5 Reasons You'll Embrace Digital Transformation In 2016

Dinesh Sharma

Without a doubt, the lives of everyone on this planet has been impacted by the digital economy. Approximately 2 billion of us don’t leave our homes without a smartphone in hand. We shop online for almost every conceivable product. And for the 57% who are still unconnected, they are benefiting from a growing social community that is exchanging ideas, influencing governments worldwide, inspiring change, creating awareness of injustice, and coordinating aid to those in need.

At the same time, a growing number of companies are extending the possibilities of hyperconnectivity. Kaeser Kompressoren is embedding sensors in its systems to predict potential breakdowns and generate revenue by tracking the volume of compressed air consumed by its customers. Haier Asia is doubling up its digital platform to get closer to its customers and give them exactly what they want. Even Europe’s second-largest port found a way to increase capacity by 150% without physically expanding its bustling facility.

For these companies, digital transformation is not just a strategic move – it’s a fundamental part of their survival and overall business model. In fact, a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) revealed that 59% of executives view the failure to adapt to hyperconnectivity is their organization’s biggest threat.

2016: The year of real digital transformation

Despite all of this change, we have yet to scratch the surface of the possibilities the digital economy offers. Mark my words: 2016 will further prove the transformational power of the digital economy.

As we prepare to usher in a new year, here are my top predictions of how the digital economy will continue to revolutionize everything:

1. Digital masters will emerge – and win every time.

Companies that digitally transform everything they do and touch will further differentiate themselves from those that just dabble in digital services. Although the EIU reports that 19% of companies are radically changing their business model to seize the opportunities hyperconnectivity offers, they are becoming powerful brands.

Take Nike, for example. The well-known sports apparel company has transformed itself into a fitness and lifestyle brand. By actively engaging with customers through social media, mobile technology, and embedded sensors, it is fostering an empowered community. From tracking diet, activity, and fitness progress to sending reminders to get their customers moving, Nike is making sure that their customers have the support they need – whenever and wherever they need it. 

2. Digital Darwinism will become a significant threat.

Technology and society are evolving at a pace that is simply too difficult for many organizations to keep up with.  In fact, according to some predictions, 40% of the Fortune 500 are expected to no longer exist within 10 years if they do not evolve soon.

To survive, companies must be not only the strongest and the most intelligent, but they also must adapt to change.  We have all seen this firsthand as we spent the last 20 years saying goodbye to brand leaders that resisted the call and opportunity to digitize. So for the 81% that are not taking digital transformation seriously, make 2016 the year you start to get serious.

3. Digital transformation will be pervasive across every area of the business. 

To be truly transformed, companies must go beyond window dressing the customer experience, embedding a few sensors to monitor production, and monetizing a service with digital technology. They must reach deep into the bare bones of the company, going as far as human resources and finance and as high up as the executive boardroom.

Digital transformation is just the enabler – real change happens when the business culture, leadership, and processes of profit centers and cost centers embrace it and evolve with it. The cloud, mobile technology, networks, and analytics present every business area with a unique opportunity to gain greater efficiency, perform instant data analysis, and achieve better collaboration. Not only does digital transformation help companies modernize and become an attractive employer brand for younger talent, but it also creates a seamless customer experience, promotes more effective collaboration, and empowers the entire workforce.

One brand that shows the power of such an undertaking is Burberry. Famous for its digital retail experience online and in physical stores, the luxury retailer has taken its personalization strategy to its employees too. By making it easier for employees in all areas to sell the brand to customers, Burberry is experiencing increased engagement across its workforce. And in the end, that means a better customer experience – anytime, anywhere, and through any channel.

4. The sales funnel will disappear – for good.

For decades, the sales funnel has been used as a visual representation of separating qualified buyers from the rest of the prospect pool. However, thanks to the Internet and social network, the sales process has accelerated to the point where the funnel is no longer relevant.

CEB recently uncovered that the average buyer is 57% through the purchase decision process before their first interaction with a sales representative or channel. Plus, companies only have 12% of their customer’s mindshare through the buying experience.  As a result, customers tend to fall through the funnel undetected and without a defined journey.

Through digital transformation, sales and marketing can better address this issue by providing multiple touch points that can make the brand accessible to every existing and potential customer – no matter the path taken. Along the way, data should be collected, consolidated, and distributed across the enterprise to provide insight and power decisions at the moment of the interaction.

5. Cryptocurrency will pave the way for better data security. 

Bitcoin. Drones. Virtual reality. Cloud. All of these emerging technologies has drawn a fair amount of press lately. However, there are always naysayers fearful that these innovations will not measure up in terms of protection from cyberattacks and data breaches. And probably the most eyebrow-raising one of all is cryptocurrency. However, Bitcoin has included a level of security into its ecosystem: The blockchain.

Through redundancy, computational compliance, and high-speed processing, all transactions are logged on a publicly available general ledger and copied across thousands of servers. When a transaction is initiated, every one of those servers must agree that the information given is accurate. Should someone try to cheat or hack into the ecosystem, it will be rejected as soon as the new account identifier is detected to be unidentifiable.

Is it possible that someone can work faster than these servers? According to The Economist, it is nearly impossible to generate a new version of the blockchain quick enough to overtake more than half of the servers controlling it. As computing power and speed increases, so will the servers’ ability to process information faster than the most-competent blockchain miners.

What do you think of these predictions? Dust off your crystal ball and share how you foresee the digital economy evolving!

 

Learn more about what’s possible for your business in the digital economy. Check out these reports detailing the Economist Intelligence Unit’s research:

 

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About Dinesh Sharma

Dinesh Sharma is the Vice President of Digital Economy at SAP. He is a GM-level technology executive with leadership, technical innovation, effective strategic planning, customer and partner engagement, turnaround management and focused operational execution experience at both large enterprise and startup companies. Share your thoughts with Dinesh on Twitter @sharmad

Data Is King, Software Is Queen, Partnerships Are "Gold"

Marina Simonians

Buzzwords like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, bots (robots and chatbots), and Big Data are everywhere. Everyone is talking about the data explosion emerging from these technologies. In this blog I’ll put a structure around this new era of software: Data is king, software is queen, and partnerships are gold.

Data is king

Today, many people say things like, “Data is king,” “Data is the new oil,” and “It’s all about the data.” What’s driving this data explosion?

Data growth is all about expanding data sources. We started with systems of records in IT and operational technology networks, then we added social media and social networks. Today the data explosion is accelerated with new sources of data like bots and IoT.

Voice-activated interfaces are impacting the way we interface with our computers, phones, TVs, and all software applications. Consumers are buying devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home to interact through voice commands. Business users are demanding easy, voice-activated interfaces. Every word we speak into these voice technology devices goes into a database and is stored forever as anonymized data.

Software is queen

In the late 1980s, I was a Unix and network administrator. As a young woman with a recent computer science degree, I witnessed the beginning of the Internet revolution. We have already seen the impact of the Internet and the beginning of the information revolution and how it is dramatically changing our lives on a global level. We’re all connected and use the network via our computers, phones, and various devices including TVs and refrigerators. And it’s not just limited to the world of computer science geeks.

Today, I believe we are witnessing another revolution: The software revolution. This revolution is driven by the growth of data, in-memory computing, and the speed of cloud deployment. But the core of the software revolution today is defined through buzzwords like AI, ML, IoT, and bots. Most big or small companies, traditional independent software vendors (ISVs), startups, system integrators or value-added resellers (VARs), Global 2000 manufacturers, and Fortune 2000 companies are moving to build and commercialize software or services-based software.

Well, if “data is king,” then “software is queen.”

Partnerships are gold

In the changing landscape of data, platforms, and software, no single company can do it all alone anymore. All companies building software need to pick a database, some sort of analytics engine, in-memory technology, a cloud infrastructure, a platform, and a voice-activated bot partner.

We are now at a critical turning point. The new software innovations are creating new partnership opportunities. Selecting the correct technology partnerships is one of the key elements of success for any enterprise developing new applications to digitally transform in a world where data is king and software is queen. As software changes the world around us (much like the Internet did 20+ years ago), we need to invest in partnerships to expedite our digital transformation and win in this software revolution. Our collaborative innovation will keep us evolving today and ready us for what unfolds in the future.

Learn more about the importance of partnerships and why The Future Will Be Co-Created.

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Marina Simonians

About Marina Simonians

Marina Simonians is the Head of Global ISV GTM Strategy at SAP responsible for building new global ISV software driven initiatives for Big Data, AI/ML, Advanced analytics and IoT. With a passion for ecosystems she believes partnerships are most critical success factor in today’s software-driven market.

How Can Life Sciences Leverage Augmented Reality?

Michelle Schooff

When it comes to augmented reality and life sciences, many people think of the 144 billion steps taken by Pokemon Go players, leading to better health. But augmented reality is starting to play a much larger role in life sciences than you might be aware. From expanding children’s experience of science in the classroom to using technology to improve patient outcomes, augmented reality is already playing a key role in life sciences. Here’s a quick overview of some of the areas it’s impacting.

Augmented reality in the science classroom

Whether your life science classroom focuses on biology, health, or chemistry, augmented reality can help bring those topics to life. A wide range of options helps students better understand scientific principles and existing structures. Three-dimensional models of the human body enable students to explore anatomy without an anatomy lab.

Technology has many applications beyond anatomy. Are you trying to explain more complex portions of organic chemistry to pharmaceutical students? Virtual reality allows them to explore complex compounds in ways never imagined. Augmented reality apps allow students to combine compounds to see what potential issues may arise. It also allows them to observe microbiology interactions on a scale that would otherwise require complex microscope work.

Training the next generation of healers

Virtual reality has been used in surgical suites for the past decade. Combined with video conferencing capabilities, surgeons in remote areas can consult with experts across the country or around the world. A brain tumor patient in a remote area, for example, can have it removed close to home. As the surgery progresses, experts are available should any issues arise. MRI markers help determine the best path and approach to remove the tumor.

With 360-degree video, medical students and surgeons who want to expand their skills can use augmented reality to observe surgery, learning the process from a patient and expert surgeon who may be down the hall or across the globe. This type of training is also being used to help improve emergency response. A student can follow the actions of an emergency room doctor treating a patient. They can choose their actions and observe the potential benefits or drawbacks. When seconds count, this type of training can literally make the difference between life and death. Such training techniques are also being developed for emergency responders at the scene of an incident or accident.

Improving patient outcomes

Many of us have experienced a blood draw with multiple failed attempts. For patients who are nervous about needles, a new approach combining infrared and augmented reality helps improve success rates. The blood stands out on infrared, which is overlaid with the image of the patient’s skin. This makes it much easier to hit the vein the first time.

AR can also help reduce patient pain and anxiety levels without additional medication. Simple surgical procedures often require general anesthesia to reduce blood pressure levels related to anxiety. Some hospitals are experimenting with using virtual reality to “transport” patients to other locations, distracting them from the procedure taking place and reducing the need for anesthesia and pain medications. At the same time, surgeons can experiment with which approach will work best for a particularly complex surgery before they even touch a scalpel. Virtual reality combined with CT or MRI scans creates a virtual surgical environment, allowing surgeons to try the surgery several times to find the best possible solution for the patient.

Giving patients a new perspective on their health

It’s one thing to show a patient dry, dull statistics on their recent cardio tests. With patient medication adherence falling by half within a year of being prescribed, better tools are needed to convey the severity of a patient’s condition. One way to achieve this is by providing images of the effects certain actions can have on an individual.

Some augmented reality programs in development help patients see the physical results of specific medical decisions and procedures. Originally developed for doctors to see the results of calcium-based kidney medications on the heart, this technology has potential in many other areas. For example, it could enable smokers to see an image of current and future lung damage.

With the many areas augmented reality can be used in life sciences, it’s easy to see the advantages of this technology. Where can augmented reality take your company or organization?

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

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Michelle Schooff

About Michelle Schooff

Michelle Schooff is a global marketing director in the retail and wholesale distribution industries for SAP. She is responsible for the marketing strategy, messaging and positioning for SAP solutions in the global marketplace. With over 20 years experience in technology and marketing, Michelle builds strategic marketing plans that drive growth, innovation and revenue.

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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CEO Priorities And Challenges In The Digital World

Dr. Chakib Bouhdary

Digital transformation is here, and it is moving fast. Companies are starting to realize the enormous power of digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IoT) and blockchain. These technologies will drive massive opportunities—and threats—for every company, and they will impact all aspects of business, including the business model. In fact, business velocity has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.

To move quickly, companies need to be clear on what they want to achieve through digital transformation and understand the possible roadblocks. Based on my meetings with customer executives across regions and industries, I have learned that CEOs often have the same three priorities and face the same three challenges:

1. Customer experience – No longer defined by omnichannel and personalized marketing.

Not surprisingly, 92 percent of digital leaders focus on customer experience. However, this is no longer just about omnichannel and personalized marketing – it is about the total customer experience. Businesses are realizing that they need to reimagine their value proposition and orchestrate changes across the value chain – from the first point of interaction to manufacturing, to shipment, to service – and be able to deliver the total customer experience. In some cases, it will even be necessary to change the core product or service itself.

2. Step change in productivity – Transform productivity and cost structure through digital technologies.

Businesses have been using technology to achieve growth for decades, but by combining emerging technologies, they can now achieve a significant productivity boost and reduce costs. For this to happen, companies must first identify the scenarios that will drive significant change in productivity, prioritize them based on value, and then determine the right technologies and solutions. Both Mckinsey and Boston Consulting Group expect a 15 to 30 percent improvement in productivity through digital advancements – blowing the doors off business-as-usual and its incremental productivity growth of 1 to 2 percent.

3. Employee engagement – Fostering a culture of innovation should be at the core of any business.

Companies are looking to create an environment that encourages creativity and innovation. Leaders are attracting the needed talent and building the right skill sets. Additionally, they aim for ways to attract a diverse workforce, improve collaborations, and empower employees – because engaged employees are crucial in order to achieve the best results. This Gallup study reveals that approximately 85 percent of employees worldwide are performing below their potential due to engagement issues.

As CEOs work towards achieving these three desired outcomes, they face some critical challenges that they must address. I define the top three challenges as follows: run vs. innovate, corporate cholesterol, and digital transformation roadmap.

1. Run vs. innovate – To be successful you must prioritize the future.

The foremost challenge that CEOs are facing is how they can keep running current profitable businesses while investing in future innovations. Quite often these two conflict as most executives mistakenly prioritize the first and spend much less time on the latter. This must change. CEOs and their management teams need to spend more time thinking about what digital is for them, discuss new ideas, and reimagine the future. According to Gartner, approximately 50 percent of boards are pushing their CEOs to make progress on digital. Although this is a promising sign, digital must become a priority on every CEOs agenda.

2. Corporate cholesterol – Do not let company culture get in the way of change.

The older the company is, the more stuck it likely is with policies, procedures, layers of management, and risk averseness. When a company’s own processes get in the way of change, that is what I call “corporate cholesterol.” CEOs need to change the culture, encourage cross-team collaborations, and bring in more diverse thinking to reduce the cholesterol levels. In fact, both Mckinsey and Capgemini conclude that culture is the number-one obstacle to digital effectiveness.

3. Digital transformation roadmap – Digital transformation is a journey without a destination.

Many CEOs struggle with their digital roadmap. Questions like: Where do I start? Can a CDO or another executive run this innovation for me? What is my three- to five-year roadmap? often come up during the conversations. Most companies think that there is a set roadmap, or a silver bullet, for digital transformation, but that is not the case. Digital transformation is a journey without a destination, and each company must start small, acquire the necessary skills and knowledge, and continue to innovate.

It is time to face the digital reality and make it a priority. According to KPMG, 70 percent to 80 percent of CEOs believe that the next three years are more critical for their company than the last fifty. And there is good reason to worry, as 75 percent of S&P 500 companies from 2012 will be replaced by 2027 at the current disruption rate.

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Dr. Chakib Bouhdary

About Dr. Chakib Bouhdary

Dr. Chakib Bouhdary is the Digital Transformation Officer at SAP. Chakib spearheads thought leadership for the SAP digital strategy and advises on the SAP business model, having led its transformation in 2010. He also engages with strategic customers and prospects on digital strategy and chairs Executive Digital Exchange (EDX), which is a global community of digital innovation leaders. Follow Chakib on LinkedIn and Twitter