Keep It Simple And Innovate: Digital Transformation Challenges Discussed

Chris Finnamore

At SAP Hybris LIVE: Digital Summit, a panel of digital transformation veterans shared their experiences of implementing commerce solutions. Coming from industries as diverse as diesel engines, online groceries, and nutritional supplements, the five companies drew on their experience to provide some valuable insights.

The first hurdle was winning over the cynics. For Philip Murphy, head of digital center of excellence at Glanbia, a particular challenge was getting the rest of the company to buy into what could be major changes to the business. “It takes a bit to get people on board due to the high cost of investment, the big timelines, and [the fact that] a lot of senior stakeholders… don’t understand the complexity of what you’re doing. You’ve got to show them a vision of what the future could look like for the organization.” You also need to show what the commercial benefits of transformation will be – Glanbia’s CEO is a former finance director and wants to see a return on investment, after all.

Helle Pedersen Georgakis, senior project manager at MAN Diesel & Turbo, made the point that it’s important to not to sell the product, but the benefits, “What’s in it for me?” Her team also made great efforts to involve end users in the deployment of the new solution. “They were in it from the beginning,” said Georgakis, “and could see and help IT with what they should focus on. It was not an IT tool that was rolled out – it was a business tool.”

Panelists also shared their stories about what went well, and what didn’t, when they finally went live with their new commerce systems. For Erik Lindqvist, solution architect and project manager for e-business at Alfa Laval, the go-live date went without a hitch – it was the 18 months leading up to it that were hard. In fact, the journey leading up to deployment led to the final product being overly complex.

According to Lindqvist, “I think we may have listened too hard to all the nitty-gritty business demands that came to us from different directions. It led to that we customized the solution quite heavily and we still suffer from that… we should have started more simply, with fewer features.”

Of course, as Frank Niemann, vice president, software, at Pierre Audoin Consultants, said, “The notion ‘go live’ is a term from the past.” Digital transformation is about continuous innovation but, as Ulf Bonfert showed, it’s not easy to innovate while staying on top of your business.

The panelists were willing to share their experiences with this balancing act. Eberhardt Weber, founder and CEO of SAAS AG and Lieferladen.de, has a particular advantage. He runs a company that sells groceries online, as well as the software other groceries need to become an online business.

This puts his company in a position where it can try out new solutions on its own supermarket, then feed those that work back into the software side of the business. Weber is aware that this gives his company an unusual advantage: “I know it’s not so easy if you run a big enterprise, you cannot just try stuff out, but if you have the opportunity I would recommend to everybody… just do it.”

And the parting advice from the panelists to those companies about to undertake a digital transformation? “Start small, think big.” “No matter how well prepared you are, it’s never enough.” “Try things out! Make mistakes.” “It’s not going to be easy. Be resilient when things go wrong.” And finally, “There are more opportunities than threats.”

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