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Geopolitical Disruption A Top Board Concern For 2017

Olivia Berkman

Strategy will be the board of director’s best weapon against risk. FEI Daily spoke with Dan Konigsburg, managing director of Deloitte Global’s Center for Corporate Governance on Deloitte’s 8th annual Directors’ Alert, which highlights key concerns facing boards today and how to address them strategically and courageously.

FEI Daily: What are the disruptions boards will face in the coming year?

Dan Konigsburg: Some of them are new, some of them are not. We have the results of the U.S. election. We have Brexit in the UK. We had the surprise Italian election. We’ve got elections coming up that people are concerned about in Europe. I think for the first time in a while, people are concerned about the consequences to their business. Not just political disruption but the growth in populism and how that might affect business.

People are also closely watching what’s happening in China (in the South China Sea), what’s happening in the Euro zone, what’s happening between the U.S. and Mexico.

Cyber is a disruption that remains. Boards are very closely following the way that cyber risks, hacking, problems with the breakdown of intricately interconnected connected systems are disrupting them.

And activism would be the fourth one I would raise. Shareholders becoming much more active as owners and challenging companies in a way that perhaps they weren’t four or five years ago.

FEI Daily: What are some of the differences in areas of concern between the U.S., Europe, and Asia?

Konigsburg: There’s an interesting difference around disruption. A lot of people point to disruption in business models as being one of the biggest concerns for boards, and not just business models, but political disruption. In Asia, we heard, “I don’t actually believe in disruption.” Disruption is another way of saying you haven’t prepared yourself, you haven’t looked at all the risks. That is a real distinction. We’re generalizing, but perhaps we ran into that a bit more in Asia.

FEI Daily: How should boards approach these disruptions?

Konigsburg: Boards have to be more courageous in challenging old ways of thinking. Challenging management certainly takes courage. Being courageous without thinking about all the risks is not courage, that’s being foolhardy. It’s about being able to be contrarian, with full knowledge of the facts and being aware of risks.

FEI Daily: What are some of the questions that boards should be bringing up and discussing?

Konigsburg: First of all, boards should start by asking questions about themselves: Do we have the right people around the table to deal with these disruptions, and these risks? This brings up questions of board composition and diversity. Do we have folks that come from different backgrounds, do we have women on the board, do we have racial minorities who can see things differently and give a better chance at thinking divergently and dealing with problems?

The questions that boards should be asking of management includes, are we prepared? Management, walk us through a scenario. If we start to see a border, import tariff in the U.S., and we’re big importers into the country, what does that do to our costs, what does that do to our cost of capital? Walk us through that and take us down to the agile line, and what does it mean.

FEI Daily: Conversely, what should management understand about the challenges their boards will be facing?

Konigsburg: I think management doesn’t often think about things from the board’s perspective. They’re looking at the canvas one inch away from the picture. So it’s good for management to take a step back and ask themselves some basic questions. These are people who come together four, five, six, seven times a year. They’re not working at the company. They’re very thoughtful, smart people, but perhaps they don’t know every in and out of the business. So if you were in that position, how would you want to be presented to? What information would you need? What are the big-picture areas of discussion that would help lead to better decision making?

So I think it can be very helpful for management to turn that picture around and say, let me imagine what directors are going through. And that has implications for board reporting, for the type of discussions that you have. It can help management pull the board back if they’re trying to go too deep and micromanage. And equally, it can help them pull back and say, let’s look at the bigger picture: let’s look at economic trends, let’s look at geopolitical questions.

FEI Daily: Given where we are politically, do we think the role of boards will expand?

Konigsburg: I think for the U.S., yes. There are certain industries where the board is going to become a much bigger player. I would say banks and financial institutions certainly. The regulators are encouraging boards to play a larger and larger role.

The trend is for boards to do more and more. I think one of the questions as you look into the future is where does it stop? We put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of outside directors. And as I said earlier, they’re only there at the end of the day, as part-timers.

From both the perspective of regulators and from the perspective of a mom-and-pop investor who rely on boards to protect their interests, what’s reasonable to expect? What’s unreasonable? I don’t think we’ve reached a conclusion about that. I think that’s really open to debate still.

FEI Daily: How can boards develop a resilient strategy?

Konigsburg:  When we talk about resiliency, we mean a strategy that holds up over time. We’re talking about strategies that can be flexible that can change, perhaps as external circumstances change.

You want a strategy that is not rigid. A poor, non-resilient strategy would be one-dimensional. You need people on the board that come from different backgrounds that are approaching this from different angles, who can see around corners. I think one of the advantages of having outsiders on your board is they aren’t there in the weeds. And that increases your chances of having a strategy that holds up over time.

For more insight on disruption in today’s complex business environment, see Are You Ready To Monetize The Disruption Economy?

This article originally appeared in FEI Daily. It is republished by permission.

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Olivia Berkman

About Olivia Berkman

Olivia Berkman is the managing editor of FEI Daily, Financial Executives International’s daily newsletter delivering financial, business, and management news, trends, and strategies.

Why CFOs Are Getting Serious About The Cloud

Andy Greig

For CFOs, technology investment of any kind is a matter of dollars and cents, not access controls and business progress. Sure, they want the entire company to do things more efficiently, but the real question is whether operations will run more profitably.

Earlier this year, Deloitte released a perspective on eight tech trends that will test the strategic and disciplined nature of finance organizations. But as Estelle Lagorce, director of Global Partner Marketing at SAP, noted in her blog “2017 CFO Primer: 8 Emerging IT Trends That Will Redefine Finance,” CFOs should avoid taking extreme positions to mitigate potential risk at all costs. Instead, they should collaborate with CIOs to determine probable and acceptable levels of risk and better understand exposures, tradeoffs, and impacts of new technology.

In the spirit of finding opportunities to reduce costs and do more with less, CFOs are beginning to realize that an on-premise IT landscape is not a financially stable option for keeping up with the pace of new technology adoption and continuous innovation. In response, CFOs are eyeing the potential of increasingly reliable and secure cloud environments. In fact, IDC estimates that 75% of 2017 enterprise infrastructure and software spending will go toward cloud offerings.

The growing maturity of the cloud earns CFOs’ attention 

After years of automating low-value tasks and making better-informed decisions with advanced analytics, the finance organization is still trying to crack the code for optimizing capital and reducing risk while driving business transformation, expanding business models with agility, entering geographies with flexibility, and accelerating business growth and innovation. As new applications are added to the existing on-premise IT landscape, additional layers of complexity get in the way of setting up systems and adapting business processes quickly.

With an enterprise cloud platform powered by in-memory computing technology and managed services, finance organizations are gaining an entirely scalable and secure solution to overcome the hurdles of IT complexity to accomplish its mission. Meanwhile, the reference architecture and cloud expertise delivered through this one-stop solution allow rapid deployment of standardized and customized capabilities needed to compete in an increasingly digital marketplace.

For example, Rexel Group, a French electrical-supplies distributor, migrated its IT infrastructure to the cloud when its on-premise systems became obsolete. Immediately, the smart, energy-saving solutions provider realized a simplified IT landscape. As a result, the company adopted an IT operational-expenditure model to lower costs by 35%, increase flexibility, and generate financial reporting five times faster. Outsourcing the management of its cloud allowed Rexel to dedicate more time toward innovating and delivering energy solutions for a greener future.

Change comes fast–and it’s enabled by the cloud

The degree of change happening today is unlike anything seen before. Go-to-market timelines are shorter, and competition arises without warning. Plus, the continued evolution of everything from business models to operational processes and decision-making will be accelerated.

To stay competitive, companies need to allow every business function to work together to deliver differentiated value to all customers. Finance teams can choose to accept this opportunity to become a strategic partner in enabling the business to work faster, more strategically, and with more agility and innovation. But first, a single platform—accessible anytime, anywhere in the cloud—is needed to align the IT infrastructure and supported applications to unlock real business value.

Unlock the full value of your data with SAP S/4HANA and SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. Read the brief “Optimize Working Capital, Accelerate Time to Value, and Reduce Risk with SAP S/4HANA Finance in the Cloud” and visit our curated library of resources.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Andy Greig

About Andy Greig

Andy Greig is the Global Marketing Plan Lead, SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, at SAP. His primary focus is to create marketing and social media campaigns to help customers realize the benefits and value of SAP Services.

Dynamic Planning For A Dynamic World: Are You Ready For Change?

Brian Kalish

Part 1 in a series

The days of creating an annual plan and then reviewing that plan 12 months later, as the new annual planning season begins, are over. In 2017, the rate and magnitude of change continues to increase, and the premium on being able to make better, faster, smarter decisions continues to rise. Over the course of 12 months, there may have been major upheavals in your industry, in the economy, or in technology. If you haven’t thought about making adjustments to the changes in your world in real time, you may have missed major opportunities or warning signs.

We are living in an environment where our technology is changing much faster than our business processes and philosophies. Given that we have moved so far from living in the relatively static world of the past, does the idea of planning the old-fashioned way even sound proper, much less like the solution?

In today’s world, we need to be able to strike a balance between flexibility and strategy. The goal is to create an expansive, accountable plan, and then revisit that plan on a regular basis to adjust to changes (both positive and negative) that have occurred. We need to respond with tangible actions that reflect the new reality we face.

Enter dynamic planning

Dynamic planning enables companies to evaluate risks, seize new opportunities, adjust to new challenges, react quickly and properly to threats, adapt to changing technology, and make decisions that help it thrive.

The organization must still set unambiguous, broad, visionary goals. Goals are like a roadmap for determining whether an opportunity has a high enough ROI to pursue.

It’s like planning a trip: If you don’t know where you are going, how can you tell if you are on the right path to get to there? Dynamic planning still requires the organization to create longer-term plans and goals. The big difference with static, traditional planning is that you set a much shorter horizon one and consider it an ongoing process rather than a one-and-done.

The traditional planning process is focused on predicting, or guessing, what will happen in the future, often with a timeframe of a year or more.  Dynamic planning focuses on shorter-term time periods. The strategy is to concentrate one’s efforts in a more step-by-step process to lead to your ultimate goal, all the while adjusting to changes, both pro and con, that occur.

Building flexibility into your plans

For example, instead of estimating what the next 12 months will look like, break your planning process down into four quarters and adjust the plans as each quarter rolls off. Focus on the short-term while actively analyzing the results of your efforts. By monitoring your activities in the short term, you will gain the flexibility to affect change as your surroundings change.

A simple way of viewing this is to think about taking a car trip across the United States. Your goal is to travel from New York City to Los Angeles, roughly 3,000 miles, and you expect it will take six days. As you are traveling, you may encounter traffic, road closures, weather, and other factors that cause you to deviate from your expected path, but you remain focused on your ultimate goal. Your attention is on the immediate situation, focusing on how to minimize your time given changes in your environment.

The goal of dynamic planning is not just about minimizing the downside; it is also about maximizing the upside. It is difficult, if not impossible, to forecast, predict, or plan for unforeseen opportunities. By breaking your planning process into smaller consumable pieces, you’re better able to seize upon opportunities. Maybe a competitor goes out of business or changes its business plan. With the flexibility to deploy resources, for example, you can take immediate actions that will move you toward your long-term goals and plans.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Brian Kalish

About Brian Kalish

Brian Kalish is founder and principal at Kalish Consulting. As a public speaker and writer addressing many of the most topical issues facing treasury and FP&A professionals today, he is passionately committed to building and connecting the global FP&A community. He hosts FP&A Roundtable meetings in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America. Brian is former executive director of the global FP&A Practice at AFP. He has over 20 years experience in finance, FP&A, treasury, and investor relations. Before joining AFP, he held a number of treasury and finance positions with the FHLB, Washington Mutual/JP Morgan, NRUCFC, Fifth Third Bank, and Fannie Mae. Brian attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA for his undergraduate studies and the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech for his graduate work. In 2014, Brian was awarded the Global Certified Corporate FP&A Professional designation.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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Dan Wellers

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.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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Why HR Is The New Marketing

Michael Brenner

In a world of infinite media choices, the best way to reach new buyers and new talent might be right under your nose. Your own employees represent the greatest opportunity to create meaningful marketing and to develop human resources programs that increase sales, while also finding and retaining top talent. Is HR the new marketing?

In the battle for new talent, HR departments have been forced to expand their role from hiring and firing, overseeing personnel systems and processes, and handling benefit management to include leadership development and training, employer branding, and diversity initiatives.

HR has been forced to adopt strategies that look, well, very much like marketing. These days, HR develops campaigns to grow employer awareness, to build the employer brand as a “great place to work,” and to retain top talent—all traditional marketing objectives.

While many in HR have embraced these traditional marketing skills, the most effective companies are moving beyond HR simply applying marketing techniques to a whole new opportunity. These effective companies are actually activating employees as a new marketing channel to achieve both HR and marketing objectives.

Proceed with caution

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving the potential of employees as a new marketing channel is the perception of marketing as advertising.

Asking (or forcing) your employees to share product content on their social media channels is just as dangerous as asking them to share (or guilting them into sharing) what a great place your company is to work.

Consumers are increasingly ignoring and blocking advertising messages, with some research even suggesting that promotional messages from brands can have the opposite of their intended effect. These misguided efforts can actually cause sales to decline!

While some employees may authentically share their excitement and passion for the products they work on, the projects they are engaged in, and the company they work for (and we should celebrate that), this is not a sustainable strategy for getting new customer or talent.

Content marketing and HR

Content marketing has emerged as one of the hottest trends in marketing. Marketers are learning to think and act like publishers to create entertaining, interesting, or helpful content that consumers actually want to read and share (vs. promotional ads). And this approach allows a brand to reach, engage, convert and retain new customers.

The opportunity to activate employees to achieve marketing and HR objectives starts by creating content they naturally want to share.

As the first VP of content marketing at SAP, I learned to tap into the power of my fellow employees to create a marketing program that delivered massive ROI. The biggest lesson I learned: HR is the new marketing!

With a limited budget for content, I asked our internal experts to write articles on whatever they wanted. We had one editorial rule: no product promotion. Our internal experts could explore their professional or personal passions and interests, even if it meant writing about cat videos. Because somewhere out in the world, I believed there was a potential customer, employee, partner or investor who might also loved cat videos. (No one ever wrote about cat videos. Bummer!)

I even created a slideshare deck to explain the value for these employees/budding content marketers:

  • Grow your personal brand
  • Increase or establish your authority on the topics you are interested in
  • Gain new social media followers
  • Maybe even find that new job or get promoted

We also encouraged this behavior by publicly recognizing our top articles and authors each week in a round-up post. We made rock stars of the best performers as their social connections and influence increased. And this drove more employees to sign up.

Today, that site has hundreds of employee contributors. All are growing their personal brand, while expressing their passions and expertise to the world. And many of the employees who don’t write articles voluntarily share the content with their social connections.

As LinkedIn’s own Jason Miller mentioned in his article, the trick is to define what’s in it for them.

Why does this work?

Because you can create massive momentum when we combine the needs of our customers, our employees, and our company based on THEIR own distinct interests:

  • Companies want more loyal customers and talented employees.
  • Employees want purpose and meaningful work that has real impact on their career and the world.
  • Customers want to form relationships with brands on their terms and based on their self-interest

What you can do to activate HR as the new marketing

1. Create a customer-centric vision

Look around your organization, and you will see people above you, below you, and beside you. The traditional org chart still exists to focus on your position in the hierarchy. But where’s the customer? Where is the customer in your org chart? 

Even if your company mission isn’t customer-centric (“we are the leading provider of widgets”), your marketing vision must be. And there is one simple formula to get there:

Become a sought-after destination for which topicin order to deliver what customer value or impact.

2. Create content employees who want to share

According to LinkedIn, the combined connections of employees on the LinkedIn platform is 10 times larger than any company’s followers. And just 3 percent of company employees sharing branded content generate 30 percent of the views and clicks on that content.

Platforms such as LinkedIn Elevate, social selling programs, and other tools can dramatically increase the reach of your content, grow your company’s social presence, and improve the effectiveness of marketing programs — without spending a single dollar on paid media.

But you have to create content your employees want to share. You might even ask them to help you. The trick is to explain what’s in it for them: creating or sharing content can help them build more connections, establish relationships with other leaders in your industry, and grow their personal brand so they can achieve happiness in their careers.

3. Measure the results

Measure the impact of your employee content sharing for your company. Demonstrate how it has benefited the employees (increased connections, awards, and recognition). Discuss ways to profile your best customers as well.

And partner with your colleagues across HR, marketing, and sales to determine the best ways to continuously optimize what is working for everyone.

If you’re in marketing, it’s time to start thinking about your colleagues in HR as your new best friend. And if you’re in HR, it’s time to think about how marketing can help you acquire and retain the best talent — while making the leadership team happy as well.

For more strategies that create a culture that drives business growth, see Employee Advocacy = Engaged Employees.

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Michael Brenner

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.