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What CEOs Should Know About IT and Digital Transformation

Ingrid-Helen Arnold

It’s often said that in the digital economy every company has to become a software company, as if the key to transforming your business is to introduce the developers in your IT department to your product designers and engineers. But the shift is more fundamental than that. Just as startups are challenging established business models with goods and services that mesh digital and physical worlds, technology must be intertwined with every business process.

Digital transformation demands a whole new mindset—one focused on radical process simplification and alignment of the right technology with your business strategy. How extensively an enterprise can transform is limited only by the imagination of its people and their willingness to accept change.

To lead this transformation, you must adopt a philosophy based on three underlying principles.

1Technology and Processes Must Converge

Digital transformation relies heavily on enabling an organization’s employees, partners, suppliers, and customers to interact without friction. By immersing yourself in every aspect of the business, you can experience firsthand both the daily successes and the pain points throughout the value chain. With that knowledge, you can determine which technology solutions and process changes will make life easier and better for everyone in your business network.

Many CEOs see the cloud as an efficient way to drive digital transformation. And it is. But a business has many different processes, and not all of them are equally ready to move to the cloud. Your executive team should focus first on processes that directly impact your customers. Agree on how customers should be served, and then determine which processes should be reimagined to optimize that experience and help the business move forward. The point where new processes and technology converge will catalyze digital transformation.

2IT Has to Trust You

If a CEO has not earned the trust of everyone in the organization, transformation will be a constant fight. That’s because digital transformation is not just another management mandate. It can only succeed by mutual agreement between the leadership team and the workforce. Silos need to disappear, and every business leader must foster connections among employees across functions so they can use their expertise to improve processes.

Engineering does not stand alone. Nor does IT, human resources, finance, or any other function. But the workforce needs to believe that you have set the right direction, that you have empathy for the challenges they are experiencing, and that resolving them will help everyone share in the company’s success.

3Simplicity Is Everyone’s Goal

New business scenarios and ideas for new products, services, and processes are emerging every day, offering new opportunities for revenue and better customer experiences. Even the most common experiences can potentially be transformed.

For example, customers want to be protected from credit card fraud. When I lost my credit card, I learned firsthand about the complexity of alerting the bank, freezing the account, and obtaining a new account number and card. Like any other account holder, I wanted my account secured immediately. Now Discover offers an app that allows consumers to freeze their own accounts with a click of a button. That’s using digital technology to make our financial lives easier and more secure.

You always have to be asking why a process exists and encouraging your teams to look for ways business processes can be simplified using digital technology. The possibilities for changing people’s lives are endless.

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Ingrid-Helen Arnold

About Ingrid-Helen Arnold

Ingrid-Helen Arnold is a member of the SAP Global Managing Board and is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Process Officer (CPO) for the SAP SE. As CIO and CPO, she is responsible for the adoption of SAP’s solution portfolio internally and, as such, renovates key business processes to match SAP’s cloud and platform strategy.

Transform Or Die: What Will You Do In The Digital Economy?

Scott Feldman and Puneet Suppal

By now, most executives are keenly aware that the digital economy can be either an opportunity or a threat. The question is not whether they should engage their business in it. Rather, it’s how to unleash the power of digital technology while maintaining a healthy business, leveraging existing IT investments, and innovating without disrupting themselves.

Yet most of those executives are shying away Businesspeople in a Meeting --- Image by © Monalyn Gracia/Corbisfrom such a challenge. According to a recent study by MIT Sloan and Capgemini, only 15% of CEOs are executing a digital strategy, even though 90% agree that the digital economy will impact their industry. As these businesses ignore this reality, early adopters of digital transformation are achieving 9% higher revenue creation, 26% greater impact on profitability, and 12% more market valuation.

Why aren’t more leaders willing to transform their business and seize the opportunity of our hyperconnected world? The answer is as simple as human nature. Innately, humans are uncomfortable with the notion of change. We even find comfort in stability and predictability. Unfortunately, the digital economy is none of these – it’s fast and always evolving.

Digital transformation is no longer an option – it’s the imperative

At this moment, we are witnessing an explosion of connections, data, and innovations. And even though this hyperconnectivity has changed the game, customers are radically changing the rules – demanding simple, seamless, and personalized experiences at every touch point.

Billions of people are using social and digital communities to provide services, share insights, and engage in commerce. All the while, new channels for engaging with customers are created, and new ways for making better use of resources are emerging. It is these communities that allow companies to not only give customers what they want, but also align efforts across the business network to maximize value potential.

To seize the opportunities ahead, businesses must go beyond sensors, Big Data, analytics, and social media. More important, they need to reinvent themselves in a manner that is compatible with an increasingly digital world and its inhabitants (a.k.a. your consumers).

Here are a few companies that understand the importance of digital transformation – and are reaping the rewards:

  1. Under Armour:  No longer is this widely popular athletic brand just selling shoes and apparel. They are connecting 38 million people on a digital platform. By focusing on this services side of the business, Under Armour is poised to become a lifestyle advisor and health consultant, using his product side as the enabler.
  1. Port of Hamburg: Europe’s second-largest port is keeping carrier trucks and ships productive around the clock. By fusing facility, weather, and traffic conditions with vehicle availability and shipment schedules, the Port increased container handling capacity by 178% without expanding its physical space.
  1. Haier Asia: This top-ranking multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company decided to disrupt itself before someone else did. The company used a two-prong approach to digital transformation to create a service-based model to seize the potential of changing consumer behaviors and accelerate product development. 
  1. Uber: This startup darling is more than just a taxi service. It is transforming how urban logistics operates through a technology trifecta: Big Data, cloud, and mobile.
  1. American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO): Even nonprofits can benefit from digital transformation. ASCO is transforming care for cancer patients worldwide by consolidating patient information with its CancerLinQ. By unlocking knowledge and value from the 97% of cancer patients who are not involved in clinical trials, healthcare providers can drive better, more data-driven decision making and outcomes.

It’s time to take action 

During the SAP Executive Technology Summit at SAP TechEd on October 19–20, an elite group of CIOs, CTOs, and corporate executives will gather to discuss the challenges of digital transformation and how they can solve them. With the freedom of open, candid, and interactive discussions led by SAP Board Members and senior technology leadership, delegates will exchange ideas on how to get on the right path while leveraging their existing technology infrastructure.

Stay tuned for exclusive insights from this invitation-only event in our next blog!
Scott Feldman is Global Head of the SAP HANA Customer Community at SAP. Connect with him on Twitter @sfeldman0.

Puneet Suppal drives Solution Strategy and Adoption (Customer Innovation & IoT) at SAP Labs. Connect with him on Twitter @puneetsuppal.

 

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Scott Feldman and Puneet Suppal

About Scott Feldman and Puneet Suppal

Scott Feldman is the Head of SAP HANA International Customer Community. Puneet Suppal is the Customer Co-Innovation & Solution Adoption Executive at SAP.

What Is Digital Transformation?

Andreas Schmitz

Achieving quantum leaps through disruption and using data in new contexts, in ways designed for more than just Generation Y — indeed, the digital transformation affects us all. It’s time for a detailed look at its key aspects.

Data finding its way into new settings

Archiving all of a company’s internal information until the end of time is generally a good idea, as it gives the boss the security that nothing will be lost. Meanwhile, enabling him or her to create bar graphs and pie charts based on sales trends – preferably in real time, of course – is even better.

But the best scenario of all is when the boss can incorporate data from external sources. All of a sudden, information on factors as seemingly mundane as the weather start helping to improve interpretations of fluctuations in sales and to make precise modifications to the company’s offerings. When the gusts of autumn begin to blow, for example, energy providers scale back solar production and crank up their windmills. Here, external data provides a foundation for processes and decisions that were previously unattainable.

Quantum leaps possible through disruption

While these advancements involve changes in existing workflows, there are also much more radical approaches that eschew conventional structures entirely.

“The aggressive use of data is transforming business models, facilitating new products and services, creating new processes, generating greater utility, and ushering in a new culture of management,” states Professor Walter Brenner of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, regarding the effects of digitalization.

Harnessing these benefits requires the application of innovative information and communication technology, especially the kind termed “disruptive.” A complete departure from existing structures may not necessarily be the actual goal, but it can occur as a consequence of this process.

Having had to contend with “only” one new technology at a time in the past, be it PCs, SAP software, SQL databases, or the Internet itself, companies are now facing an array of concurrent topics, such as the Internet of Things, social media, third-generation e-business, and tablets and smartphones. Professor Brenner thus believes that every good — and perhaps disruptive — idea can result in a “quantum leap in terms of data.”

Products and services shaped by customers

It has already been nearly seven years since the release of an app that enables customers to order and pay for taxis. Initially introduced in Berlin, Germany, mytaxi makes it possible to avoid waiting on hold for the next phone representative and pay by credit card while giving drivers greater independence from taxi dispatch centers. In addition, analyses of user data can lead to the creation of new services, such as for people who consistently order taxis at around the same time of day.

“Successful models focus on providing utility to the customer,” Professor Brenner explains. “In the beginning, at least, everything else is secondary.”

In this regard, the private taxi agency Uber is a fair bit more radical. It bypasses the entire taxi industry and hires private individuals interested in making themselves and their vehicles available for rides on the Uber platform. Similarly, Airbnb runs a platform travelers can use to book private accommodations instead of hotel rooms.

Long-established companies are also undergoing profound changes. The German publishing house Axel Springer SE, for instance, has acquired a number of startups, launched an online dating platform, and released an app with which users can collect points at retail. Chairman and CEO Matthias Döpfner also has an interest in getting the company’s newspapers and other periodicals back into the black based on payment models, of course, but these endeavors are somewhat at odds with the traditional notion of publishing houses being involved solely in publishing.

The impact of digitalization transcends Generation Y

Digitalization is effecting changes in nearly every industry. Retailers will likely have no choice but to integrate their sales channels into an omnichannel approach. Seeking to make their data services as attractive as possible, BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have joined forces to purchase the digital map service HERE. Mechanical engineering companies are outfitting their equipment with sensors to reduce downtime and achieve further product improvements.

“The specific potential and risks at hand determine how and by what means each individual company approaches the subject of digitalization,” Professor Brenner reveals. The resulting services will ultimately benefit every customer – not just those belonging to Generation Y, who present a certain basic affinity for digital methods.

“Think of cars that notify the service center when their brakes or drive belts need to be replaced, offer parking assistance, or even handle parking for you,” Brenner offers. “This can be a big help to elderly people in particular.”

Chief digital officers: team members, not miracle workers

Making the transition to the digital future is something that involves not only a CEO or a head of marketing or IT, but the entire company. Though these individuals do play an important role as proponents of digital models, it also takes more than just a chief digital officer alone.

For Professor Brenner, appointing a single person to the board of a DAX company to oversee digitalization is basically absurd. “Unless you’re talking about Da Vinci or Leibnitz born again, nobody could handle such a task,” he states.

In Brenner’s view, this is a topic for each and every department, and responsibilities should be assigned much like on a soccer field: “You’ve got a coach and the players – and the fans, as well, who are more or less what it’s all about.”

Here, the CIO neither competes with the CDO nor assumes an elevated position in the process of digital transformation. Implementing new databases like SAP HANA or Hadoop, leveraging sensor data in both technical and commercially viable ways, these are the tasks CIOs will face going forward.

“There are some fantastic jobs out there,” Brenner affirms.

Want more insight on managing digital transformation? See Three Keys To Winning In A World Of Disruption.

Image via Shutterstock

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Andreas Schmitz

About Andreas Schmitz

Andreas Schmitz is a Freelance Journalist for SAP, covering a wide range of topics from big data to Internet of Things, HR, business innovation and mobile.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_3

qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

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

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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How Disruption Will Cause The Insurance Industry To Change

Joe Pacor

Digital transformation is changing our world, and the insurance industry cannot sit idly and avoid these changes. It’s expected that the digital customer experience will drastically drive insurance profitability in the years to come. Over 50% of insured clients won’t recommend an insurer that doesn’t have digital interaction options. An overwhelming 61% of customers prefer to track their claim status digitally instead of contacting the insurance company or agency through more traditional means. It’s estimated that 79% of insurance executives recognize the need for innovation, but are having problems with daily operations. Over 60% see both opportunities and threats in the digital transformation process. At the same time, 74% of insurance executives feel they don’t have the necessary skills to drive the needed changes.

How does your company adapt to such a changing landscape? One common way approach is updating existing business models. Many companies have already been successful in driving digital transformation through a wide range of channels. Online-only insurance solutions and faster approval times are emerging in some companies. Others are turning to e-aggregator platforms to  keep their business afloat while changing company practices and assets to the digital economy.

Here are a few examples of promising companies and how they’re innovating to meet disruption.

Esurance

Esurance started in 1999 as an online-only business. With over five million customers, it has seen rapid growth since its beginnings. And because the insurer started out with a direct insurance digital approach, it is ahead of the game in terms of digital transformation since many competitors are still struggling to move away from their agency-based model.

Though it’s not available nationwide, it has become available in 43 states, which is still significant growth for a company that is not yet 20 years old. Esurance offers much lower rates, due to its direct insurance approach that cuts out many middleman expenses. As one of the first direct insurance companies, it is still catching up to competitors for customer service, but may very well be an example of future insurance company operations.

Haven Life

When it comes to fast approval, Haven Life has Big Data science down perfectly. This MassMutual spin-off claims it can approve most customers for new term life insurance in about 20 minutes. The company bases its decision on motor vehicle records from the state, prescription drug information, a customer questionnaire, and other data available to the company. The quick decision process will make the company much more popular among individuals seeking insurance policies under $1 million. As the system is based entirely online, it reduces agency costs significantly.

Moneysupermarket

In the UK, a newer e-aggregator platform helps customers compare prices and purchase insurance online. Moneysupermarket provides fast access to other online services as well. It was launched in 1999 as a digital-only solution that compares mortgage rates. In 2003, the insurance portion of the platform began with a mission to save at approximately 10 million households at least £200 through competitive shopping.

The company streamlines the process by having the prospect fill out a single form. That information is then used to pull quotes from multiple insurance companies. The prospects can compare the different policies to see which one is the best fit for their situation. They can then either select and purchase at that time or come back at a later time to finish the process. The company benefits by seeing additional sales at a much reduced cost compared to traditional marketing channels.

The role Big Data plays

Insurance businesses are also forming new business networks to provide a more tailored product to clients. As an example, State Farm and ADT provide a paired offering that protects connected homes through a single service. This helps customers reduce the number of businesses they must work with. At the same time, both companies benefit with increased business as customers turn to the network for simplicity.

Meanwhile, the Internet of Things is creating a new level of hyperconnectivity and data harvesting behind the scenes. Insurance rates currently based on a doctor’s visit will instead draw information from wearable devices, workout records, and pharmacy records. Rate reductions for self-driving cars will be based on the percentage of time the car is driven by a human versus driven autonomously.

With all these changes disrupting the industry, remaining flexible and connected makes all the difference. Is your company ready to meet the changes digital transformation is causing? If you aren’t, it is time to look at options to become more agile.

Learn more about how we can help you meet the challenges of disruption head on today. Please download our Insurance White Paper “How Insurers Can Prepare for the Digital Revolution” today to see what SAP has to offer. We will work with you to develop an insurance business that’s ready to meet the needs of the digital world.

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Joe Pacor

About Joe Pacor

Joe Pacor is senior director, Industry Cloud Marketing-Insurance at SAP, responsible for driving the growth of SAP's value proposition as a technology provider, trusted business partner, and thought leader for the insurance industry.