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The “Ayurvedic” Approach To GDPR

Neil Patrick

At around 11 months before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or Regulation (EU) 2016/679 becomes effective, how are things looking in the marketplace?

GDPR is a topic I’ve been working on for some nine months as part of my role. This entails a lot of reading and research; talking to many, many customers and peers on the topic; learning what they are doing; and assisting customers with an approach to an end-to-end compliance capability. (Read our other GDPR articles.)

Beware of misleading comments

I’ve seen a number of misunderstandings and misrepresentations for GDPR that worry me. For example, I’ve seen it stated by others that GDPR requires data to be encrypted, or that data centres have to relocate from the United States to the European Union to be GDPR-compliant. Both are untrue, but contain just enough similar wording to GDPR to make it sound plausible. This reminds me of the story about someone suffering with up to 17 headaches a day and how that was resolved (but more on that a bit later).

Part of the problem is that vendors and agencies are bending the meaning of GDPR to suit their niche functional capabilities. I have also noticed a laziness when they don’t actually read the GDPR, but instead use someone else’s interpretation and/or summary points to develop a feature map and collateral. So, for example, software being positioned (and possibly purchased?) is a few levels of separation and interpretation away from the real GDPR requirement.

In addition to being wrong and confusing, this can also lead to a plethora of disconnected niche pieces of software cluttering up the enterprise, while not really addressing the needs of the actual regulation.

Give it a go—read the GDPR

The GDPR is not the most riveting read, true, but it’s actually quite well structured. And if one takes the perspective of its intent—to protect people’s personal data from accidental or institutionalized misuse or loss—it makes a whole lot of sense. You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that intent.

I was at a seminar recently and a representative from the supervising authority for that member state reflected that their GDPR experts were being poached by industry. They also pointed out that GDPR was an operational exercise, not a legal one, so lawyers alone wouldn’t be enough to determine a corporate response.

Pressure to sell drives confusion

Software companies want to sell licenses, and they want to get into the market quickly, so they need to enable their sales teams to articulate why their GDPR story is better than their competitors’. There is pressure to sell and to simplify the message.

But GDPR in its full extent is not that simple, and it touches a very broad range of roles in an organization as well as different levels. Legal, finance, compliance, audit, IT, security, training, as well as the board of directors, all own a slice of the GDPR pie. Combinations of technical tools, plus ongoing sustainable process governance and cultural change, are required

Because of the breadth of GDPR, the majority of vendors in this space can only offer niche solutions. This sometimes makes it difficult for them to add any real substantive contribution to GDPR compliance. But they still try to find some storyline to hook into.

Diagram courtesy of Neil Patrick

The diagram above is a way of interpreting and delivering a core set of GDPR requirements that can be operationalized via a single solution, as part of a centralized corporate response to GDPR. It has been crafted around the regulation itself as the source of truth. The solution can be integrated with other new tools and legacy systems to deliver a coordinated and centralized view on GDPR compliance.

I believe software vendors have a duty to go back to the regulation and read it, then determine how their software meets the requirements, and clean up their messaging. We’re less likely to get misleading statements, less likely to induce customer GDPR fatigue, and more likely to aggregate around approaches that benefit our customers.

GDPR requires a holistic approach to be effective, and to be a value-add

Now back to the person with the 17 headaches a day. Significant testing was done of the head, blood, hormones, enzymes, and so forth, focusing on solving the problem of headaches. After quite some time, a holistic doctor was engaged who approached the problem from a whole-body perspective, not just focusing on the head. The doctor discovered a misalignment of vertebra in the spine, plus a way of life that led to constrictions in the spine, resulting in the headaches. This is much like the Ayurvedic approach to medicine, which has the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between body, mind, and spirit.

GDPR needs to be addressed with the same contextualized—the whole-body approach. Organizations shouldn’t be acquiring and implementing niche tools to tick off stated problems as presented by third parties, but should be taking a holistic approach to rolling out the business change that is required by GDPR. Yes, this includes software, but also a permanent cultural shift in how the organization thinks about and handles personal data.

Ayurvedic GDPR

So what is required? Good software focusing on technical GDPR requirements (which does include encryption, but also pseudonymization and other appropriate technical measures); governance of the GDPR compliance processes; and ensuring that the necessary cultural change is pushed out into the business. In other words: better corporate body, mind, and spirit.

If done well and thoroughly, these are the same activities that will deliver benefits like:

  • Reduced cost of compliance (not just GDPR) and likelihood of a fine
  • Reduced organizational and individual risk, linked to business planning and mission
  • Good data governance
  • Reduce cybersecurity risk and reputational risk
  • Smaller, better-organized IT toolset
  • Cleaner user privilege administration
  • Greater organizational agility

Learn more

  • Read our other blogs about GDPR.
  • Read our other GRC Tuesday series blogs.

This article, GRC Tuesdays: “Ayurvedic” GDPR, originally appeared on the SAP BusinessObjects Analytics blog and has been republished with permission.

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

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Neil Patrick

About Neil Patrick

Dr. Neil Patrick is a Director of SAP Centre of Excellence for GRC & Security covering EMEA. He has over 12 years’ experience in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) & Security fields. During this time he has been a managing consultant, run professional services delivery teams in the UK and USA, conducted customer business requirements sessions around the world, and sales and business development initiatives. Neil has presented core GRC and Security thought leadership sessions in strategic customer-facing engagements, conferences and briefing sessions.

5 RPA Myths Exposed

Nicole Sharon Schultz

With all of the buzz around robotic process automation (RPA), it can be hard to sift through fact and fiction. One thing is clear – changes are coming to finance and accounting, and it’s important to understand exactly what those changes mean. The meaning of RPA can be unclear, so let’s explore what RPA is and what it isn’t.

1. Myth: RPA will replace humans

There’s always the fear that humans will be replaced whenever technology makes an advancement, and RPA is no exception. The reality is that while finance and accounting are changing, they will continue to rely on humans.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the finance industry is one of the most overworked industries and one of the few industries that is continuing to increase hours worked per week. Finance departments are wasting valuable time and resources by forcing their employees to do manual, repetitive, and mindless work.

These tasks are better suited for RPA because robots can work tirelessly and continuously without making errors. RPA shifts the daily workload away from mundane, repetitive tasks to work that is managerial and communication-based, opening up new opportunities for highly skilled accountants to add value to the entire organization.

2. Myth: RPA is only about cost reduction

While cost reduction is definitely a benefit of RPA, it’s not in the top three reasons for why businesses choose to implement RPA. According to a recent HfS study, the top reasons businesses choose to implement RPA include:

  • Driving more predictability and higher process quality
  • Speeding up the time it takes to complete the processes
  • Freeing up staff to move to different projects

So, while businesses will experience the benefit of cost reduction, they will also gain many additional benefits, such as the ability to scale for growth.

Scalability is an invaluable benefit. Some industry experts like Leslie Willcocks, professor of technology, work, and globalization at the London School of Economics’ department of management, expect demands and workload to increase exponentially in the coming years.

3. Myth: RPA is expensive

Compared to traditional options such as business process remodeling or offshore/onshore manual processing, RPA is quickly becoming the preferred choice because of its relatively low cost and easy implementation.

RPA significantly reduces costs, increases efficiency, provides a superior customer experience, and dramatically reduces errors all within very short timeframes.

According to a PwC Global Operations Survey, RPA not only delivers benefits quickly, but ROIs of between 300% and 800% are common. While RPA does have initial implementation costs, it also provides rapid internal cost reduction and significant increases in ROI, making it a very appealing option for many companies.

4. Myth: All RPA platforms are created equal

Some RPA platforms are simply better than others. When searching for an RPA platform, it’s essential to ask two key things:

  • How does this RPA platform work with my ERP system?
  • Does this RPA platform enhance my record-to-report (R2R) processes?

As everyone knows, it can be tricky to add new software to ERP systems. Make sure that an RPA platform is not only compatible with your ERP system but can embed within that ERP system itself – this not only makes adopting the platform smooth but also significantly increases security.

Once you’ve found an RPA platform that will embed within your ERP system, make sure it also enhances your R2R processes. An RPA system should first optimize your processes in order for your company to realize the true value inherent in RPA.

5. Myth: RPA is a temporary trend

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the RPA trend will die. RPA is here to stay. Today, RPA is rules-based, and good RPA software will have exception management to minimize human intervention for issue resolution.

The future of RPA is intelligent automation with cognitive algorithms and machine learning. While strong RPA software available today can adapt to complex situations and independently correct errors, the intelligent automation of the future will be able to apply judgment and learning.

For more on this topic, read “The Hidden Value Of RPA For Finance.”

This article originally appeared in BlackLine Magazine and is republished by permission.

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Nicole Sharon Schultz

About Nicole Sharon Schultz

Nicole Sharon Schultz is a specialist in robotic process automation (RPA) at BlackLine. She has been immersed in RPA since moving from the Midwest to The Netherlands almost three years ago. She was responsible for creating and building the user resource platform for BlackLine Smart Close, which embeds RPA into record-to-report activities in SAP software. As an American working in Europe, Nicole sees RPA in action from a unique perspective: as a way for finance to work smarter, bridging the gap between the aspirations of the C-Suite and what can actually be accomplished, given the limitations placed on most finance departments. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The Insider’s Guide To Improving Payments And Cash Flow, Part 1

Alan Cohen and Scott Pezza

Part 1 of a 12-part series. Read our introductory blog.

The first topic we will address in this 12-part series is the importance of organizational will and alignment. Whether you are just starting a payment or cash-flow improvement initiative, in the middle of deployment, or scaling an existing program, organizational will and alignment are vital to success.

Organizational will can be summed up in three parts:

Commitment to success. Your leadership must never accept the status quo and must always be willing to collaborate with stakeholders from various lines of business to transform “old school” processes and thinking to promote better business outcomes. Effective collaboration requires enterprise-wide commitment across procurement, treasury, and shared services.

Defined goals. There needs to be a clear mandate of how success is measured over a specific period. This could mean an increase in the number of payments automated, suppliers participating, cash flow gained, discounts earned, or other quantitative metrics.

Clear prioritization. Your payments or cash flow initiative must rise above the fray as an umbrella priority that is not limited by competing objectives or hampered by disparate key performance indicators (KPIs).

Organizational alignment requires procurement, treasury, and shared services to break out of their silos. To be truly successful, you must:

Secure a CFO mandate.
In most cases, the corporate functions mentioned above report to the CFO. While the best-case scenario is to have these leaders align, it may be necessary for the CFO to set and communicate clear business objectives for the company, and align leadership stakeholders when determining how objectives will be achieved.

Align KPIs across groups.
If procurement is measured on price reduction, shared services are measured on efficiency, and treasury is measured on discounts earned, your organization is not working toward a cohesive payments and cash flow strategy. Moving these groups to common, shared metrics like economic value added (with price reductions and discounts earned given equal credit) will ensure that teams are aligned and your initiative is set up for success.

Identify a strong project lead. Your project can succeed or fail based on the person leading it. With that in mind, your project lead should have credibility within the organization, institutional knowledge of company operations, existing internal cross-functional relationships, and the ability to build relationships and trust.

Put it in writing

No matter where you are in your payment processing and cash-flow management journey, leaders in procurement, treasury, and shared services must write down their goals and timelines and compare them to the goals set out by your CFO. If they are aligned (or even close to it), you are on the right track. If not, everyone must immediately come to the table to understand where the groups differ and how they can support a common goal.

How we can help

To help you get started, we offer a meeting agenda and template that highlights the advantages of better payment processing and cash flow management for your company and each of its stakeholders. It also offers recommendations on how to get aligned. To request these resources, send an email to SAP_improve-cashflow@sap.com.

Click here for more information about payments and cash flow solutions from SAP Ariba.

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

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Alan Cohen

About Alan Cohen

Alan Cohen is VP Payments & Financing Strategy, SAP Ariba. Alan has over 20 years of payments and working capital experience as a practitioner, consultant, and banker. In his current role, he leads the payments and financing strategy for SAP Ariba to help clients achieve improved business outcomes. Previously, at Coca-Cola Enterprises, Alan led the procure-to-pay transformation that encompassed sourcing, procurement, and payables automation, and the company became one of the first to benefit from dynamic discounting. Alan holds a supply chain management degree from Arizona State University. In 2015, he was part of a team that won SAP’s Hasso Plattner Founders Award for an innovative approach to B2B payments. Alan lives in Atlanta with his wife and 2 daughters. He has served on the board of the Weinstein School since 2007 and actively participates in 2nd Helpings, a nonprofit to rescue and deliver surplus food.

Scott Pezza

About Scott Pezza

As part of SAP Ariba's Nework Value Organization Center of Excellence, Scott researches, compiles, and shares best-practice information to help customers get the most out of their investments. With a focus on the financial supply chain (invoice management, payments, discounting, and supply chain finance), his research helps inform strategic planning, performance measurement, and program execution. He has spent the past 15 years in the B2B technology space, in roles ranging from software development and support to research and consulting. Scott earned his BA in English and Philosophy from Clark University, his MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and his JD from Boston University School of Law, where he served on the Executive Board of the Annual Review of Banking and Financial Law.

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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4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

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Vivek Bapat

About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.