Blockchain: A Rose By Any Other Name

John Bertrand

The question of what exactly blockchain is came to the fore in March with the publication of the eBook Blockchain Meets Supply Chain: Rewiring Business Operations for the Digital Age, which acknowledged “blockchain is difficult to pin down … it is a class of software composed of other technologies.” The eBook aims to clear that up a bit, as I’ll try to do here.

The blockchain is a secure, transparent, layered container. The container is distributed and made available across the Internet or cloud, with any changes reported back to all parties in the specified group. This process is referred to as distributed ledger technology (DLT).

The DLT is available to either a public or private group. Financial services activities will predominately be in private groups, for example “syndicated loans.”

The key features in the transparent container include:

  • Consensus – algorithms that confirm and accept the information as it arrives and make sure that information is distributed
  • Shared ledger – the record of information that is available to all parties
  • Immutability – cryptographic technology that ensures that records cannot be tampered with

Who says blockchain is hip and modern? The Byzantine Army in 330 AD needed to manage the diversity of loyalty in its generals through coded, distributed, hand-delivered messages. Today we use mathematicians and technology to ensure the shared ledger is robust and staying true to the course, as did the Byzantine generals.

It is the right choreographing of the different technologies that is most important, says the eBook. Given the correct combination, blockchain/DLT should appear sooner than currently anticipated.

Gone are the days banks when banks build their own technology. Most banks now only care that the technology works, with the caveat that the tech supplier is approved by the bank. To meet regulatory requirements, bank technology suppliers must be low risk, which is not the profile of most fintech companies!

The eBook suggests that more caution is needed in implementing blockchain; that is probably correct, but the banks’ situation is urgent. The long and ongoing low interest rate environment has made it very difficult for banks to generate revenue growth. The Swiss Central Bank now charges fees for money on deposit – so times really are getting hard. Banks also have very high internal cost infrastructures. Banks need to start charging for their services, cut costs, or both.

Blockchain/DLT offers efficiency, better security, and one source of the truth. As the eBook points out, the digital supply chain reduces procurement costs by 20% and halves supply chain costs, enabling controlled activity instead of caution.

The eBook’s focus on the digitalization of assets and the provenance of them, rather than crypto currency, is refreshing. I recently noticed on CoinDesk that one of the crypto currencies dropped 31% in 24 hours. That’s a Zimbabwean dollar-like fall. Maybe, like the Zim dollar, crypto currency will be officially abandoned and the U.S. dollar used instead.

One final question to ponder: What should we call the stack of technology that forms the blockchain and DLT? Every stack could be different. How about Rose? After all, U.S. hurricanes are given human names, and I believe blockchain/DLT/Rose will bring the force of the hurricane to banking. Blockchain Meets Supply Chain: Rewiring Business Operations for the Digital Age represents the calm before the storm.

To learn more about blockchain, read the Forbes Insights Briefing Report: Transforming Transaction Processing for the Digital Economy.

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Transforming Your Business Through A Digital Supply Chain Of One

Richard Howells

A recent infographic published by IDC highlights the importance of digital transformation and the need for companies to enable a digital supply chain of one to stay competitive.

One finding from the infographic is quite striking: By 2019 “3rd Platform” technologies such as mobile, cloud, Big Data, and social will account for nearly 75% of IT spend – growing at twice the rate of the total market.

Much of the increase in IT spend will be attributed to “innovation accelerators” – a category that includes technologies such as analytics, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and robotics. Through 2020, innovation accelerators will grow at 17% CAGR.

Of course, given the competitive pressure to innovate, perhaps these numbers aren’t so surprising after all. Across industries, companies are launching profound digital transformation initiatives as they struggle against digitally savvy competitors who use new technologies to deliver better customer outcomes. Now, this drive to digitalize is showing up in the numbers.

Top drivers

But what exactly are these competitive pressures? One is customer demand for individualized products. Part of what it means to deliver better customer outcomes in the digital economy is to deliver exactly what customers want. In practice, this often means personalization – the ability to manufacture to the lot size of one. Personalization requires processes that are highly responsive to individual needs and desires. Audi, for example, has revamped the assembly line in favor of a modular assembly approach. This approach skirts the issue of assembly line downtime – like when only a few vehicles on the line need to get fitted with optional extras.

Another driver is increasingly complex products. In this world, few companies have neither the capabilities nor the business justifications to fill out the end-to-end value chain. This is why companies partner up – leading to expanding partner ecosystems. Auto manufacturers, to stick with an example, need to partner up with software companies to deliver the onboard tech that customers want today. And as things change, these manufacturers need flexible collaboration platforms to quickly bring in new partners as needed.

Companies are also looking to improve outcomes for customers after the sale. With IoT, for example, companies can track KPIs and monitor performance for the products they produce and sell. Cars, again, are a perfect use case. Take Tesla, for instance. The company continuously collects data on its cars (self-driving and otherwise), analyzes it for insight, and proactively pushes out improvements to the cars in its network. Ever hear companies talk about knowing what customers want before the customers know it themselves? This is what they’re talking about.

The digital innovation platform

To thrive in the digital economy, IDC believes that “product innovation, supply chain, and manufacturing must be connected through a digital innovation platform powered by key technologies such as cloud, analytics, IoT, machine learning, and blockchain.”

As discussed in a previous blog, companies can use such platforms to mix these technologies in creative ways. IoT sensor data can be transmitted and stored in the cloud. Machine learning can then be used to make processes smarter. Artificial intelligence can help automate processes – and blockchain can help ensure the processes remain traceable and secure.

Yet, there’s a long way to go. According to IDC, only nine percent of manufacturers use an innovation platform for extended collaboration, only nine percent have digitally transformed their supply chains, and a full 67% still consider themselves “Digital Explorers” or “Digital Players” – meaning they’re at the early stages of digital transformation.

Yes, you can get there from here

The good news is that companies can actually move forward. IDC recommends adopting cloud-based platforms and enhancing them with the intelligent technologies we’ve already discussed – such as AI, machine learning, and analytics. This can help accelerate product innovation, increase supply chain visibility, improve manufacturing, and drive revenue growth.

IDC also touts the advantages of a network of digital twins. A digital twin is a simply a live digital representation of a physical thing – say a forklift in one of your warehouses or a heating/cooling unit deployed at a customer site. A network of these digital twins can provide the insight needed to achieve a digital supply chain of one. It can also help you track performance, usage, and service demand for deployed units or sold items – allowing you to monetize connected products.

The bottom line is that the supply chain is now front and center for companies competing in the digital economy. With a digital supply chain of one supported by emerging technologies for greater visibility, predictability, and agility, your company can deliver the personalized products and experiences that customers value. Good luck out there.

Customers want individualized products with shorter delivery and new payment options. View this infographic to understand how a digital supply chain to serve the segment of one can deliver customer centricity by enabling predictive business and smart automation for total supply chain visibility. 

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Richard Howells

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.

How Machine Learning Will Save The Paper And Packaging Industry

Jennifer Scholze

The paper and packaging industry is in the midst of major change. Print circulation for magazines and newspapers has dropped dramatically in the last decade. Craigslist is replacing the classified section. Google and social media are replacing direct mail advertising. Cloud storage is replacing the office filing cabinet.

Despite these changes, however, it’s not all gloom and doom. Demand for paper-based packaging, including packaging made from recycled materials, is growing. Advancements in machine learning are enabling the industry to optimize production and minimize the input costs of assets, energy, and transportation. Machine learning can turn data into insights, unlocking new business opportunities and revenue streams.

Optimizing complex production and supply chain variables to address communication barriers

Paper and packaging companies are continually seeking new opportunities to streamline production. Last year, LNS Research surveyed more than 180 paper and packaging companies about their business goals, technology efforts, and future plans. Nearly half of all companies listed “better operational performance” as their top objective.

With demand stagnating, paper and packaging companies must hold the line on production costs. This can be challenging, however, due to the many variables involved in the production process. Alfred Becker, vice president, Mill Products Industry Business Unit at SAP, recently spoke about the importance of process optimization on the S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast.

“If you imagine a simple piece of paper, it has many, many characteristics, like thickness or surface evenness or width or length, or it may be coated, and all of that has to be processed somehow, which is not a simple thing,” says Becker. “IT for a paper product is much more complex than the product itself may seem to be.”

In addition to variables in the physical product, there are also a number of different production variables, including assets, energy, and transportation. These variables can be costly compared with the value of the finished product. In the past, Becker says that technical restrictions made it difficult to optimize the production process and the supply chain.

The final part of this challenge is the disconnection between paper supplier and paper converter. Currently, many business models are based on two disconnected production processes: The paper supplier creates the raw paper goods. The paper converter, a separate business, then converts this paper into packaging.

“Paper suppliers and paper converters are disconnected,” says Becker. “They never can [improve] beyond a certain threshold because of their lack of information.”

Machine learning optimizes performance and improves data communication

One of the most fundamental applications of IoT sensor technology is maximizing machine uptime. Sensor data can make it easier for companies to engage in predictive maintenance and avoid unplanned downtime due to machine failure. Becker argues that machine learning can take this process optimization one step further.

“There’s a spin on this specifically to paper production,” says Becker on the S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast. “A paper product is not as simple as one would expect, and [neither] is the process to produce it. The process is always fluctuating… At the moment, [companies] would like to run their known business without any disruptions [or] surprises, so they need really this stable core to sweat the assets, to produce just as planned to deliver in time. Paper companies currently invest significant time into analyzing their production processes and understanding what can be immediately improved. At the same time, [these companies] have to do something on top of what they’re doing today to become better and to develop new business models.”

To truly get ahead of the curve, companies must address the communication disconnect between paper supplier and paper converter. This starts with pooling data for advanced synthesis.

“It’s this synthesis that will lead into future, and that’s one of the concepts that we are preaching,” says Becker. “We tell [companies]: Don’t sell products, sell performance in the future.”

This can be really achieved through disruptive technologies like machine learning. Machine learning enables computers to “learn” without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning is capable of understanding a billion pieces of data in seconds. By instantly analyzing information from thousands of remote sensors across multiple companies, machine learning not only streamlines production, it also elevates performance.

Creating new business models and revenue streams

Machine learning is critical to optimizing performance. This optimization should not be limited to a company’s day-to-day production processes, however. To realize machine learning’s full transformative potential, companies must break down data silos. Pooling data for advanced synthesis across companies is key to creating new, performance-based business models.

Companies that view digital transformation as an opportunity rather than a threat can capture additional market share with these new business models. This will help offset stagnate growth in traditional markets.

For more information on how digital transformation can revolutionize the paper and packaging industry, listen to the S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast.

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

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Jennifer Scholze

About Jennifer Scholze

Jennifer Scholze is the Global Lead for Industry Marketing for the Mill Products and Mining Industries at SAP. She has over 20 years of technology marketing, communications and venture capital experience and lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

Hack the CIO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Think in Systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Work in Diverse Teams

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

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

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

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

3. Become a Consultant

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

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

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

4. Learn Horizontal Leadership

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

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

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

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

5. Understand Process Design

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

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

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

6. Learn to Keep Learning

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

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

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

7. Fail Smarter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Every CIO Is Ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the Authors

Thomas Saueressig is Chief Information Officer at SAP.

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist at SAP.

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

Bennett Voyles is a Berlin-based business writer.

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

Misa Rawlins and Krishnakant Dave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Misa Rawlins

About Misa Rawlins

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

Krishnakant Dave

About Krishnakant Dave

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