarly, the image should be under 100KB and PNG file format would be the best for images with text.

Posting Days And Times

According to On Blast, the best days to post on Facebook are Thursdays and Fridays. 1 p.m. appears to bet the time with the most shares, and 3 p.m. with the most likes. The highest level of activity on Facebook is between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Sharing Tips and tricks

Share a variety of content, including videos and images, which is relevant to your audience to keep things interesting. To engage your Facebook fans, you’ll also want to share exclusive content that is not shared on other networks.

Want your audience to share your content? Just ask! While you don’t want to do this for every single post, it is okay to ask them to share your content directly from time to time, particularly any new content you have created, for example.

2. Twitter

More than 300 billion tweets have been sent since Twitter started in 2006. There are more than 241 million monthly active users on Twitter, with 184 million using mobile. 38% of Twitter users surveyed by Pew Research Center say they use Twitter on a daily basis, with 21% using the site on a weekly basis.

To get your brand started on Twitter, here are a few helpful tips:

Image sizing
For the profile photo, the recommended size is 400 by 400 pixels. If your image size is different, keep in mind that it will be cropped square and will be displayed at 200 by 200 pixels.
The optimal size for your header photo will be 1500 by 500 pixels. The maximum file size is 10MB, and the best image files are PNG, followed by JPG or GIF.In-stream preview, which lets Twitter users share and view photos in their feed without clicking or expanding the preview, is a great way to get your audience’s attention.
The optimal size for in-stream photos is 506 by 506 pixels. If you don’t resize your images, Twitter will automatically display them as 440 by 220 pixels in people’s stream. This won’t be ideal, especially if you have text in your images, or if the dominant element in your photos is cut off or not in the middle.
Posting days and times
According to On Blast, the best days to post on Twitter are Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. 1 p.m. receives the most retweets, and 12 noon and 6 p.m. gets the highest click-through rate. For B2B, the highest level of activity appears to be during weekdays, and weekends and Wednesdays are best for B2C activity.

Sharing tips and tricksIf you mentioned any brands or individuals such as influencers in your content, you’ll want to @mention them when you send your tweets. They may help amplify your content via their Twitter accounts, which can help boost your reach and following.

Building relationships with your followers is key to being successful on Twitter. While sharing valuable content regularly is important, you’ll also want to take the time to engage with your followers through conversations, including thanking those who have shared your content.

3. Pinerest

While women continue to dominate this image-centric platform, its usage demographics are slowly changing. One-third of all new Pinterest users are now men. And according to Pew Research Center, 55% of all Pinterest users use the site on a daily or weekly basis, and user engagement continues to grow.

Here are some tips to get you started on Pinterest:

Image sizing

Your Pinterest profile photo is displayed at 165 by 165 pixels on the homepage. Everywhere else it is displayed at 32 by 32 pixels. As with other platforms, the maximum file size is 10MB.

Board creation is one of the most important elements of Pinterest. For every board you create, you should use attention-grabbing photos relevant to a particular board that will attract your target audience.

With board display, the optimal size for large thumbnails is 222 by 150 pixels. For smaller thumbnails, the optimal size is 55 by 55 pixels. With pin sizes, any pins displayed at 236 pixels wide the height will be scaled proportionately. For expanded pins, the minimum width is 600 pixels.

Posting days and times

According to On Blast, the best days to post are Saturdays, and the best time of the day is between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. The peak time on Pinterest is 9 p.m.

Sharing tips and tricks

To build your Pinterest community and increase your reach, add Pinterest buttons to all of your images to encourage people to save and visit your Pinterest page. You’ll also want to share your images on group boards, and share more original pins than re-pins.

4. YouTube

YouTube has more than one billion users, which is almost one-third of all people on the Internet! Growth in watch time has gone up by at least 50% year over year for the past three years. For those who watch videos on YouTube, the average viewing session is now more than 40 minutes, which is up more than 50% year over year.

To get your branded YouTube channel going, here are a few useful tips:

Image sizing

For your channel’s cover image, the optimal size is 2560 by 1440 pixels. For best cross-platform compatibility, your cover image should be optimized to display at the following resolutions:

  • Desktop: 2560 by 423 pixels
  • Mobile: 1564 by 423 pixels
  • Tablet: 1855 by 423 pixels
  • TV: 2560 by 1440 pixels

The optimal resolution for video uploads is 1280 by 720 pixels, and they must maintain 16:9 aspect ratio. 1280 by 720 pixels is also the minimum resolution for videos to be qualified as HD resolution. For highest-quality video uploads, they should be at 1920 by 1080 pixels.

Posting days and times

According to On Blast, the best days to post videos on YouTube are Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The best time of day to post is between 12 noon and 3 p.m, and the time to avoid posting is between 5 p.m and 6 p.m. The highest engagement activity on YouTube starts on Thursdays and continues through Sundays. On weekdays, engagement rises after work at around 6 p.m.

Sharing tips and tricks

To encourage viewers to watch more videos from your YouTube channel, create “end cards” at the end of each video to point them to other video content you have uploaded. As your audience may not all be following your YouTube channel, you will want to share your videos on other social networks to make sure your audience sees them.

5. Instagram

Instagram has come a long way from its start as an iOS-only app. Now it is a massive social network with both mobile and web presence, and it is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. There are 400 million monthly active users on Instagram, with 59% of users on the platform daily and 35% using the platform several times a day.

So how do you get started on Instagram? If you have just created your brand channel, here are a few useful tips:

Image sizing

For your Instagram profile photo, the image will be displayed at 110 by 110 pixels, so this is the optimal image size for your profile photo. Since your profile photo will be cropped to square, make sure your photo maintains a 1:1 aspect ratio.

Thumbnails of photos you upload will appear on your profile page at 292 by 292 pixels. While thumbnails will display as square images, Instagram photos are no longer restricted to square only, so any aspect ratio may be uploaded.

For best-quality photos, you will want to go with images that are 1080 pixels wide. Images in your feed will be displayed at 600 pixels wide, and the height will be scaled proportionately.

Posting days and times

On Blast states that the best days to post on Instagram are Mondays. On average the highest post activity is between 3 p.m and 4 p.m. Instagram does show consistent engagement throughout the week, though there is a slight dip on Sundays.

Sharing tips and tricks

To help grow your following and engagement, collaborate and tag influencers in your posts when relevant. Encourage engagement, including asking your followers to answer questions, tag their friends and share reactions, will be the best way to grow your audience organically, along with sharing relevant and interesting content.

What other social media tips and tricks did On Blast miss? Please share yours below!

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customers for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help. Or follow me on LinkedInTwitter, or Facebook, and if you like what you see, subscribe here for regular updates.

Photo Source: flickr

Check out the full infographic from On Blast below.

Social Media Image Sizing Cheat Sheet

The post The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Social Media Rock Star [Infographic] appeared first on Marketing Insider Group.

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.

Four Ways The Travel Industry Will See Future Growth

Himani Sharma

In a recent interview on S.M.A.C. Talk Live, Paul Pessutti, SAP’s leader for the travel and hospitality industry, talked about his ideas about the future of the travel industry. In the interview, Pessutti indicated four areas where travel brands, such as hotels and airlines, would need to embrace technology better to find success.

Travel brands must learn to communicate

Most frequent travelers have a story about lost baggage or missed flights. In fact, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicates that nearly 20% of all flights in 2017 were either delayed or canceled, and more than 11,000 were diverted. Sadly, when these problems occur, airlines do too little to communicate, both within their companies and with their customers.

Pessutti stated in the interview that he believes to be successful in the future, airlines need to overcome this particular fault. He said, “We all have a mobile device, we’re all plugged in, all the time. If the airlines are able to communicate with us in a way that we understand the disruptions, we know why it’s happening, what’s going on, what’s next, and what they’re planning to do about it, we’re a lot more forgiving.” The technology is already in place for airlines and airports to offer such communication, but it will be critical that they utilize it and expand it.

Some airlines are already offering a higher level of communication, and consumers are responding by booking with them. CNN reports that Delta now offers a service that sends messages to customers’ phones to help them track their baggage. This is the type of service that fosters customer loyalty, and that encourages them to spend more money even when low-cost options are available.

Travel brands must leverage data more effectively

Data is a buzzword in many industries, but in the travel industry, it is not yet being utilized to the fullest. In fact, many companies find the sheer amount of data available to be overwhelming. In the future, they will need to find tools to help them analyze and use that data.

Data can be used to reach customers more effectively. It can also help airlines maintain their equipment more effectively, which will also improve customer service. For example, airlines need to avoid delays. One way to do this is to make maintenance processes more streamlined and intuitive. The Internet of Things enables this, with sensors collecting data from aircraft, which can be used to make proactive maintenance decisions and avoid unnecessary downtime. Adding sensors to the entire airport infrastructure, including bag drop stations, baggage carousels, boarding gates, and even elevators, will keep both staff and passengers connected and informed and remove common travel stress points.

Travel brands must learn to personalize

One of the benefits of the data that is available to today’s travel companies is the ability to create custom, personalized travel experiences for customers using that data. Yet brands are not doing this. Pessutti referenced a trip to Madrid that he took during the start of the football league season. He had spent time tweeting and posting about his desire to find tickets to a Real Madrid game. When he arrived at his hotel, he still had to get his tickets. “This is something that a hotel chain that knows me very well could have been very proactive, helped me secure those tickets, get us booked there, and then have that waiting when we checked in,” he observed.

The potential of personalization is extensive, and it will build loyalty by making customers enjoy their travel experiences better. An airline could welcome a passenger landing at a new destination and recommend a place to eat, and the hotel could utilize data to offer a customer age-appropriate toys for their children or directions to the person’s favorite coffee shop when they arrive. In the future, travel customers may be able to see more personalization from their favorite travel brands.

There is one potential risk to personalization, however, and that is the fact that some consumers may find this particular type of innovation a bit disturbing. Knowing that hotels, airlines, and railroad companies are monitoring social media and online behavior is something some consumers will have trouble accepting.

According to Pessutti, it is possible to create personalization without breeching any customers’ ideas of privacy. Huffington Post agrees, pointing out an area where personalization can be woven into travel experiences without crossing any boundaries. Travel brands can assess what their customers need based on interests, demographic, and physical location, pushing notifications at the moment when travelers are away from home that will draw in more business and make the travel experience more memorable.

Travel brands must build connections with each other

To use and leverage data more effectively, the infrastructure of the travel industry must change. “The real problem is the overall platform and infrastructure that these properties and the airlines are running. They’re running in silos,” said Pessutti. “They are not connecting this together and leveraging the power of a platform where they can plug-in these different data sources and analyze that in real time.”

In other words, the airlines, hotels, and other travel brands have data about customers, but they are not working together to create a travel experience from start to finish. Pessutti anticipates that this will change and feels that the brands that embrace the change first are the ones that will rise to the top in the future. Brands that can create a common digital platform will be able to use the information to improve the customer experience.

Though they may be slow, changes are coming to the travel industry. According to Pessutti, those changes will bring many positives to both travelers and travel professionals. To learn more about these changes, listen to the full podcast interview.

Hear the full podcast episode here. Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value by reading Accelerating Digital Transformation in Transportation.

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The Next Big Step: Three Ways We Can Build Sustainable Commerce

Joseph Ballard

Is the business of commerce and marketing completely at odds with the UN’s global goals for sustainable development? On the face, it appears, yes. But digging deeper, it’s possible to envision a future with greener ways of doing commerce, driven by new technology enablers and a mindset change in how we sell and consume things. Software vendors will be key to that change.

I was recently talking to the head of communications where I work. We were both excited about SAP’s corporate alignment to the global goals, but were wondering – how does this apply to Hybris, the part of SAP that creates commerce, sales, and marketing software? Surely, if anything, our products drive greater – not less consumption – more goods consumed by more people, encouraging more waste, and more atmospheric carbon.

There are many ways that SAP can aid the delivery of a more sustainable future, but for our part – the commerce and marketing area – it felt like, well… not so much.

This got me thinking and researching. I was surprised and inspired by what I found.

Three ways we CAN build sustainable commerce

All evolutionary rather than revolutionary ideas, I am building on the notion powerfully put by Paul Hawken, then actually achieved by the inspirational Ray Anderson of Interface Inc.: we have to work with, not against, market supply chains and principles, and use the power and reach of the modern corporation to deliver lasting sustainability.

It’s exciting to see how new technologies can be a catalyst for sustainability in ways previously not feasible. The switch from small and niche CSR projects to big and mainstream sustainable operations is on.

The consumer is also at the heart of this. Meaning you, me, our friends, families, and associates, and the decisions that we make every day about what we buy, how we buy it, and who we buy it from – hold all the leverage. It merely needs to be empowered by visionary corporations.

To tweak the famous philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, we need to find ways to “consume the change we want to see in the world.”

Step one to building sustainable commerce: Supply chain transparency

We a rarely think about it, but the supply chain required to deliver even common products into our hands is surprisingly complex. We should consider supply chains more – it’s hugely important to our consumption footprint. The extraction, production, and transformation of raw materials into nice, shiny goods is the engine room of pollution and resource degradation.

Excuse all the tech-jargon and acronyms, but I think it’s now possible to envisage how ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and SCM (Supply Chain Management) software can be coupled with IoT (Internet of Things) and Blockchain ledgers, then fed through the PIM (Product Information Management) applications that enable our online searching and shopping journeys, creating an integrated constellation of technologies that would allow a deeper level of transparency into the industrial and consumer supply chain than ever before.

In plain English: as a prospective customer, before I make any purchase, I could be given accurate insights into the component sources and costs, labor conditions, carbon footprint, and environmental implications needed to get the goods from the factory to my front door, or from the farm to my fork.

We live in a world that’s dense with data. These days, it’s all out there, waiting to be harvested. Check out Olivia Tyler’s inspiring talk on supply chain transparency.

I accept the limitations: all this detail wouldn’t be that useful or effective during the average time-stressed trip around a local grocery store.

As our shopping habits shift online and we put increasing time into browsing and researching using our smartphones and tablets, this kind of information can become integral and – eventually – a hygiene factor to the shopping process.

Step two to building sustainable commerce: Enlightened choices and preferences

Building on the first idea, what might a shopper do with all this new data and enhanced transparency? One of the great things about e-commerce is the ability to set parameters and store preferences. We can save a regular basket of essential groceries at Ocado. We can sign up for Amazon Prime and get next-day delivery. We can let Netflix scan our viewing habits to suggest our next watch.

We could set sustainable preferences for how we want to shop, like preferences for delivery speed and environmental impact. Or preferences for how we engage the value chain – e.g., preferring to select a product sourced from a small, start-up manufacturer, rather than a global multinational. The choice would be ours.

My bet is if consumers were conveniently given visibility and choice, we would think more about the impact of our purchases, and we WOULD choose differently, especially if prompted by smart marketing algorithms.

The next step: imagine building a sustainable shopping profile across multiple retailers with rewards, donations, or environmental credits based on your shopping history. Like some kind of mash-up of Amazon Prime, Facebook, and the multi-brand loyalty scheme like Nectar Card. Sure, it would take some negotiation between businesses to create this, but make no mistake, the CRM tech is out there to make this happen!

Step three to building sustainable commerce: Product-as-a-service

A lot of great articles are already written on this. Suffice it to say, there are products and industries like automobile, home entertainment, lighting, high-end fashion (to name but a few) where we can expect the business model to be turned on its head as consumers move away from a ‘buy-it & own-it model’ and towards a pay-for-use / subscription/lease model.

The sustainable difference here is, it’s a far less wasteful approach to resource use. Supply is efficiently matched to demand, and products are utilized throughout their useful lifecycle. No more Audi sitting in the garage for 98% of its lifetime.

Certain retailers and manufacturers are already turning to these models. For those who haven’t seriously considered it yet, I have only one thing to say: hurry up!

The opportunity

So, my initial instinct that commerce and marketing have no place in the sustainable development agenda was wrong – actually, this is a huge moment of possibility.

The world is changing and we – consumers and corporations – must change with it. Companies that grasp this chance will find themselves on the right side of history, swimming in the same direction as their customers.

There’s also an opportunity for software vendors. By doubling-down on co-innovation partnerships with businesses and corporations who are willing to take the brave step into the era of Sustainable Commerce, we can jointly build a future that’s fair and just for the next generations to inhabit this planet. Now that’s a goal and a half!

For more on how emerging technology is transforming traditional commerce models, see Can Artificial Intelligence Drive More Ethical Retail?

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.

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Hack the CIO

By Thomas Saueressig, Timo Elliott, Sam Yen, and Bennett Voyles

For nerds, the weeks right before finals are a Cinderella moment. Suddenly they’re stars. Pocket protectors are fashionable; people find their jokes a whole lot funnier; Dungeons & Dragons sounds cool.

Many CIOs are enjoying this kind of moment now, as companies everywhere face the business equivalent of a final exam for a vital class they have managed to mostly avoid so far: digital transformation.

But as always, there is a limit to nerdy magic. No matter how helpful CIOs try to be, their classmates still won’t pass if they don’t learn the material. With IT increasingly central to every business—from the customer experience to the offering to the business model itself—we all need to start thinking like CIOs.

Pass the digital transformation exam, and you probably have a bright future ahead. A recent SAP-Oxford Economics study of 3,100 organizations in a variety of industries across 17 countries found that the companies that have taken the lead in digital transformation earn higher profits and revenues and have more competitive differentiation than their peers. They also expect 23% more revenue growth from their digital initiatives over the next two years—an estimate 2.5 to 4 times larger than the average company’s.

But the market is grading on a steep curve: this same SAP-Oxford study found that only 3% have completed some degree of digital transformation across their organization. Other surveys also suggest that most companies won’t be graduating anytime soon: in one recent survey of 450 heads of digital transformation for enterprises in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany by technology company Couchbase, 90% agreed that most digital projects fail to meet expectations and deliver only incremental improvements. Worse: over half (54%) believe that organizations that don’t succeed with their transformation project will fail or be absorbed by a savvier competitor within four years.

Companies that are making the grade understand that unlike earlier technical advances, digital transformation doesn’t just support the business, it’s the future of the business. That’s why 60% of digital leading companies have entrusted the leadership of their transformation to their CIO, and that’s why experts say businesspeople must do more than have a vague understanding of the technology. They must also master a way of thinking and looking at business challenges that is unfamiliar to most people outside the IT department.

In other words, if you don’t think like a CIO yet, now is a very good time to learn.

However, given that you probably don’t have a spare 15 years to learn what your CIO knows, we asked the experts what makes CIO thinking distinctive. Here are the top eight mind hacks.

1. Think in Systems

A lot of businesspeople are used to seeing their organization as a series of loosely joined silos. But in the world of digital business, everything is part of a larger system.

CIOs have known for a long time that smart processes win. Whether they were installing enterprise resource planning systems or working with the business to imagine the customer’s journey, they always had to think in holistic ways that crossed traditional departmental, functional, and operational boundaries.

Unlike other business leaders, CIOs spend their careers looking across systems. Why did our supply chain go down? How can we support this new business initiative beyond a single department or function? Now supported by end-to-end process methodologies such as design thinking, good CIOs have developed a way of looking at the company that can lead to radical simplifications that can reduce cost and improve performance at the same time.

They are also used to thinking beyond temporal boundaries. “This idea that the power of technology doubles every two years means that as you’re planning ahead you can’t think in terms of a linear process, you have to think in terms of huge jumps,” says Jay Ferro, CIO of TransPerfect, a New York–based global translation firm.

No wonder the SAP-Oxford transformation study found that one of the values transformational leaders shared was a tendency to look beyond silos and view the digital transformation as a company-wide initiative.

This will come in handy because in digital transformation, not only do business processes evolve but the company’s entire value proposition changes, says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at the Center for Information Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “It either already has or it’s going to, because digital technologies make things possible that weren’t possible before,” she explains.

2. Work in Diverse Teams

When it comes to large projects, CIOs have always needed input from a diverse collection of businesspeople to be successful. The best have developed ways to convince and cajole reluctant participants to come to the table. They seek out technology enthusiasts in the business and those who are respected by their peers to help build passion and commitment among the halfhearted.

Digital transformation amps up the urgency for building diverse teams even further. “A small, focused group simply won’t have the same breadth of perspective as a team that includes a salesperson and a service person and a development person, as well as an IT person,” says Ross.

At Lenovo, the global technology giant, many of these cross-functional teams become so used to working together that it’s hard to tell where each member originally belonged: “You can’t tell who is business or IT; you can’t tell who is product, IT, or design,” says the company’s CIO, Arthur Hu.

One interesting corollary of this trend toward broader teamwork is that talent is a priority among digital leaders: they spend more on training their employees and partners than ordinary companies, as well as on hiring the people they need, according to the SAP-Oxford Economics survey. They’re also already being rewarded for their faith in their teams: 71% of leaders say that their successful digital transformation has made it easier for them to attract and retain talent, and 64% say that their employees are now more engaged than they were before the transformation.

3. Become a Consultant

Good CIOs have long needed to be internal consultants to the business. Ever since technology moved out of the glasshouse and onto employees’ desks, CIOs have not only needed a deep understanding of the goals of a given project but also to make sure that the project didn’t stray from those goals, even after the businesspeople who had ordered the project went back to their day jobs. “Businesspeople didn’t really need to get into the details of what IT was really doing,” recalls Ferro. “They just had a set of demands and said, ‘Hey, IT, go do that.’”

Now software has become so integral to the business that nobody can afford to walk away. Businesspeople must join the ranks of the IT consultants.

But that was then. Now software has become so integral to the business that nobody can afford to walk away. Businesspeople must join the ranks of the IT consultants. “If you’re building a house, you don’t just disappear for six months and come back and go, ‘Oh, it looks pretty good,’” says Ferro. “You’re on that work site constantly and all of a sudden you’re looking at something, going, ‘Well, that looked really good on the blueprint, not sure it makes sense in reality. Let’s move that over six feet.’ Or, ‘I don’t know if I like that anymore.’ It’s really not much different in application development or for IT or technical projects, where on paper it looked really good and three weeks in, in that second sprint, you’re going, ‘Oh, now that I look at it, that’s really stupid.’”

4. Learn Horizontal Leadership

CIOs have always needed the ability to educate and influence other leaders that they don’t directly control. For major IT projects to be successful, they need other leaders to contribute budget, time, and resources from multiple areas of the business.

It’s a kind of horizontal leadership that will become critical for businesspeople to acquire in digital transformation. “The leadership role becomes one much more of coaching others across the organization—encouraging people to be creative, making sure everybody knows how to use data well,” Ross says.

In this team-based environment, having all the answers becomes less important. “It used to be that the best business executives and leaders had the best answers. Today that is no longer the case,” observes Gary Cokins, a technology consultant who focuses on analytics-based performance management. “Increasingly, it’s the executives and leaders who ask the best questions. There is too much volatility and uncertainty for them to rely on their intuition or past experiences.”

Many experts expect this trend to continue as the confluence of automation and data keeps chipping away at the organizational pyramid. “Hierarchical, command-and-control leadership will become obsolete,” says Edward Hess, professor of business administration and Batten executive-in-residence at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. “Flatter, distributive leadership via teams will become the dominant structure.”

5. Understand Process Design

When business processes were simpler, IT could analyze the process and improve it without input from the business. But today many processes are triggered on the fly by the customer, making a seamless customer experience more difficult to build without the benefit of a larger, multifunctional team. In a highly digitalized organization like Amazon, which releases thousands of new software programs each year, IT can no longer do it all.

While businesspeople aren’t expected to start coding, their involvement in process design is crucial. One of the techniques that many organizations have adopted to help IT and businesspeople visualize business processes together is design thinking (for more on design thinking techniques, see “A Cult of Creation“).

Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from better processes. Among the 100 companies the SAP-Oxford Economics researchers have identified as digital leaders, two-thirds say that they are making their employees’ lives easier by eliminating process roadblocks that interfere with their ability to do their jobs. Ninety percent of leaders surveyed expect to see value from these projects in the next two years alone.

6. Learn to Keep Learning

The ability to learn and keep learning has been a part of IT from the start. Since the first mainframes in the 1950s, technologists have understood that they need to keep reinventing themselves and their skills to adapt to the changes around them.

Now that’s starting to become part of other job descriptions too. Many companies are investing in teaching their employees new digital skills. One South American auto products company, for example, has created a custom-education institute that trained 20,000 employees and partner-employees in 2016. In addition to training current staff, many leading digital companies are also hiring new employees and creating new roles, such as a chief robotics officer, to support their digital transformation efforts.

Nicolas van Zeebroeck, professor of information systems and digital business innovation at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management at the Free University of Brussels, says that he expects the ability to learn quickly will remain crucial. “If I had to think of one critical skill,” he explains, “I would have to say it’s the ability to learn and keep learning—the ability to challenge the status quo and question what you take for granted.”

7. Fail Smarter

Traditionally, CIOs tended to be good at thinking through tests that would allow the company to experiment with new technology without risking the entire network.

This is another unfamiliar skill that smart managers are trying to pick up. “There’s a lot of trial and error in the best companies right now,” notes MIT’s Ross. But there’s a catch, she adds. “Most companies aren’t designed for trial and error—they’re trying to avoid an error,” she says.

To learn how to do it better, take your lead from IT, where many people have already learned to work in small, innovative teams that use agile development principles, advises Ross.

For example, business managers must learn how to think in terms of a minimum viable product: build a simple version of what you have in mind, test it, and if it works start building. You don’t build the whole thing at once anymore.… It’s really important to build things incrementally,” Ross says.

Flexibility and the ability to capitalize on accidental discoveries during experimentation are more important than having a concrete project plan, says Ross. At Spotify, the music service, and CarMax, the used-car retailer, change is driven not from the center but from small teams that have developed something new. “The thing you have to get comfortable with is not having the formalized plan that we would have traditionally relied on, because as soon as you insist on that, you limit your ability to keep learning,” Ross warns.

8. Understand the True Cost—and Speed—of Data

Gut instincts have never had much to do with being a CIO; now they should have less to do with being an ordinary manager as well, as data becomes more important.

As part of that calculation, businesspeople must have the ability to analyze the value of the data that they seek. “You’ll need to apply a pinch of knowledge salt to your data,” advises Solvay’s van Zeebroeck. “What really matters is the ability not just to tap into data but to see what is behind the data. Is it a fair representation? Is it impartial?”

Increasingly, businesspeople will need to do their analysis in real time, just as CIOs have always had to manage live systems and processes. Moving toward real-time reports and away from paper-based decisions increases accuracy and effectiveness—and leaves less time for long meetings and PowerPoint presentations (let us all rejoice).

Not Every CIO Is Ready

Of course, not all CIOs are ready for these changes. Just as high school has a lot of false positives—genius nerds who turn out to be merely nearsighted—so there are many CIOs who aren’t good role models for transformation.

Success as a CIO these days requires more than delivering near-perfect uptime, says Lenovo’s Hu. You need to be able to understand the business as well. Some CIOs simply don’t have all the business skills that are needed to succeed in the transformation. Others lack the internal clout: a 2016 KPMG study found that only 34% of CIOs report directly to the CEO.

This lack of a strategic perspective is holding back digital transformation at many organizations. They approach digital transformation as a cool, one-off project: we’re going to put this new mobile app in place and we’re done. But that’s not a systematic approach; it’s an island of innovation that doesn’t join up with the other islands of innovation. In the longer term, this kind of development creates more problems than it fixes.

Such organizations are not building in the capacity for change; they’re trying to get away with just doing it once rather than thinking about how they’re going to use digitalization as a means to constantly experiment and become a better company over the long term.

As a result, in some companies, the most interesting tech developments are happening despite IT, not because of it. “There’s an alarming digital divide within many companies. Marketers are developing nimble software to give customers an engaging, personalized experience, while IT departments remain focused on the legacy infrastructure. The front and back ends aren’t working together, resulting in appealing web sites and apps that don’t quite deliver,” writes George Colony, founder, chairman, and CEO of Forrester Research, in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Thanks to cloud computing and easier development tools, many departments are developing on their own, without IT’s support. These days, anybody with a credit card can do it.

Traditionally, IT departments looked askance at these kinds of do-it-yourself shadow IT programs, but that’s changing. Ferro, for one, says that it’s better to look at those teams not as rogue groups but as people who are trying to help. “It’s less about ‘Hey, something’s escaped,’ and more about ‘No, we just actually grew our capacity and grew our ability to innovate,’” he explains.

“I don’t like the term ‘shadow IT,’” agrees Lenovo’s Hu. “I think it’s an artifact of a very traditional CIO team. If you think of it as shadow IT, you’re out of step with reality,” he says.

The reality today is that a company needs both a strong IT department and strong digital capacities outside its IT department. If the relationship is good, the CIO and IT become valuable allies in helping businesspeople add digital capabilities without disrupting or duplicating existing IT infrastructure.

If a company already has strong digital capacities, it should be able to move forward quickly, according to Ross. But many companies are still playing catch-up and aren’t even ready to begin transforming, as the SAP-Oxford Economics survey shows.

For enterprises where business and IT are unable to get their collective act together, Ross predicts that the next few years will be rough. “I think these companies ought to panic,” she says. D!


About the Authors

Thomas Saueressig is Chief Information Officer at SAP.

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist at SAP.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer at SAP and Managing Director of SAP Labs.

Bennett Voyles is a Berlin-based business writer.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.
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Cloud Computing: Separating Myth From Reality

Misa Rawlins and Krishnakant Dave

Across industries, many enterprise leaders believe and understand that cloud computing is here to stay. Globally, public cloud services market revenue is projected to reach US$411 billion by 2020, compared with $260 billion in 2017, according to research firm Gartner, Inc. Cloud technology in all its forms—software, platform, or infrastructure as a service—is rapidly becoming essential to the needs of business today. With cloud computing, organizations can simplify IT, save costs, scale rapidly, drive standardization and user adoption, and start getting ahead of tomorrow’s needs when it comes to customer engagement, the supply chain, the workforce, a simplified finance function, and more.

Despite the short- and long-term advantages, some executives remain uncertain about the next steps or have lingering questions about the benefits of moving to the cloud. For many leaders, separating the cloud myths from the facts can prove daunting. Start here, with these insights that can help you bust big myths about the cloud and start moving confidently toward a cloud-enabled transformation of your organization.

Myth No. 1: Moving to the cloud is too costly. “Costly” is a relative term. The cloud can be costly – but costs should be weighed against benefit and return once requirements and migration plans are in place. Rapidly evolving business demands, for example, can dramatically alter cloud-related requirements. Meanwhile, new technologies are dramatically redefining the art of the possible with the cloud. Because migrating to the cloud is not a true “plug-and-play” proposition, and many enterprise leaders underestimate what a migration or implementation involves, some organizations can be surprised by the costs of a cloud transformation. Without a clear understanding of the potential benefits—without a clear business case for moving to the cloud—the focus on costs can overshadow the return on investment. Knowing the value that cloud solutions can bring—not just the costs—can help manage expectations.

Myth No. 2: The benefits of the cloud aren’t substantial enough. As vendors adopt a “cloud-first” stance for many solutions and product updates, organizations that move to the cloud may have a competitive advantage—no matter the size of the enterprise. Cloud solutions continue to offer abundant and increasing functionality. And with the help of an end-to-end solution provider, you can configure cloud solutions to the specific needs of your industry and your business. For larger organizations, rapidly deployable cloud solutions can help support growth or the unique needs of certain business units, such as new acquisitions or foreign subsidiaries, for example. For smaller organizations, the cloud can help you position your organization to tap new opportunities and tame growth challenges.

Myth No. 3: Cloud is too risky. All digital technologies and all business models come with inherent risk. In a hyperconnected world, no system is immune from cyber attacks, insider threats, data leakage, or related risks. No transformation project is a guaranteed success. Market changes, new competition, regulatory issues, and other factors can require you to change your cloud strategy overnight.

Because the risks are real, take advantage of resources and capabilities that can help reduce risk and ensure that your technology investments align tightly with clear business objectives. The maturity of the software goes a long way toward mitigating risk with cloud projects. You can add an extra layer of capabilities such as managed cloud services to provide active, hands-on oversight of cloud applications and infrastructure—helping you to avoid service interruptions and address issues proactively.

Myth No. 4: Cloud computing is still an immature technology. Like other evolving technologies, cloud is advancing every day. Those who wait for the next generation of cloud offerings may find themselves missing out on tangible benefits as competitors leverage cloud technology to sharpen their edge. Across industries, leading organizations are not waiting. Many view cloud technology as evolving but necessary, and they are leveraging it effectively today. Some, for example, are tightly integrating cloud software solutions to streamline supply chain processes, boost information transparency, and improve decision-making across the board—all the while tapping the cloud benefits of cost savings and scalability. Others are confidently turning to infrastructure solutions delivered and running solutions in a private or hybrid cloud. Still others are turning to cloud platform solutions to extend the power of existing applications, build modern analytics platforms, or support new Internet of Things business models. Turning the cloud to your advantage may depend less on the maturity of the technology and more on the power of your imagination.

Myth No. 5: Moving to the cloud will be easy. Cloud technology can help organizations streamline and simplify their IT landscapes and their business processes, reducing needs around capital expenses and infrastructure while helping to save costs. But migrating to the cloud requires more than simply plugging in technology. It requires an ability to address a host of considerations—data migration, the business-specific capabilities of solutions, change management, governance, systems integration, security, and more.

A cloud transformation is more than a plug-and-play project or a traditional system implementation. It requires progressive thinking and an ability to align technology with your business needs and processes— for today and for the future. Migrating to the cloud is a journey. Moving forward with the cloud will require a vision of your “to be” state—your destination—as well as a strategy for getting you there.

To learn more, and to find out what IDC thinks about the future of the cloud, please read this study that presents a strategic blueprint for enterprises on their digital transformation journey.

For more information on how to simplify innovation with cloud technology, learn more about SAP Cloud Platform.

Ready to reimagine the potential of the cloud? Contact us to get the conversation started.

Contact Krishnakant Dave at kdave@deloitte.com and follow him on Twitter: @kkdave

Contact Misa Rawlins at mrawlins@deloitte.com and follow her on Twitter: @misa_rawlins

www.deloitte.com/SAP

SAP@deloitte.com

@DeloitteSAP

This article originally appeared on Deloitte.com and is republished by permission.

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Misa Rawlins

About Misa Rawlins

As a senior manager and consultant in Deloitte’s SAP practice, Misa Rawlins enjoys helping her clients not only to figure out how to solve their current business problems, but also to envision how a modern cloud platform can transform their organizations moving ahead. Within the practice, she has specifically chosen to take a leadership role around the sales and delivery of SAP S/4HANA Cloud because she considers it the wave of the future. She has made it her mission to deeply understand this technology to better advise clients on what moving to a cloud infrastructure really means.

Krishnakant Dave

About Krishnakant Dave

As a principal in Deloitte’s global SAP practice, KK Dave is a consulting leader for Deloitte’s largest clients; part of the U.S. SAP leadership team where he spearheads Deloitte's cloud offerings; and leader of global go-to-market efforts in the wholesale distribution and manufacturing sector. In these roles, he assists clients in their business transformation journeys using the absolute latest SAP toolset, which presently comprises SAP S/4HANA, SAP Cloud Platform, and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, among other technologies.