5 Supply Chain And Digital Economy Myths Debunked

Richard Howells

The digital economy is presenting businesses with myriad opportunities. But to capitalize on these prospects, companies must be willing to adapt, particularly in regard to how they manage their existing supply chain operations.

While people are finally beginning to recognize the potential benefits that come with the digital economy, too few companies are digitizing their operations in an effort to thrive in this dynamic environment. In fact, according to SAP research, 71% of organizations consider their digital maturity levels to be in the “early” or “developing” stages.

Given that fact, it’s entirely possible that people still don’t fully grasp the importance of transforming their existing business models and processes to succeed in today’s digital economy.

Below are five statements related to the digital economy and supply chain that many people believe to be true – and an explanation on why they are, indeed, false.

Myth #1: Your existing supply chain is sufficient to help you thrive in the digital economy

“To win in the digital economy,” says Hans Thalbauer, senior vice president of extended supply chain at SAP, “we have to reimagine how we design, plan, make, deliver, and operate our products and assets.”

Companies must put themselves in a position to develop environments in which they can access and manage data and processes in real time. This requires transforming your traditional supply chain into a digitized, extended supply chain, one that enables your business to be more connected, intelligent, responsive, and predictive.

By reimagining your existing supply chain, you can deliver superior customer experiences and increase revenue. In fact, companies that adapt to the digital world are 26% more profitable than their industry peers, according to MIT Sloan research.

Myth #2: Customers aren’t willing to pay for better experiences

Today’s customers crave a new type of experience. Omnichannel solutions can provide this, enabling buyers to discover a product online, research it on a mobile device, and purchase it in a retail store.

Given that these capabilities exist, your company needs to ensure it can deliver on the omnichannel fulfillment promise. To achieve this, the different channels must be able to support the development and/or delivery of goods, based on each individual customer’s preferences.

Customers are so eager for a better purchasing experience, 86% of them are willing to pay more money to get it, according to a 2014 American Express and Ebiquity survey.

By reimagining your existing supply chain and transforming it into a digitized, extended supply chain, you can gain the real-time insight you need to enable customer-centric processes and truly satisfy your buyers.

Myth #3: Customers love mass-produced products

Each and every one of your customers is wholly unique. So it’s no surprise that buyers are increasingly seeking out products that are customized to their individual preferences and needs.

Forty-two percent of consumers are interested in technology to customize and personalize products, and 19% are willing to pay a 10% price premium to individualize products, according to a Deloitte research study.

This growing demand for product customization is challenging companies considerably. Traditionally, supply chain organizations merely had to manufacture and/or ship full pallets of identical goods. Now, they’re tasked with delivering a lot size of one.

To support your customers’ growing desire for individualized products, your business must transform how it designs, produces, and delivers goods and services. It must embrace the latest technologies, harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and other cutting-edge innovations.

By adopting a digital supply chain and smart manufacturing techniques, you can enable greater connectivity, responsiveness, agility, and reliability, empowering you to better meet your customers’ demands for individualized products.

Myth #4: Businesses can’t benefit from the sharing economy

The sharing economy revolves around the sharing of human and physical resources. Generally, consumers love it. Businesses, on the other hand, view it with great skepticism, wondering how it can actually benefit their companies.

At the heart of the sharing economy lies connectivity. When everything is connected, you can collaborate like never before.

Through the sharing economy, you can better link your organization with manufacturers, logistics service providers, and other partners. This larger business network enables companies to capitalize on their partners’ resources, expand their reach, innovate, and improve customer service.

Taking full advantage of a connected enterprise of companies requires putting an extended supply chain at the core of your operations. This allows you to have greater visibility into various customer, supplier, manufacturer, and other insights, ensuring you can improve decision making and respond to in-the-moment changes and demands.

Networked businesses, according to McKinsey & Company, are 50% more likely than their peers to be market leaders.

Myth #5: You simply cannot overcome resource scarcity

Resources are declining globally. Raw materials such as water, minerals, oil, and gas are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Human talent is also growing scarcer, as employees lack the requisite skills to manage the data that comes with running digitized, extended supply chains.

Today’s organizations need to begin building sustainability into their business processes. From a talent perspective, companies can achieve this a number of ways, from deploying a contingent labor force to replacing certain roles with robotics. To combat resource scarcity, manufacturers must start doing more with less, leveraging alternate sources of energy and reused or recycled materials.

Finally, another key to ensuring your organization is run in a sustainable manner is to emphasize safety and risk management. Protecting your staff from harm and your resources from damage go hand in hand with your company’s long-term success.

The truth about prospering in today’s complex digital economy

Now that you’ve read a few myths about the digital economy and supply chain, here’s an undeniable truth: Digital transformation is the only tried-and-true way to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic new environment.

Whether providing a superior customer experience, delivering the individualized products your buyers yearn for, or overcoming resource scarcity, only digitization can ensure you possess the capabilities necessary to realize your greatest business goals.

Download this free white paper, Digitizing the Extended Supply Chain, to further explore how your enterprise can combat complexity and accelerate growth in today’s complex digital economy.

Dispel more myths on the supply chain and digital economy, join us at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, Florida from May 16 – 18th, 2017. Check out some of our digital supply chain sessions here and add it to your agenda today! 

Follow the conversation on @SCMatSAP and #SAPPHIRENOW.

This blog was originally published on SCW Magazine

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About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.

Transform Transportation With Intelligent Condition Monitoring

Konstanze Werle

Today’s transportation industry faces a growing urgency to deliver service faster, more efficiently, and at scale amidst numerous challenges. Companies must find ways to maximize existing capacity to meet increasing demand for on-time (or just-in-time) delivery even as employment numbers fall. Even freight costs are facing increasing scrutiny. To mitigate these risks transportation companies will need to utilize intelligent condition monitoring.

Key transportation concerns of business owners

The complexities of the transportation sector limit not only its ability to thrive but also to change and grow to meet today’s fast-changing environment. From consumer ride-share services to e-commerce free shipping, transportation companies face challenges at every turn.

Safety and compliance are two key components of concern for many in the transportation industry. Information from Juniper Research suggests that ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber, for example, will grow from 4.3 million users to 8.6 million by 2022. Yet regulatory changes, such as London’s recent refusal to allow Uber to operate due to safety concerns, continue to challenge of these startups. Trucking companies in the U.S. are now working to ensure they are in compliance with the logging device mandate, implemented in December 2017, that securitizes drivers and safety practices within the organization.

Companies are also facing difficulties within daily operations. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation forecasts a massive 40 percent increase in the transportation market over the next 30 years, much of which is coming from increased demand from online purchases. Hampering this growth is a significant lack of workers. A shortage of as many as 225,000 transportation employees is expected by 2022.

In short, there is a growing need for on-time delivery and more demand for capacity planning to ensure that companies can maximize capacity, reduce costs, and minimize the impact of the worker shortage. Safety and compliance issues add an additional challenge. How can companies mitigate these risks without hampering growth?

Intelligent condition monitoring creates new opportunities

At the heart of the industry’s most prominent resource is data. Implemented and utilized properly, data can help transportation companies better meet the challenges they face and enable organizations to get the highest possible return on their assets. To achieve this, they must gain insight that helps them better align assets and resources to achieve their goals.

Imagine how efficient transport asset management could impact each sector of this industry. It aids in reducing costs while improving service. It can help companies to mitigate risk, including compliance-related risks and those specific to the industry. Here’s a closer look.

Predictive maintenance and service tools

Predictive maintenance and service can prevent asset downtime before it happens. Companies can minimize the number of vehicles and employees accordingly. Such insight also helps reduce unplanned downtime and, over time, maintenance costs. This is done through a connected, intelligent condition monitoring platform.

Existing maintenance programs also become more efficient. Instead of tapping into unknown problems, maintenance teams have more insight into what’s truly happening within the vehicle to tailor their use of maintenance time to maximize the vehicle’s performance. This also works to increase the lifespan of any vehicle, reducing costs even further.

Vehicle insights and asset intelligence networks

What if assets could be used more effectively? As noted, capacity planning has become essential to ensuring on-time delivery across the industry. With the help of data insights and intelligent condition monitoring, it is possible to increase asset utilization without hampering delivery times, so companies do not need to worry about customer delays.

There is also more opportunity to boost asset management across the ecosystem by collaborating more fully and linking seemingly unrelated sectors to improve efficiency and drive capacity models.

All of these factors deliver key benefits to the transportation industry. Transportation companies are able to deliver more and higher-quality of transport services using fewer assets. They achieve a higher level of reliability and reduce overall costs. In the current environment, in which infrastructure is constrained, such engagement empowers all divisions of the industry. Ultimately, it leads to responsible growth due to better service, lower costs, and better asset management. Improved maintenance also means a cleaner planet and greater energy efficiency across the board.

It all stems from access to information, intelligent condition monitoring, and a focus on innovation in a tight, limited industry. Transportation companies that implement such opportunities are likely to see numerous gains for years to come.

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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Konstanze Werle

About Konstanze Werle

Konstanze Werle is a Director of Industries Marketing at SAP. She is a content marketing specialist with a particular focus on the travel and transportation, engineering and construction and real estate industries worldwide. Her goal is to help companies in these industries to simplify their business by sharing latest trends and innovation in their industry.

How Mining Productivity And Safety Soar With IoT Innovation

Christina Frazier

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—better known as drones—are becoming important tools in mining and milling.

Yet UAVs might not have been so quick to take off in commerce without an ambitious announcement by Amazon in 2013 and the growth of what we now call the Internet of Things (IoT).

Today much innovation in business processes involves the IoT’s vast network of objects, such as drones and smartphones, which exchange information through the Internet.

Innovation on your doorstep

Five years ago, most people thought of drones as instruments of warfare. But Amazon revealed it was developing drones for doorstep delivery of customer orders.  The consumer fulfillment service estimated that in five years it would be able to deliver goods by drone within 30 minutes of customers placing orders.  The New Republic called the project a space-age cartoon “fantasy.” The magazine indicated that FedEx leadership considered Amazon’s plan a joke.

Last March, Amazon finally overcame enough obstacles to launch its first drone delivery within American public airspace. And by that time, drones were already aiding the mining and mill products industries.

It’s perilous to consider digital innovation a joke. Businesses may get left behind by failing to invest in technology that leads to improved performance and competitive advantage.

IoT and Big Data management

What seems like science fiction today may become tomorrow’s business success story.

From alarm clocks that connect with work computer systems to fleets of drones that share information, IoT objects provide machine-to-machine communication that people do not need to initiate.

These objects contain sensors that accumulate data. IoT-solution software gathers this data through the Internet, then sorts, analyzes, and responds to the information. Another more powerful level of software called a platform helps all the software programs work together.

Due to its quantity, the information gathered from IoT sensors is called Big Data. Mining UAVs produce huge amounts of data, because they are used for projects such as 3D mapping of company land.

Drones over Goonyella

The Australian Business Review described the mapping process in a March 2016 article about Queensland’s Goonyella Riverside open-pit coal mine. BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi own the mine.

Goonyella began using UAVs in 2015. Each is battery-powered, weighs 2.5 kg (about 5.5 lb) and flies up to 40 minutes at speeds up to 80 km/h (about 50 mph).

A flight plan uploaded to a drone’s memory card tells it where to fly over the mining site. Then the drone may cover up to 80 ha (roughly a third of a square mile) using IoT-connected sensors and cameras to gather data (such as volumes) and images for conversion to 3D maps.

The newspaper reports that the information gathered by a single drone in 40 minutes would take weeks for a team of surveyors to record. Now, surveyors are expanding into management of data produced by drones.

BHP Billiton is one of the world’s largest mining companies and is also known for production of metals and gas. Writing at the BHP Billiton blog, Frans Knox—head of mining production—says UAVs are less expensive and safer than planes for survey work.

Knox emphasizes that drones are helping BHP Billiton to improve worker safety overall. For example, he says, drones monitor road traffic and hazards at mine sites.

Also, Knox adds, drones can identify whether mining areas are clear before blasting. Afterward, they record any blast fumes. He adds that the UAVs also aid inspection of multi-story objects such as overhead cranes so employees can minimize dangerous work at heights.

Lessons from birds

Drones face dangers, too. One aspect of working with them that mining companies never expected is their destruction by eagles, which view them as prey.

Both South Africa’s Gold Fields mining company and BHP Billiton have tried camouflaging the vehicles. Gold Fields painted theirs to look like small eagles, but wedge-tailed eagles continued destroying them. By November 2016, the company had lost $100,000.

According to the avian conservation organization Audubon, wildlife biologists have encountered similar problems when using drones to study birds. Nevertheless, the magazine reports that UAVs save researchers’ lives.

In the past, these scientists flew in light aircraft to get close to bird nests in places that are difficult to reach. But crashes—many at low altitude—became the “number-one killer of wildlife biologists,” Audubon reports.

Audubon also reports that the price of UAVs is dropping as more manufacturers produce them. It adds that some UAV designers are finding ways to make the vehicles more durable.

UAV designers have gained ideas from birds. The magazine notes that innovations include arms for grabbing objects in mid-air, “kestrel-like legs that allow drones to perch” and the ability to glide on thermal updrafts.

Another improvement Audubon cites is UAVs with “vision-based navigation” to avoid obstacles.

Overcoming obstacles

Three of the biggest obstacles to commercial use of drones are legislation limiting their use in public airspace, cost, and managing the high volumes of data they produce. UAV design may ease the first problem as drones become less prone to crashes.

As for cost, development of UAVs for the consumer and academic research markets helps make them more affordable for industrial tasks.

Finally, the third obstacle is disappearing as digital technology designers create tools and IoT-solution software for harnessing Big Data.

Five years ago, few corporate executives knew much about the IoT and how it would create new tools for productivity such as UAVs. Now, industries such as mining and milling are showing business another way to take off digitally.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation: download The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today: read Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

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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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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