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Real Time Is Key To Furthering Digital Agility

Kevin Benedict

It seems we read daily about the increasing role and importance of information, data analysis, and data security on politics, national security, and global economies.

More data is being generated than ever before, and successful companies are investing in business analytics and Big Data solutions to mine it for competitive advantages. There is a new sense of urgency today as businesses realise data has a shelf life, and the value of it diminishes rapidly over time. In an always-connected world where consumers and their needs are transient, timing is everything, and a special type of data is needed: real-time data. In order to capture competitive advantages and contextual relevance before data expires, enterprises must deploy information logistics systems (ILS) that deliver on the potential fast enough to exploit it.

Mobile consumers are impatient and demand instant results. IT infrastructures must be able to support real-time mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) interactions, and this requirement will increase as mobile commerce is predicted to grow to 47% of all e-commerce by 2018. Supporting real-time information requires not only real-time IT environments, but also digital transformation across the entire organisation. In order to succeed, businesses must react to location-based and time-sensitive information while it is still contextually relevant.

Data is the lifeblood of e-commerce, mobile commerce, and increasingly physical stores where the digital and physical worlds are rapidly converging. As commerce rapidly shifts online and to mobile, the success of products, brands, and companies are increasingly dependent on data and systems that consume it in order to support the demand for more personalised digital experiences. How an organisation makes sense of data, protects it, and disseminates it is a complex and challenging issue.

Data strategies

Data strategies and the execution of them will determine the market winners of the future, and the future is now. Businesses are learning from Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, and others that effective data and analytics strategies are the secret to success in digital markets. Information dominance is now the strategic business goal.

In the book Code Halos, authors Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Benjamin Pring describe how the revolution today in data and analytic strategies are impacting industry structures in “consistent and violent patterns.” In another recent study, 82% of investors and equity analysts believe industries are being disrupted by innovations in data and analytics. They believe these innovations will alter competitive dynamics.

In addition to investments in IT, achieving real-time operational tempos in a enterprise takes rethinking business models, organisational structures, and business processes. It requires new ways of thinking and employee training. Supporting the tempo of real-time operations is a daunting task many will fail to prioritise, and they will suffer as a consequence.

The winners of a digital tomorrow will invest in four key areas:

  1. the quality and speed of their information logistics systems
  1. supporting real-time operational tempos
  1. business agility
  1. the ability to use real-time contextually relevant data to personalise digital user experiences

Businesses that embrace digital transformation will optimise their organisational structures and business models to support the operational tempos required by a mobile and connected world. Increasingly mobile and connected device users demand real-time responses. To support real-time responses requires an enterprise to move beyond “human time” and into the realm of “digital time.” Humans as biological entities operate at a pace governed by the sun, moon, and the physical requirements to keep our carbon-based bodies alive. These requirements and mental limitations make scaling humans beyond these time-cycles impossible without augmentation. Augmentation takes the form of intelligent process automation, artificial intelligence, and algorithms. These types of augmentation technologies have the advantage of being able to work 24/7, 365 days a year, and don’t (as yet) ask for holidays off.

Once an organisation is capable of supporting real-time tempos, and can support the personalised interactions mobile users demand, the challenge becomes business agility.

Agility is the speed at which a business can recognise, analyse, react, and profit from rapidly changing consumer demands in a hypercompetitive market. Businesses that can accurately understand customer demand and their competition, and then respond faster, will soon dominate those that are slower. The military strategist John Boyd called these competitive advantages, “getting inside of your competitor’s decision and response curves.” This means your actions and responses are occurring at a pace that surpasses your competitions’ ability to comprehend it.

Sub-optimal information logistics systems and the glacial operational tempos of yesteryear will not succeed in today’s or tomorrow’s world, and company valuations have already begun to reflect this. One-third of investors and equity analysts surveyed believe that good data and analytics strategies are rewarding companies with higher valuations. Gartner’s Douglas Laney has even coined the phrase “infonomics” to describe how information, as a new asset class, can be measured to estimate its impact on company valuations.

To succeed in the digital future, CIOs must implement innovative data strategies and information logistics systems capable of winning in a real-time world where contextually relevant, instant, and personalised experiences are required. They must develop company cultures where change is viewed as an opportunity. They must digitally transform their businesses to operate at real-time tempos and move beyond “human-time” limitations to algorithm supported “digital-time.” They must understand that rapidly changing digital consumer behaviours mandate companies operate in a more agile manner capable of rapid responses to new opportunities and competitive threats.

For more insight on aligning your digital and in-store sales and marketing (and why it’s essential to your customers’ satisfaction), see Our Digital Planet: See It, Click It, Touch It, Buy It.

This article originally appeared on the Guardian Media & Tech Network’s Digital Business hub and was syndicated with the author’s permission.

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Kevin Benedict

About Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is senior analyst at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work, SAP mentor alumnus, speaker, writer, and mobile and digital strategies expert. He is a popular keynote speaker who, in the past three years, has shared his insights into mobile and digital strategies with companies in 17 different countries. Benedict has over 30 years of experience working with enterprise applications, and he is a veteran mobile industry executive. He wrote the forward to SAP Press' best-selling book on enterprise mobility, "Mobilizing Your Enterprise with SAP," and has published over 3,000 articles. Find him on Twitter @krbenedict.

Keys To A Successful ERP Implementation

Larry Perlov

ERP implementation projects aren’t as easy as they look, and they don’t look very easy. Every year, organizations spend millions of dollars to implement different ERP solutions with the hopes that the new solutions will allow companies to scale, reduce operating expenses, or become more effective at serving customers. However, many of these projects fail to achieve the benefits companies envision when they set out on their transformation journey.

In this blog series, I will share the three most important questions to ask before starting an implementation project, so when your organization starts the project it will be well positioned for success.

Why change?

Some implementations are technical replacements; others are grounded in desired business outcomes. Regardless of the type of implementation, if it doesn’t come with clear objectives, it will likely fail to improve a company’s business performance. That’s why any significant project should be grounded in a strong “Why?” – a strong business case – especially when the decision involves an ERP solution that could take significant time and resources to implement.

A good and clear “why” becomes the “true north” for the implementation and provides an ongoing focus for any important decisions or dilemmas throughout the implementation.

To define your “why,” you need to identify the most important outcomes that your business stakeholders want to achieve as a consequence of the ERP initiative. Every organization’s “why” may be different. At the highest level, the “why” for many organizations is usually associated with increasing throughput, reducing operating expenses, improving working capital, or improving compliance.

There are many activities that can help you define your “why” with respect to an ERP implementation.

“So what?” “Who cares?” and “How much?”

The answer to “Why?” must be strong enough to serve as your project’s “true north.” You can more effectively establish this by asking “So what?” or, more diplomatically, “What are the (positive or negative) ramifications of this?”

For instance, if the answer to “Why change?” is “To improve our visibility,” asking “So what?” could expose a higher-level outcome such as “To improve profitability of customers by identifying which products our most profitable customers buy repeatedly and enable us to promote those product to customers who don’t currently buy them.” This feels better and more aligned to the broad category of increasing throughput.

We can further test this by checking “Who cares?” – the answer we are looking for is someone at a senior enough level whose personal business plan for the next 3-5 years is dependent on improving this outcome. If the answer to “Who cares?” is not an executive level stakeholder, you are too low, and you need to ask “So what?” again.

It is also important to quantify these as much as possible; i.e., “By how much would revenues increase if we get this right?” If quantification is not possible, at lease a qualified order of magnitude is very important.

As a starting point, look ahead to six to twelve months following the change (go live) and outline any related clear, measurable outcomes you expect to accomplish as a result of the project. These outcomes should align fully with your overarching business strategy and your senior leadership team’s view of what is most important.

Next, ask yourself what the risks and benefits are associated with both making the change and with not making the change. By understanding the potential impacts associated with both making the change and not making change, you will be able to really understand why you should – or should not – implement an ERP solution.

For more about the keys to a successful ERP implementation, please check out our new thought leadership paper: Creating a Recipe for Success: Questions to guide the development of a first class ERP solution.

About Illumiti

Illumiti is a leading systems integration and management consulting company with offices in Canada, the U.S. and Switzerland, serving customers globally. Its team enables customers to realize their vision by leveraging the world’s leading on-premise and cloud-based business applications. Illumiti helps its clients achieve optimized operations in the key areas at the core of their business, by implementing custom-fit solutions from SAP and other vendors faster, at a lower cost, and at a lower risk than other alternatives. Illumiti is a member of United VARs LLP, which is an SAP platinum partner. Illumiti has been recognized as the top SAP reseller for Canada for five consecutive years and is one of the fastest-growing SAP channel partners in the U.S. For more information please visit www.illumiti.com.

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What Support Looks Like In The Era Of The Cloud And The Internet Of Things

Fred Isbell

As we near the end of this year’s spring event season, one thing is clear: Digital transformation is in the air.  The annual SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG events are now behind us, but people are still buzzing about the sessions, stories, lessons learned, and best practices shared. There’s profound interest in how innovations are adopted, such as running a Live Business, digital boardrooms, and enabling the latest technology.

After listening to customers, practitioners, and analytics throughout the first half of this year, I was inspired to invite the following panel of subject-matter experts for the third installment of a webcast series sponsored by Digital Business Services from SAP:

  • Elaina Stergiades, research manager of IDC Software and Hardware Support Services
  • Michael Rieder, senior vice president and global head of SAP Enterprise Support & Premium Engagements
  • Sei Drake, chief architect of Co-Engineering and Innovation at SAP America

To kick off the conversation, we discussed the rise of the 3rd Platform that IDC says is a factor driving growth of innovations, new business opportunities, and more. Yes, digital transformation is front and center, but with it comes a need for simplification, not increased complexity. And on top of it, there’s an incredible explosion of data from a variety of places, including the fast-accelerating Internet of Things (IoT).

What should businesses do? The idea of tackling these issues and providing the support needed to succeed is reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” painting!

Future of Support-1

According to Elaina Stergiades, the promise of the 3rd Platform and the evolution of solutions that support it are transformational. Moving away from a reactive, manually intensive, and linear process, businesses are steadily adopting a proactive and more predictive model. In fact, this new brave world is bringing great technology to innovate the support process and customer experience, including:

  • Cloud solutions: Delivers wider access to support data from anywhere to share across the entire user experience and with new levels of integration
  • Social technology: Supports collaboration far above traditional hierarchical (and inherently slower) support processes
  • Enterprise mobility: Enables support monitoring anywhere and remote support and resolution without traditional, closed boundaries
  • Predictive analytics: Forecasts issues before they reach crisis level while offering a better and more direct, personal response

Michael Rieder continued the discussion with insightful observations about the market dynamics that businesses are facing. He supported Elaina’s perspective and the need for proactive support for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments. He noted that it is critical for businesses to reimagine support by keeping six foundational pillars in mind:

  • Mission-critical support
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Continuous improvement
  • Accelerated innovation
  • Integrated support
  • Business service support

Sei Drake has weighed in on this topic before in his blog post on “How to Prepare Your IT Landscape for the Digital Economy.” From his perspective, the evolution of support is happening against the backdrop of changes in the IT industry and the marketplace. The rise of cloud-based solutions and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) are bringing a whole host of new considerations, especially the need for DevOps and co-innovation. We found his suggestions for customers’ considerations quite helpful with examples across several industries.

Like the webcasts I hosted before it – Unlocking the Potential from the Internet of Things and Transforming Digital Visions into Reality – this third in our series was another insightful thought-leadership webcast from Digital Business Services. Be sure to view the on-demand replay and share with your colleagues.

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Fred Isbell

About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell is the Senior Director of SAP Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_3

qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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Internet Of Things: Where Is All The Data Going?

Tim Clark

The Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer happening in a galaxy far, far away. It’s happening right here, right now. It may be in your pocket, on your wrist, in your clothes – heck, it might even be helping you drive your car.

In fact, IoT is moving so fast, we’re actually on the third wave, according to a panel of experts who weighed in on the topic during a recent episode of Internet of Things with Game-Changers, presented by SAP.

However, a nagging questions arises when it comes to this third IoT wave: What’s going to happen to all the data that’s being collected?

Coping with IoT reality

Gray Scott, futurist and founder/CEO of seriouswonder.com believes serious questions remain around IoT data collection because technology is moving faster than we can cope with.

“The main thing I’m concerned with right now, is getting people to understand that the Internet of Things is already in their lives,” said Scott. “So if you look around your house, either your television, refrigerator, or some of your appliances – they are probably already connected.”

And because IoT is now permeating our everyday lives, it must provide tangible results to consumers and businesses, according to JR Fuller of HP Enterprises.

“It can’t just take our data and subject us to additional advertising, which is one of the ways that it pays for itself,” said Fuller. “It has to provide something to us. It has to provide convenience.”

Evangelizing IoT convenience

The conveniences of IoT, such as a refrigerator that breaks down and automatically alerts the manufacturer to send a repairman, needs to be evangelized during this critical time, said Ira Berk, Vice President of Digital Transformation Solutions, SAP. Making proper use of the massive amounts of data IoT generates also plays a critical role in evangelizing its benefits.

“Think about what happens when you start to mix and match different sources of information,” said Berk. “You start to understand the data behind the world around you. In your house, car, environment, earth, public transportation, smart cities and factories. What questions can you ask that you wouldn’t even imagine being able to ask before, because you can start to synthesize the information?”

Gray Scott believes synthesizing different data sources “is a continuum of everything,” a great example being traffic in urban areas. Apps like Waze and Google Maps help drivers circumvent traffic.

“It’s a physical thing that can grab a hold of data and literally rearrange our lives by changing the direction you take your car in,” said Scott. “This continuum is going to keep building on itself as we move forward into the future.”

Living in a post-privacy world

While the general populace may not want to admit it, we are living in a post-privacy world. Anything put online is made public and everything that can be hacked, will. The question is what do we do with all of that data? Can we rise to a higher state of humanity and not just use data for advertising purposes, but to make our lives more convenient?

“I think we don’t mind giving up some of our personal information if it benefits us,” said JR Fuller. “It makes for a very interesting time, especially companies that can add value to bridge the gap and help enterprises achieve the benefit that we know are possible with IoT.”

Internet of Things with Game-Changers, presented by SAP, is hosted by Bonnie D. Graham. Listen to this broadcast in its entirety here.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image: Shutterstock

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Tim Clark

About Tim Clark

Tim Clark is the Head of Brand Journalism at SAP. He is responsible for evangelizing and implementing writing best practices that generate results across blog channels, integrated marketing plans and native advertising efforts.