Big Data Privacy Risks And The Role Of The GDPR: Part 2

Evelyne Salie

Part 2 of a 2-part series. Read Part 1.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is prompting companies to take extra efforts to guarantee the data privacy rights of its business partners, including employees, customers, vendors, and so on.

My last blog discussed the six ways Big Data analytics can threaten personal privacy as well as the two parties that are prompted to take protective actions by the GDPR: individuals and companies with customers in the EU. Individuals can distinguish the risks they are willing to take by asking themselves the following questions:

  • What data am I making publicly available, and where are the potential threats?
  • What risks can I avoid, and on which data do I have no influence?
  • Do I have any right to claim my data? Where can I make that claim?

GDPR sets a base for future development in global data protection and security. As KPMG wrote, “It is fair to say that this new legislation is the biggest and most impactful change in privacy and data protection regulation in history. This regulation came about after more than four years of deliberations and negotiations and will impact organizations worldwide.”

GDPR

Changes ahead

As outlined in EY’s report EU General Data Protection Regulation in the Digital Age: Are You Ready? GDPR requires fundamental changes in how data is processed, stored, and used.

Data protection officers (DPOs)

  • DPOs must be appointed if an organization conducts large-scale systematic monitoring or processes large amounts of sensitive personal data

Accountability: Organizations must prove they are accountable by:

  • Establishing a culture of monitoring, reviewing, and assessing data processing procedures
  • Minimizing data processing and retention
  • Building in safeguards to data processing activities
  • Documenting data processing policies, procedures, and operations that must be made available to the data protection supervisory authority on request

Privacy impact assessments

  • Organizations must undertake privacy impact assessments when conducting risky or large-scale processing of personal data

Consent

  • Consumer consent to process data must be freely given and for specific purposes
  • Customers must be informed of their right to withdraw their consent
  • Consent must be “explicit” in the case of sensitive personal data or trans-border dataflow

Mandatory breach notification

  • Organizations must notify a supervisory authority of data breaches “without undue delay” or within 72 hours, unless the breach is unlikely to be a risk to individuals
  • If there is a high risk to individuals, those individuals must be informed as well

New rights

  • The right to be forgotten – the right to ask data controllers to erase all personal data without undue delay in certain circumstances
  • The right to data portability – where individuals have provided personal data to a service provider, they can require the provider to “port” the data to another provider, provided this is technically feasible

Privacy by design

  • Organizations should design data protection into the development of business processes and new systems
  • Privacy settings are set at a high level by default

Obligations on processors

  • Data processors become an officially regulated entity

Joint controllers

  • Data protection responsibility might split among several controllers

Conclusion

Though responsibility to protect their data does lie on every individual using Internet services (whether online shopping, banking, gaming, or social media), the new EU regulations explicitly require that companies take a more active role in data protection.

Given these changes, the role and importance of information management and governance in data privacy will be a key success factor for all organizations with EU customers.

There are solutions and services available to help you provide protection, availability, resilience, and governance for one of your most important assets – individuals’ data.

For more information, see:

This was originally published on the SAP BusinessObjects Analytics blog and is republished with permission.

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Evelyne Salie

About Evelyne Salie

Evelyne is a highly experienced IT-Solution Principal, Business Developer and Project Manager with over 10 years IT- industry experience within the Governance Risk and Compliance and Finance area of expertise. She currently works as a Senior Director in Business Development at SAP Finance and GRC solutions. In her business development role she is working on concepts and realization for new generation of Finance solutions, running in real time, integrating predictive, Big Data, and mobile, which will change how offices of the CFO work, how the business is run, and how information is consumed.

Simplifying Customers’ Interaction With SAP MENA Through Hyperconnectivity

Vaag Durgaryan

Part 2 in the “Digital Finance Sales Support” series

In my first blog in this series, I explained our Digital Finance Sales Support framework, and how this initiative is helping customers interact with SAP in a better and simpler way. As we strategized our approach, our team thought: How we can help support SAP’s co-innovation activities with its customers and make deal support processes digitally fluent? From a deal support perspective, contracts are one of the ways that customers interact with us. So why shouldn’t we deliver contracts in a digital and hyperconnected way? Below is the how and the what.

The how

In the past, we delivered contracts to customers either via PDF attachments in emails or hard copies. After customer signature, SAP would sign.

Now, after the transaction is approved, the contract is sent via DocuSign workflow for internal signatures, and then to the customer. The customer always has choices: either to DocuSign, or print the attached PDF, ink-sign, and send it back to us via mail or hard copy. Most customers choose to DocuSign.

Benefits are faster delivery of contracts, transparency on where the contract is, and choices for our customers on how to sign.

It is amazing, but to sign via DocuSign you need only a few clicks, and there is no need to download any app on your mobile device: digitalization at its best.

The what

SAP has so-called “extension policies” to give customers flexibility to adapt to changing business requirements. Simply put, these policies help customers to optimize existing solutions and resolve “shelf ware” challenges by evaluating potential innovations from our cloud and on-premise portfolio. To execute these extension policies from a deal-support perspective, we had used two documents: a termination agreement for on-premise licenses and a new contract for the replacement software. What we did instead is to replace the termination agreement with an additional clause in the new contract. Now, instead of two documents, there’s only one to sign. Why not?

My next blog will point out how we succeeded – and how we turned failures into opportunities.

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

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Vaag Durgaryan

About Vaag Durgaryan

Vaag Durgaryan is the commercial finance director for SAP in the Middle East and North Africa, which comprises of over 20 countries. Starting in 2017, he oversees a multinational team that provides finance expertise, knowledge, and strategy outlook for finance sales support in the region. Prior to that, Vaag was chief of staff for the CFO for SAP Global Field Finance and co-drove global transformation initiatives with focus on process simplification and people enablement. He holds an Executive MBA degree from ESSEC Business School and Mannheim Business School. Vaag has a passion in digitalization and learning culture.

The Top Five Ways In Which Employees Are Decentralizing Spend

Tina Gunn

Today’s workforce and the way employees spend on behalf of an organization have greatly changed in the digital economy. Employees are spending more money across more spend categories, and using more payment methods than ever before. And it’s not just digital natives; all employees now expect a consumer-like experience in their professional lives for booking travel and making purchases. As a result, employees today will not operate within an archaic process, and finance departments are struggling to see accurate spend data and manage it strategically without a solution that keeps pace with digital purchasing habits.

The bottom line is this: Spending categories formerly under company control have shifted to employee control. We call this employee-initiated spend, and the ways in which employees spend will continue to diversify and create challenges for organizations as they grow and as technology continues to evolve.

The challenges around employee-initiated spend

Employee-initiated spend is decentralized by nature. This, in turn, creates problems for finance and procurement teams that tend to manage spend in a centralized manner.

  1. Largest unmanaged spend category: Unlike corporate initiated spend where an organization plans and allocates resources for budgeted purchases, employee initiated spend is more difficult to create strategy around in a centralized manner despite best efforts to do so. Employee initiated spending includes traditional T&E and non-traditional items that are being lumped together. A diverse range of purchase types reside in this category including ancillary fees (from travel to credit cards), mileage tracking, event fees (from supplies to shipping), mobile roaming charges, VAT compliance fees, and remote or home office expenses, making it challenging to effectively capture, see and track this category of spend.
  1. More payment methods, more problems: With new types of technology comes new ways to pay for purchases. Corporate, ghost, virtual, and P-cards, as well as personal cards, are all payment channels used by employees to pay for goods and services. The challenge comes when multiple payment methods are managed by multiple systems that are not connected and do not share data. Additionally, employees are putting all types of spending on corporate cards that are meant to be used solely for travel and expense, including office-related, entertainment, meetings, and trade show costs.
  1. Traditional booking channels aren’t enough: As the demographic of the workforce continues to diversify, preferences for how and where employees book travel is complicating traditional managed travel programs. From home-share accommodations to ride hailing apps, the appeal of the share economy is undeniable. It provides travelers with mobile and flexible options, and employees now want the same freedom, personalization, and flexibility they get when booking personal travel to carry over to their professional lives. And they want to be able to do this all from their fingertips, on the go. The share economy has moved from being a consumer-adopted practice to one for business travelers, and the number of spend categories being generated will only continue to grow. Lacking the ability to capture out-of-program bookings and associated spend will continue to challenge organizations because this trend is now a permanent fixture.
  1. Reaping rewards directly from suppliers: Vendors and suppliers are now marketing directly to your employees with upgrades and offers, incenting them to purchase directly from them. Since employees now want a more personalized and flexible experience, to compete with all the options available to travelers in a digital economy, suppliers are creating more and more incentives and rewards for your employees to reap. Disconnected silos of information are then created due to the multiple booking channels that are available to employees, making it very difficult for organizations to accurately track spend and properly negotiate supplier discounts.
  1. Finance departments can’t keep up. Most finance departments aren’t set up to see—let alone manage—today’s complex employee spending behaviors because they haven’t been keeping up with technology. If you haven’t taken the first steps of automating the fundamental spending processes you manage, and then systematically automating every part of the spending process, you most certainly haven’t taken the next step of connecting all of those spend sources and processes so that all data is captured for complete control over spend. How we buy for business is changing, and the way finance departments manage this spend needs to change with it.

A better way for managing employee spend

The truth is, employee-initiated spending is not just about travel or expenses, or even invoices. It’s the way those things intersect with each other, and with the apps and payment methods employees are using to make purchases. If you’re not equipped to understand, connect, and control these factors, you’re not equipped to ensure that every dollar you spend is put to the best use throughout your organization.

Automating your travel and expense processes is a critical first step. Then, you must go beyond automation by embracing an open strategy to digitally capture all spend whenever and wherever it happens. Adopting technologies that will connect your travel, expense, purchasing cards, and invoicing will help you gain the insight to properly forecast and keep you from exceeding budgets. And in the end, doing that will help you more effectively manage your organization’s spend.

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

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Tina Gunn

About Tina Gunn

Tina Gunn is the content marketing manager for the Enterprise Americas team at SAP Concur. Tina earned her degree in Journalism from the University of Washington and brings her experience in content strategy and digital marketing to SAP Concur. When she’s not creating thought leadership and sales enablement content, Tina writes fiction and screenplays of the horror and sci-fi genres.

Why Strategic Plans Need Multiple Futures

By Dan Wellers, Kai Goerlich, and Stephanie Overby , Kai Goerlich and Stephanie Overby

When members of Lowe’s Innovation Labs first began talking with the home improvement retailer’s senior executives about how disruptive technologies would affect the future, the presentations were well received but nothing stuck.

“We’d give a really great presentation and everyone would say, ‘Great job,’ but nothing would really happen,” says Amanda Manna, head of narratives and partnerships for the lab.

The team realized that it needed to ditch the PowerPoints and try something radical. The team’s leader, Kyle Nel, is a behavioral scientist by training. He knows people are wired to receive new information best through stories. Sharing far-future concepts through narrative, he surmised, could unlock hidden potential to drive meaningful change.

So Nel hired science fiction writers to pen the future in comic book format, with characters and a narrative arc revealed pane by pane.

The first storyline, written several years before Oculus Rift became a household name, told the tale of a couple envisioning their kitchen renovation using virtual reality headsets. The comic might have been fun and fanciful, but its intent was deadly serious. It was a vision of a future in which Lowe’s might solve one of its long-standing struggles: the approximately US$70 billion left on the table when people are unable to start a home improvement project because they can’t envision what it will look like.

When the lab presented leaders with the first comic, “it was like a light bulb went on,” says Manna. “Not only did they immediately understand the value of the concept, they were convinced that if we didn’t build it, someone else would.”

Today, Lowe’s customers in select stores can use the HoloRoom How To virtual reality tool to learn basic DIY skills in an interactive and immersive environment.

Other comics followed and were greeted with similar enthusiasm—and investment, where possible. One tells the story of robots that help customers navigate stores. That comic spawned the LoweBot, which roamed the aisles of several Lowe’s stores during a pilot program in California and is being evaluated to determine next steps.

And the comic about tools that can be 3D-printed in space? Last year, Lowe’s partnered with Made in Space, which specializes in making 3D printers that can operate in zero gravity, to install the first commercial 3D printer in the International Space Station, where it was used to make tools and parts for astronauts.

The comics are the result of sending writers out on an open-ended assignment, armed with trends, market research, and other input, to envision what home improvement planning might look like in the future or what the experience of shopping will be in 10 years. The writers come back with several potential story ideas in a given area and work collaboratively with lab team members to refine it over time.

The process of working with writers and business partners to develop the comics helps the future strategy team at Lowe’s, working under chief development officer Richard D. Maltsbarger, to inhabit that future. They can imagine how it might play out, what obstacles might surface, and what steps the company would need to take to bring that future to life.

Once the final vision hits the page, the lab team can clearly envision how to work backward to enable the innovation. Importantly, the narrative is shared not only within the company but also out in the world. It serves as a kind of “bat signal” to potential technology partners with capabilities that might be required to make it happen, says Manna. “It’s all part of our strategy for staking a claim in the future.”

Planning must become completely oriented toward—and sourced from—the future.

Companies like Lowe’s are realizing that standard ways of planning for the future won’t get them where they need to go. The problem with traditional strategic planning is that the approach, which dates back to the 1950s and has remained largely unchanged since then, is based on the company’s existing mission, resources, core competencies, and competitors.

Yet the future rarely looks like the past. What’s more, digital technology is now driving change at exponential rates. Companies must be able to analyze and assess the potential impacts of the many variables at play, determine the possible futures they want to pursue, and develop the agility to pivot as conditions change along the way.

This is why planning must become completely oriented toward—and sourced from—the future, rather than from the past or the present. “Every winning strategy is based on a compelling insight, but most strategic planning originates in today’s marketplace, which means the resulting plans are constrained to incremental innovation,” says Bob Johansen, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future. “Most corporate strategists and CEOs are just inching their way to the future.” (Read more from Bob Johansen in the Thinkers story, “Fear Factor.”)

Inching forward won’t cut it anymore. Half of the S&P 500 organizations will be replaced over the next decade, according to research company Innosight. The reason? They can’t see the portfolio of possible futures, they can’t act on them, or both. Indeed, when SAP conducts future planning workshops with clients, we find that they usually struggle to look beyond current models and assumptions and lack clear ideas about how to work toward radically different futures.

Companies that want to increase their chances of long-term survival are incorporating three steps: envisioning, planning for, and executing on possible futures. And doing so all while the actual future is unfolding in expected and unexpected ways.

Those that pull it off are rewarded. A 2017 benchmarking report from the Strategic Foresight Research Network (SFRN) revealed that vigilant companies (those with the most mature processes for identifying, interpreting, and responding to factors that induce change) achieved 200% greater market capitalization growth and 33% higher profitability than the average, while the least mature companies experienced negative market-cap growth and had 44% lower profitability.

Looking Outside the Margins

“Most organizations lack sufficient capacity to detect, interpret, and act on the critically important but weak and ambiguous signals of fresh threats or new opportunities that emerge on the periphery of their usual business environment,” write George S. Day and Paul J. H. Schoemaker in their book Peripheral Vision.

But that’s exactly where effective future planning begins: examining what is happening outside the margins of day-to-day business as usual in order to peer into the future.

Business leaders who take this approach understand that despite the uncertainties of the future there are drivers of change that can be identified and studied and actions that can be taken to better prepare for—and influence—how events unfold.

That starts with developing foresight, typically a decade out. Ten years, most future planners agree, is the sweet spot. “It is far enough out that it gives you a bit more latitude to come up with a broader way to the future, allowing for disruption and innovation,” says Brian David Johnson, former chief futurist for Intel and current futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. “But you can still see the light from it.”

The process involves gathering information about the factors and forces—technological, business, sociological, and industry or ecosystem trends—that are effecting change to envision a range of potential impacts.

Seeing New Worlds

Intel, for example, looks beyond its own industry boundaries to envision possible future developments in adjacent businesses in the larger ecosystem it operates in. In 2008, the Intel Labs team, led by anthropologist Genevieve Bell, determined that the introduction of flexible glass displays would open up a whole new category of foldable consumer electronic devices.

To take advantage of that advance, Intel would need to be able to make silicon small enough to fit into some imagined device of the future. By the time glass manufacturer Corning unveiled its ultra-slim, flexible glass surface for mobile devices, laptops, televisions, and other displays of the future in 2012, Intel had already created design prototypes and kicked its development into higher gear. “Because we had done the future casting, we were already imagining how people might use flexible glass to create consumer devices,” says Johnson.

Because future planning relies so heavily on the quality of the input it receives, bringing in experts can elevate the practice. They can come from inside an organization, but the most influential insight may come from the outside and span a wide range of disciplines, says Steve Brown, a futurist, consultant, and CEO of BaldFuturist.com who worked for Intel Labs from 2007 to 2016.

Companies may look to sociologists or behaviorists who have insight into the needs and wants of people and how that influences their actions. Some organizations bring in an applied futurist, skilled at scanning many different forces and factors likely to coalesce in important ways (see Do You Need a Futurist?).

Do You Need a Futurist?

Most organizations need an outsider to help envision their future. Futurists are good at looking beyond the big picture to the biggest picture.

Business leaders who want to be better prepared for an uncertain and disruptive future will build future planning as a strategic capability into their organizations and create an organizational culture that embraces the approach. But working with credible futurists, at least in the beginning, can jump-start the process.

“The present can be so noisy and business leaders are so close to it that it’s helpful to provide a fresh outside-in point of view,” says veteran futurist Bob Johansen.

To put it simply, futurists like Johansen are good at connecting dots—lots of them. They look beyond the boundaries of a single company or even an industry, incorporating into their work social science, technical research, cultural movements, economic data, trends, and the input of other experts.

They can also factor in the cultural history of the specific company with whom they’re working, says Brian David Johnson, futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. “These large corporations have processes and procedures in place—typically for good reasons,” Johnson explains. “But all of those reasons have everything to do with the past and nothing to do with the future. Looking at that is important so you can understand the inertia that you need to overcome.”

One thing the best futurists will say they can’t do: predict the future. That’s not the point. “The future punishes certainty,” Johansen says, “but it rewards clarity.” The methods futurists employ are designed to trigger discussions and considerations of possibilities corporate leaders might not otherwise consider.

You don’t even necessarily have to buy into all the foresight that results, says Johansen. Many leaders don’t. “Every forecast is debatable,” Johansen says. “Foresight is a way to provoke insight, even if you don’t believe it. The value is in letting yourself be provoked.”

External expert input serves several purposes. It brings everyone up to a common level of knowledge. It can stimulate and shift the thinking of participants by introducing them to new information or ideas. And it can challenge the status quo by illustrating how people and organizations in different sectors are harnessing emerging trends.

The goal is not to come up with one definitive future but multiple possibilities—positive and negative—along with a list of the likely obstacles or accelerants that could surface on the road ahead. The result: increased clarity—rather than certainty—in the face of the unknown that enables business decision makers to execute and refine business plans and strategy over time.

Plotting the Steps Along the Way

Coming up with potential trends is an important first step in futuring, but even more critical is figuring out what steps need to be taken along the way: eight years from now, four years from now, two years from now, and now. Considerations include technologies to develop, infrastructure to deploy, talent to hire, partnerships to forge, and acquisitions to make. Without this vital step, says Brown, everybody goes back to their day jobs and the new thinking generated by future planning is wasted. To work, the future steps must be tangible, concrete, and actionable.

Organizations must build a roadmap for the desired future state that anticipates both developments and detours, complete with signals that will let them know if they’re headed in the right direction. Brown works with corporate leaders to set indicator flags to look out for on the way to the anticipated future. “If we see these flagged events occurring in the ecosystem, they help to confirm the strength of our hypothesis that a particular imagined future is likely to occur,” he explains.

For example, one of Brown’s clients envisioned two potential futures: one in which gestural interfaces took hold and another in which voice control dominated. The team set a flag to look out for early examples of the interfaces that emerged in areas such as home appliances and automobiles. “Once you saw not just Amazon Echo but also Google Home and other copycat speakers, it would increase your confidence that you were moving more towards a voice-first era rather than a gesture-first era,” Brown says. “It doesn’t mean that gesture won’t happen, but it’s less likely to be the predominant modality for communication.”

How to Keep Experiments from Being Stifled

Once organizations have a vision for the future, making it a reality requires testing ideas in the marketplace and then scaling them across the enterprise. “There’s a huge change piece involved,”
says Frank Diana, futurist and global consultant with Tata Consultancy Services, “and that’s the place where most
businesses will fall down.”

Many large firms have forgotten what it’s like to experiment in several new markets on a small scale to determine what will stick and what won’t, says René Rohrbeck, professor of strategy at the Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences. Companies must be able to fail quickly, bring the lessons learned back in, adapt, and try again.

Lowe’s increases its chances of success by creating master narratives across a number of different areas at once, such as robotics, mixed-reality tools, on-demand manufacturing, sustainability, and startup acceleration. The lab maps components of each by expected timelines: short, medium, and long term. “From there, we’ll try to build as many of them as quickly as we can,” says Manna. “And we’re always looking for that next suite of things that we should be working on.” Along the way certain innovations, like the HoloRoom How-To, become developed enough to integrate into the larger business as part of the core strategy.

One way Lowe’s accelerates the process of deciding what is ready to scale is by being open about its nascent plans with the world. “In the past, Lowe’s would never talk about projects that weren’t at scale,” says Manna. Now the company is sharing its future plans with the media and, as a result, attracting partners that can jump-start their realization.

Seeing a Lowe’s comic about employee exoskeletons, for example, led Virginia Tech engineering professor Alan Asbeck to the retailer. He helped develop a prototype for a three-month pilot with stock employees at a Christiansburg, Virginia, store.

The high-tech suit makes it easier to move heavy objects. Employees trying out the suits are also fitted with an EEG headset that the lab incorporates into all its pilots to gauge unstated, subconscious reactions. That direct feedback on the user experience helps the company refine its innovations over time.

Make the Future Part of the Culture

Regardless of whether all the elements of its master narratives come to pass, Lowe’s has already accomplished something important: It has embedded future thinking into the culture of the company.

Companies like Lowe’s constantly scan the environment for meaningful economic, technology, and cultural changes that could impact its future assessments and plans. “They can regularly draw on future planning to answer challenges,” says Rohrbeck. “This intensive, ongoing, agile strategizing is only possible because they’ve done their homework up front and they keep it updated.”

It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen in the future, but companies can help to shape it, says Manna of Lowe’s. “It’s really about painting a picture of a preferred future state that we can try to achieve while being flexible and capable of change as we learn things along the way.” D!


About the Authors

Dan Wellers is Global Lead, Digital Futures, at SAP.

Kai Goerlich is Chief Futurist at SAP’s Innovation Center Network.

Stephanie Overby is a Boston-based business and technology journalist.


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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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.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

About Stephanie Overby

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Human Is The Next Big Thing

Traci Maddox

One of my favorite movies of 2016 was Hidden Figures. The main character, Katherine Johnson, and her team of colleagues had an interesting job title: Computer. Here’s what Katherine said about her job: “On any given day, I analyze the binomial levels of air displacement, friction, and velocity. And compute over 10 thousand calculations by cosine, square root, and lately analytic geometry. By hand.”

That was the 1960s. It was amazing work, but work that took hours to complete – and something an in-memory computer could do in a fraction of a second today.

Just as in-memory computing transformed calculating by hand (and made jobs like Katherine’s much easier), digital technologies are transforming the way we work today – and making our day-to-day activities more efficient.

What’s the real impact of technology in today’s workplace?

We are surrounded by technology, both at home and at work. Machine learning and robotics are making their way into everyday life and are affecting the way we expect to engage with technology at work. That has a big impact on organizations: If a machine can do a job safely and more efficiently, a company, nonprofit, or government – and its employees – will benefit. Digital technologies are becoming increasingly more feasible, affordable, and desirable. The challenge for organizations now is effectively merging human talent and digital business to harness new capabilities.

How will jobs change?

What does this mean for humans in the workplace? In a previous blog, Kerry Brown showed that as enterprises continue to learn, human/machine collaboration increases. People will direct technology and hand over work that can be done more efficiently by machine. Does that mean people will go away? No – but they will need to leverage different skills than they have today.

Although we don’t know exactly how jobs will change, one thing is for sure: Becoming more digitally proficient will help every employee stay relevant (and prepare them to move forward in their careers). Today’s workforce demographic complicates how people embrace technology – with up to five generations in the workforce, there is a wide variety in digital fluency (i.e., the ability to understand which technology is available and what tools will best achieve desired outcomes).

What is digital fluency and how can organizations embrace it?

Digital fluency is the combination of several capabilities related to technology:

  • Foundation skills: The ability to use technology tools that enhance your productivity and effectiveness
  • Information skills: The ability to research and develop your own perspective on topics using technology
  • Collaboration skills: The ability to share knowledge and collaborate with others using technology
  • Transformation skills: The ability to assess your own skills and take action toward building your digital fluency

No matter how proficient you are today, you can continue to build your digital IQ by building new habits and skills. This is something that both the organization and employee will have to own to be successful.

So, what skills are needed?

In a Technical University of Munich study released in July 2017, 64% of respondents said they do not have the skills necessary for digital transformation.

Today's workplace reality

These skills will be applied not only to the jobs of today, but also to the top jobs of the future, which haven’t been imagined yet! A recent article in Fast Company mentions a few, which include Digital Death Manager, Corporate Disorganizer, and 3D Printing Handyman.

And today’s skills will be used differently in 2025, as reported by another Fast Company article:

  • Tech skills, especially analytical skills, will increase in importance. Demand for software developers, market analysts, and computer analysts will increase significantly between now and 2025.
  • Retail and sales skills, or any job related to soft skills that are hard for computers to learn, will continue to grow. Customer service representatives, marketing specialists, and sales reps must continue to collaborate and understand how to use social media effectively to communicate worldwide.
  • Lifelong learning will be necessary to keep up with the changes in technology and adapt to our fast-moving lives. Teachers and trainers will continue to be hot jobs in the future, but the style of teaching will change to adapt to a “sound bite” world.
  • Contract workers who understand how businesses and projects work will thrive in the “gig economy.” Management analysts and auditors will continue to be in high demand.

What’s next?

How do companies address a shortage of digital skills and build digital fluency? Here are some steps you can take to increase your digital fluency – and that of your organization:

  • Assess where you are today. Either personally or organizationally, knowing what skills you have is the first step toward identifying where you need to go.
  • Identify one of each of the skill sets to focus on. What foundational skills do you or your organization need? How can you promote collaboration? What thought leadership can your team share – and how can they connect with the right information to stay relevant?
  • Start practicing! Choose just one thing – and use that technology every day for a month. Use it within your organization so others can practice too.

And up next for this blog series – a look at the workplace of the future!

The computer made its debut in Hidden Figures. Did it replace jobs? Yes, for some of the computer team. But members of that team did not leave quietly and continue manual calculations elsewhere. They learned how to use that new mainframe computer and became programmers. I believe humans will always be the next big thing.

If we want to retain humanity’s value in an increasingly automated world, we need to start recognizing and nurturing Human Skills for the Digital Future.

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Traci Maddox

About Traci Maddox

Traci Maddox is the Director of the North America Customer Transformation Office at SAP, where she is elevating customer success through innovation and digital transformation. Traci is also part of the Digital Workforce Taskforce, a team of SAP leaders whose mission is to help companies succeed by understanding and addressing workforce implications of digital technology.