Rapid development of Big Data applications is quickly making real-time business a necessity for large and small businesses alike. Enterprise companies like Adobe, EMC, and ConAgra, along with smaller firms like consumer products companies Florida Crystals and Maple Leaf Foods, have successfully incorporated real-time data into their operations.
During this year’s Super Bowl, SAP played host to a live-streaming virtual event, #SB50Disrupt. During this event, we spoke with Nathan Weaver of SAP partner intelligence, and Brian Fanzo, chief social media officer at MyChannel about how small and midsize businesses (SMB) can make real-time business a reality. Below are the takeaways from this conversation.
What is real-time business?
It is the ability to gather, display, and evaluate business intelligence and data in real time to make better decisions. Nathan Weaver explained that real-time business is “the end of saying ‘I’ll get back to you.’ All the information is at your fingertips so you can make a decision.” Brian Fanzo agreed. He said it gives companies the ability to do things like provide customer service in real time.
Driving real-time business
Several factors are driving the transition to real-time business.
- Complex systems make it hard to unleash value. Companies want multiple data sources meshed into one system.
- New technologies are allowing the creation of new business models and processes.
- Real-time data analytics give company leaders the ability to rapidly make decisions on what is happening right now—not what happened in the past—a critical value in today’s business environment.
Technology is changing expectations
The proliferation of on-demand technology and social media has changed customer expectations. Consumers are used to getting instant feedback. Companies must be more agile and responsive to keep up. This is especially true for millennials, who grew up as digital natives. They think differently about how people fit in to customer service, preferring to consult an app or complete an online search over speaking with a customer service representative. They don’t want to call for directions to your store—its location should come up on their smartphone, complete with turn-by-turn instructions.
Shifting to a proactive approach
The transition to real-time operations is not just about technology. Managers must think about where there are opportunities to change business processes and remodel work flows. It’s an opportunity to re-create the value proposition for the company.
Some small and midsize businesses realize the need to move to real time but are not sure how to get started. Weaver explained, “People say they know they should be doing ‘something,’ and are not sure what that is — not sure what they should even ask.” The cloud is making the access to real-time data available across an organization. The challenge is to figure out where to leverage that data in a specific industry. But new concepts like the cloud, mobility, Big Data, and business intelligence scares off some old-line small businesses.
Weaver said, “SMB or SME does not mean small data. I have companies with only 50 users with tons of data. The cloud and subscription approaches are opening up opportunities for small businesses. The cloud helps control operational expenses without laying out large amounts of capital.”
Transition to real-time business
So how do companies begin a transition to real-time business? Many businesses are using a “toe in the water” approach. Companies have to show an ROI for any change, which makes sense. After a successful test in one department, for example, a manager can use this proof of concept (POC) to garner a larger investment from top management.
Look for pain points in the business—inefficiencies, bottlenecks and waste. As Weaver said, “Clients get used to ‘how things are done’ and don’t realize they can work so much better. We help them uncover the pain points and unlock the value that is hidden in their operations.”
Real-time is changing the game for small and midsize businesses by allowing them to innovate, make better decisions, and improve customer service. Customer expectations are continuing to rise, and real-time will be the only way businesses can meet these growing expectations.
Building a successful company is hard work. SAP’s affordable solutions for small and midsize companies are designed to make it easier. Easy to install and use, SAP SME solutions help you automate and integrate your business processes to give real-time actionable insights. So you can make decisions on the spot. Find out how Run Simple can work for you. Visit sap.com/sme.