How To Ensure That Sustainable Investing Is Successful And Secure

Derek Klobucher

Considerable investment in sustainable companies is no longer an activist fantasy. It’s real and practical, led in part by ever more influential investors and experts.

For example, in late April more than 130 Swiss scientists and public figures published an open letter to the Swiss National Bank calling on the nation’s central bank to publish the CO2 emissions of its vast SFr650 billion (€607 billion) global portfolio – and develop a plan to purge oil, coal, and similar companies.

“The SNB has become one of the world’s largest investors since the global financial crisis,” the Financial Times wrote. “If the SNB were to sell out of fossil fuels, it would be an extraordinary victory for climate change campaigners who have spent the past five years trying to persuade investors to ditch coal, oil, and gas holdings.”

There are still problems for sustainability on the horizon, including cybersecurity. But the campaigners FT mentions have made a lot of progress in the last half decade, convincing investors to prioritize sustainable, responsible, and impact investing (SRI), which seeks profitable long-term investments based on environmental, social, and other considerations.

Netting more green by going green

About 26% of assets under management around the world have a sustainable, ethical, or similar label, according to a Global Sustainable Investment Alliance report last month. That’s about $23 trillion (€21.5 trillion) globally.

“Climate change concerns have driven some investors to add coal and oil producers and high-carbon utilities to the list of ‘sin’ stocks,” Bloomberg wrote. “In addition to entire sectors, some exclude for violations in areas including human rights, severe environmental damage, and corruption.”

This trend is most common in Europe and Australia, where about half of managed assets include environmental and similar assessments, according to the GSI Alliance report. And SRI awareness is on the rise in the U.S., Canada, and especially Japan.

Cybersecurity potholes on the road to sustainability

But a sustainably powered, low-carbon economy wouldn’t be a panacea; it would be even more susceptible to cyberattack than big polluters, according to International Business Times. That is, unless solar, wind, and other renewable power infrastructures evolve into something significantly different than our contemporary, centralized, fossil-fueled power grids.

“Smart grids will not just integrate renewable energy sources, energy storage devices, and electric vehicles – but also household electrical appliances and other devices,” IBT wrote. “In a smart grid system, hackers would potentially be able to target not just power supplies, but the myriad devices interconnected with them through the Internet of Things.”

And IoT vulnerabilities are a big deal. Hackers’ latest efforts include wiping data from connected devices, according to Computerworld. At least one type of malware penetrates an IoT device’s login credentials, overwrites its data, cripples its Internet connection, and renders it unusable.

Overhauling the energy infrastructure

Of course, cybersecurity isn’t just a green problem. Some 68% of oil and gas companies suffered cyber breaches that disrupted operations – in part via hacked operational technology, which includes physical devices, according to a Ponemon Institute study released in February.

That’s why a single cyberattack on a modern centralized grid – on which many homes, businesses, and layers of government could depend – would do a lot of damage. But, as IBT noted, decentralized systems include distributed layers, each with redundancies that enhance cybersecurity by blunting the efficiency and effectiveness of localized attacks.

Investors, experts, and activists are demanding more sustainable practices from large organizations and public companies; that’s good. Those organizations and companies are going green; that’s also good. But we must ensure that cybersecurity and energy infrastructure also keep pace.

Learn more about The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.

This story originally appeared on SAP’s Business Trends. Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher


About Derek Klobucher

Derek Klobucher is a Brand Journalist, Content Marketer and Master Digital Storyteller at SAP. His responsibilities include conceiving, developing and conducting global, company-wide employee brand journalism training; managing content, promotion and strategy for social networks and online media; and mentoring SAP employees, contractors and interns to optimize blogging and social media efforts.

How Robots Are Changing The Business Of Toilet Paper And Diapers

Judith Magyar

In spite of all the changes brought on by digital technology, humans are essentially analog creatures. For evidence, look no further than the consumption of toilet paper and diapers.

And while they are readily available and affordable in developed countries, that’s not always the case in the developing world. More than 2 billion people around the globe have no access to improved sanitation and basic hygiene products, while another 800 million lack regular access to clean water.

What’s this about?

One way to address that disparity is to produce, sell, and distribute toilet paper and diapers more efficiently so that they’re both available and affordable to everyone. At Essity AB, Sweden’s leading producer of hygiene and health products and solutions, that challenge has fallen to experts like Robert Sjöström, SVP Strategy and Business Development. The answers lie in the digital world.

At the recent ThinkX event in Stockholm co-sponsored by SAP and Singularity University, Sjöström described how Essity is automating its factories with AI-driven technology to enable waste reduction, use less energy, improve quality, and reduce costs by re-thinking how human workers impact the production process.

“Digitalization will impact the entire company, and we expect to develop our employees to perform other tasks,” he said. “We’re using robotics to optimize processes and to eliminate as much manual work as possible.”

Let’s not forget, machines were not invented to lighten the load of laborers but to increase output and value. In fact, toilet paper factories are already completely automated. While human beings may oversee the production line, they are largely removed from the operation; from the first stage to the last, toilet paper is made by a series of ingenious machines strung together by a system of conveyors.

But today it’s not enough to just create value through growth. Today, value must be sustainable over time.

Why it matters

“We create business value by meeting society’s most basic needs,” Sjöström says. “But the way we produce paper has not changed for hundreds of years.”

Wood chips are still processed into pulp that’s dried and formed into sheets, a process that hasn’t changed fundamentally since the company was formed. Originally a forest products company with roots in the 1850s, the new name Essity was implemented last year symbolizing essentials that are necessities. The fiber for Essity’s products comes from responsibly managed forests with a respect for biodiversity and fair labor conditions.

“What is changing is how we process materials in a more sustainable way and how we use technology to be more efficient,” Sjöström says.

Such changes require an innovation process that is deeply embedded in a company’s strategy and business model. At Essity, innovation activities are driven by market trends, customer and consumer insight, new technology and new business models which all require new skills and mindsets. The role of human workers will shift away from manufacturing and toward running the business.

“We will create new positions in the company such as digital analysts and robotic experts, so we’ll need to recruit more people with strong mathematical and digital capabilities. It’s also very important that our IT people have a better understanding of the business,” says Sjöström. “Management must stop thinking in a linear way about budgets and start thinking about how to train our brains to be more open-minded, to better understand data, to be less emotional and more fact-based.”

And while it’s true that machines can be more efficient than humans, Sjöström believes the human touch will be more important than ever.

“Our products will continue to be used in a traditional way in homes, but with machines taking care of processes in hospitals, for example, instead of running around looking for supplies or filling out paperwork to maintain stocks of hygiene products, nurses will actually have more time to care for patients at the bedside where it really counts,” he adds.

Good for people, good for business

New technologies like machine learning are making it possible to automate routine tasks which means efficiency will no longer be a differentiator. What will make a difference to the long-term relevance of a company is its reason for being. It’s no coincidence that Essity has made it a mission to improve health and well-being through personal and professional hygiene solutions in full alignment with the United Nations’ Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Essity’s rigorous commitment to the SDGs means it aims to improve the well-being of people all over the world and create business opportunities as well. For example, Essity is helping to stop the spread of disease with handwashing programs in schools and to break taboos about menstruation and incontinence in collaboration with organizations like the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). At the same time, its commitment to sustainable supply chain opens new opportunities for suppliers in all areas from fiber sourcing to water and waste management to climate and energy.

And last, but not least, employees feel good about their work because they understand their role in making the world a better place.

For more on how technology can improve lives, see Four Ways To Fulfill Your Purpose Through Technology.

This article originally appeared on Forbes SAPVoice.


Beyond Earth Day: Technology's Role In Helping Businesses Do More With Less

Daniel Schmid

Close to a billion people around the world are getting ready to celebrate Earth Day on April 22. The movement started in 1970, when millions of people marched to protest the impact of industrial development on the environment. Despite many achievements since then, and almost 2.7 billion “acts of green” registered by the Earth Day network,[i] the need for action is more acute than ever.

As the famed scientist and nobel prize winner Stephen Hawking noted “Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill.”

We have reason for concern, but also hope. New technologies could be the urgently needed accelerator to address climate change, transition to clean energy, and reduce negative environmental impacts – if we apply these wisely as a force for good instead of evil.

While all of us have a role to play in this, businesses, like SAP, have a unique one due to their reach and power to make a positive impact. We have the responsibility to stand for a higher purpose that goes beyond economic success. For SAP, it is to “help the world run better and improve people’s lives.” Together with our customers and numerous other organizations, we are working to bring this vision and purpose to life and to address the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Let me pick just one example: UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #12, which focuses on initiatives that “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.”[ii] Put simply, this means managing the world’s people and natural resources better and mitigating harm to people and the environment. Isn’t this also what enterprise resource planning (ERP) should be about?

Why does this matter?

The demand of already-constrained and finite resources is expected to rise exponentially: If the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets will be required to sustain current lifestyles according to the UN.[iii] Business as usual is no option in this scenario. New ways of doing more and better with less are required.

Digital solutions that drive efficiency and resource optimization are already helping to achieve the UN’s call to “increase net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation, and pollution along the whole lifecycle while increasing quality of life.” Companies, such as Vestas and Kaiserwetter, are leveraging SAP technology to enhance access to renewable and affordable energy. Meanwhile, Vectus, for instance, applies it to conserve precious water in India.

Take food as another example. Each year about one-third of all produced food ends up in the garbage or spoils due to poor transportation and harvesting practices. That’s equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food at a value of US$1 trillion.[iv] Which business or government cannot afford to address this?

Acting as enabler and exemplar

For many companies like SAP, it starts with leading by example through our own business practices.[v] For example, we have established sustainable, end-to-end lifecycle management of our IT equipment, which encompass sustainable procurement practices, energy efficient operations, and IT reuse and recycling.

However, the scale comes from enabling a base of 378,000 customers through our technology and solutions. Together, they produce 76% of the world’s transaction revenue and 78% of the world’s food.

The potential is huge. Precision farming solutions, such as the one for Stara, can help to maximize crop yields while minimizing the application of fertilizer, pesticides, water, and other costly resources and decreasing their environmental impact. Better forecasting of demand through the use of Big Data and next-generation ERP can help deliver perishable foods to the right markets. Our transportation management solutions can help optimize loads and routes to make food products available at the right time with minimal environmental impact. Business network, cloud procurement solutions,[vi] and the product stewardship network[vii] can help retailers, including Walmart,[viii] and consumers gain insight into food supply chains and make sustainable buying decisions. And the list goes on.

Are we done?

Definitely not. We need more purpose-driven innovation and partnerships that connect the dots and enable a truly circular economy in the future. It is not just about responsible sourcing or about recycling – it’s about thinking it the full product lifecycle from design to end of life.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, who holds the record for circumnavigating the world alone, once said: “If we could build an economy that would use things rather than use them up, we could build a future that really could work in the long term.”[ix] 

This Earth Day, I encourage everyone to step up and be part in shaping this future. As Chief Sustainability Officer at SAP, I will apply all my forces to make SAP an enabler and exemplar for sustainability and for holistic environmental, social and economic value creation. Our CEO Bill McDermott, announced today, that as part of our commitment to address SDG #13 “Climate Action” and become carbon neutral by 2025, SAP is teaming up with partners including Livelihoods Fund, Climate Partner, Plant for the Planet to plant 5 million new trees in the next seven years all over the world.

And there is even more we can do. According to the research SMARTer2030 conducted by Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Accenture Strategy,[x] digitizing business processes and using data to make better decisions about resource usage are essential to reduce carbon emissions. Based on the study results, as well as its own calculations and analysis,[xi] SAP came to the conclusion, that digitization in six major industries could help to save up to 7.6 gigatons emissions. That is 63% of the total of 12.1 gigatons emissions identified by the research that could be cut by 2030. An equivalent to approximately 750 billion trees. Just imagine how many more this could be if applied to all industries.

How will YOU join in? We’ve made it easy.  See how!

 

______________________________________________________________

[i] https://www.earthday.org/take-action/

[ii] http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/

[iii] http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/

[iv] http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/

[v] https://www.sap.com/corporate/en/company/sustainability-csr/sustainable-operations.environment.html#environment

[vi] https://www.ariba.com/about

[vii] https://wiki.scn.sap.com/wiki/display/PLM/Overview+-+SAP+Product+Stewardship+Network

[viii] https://cloudplatform.sap.com/success/walmart.html

[ix] https://www.ted.com/talks/dame_ellen_macarthur_the_surprising_thing_i_learned_sailing_solo_around_the_world/transcript?language=en#t-762180

[x] http://smarter2030.gesi.org

[xi] http://www.digitalistmag.com/resource-optimization/2015/12/17/tech-cut-emissions-save-natural-resources-03860595


Daniel Schmid

About Daniel Schmid

Daniel Schmid was appointed Chief Sustainability Officer at SAP in 2014. Since 2008 he has been engaged in transforming SAP into a role model of a sustainable organization, establishing mid and long term sustainability targets. Linking non-financial and financial performance are key achievements of Daniel and his team.

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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Survey: Four Ways Machine Learning Will Disrupt Your Business

Dan Wellers and Dirk Jendroska

We are entering the era of the machine learning enterprise, in which this subset of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities will revolutionize operating models, shake up staffing methods, upend business models, and potentially alter the nature of competition itself. The adoption of machine learning capabilities will be limited only by an organization’s ability to change – but not every company will be willing or able to make such a radical shift.

Very soon, the difference between the haves and the have-nots of machine learning will become clear. “The disruption over the next three to five years will be massive,” says Cliff Justice, principal in KPMG’s Innovation and Enterprise Solutions team. Companies hanging onto their legacy processes will struggle to compete with machine learning enterprises able to compete with a fraction of the resources and entirely new value propositions.

For those seeking to be on the right side of the disruption, a new survey, conducted by SAP and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), offers a closer look at organizations we’ve identified as the Fast Learners of machine learning: those that are already seeing benefits from their implementations.

Machine learning is unlike traditional programmed software. Machine learning software actually gets better – autonomously and continuously – at executing tasks and business processes. This creates opportunities for deeper insight, non-linear growth, and levels of innovation previously unseen.

Given that, it’s not surprising that machine learning has evolved from hype to have-to-have for the enterprise in seemingly record time. According to the SAP/EIU survey, more than two-thirds of respondents (68%) are already experimenting with it. What’s more, many of these organizations are seeing significantly improved performance across the breadth of their operations as a result, and some are aiming to remake their businesses on the back of these singular, new capabilities.

So, what makes machine learning so disruptive? Based on our analysis of the survey data and our own research, we see four primary reasons:

1. It’s probabilistic, not programmed

Machine learning uses sophisticated algorithms to enable computers to “learn” from large amounts of data and take action based on data analysis rather than being explicitly programmed to do something. Put simply, the machine can learn from experience; coded software does not. “It operates more like a human does in terms of how it formulates its conclusions,” says Justice.

That means that machine learning will provide more than just a one-time improvement in process and productivity; those improvements will continue over time, remaking business processes and potentially creating new business models along the way.

2. It creates exponential efficiency

When companies integrate machine learning into business processes, they not only increase efficiency, they are able to scale up without a corresponding increase in overhead. If you get 5,000 loan applications one month and 20,000 the next month, it’s not a problem, says Sudir Jha, head of product management and strategy for Infosys; the machines can handle it.

3. It frees up capital – financial and human

Because machine learning can be used to automate any repetitive task, it enables companies to redeploy resources to areas that make the organization more competitive, says Justice. It also frees up the employees within an organization to perform higher-value, more rewarding work. That leads to reduced turnover and higher employee satisfaction. And studies show that happier employees lead to higher customer satisfaction and better business results.

4. It creates new opportunities

AI and machine learning can offer richer insight, deeper knowledge, and predictions that would not be possible otherwise. Machine learning can enable not only new processes, but entirely new business models or value propositions for customers – “opportunities that would not be possible with just human intelligence,” says Justice. “AI impacts the business model in a much more disruptive way than cloud or any other disruption we’ve seen in our lifetimes.”

Machine learning systems alone, however, will not transform the enterprise. The singular opportunities enabled by these capabilities will only occur for companies that dedicate themselves to making machine learning part of a larger digital transformation strategy. The results of the SAP/EIU survey explain the makeup of the evolving machine learning enterprise. We’ve identified key traits important to the success of these machine-learning leaders that can serve as a template for others as well as an overview of the outcomes they’re already seeing from their efforts.

Learn more and download the full study here.  

 


About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Dirk Jendroska

About Dirk Jendroska

Dr. Dirk Jendroska is Head of Strategy and Operations Machine Learning at SAP. He supports the vision of SAP Leonardo Machine Learning to enable the intelligent enterprise by making enterprise applications intelligent. He leads a team working on machine learning strategy, marketing and communications.