Recruiting In The Digital Age: What's It All About?

Marc Havercroft

Ask any business about its top challenges for 2017, and odds are, recruiting and retaining talent are somewhere on that list. Organisations are realizing more and more that their workforce is in fact their greatest asset, so prioritizing your talent only makes sense.

“For recruiters to ensure success in disrupted times, we must embrace the fact that recruitment is merging with marketing,” says Greg Savage, a leading authority on recruitment. “What’s more, the future of recruitment is candidates, and candidates are behaving like consumers, so we need a business model that is based on consumer marketing tactics. It will take a big mind shift for many recruiters to make the switch. Think of it like this: Advertising interrupts. Marketing attracts.”

Recruiters put their marketing hat on

No one can deny the value of a killer employer brand (ahem, Google). The next question is: Who owns the employer brand? Whether it is a collaboration between HR and marketing, or one or the other taking the lead, I think we can agree that it is time for HR to put its marketing hat on.
Greg is clear about what this successful merging of skills look like: “A few blogs and some sporadic tweets is not a marketing strategy.

Social is not a fad, or a task, or a project. You have to embed social in your everyday recruitment activities.

In fact, it’s not a social strategy you need. It’s a fully integrated digital marketing strategy, which will include social, brand, carefully considered content marketing, CRM and a wide range of technologies.

“I will say it categorically. Every recruitment agency or in house, should really operate as a digital marketing agency.” -Greg Savage

So how do we ensure that we are moving with the times?

“A good start to assess whether your business is on track is to honestly assess and answer these six questions,” Greg suggests (these apply to corporate talent acquisition and third-party agency recruiters equally):

•      Are target candidates aware your company exists?

•      Are your jobs readily found when your target market searches?

•      Is your website messaging targeted to your candidate personas?

•      Can candidates easily engage with your company on social and mobile?

•      Is your apply process frictionless and welcoming?

•      Are you top of mind when that great candidate is ready to make a career move?

Simplifying the application process

The power between talent and recruitment has shifted – hiring is now a seller’s market. Job seekers expect a straightforward, expedited process; if one company takes too long to acknowledge their application or makes applying difficult, chances are that talent will promptly move right along to the next opportunity.

Data analytics, but not as you currently know it

Social sourcing, talent pools, and other digital profiles have hugely broadened the selection employers have to choose from. But with this opportunity, so too presents a challenge: In the time it takes to research and narrow down your top selections, you may have lost these talents to another company that was able to streamline this process, allowing them to reach out faster.

The answer? Data and analytics. Just in the way businesses utilize the vast amount of data available on consumers to make strategic decisions, this data-first approach will soon be the norm for recruiters to rely upon analytics to decipher intelligent insights from active and passive candidates alike, which will then assist them to make an informed decision, in an expedited manner.

The rules of the recruiting game might have changed in the digital world, but the basics of human relationship-building haven’t. Technology plays a big part in a successful digital recruiting approach, but ultimately it’s all about letting your prospective candidates know that you know them, you care about them, and you want them to be a part of your extraordinary team.

Infographic credit: LinkedIn

Learn more HR insights at the HR is Live digital hub.


Marc Havercroft

About Marc Havercroft

Marc Havercroft brings more than 20 years’ experience within the future workforce strategy and transformation helping clients adapt their HR strategy to meet the opportunity of the new digital world and the future workforce needed. His expertise includes advisory & strategy and workforce design for organisations going through major change as well as new entrants into EMEA, North America, and APJ & Greater China regions from both green field to M&A structures. From Talent acquisition to talent management, Marc provides clients with not only high level visibility on current & global trends , but is able to turn this into meaningful workforce strategies that deliver. He has worked across industries from financial services, Telco, Energy, media, digital social, to public sector, with many of his solutions honored with industry awards. Marc is a Fellow of the AHRI, and a member of the AHRI Council, based out of Sydney, Australia where he lives with his wife and two children, He operates across the globe for SAP.

The Genius Blind Spot: How To Help Your Company Know What It Doesn’t

Dean Afzal

When people go to a concert, they get to watch star performers who make everything look easy. Fans cheer as the artists deliver memorable life events with practiced perfection. It is easy for people to become star-struck, as they get caught up in the adoration of a performer who seems to know how to singlehandedly push their brand forward.

But behind every great performing artist are dozens or hundreds of specialists who work tirelessly and somewhat invisibly to make it all happen. The inner circle includes songwriters, producers, choreographers, costume designers, and lighting technicians. Beyond that, the group also includes experts in marketing, branding, and customer experience, who contribute their expertise, helping channel the artist’s inspiration to generate maximum entertainment revenue and audience satisfaction.

Their names may never become prominent, but their collective expertise makes the overall performance shine and fills in any gaps in the headliner’s skills and raw talent.

1 + 1 = 11: The arithmetic of disruptive innovation

There are rock stars in the business world too. Many of them work in high tech, many started young, and all of them were able to parlay great ideas and market opportunities into world-changing solutions.

Just like their on-stage counterparts, it is easy to think that some of these genius tech leaders are uniquely responsible for the ongoing success of their companies. But usually, they are not. They possess the core vision, drive, personality, and the lion’s share of talent to bring an idea from inception to fame, but a business needs more than that. Genius leaders may thrive on the sparkle and sizzle of disruptive innovation, but for the enterprise to mature and flourish over the long term, a broader set of supporting players must sustain this person by leveraging what they know, and finding out what they don’t know.

To empower them to do that is the leader’s responsibility.

Knowing what you don’t know

For an organization to consistently generate revenue, it must be able to understand its market by seeing it from all sides. This means quantifying what is known through metrics gained from diligent harvesting of customer activity – from the purchases all the way back in time to the browsing and searching activity. All data is good data.

But knowing the knowable is not enough. True genius comes from helping a team know what is not knowable, either to the customer or to the company itself. This is initiated by talking, listening, researching, and sharing. It is completed by transposing one’s larger than life gift into manageable components, by investing in people, technology, and policies that keep everyone on the same page.

This example, a Johari window, shows a known/not known grid belonging to a retail store.

Analysis of customer activity and feedback will be instrumental in helping the business pour light on its two major blind spots. The first would be the items known to customers but not known to management, such as sales associates’ apparent impatient attitude. But a true black hole would be a quantifiable understanding of how sales associates, the essential ingredient in customer experience are perceived versus the competition.

To know both the known and the unknown, marketing teams, product specialists, and inside salespeople – the equivalent of a performing artist’s backstage designers and techs – need digital toolsets to track the indicators and preferences of their buying public. They need to know how many people are coming to a website and how many are clicking on emails. They need to calculate whether marketing investments are making an impact. Metrics give a company the opportunity to tweak the customer experience – in person or online – to always make it relevant and contextual. It is up to the rock star innovator to create a culture where this can happen.

A company can’t succeed as a solo act

If a company loses sight of what its customers want, and if it never tackles difficult concepts such as “not knowing what you don’t know,” those customers will start to drift away. When a high-tech rock star banks on raw talent and drive without investing time to build and nurture a supporting cast of specialists, those people too will drift away.

Genius and ability together are the accelerant of growth and world-changing innovation. But upon attaining the zenith of that initial breakthrough performance, the real entrepreneur must stop and ask, “how can I best leverage my gift?” and the answer is there, just outside the spotlight, in the minds and the hearts of the team who live to make it happen again and again.

Want to create a digital customer strategy that gets results? See How To Prepare For The Perfect Omnichannel Customer Experience.

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.


From Consumer Products To Consumer Outcomes

E.J. Kenney

Faced with new competitive threats, the consumer products industry is undergoing a transformation. New entrants with no fixed assets or large-scale capital investments pose the most powerful threat. These companies compete on a different playing field. They employ speed and agility to take market share away from incumbents.

Likewise, companies with subscription-based business-to-consumer models are capturing market share. They emphasize consumer engagement, succeeding by delivering data-driven personalized experiences and outcomes. For many consumers, these outcomes have become far more relevant and valuable than the price and availability of physical products on a retail store shelf.

A new opportunity

Consumer products firms must learn to embrace the “consumer products to consumer outcomes” (r)evolution. As products alone become increasingly commoditized, the premium shifts to desired outcomes. Quality, price, value, and convenience are no longer the only differentiators. Experiences that give consumers joy, confidence, control, and protection—while less tangible—are now the drivers.

So what do consumers want? Personal, relevant, and simple experiences that make their lives easier. Commerce should be seamless, the technology invisible. In these experiences, privacy, security, and trust are assumed and assured. Consumers don’t want to be sold to or influenced: They want to be inspired, guided, and educated. Consumers will reward companies that deliver these outcomes.

Integrating an omnichannel marketplace

Many established companies are overwhelmed by these dramatic market shifts. To compete in a changing consumer landscape, they need to transform everything from consumer engagement to operations to product innovation. Put simply, they need to recreate and innovate to maintain—and, ideally, increase—market share.

Digital and direct-to-consumer models such as Dollar Shave Club—now part of Unilever – —have empowered consumer product companies to challenge old operating assumptions. What’s needed is an integrated approach to marketing and new consumer models. On the other end of the spectrum, powerhouses like Amazon and Walmart have already upended supply chain mechanisms, customer expectations, and platform creation.

In short, consumer products is now an omnichannel industry, with critical components including:

  • Physical retail
  • E-commerce
  • Emerging models, including in-app purchasing
  • Embedding interactive product information into media such as video
  • Direct purchase via social media

Making the moment

New entrants and reinvented incumbents are reimagining business models, business processes, and even work itself. The goal is to create new drivers for growth based on the ability to capitalize on opportunities in the span of key moments:

  • Consumer moments: Reaching consumers directly and immediately at the point of need. Companies achieve this with personalized engagement through digital venues, such as commerce-enabled social networks, smart homes, smart cars, and smart shelves.
  • Customer moments: Driving category growth, increasing sales velocity, and ensuring on-shelf availability. This is best accomplished via digitally-enabled collaboration between retailers and channel partners. The goal is to simplify and streamline commerce and act in real time with on-demand dynamics.
  • Market moments: Responding in moments of market disruption to capitalize on new opportunities. This involves mitigating risks with agile, flexible operations and business processes that can be coupled and decoupled as needed. The key is to identify new suppliers, suggest promotion opportunities, and automatically optimize forecasts or modify capacity plans to meet future demand.

How do companies capitalize on these moments? By developing innovative solutions that spell the difference between success and failure. Digital business is a new frontier of growth and development. Leading companies leverage new opportunities by delivering outcomes in moments of need. The goal is to be better, faster, and cheaper than before. That is how companies drive sustainable, profitable growth.

Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value: Accelerating Digital Transformation in Consumer Products. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today: Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


E.J. Kenney

About E.J. Kenney

E.J. Kenney is the Senior Vice President of Consumer Products Industry Business Unit at SAP. His responsibilities include managing industry business units, business planning and strategy, go to market and investment portfolio for Consumer Products and Wholesale distribution.

The Blockchain Solution

By Gil Perez, Tom Raftery, Hans Thalbauer, Dan Wellers, and Fawn Fitter

In 2013, several UK supermarket chains discovered that products they were selling as beef were actually made at least partly—and in some cases, entirely—from horsemeat. The resulting uproar led to a series of product recalls, prompted stricter food testing, and spurred the European food industry to take a closer look at how unlabeled or mislabeled ingredients were finding their way into the food chain.

By 2020, a scandal like this will be eminently preventable.

The separation between bovine and equine will become immutable with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, which will track the provenance and identity of every animal from stall to store, adding the data to a blockchain that anyone can check but no one can alter.

Food processing companies will be able to use that blockchain to confirm and label the contents of their products accordingly—down to the specific farms and animals represented in every individual package. That level of detail may be too much information for shoppers, but they will at least be able to trust that their meatballs come from the appropriate species.

The Spine of Digitalization

Keeping food safer and more traceable is just the beginning, however. Improvements in the supply chain, which have been incremental for decades despite billions of dollars of technology investments, are about to go exponential. Emerging technologies are converging to transform the supply chain from tactical to strategic, from an easily replicable commodity to a new source of competitive differentiation.

You may already be thinking about how to take advantage of blockchain technology, which makes data and transactions immutable, transparent, and verifiable (see “What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?”). That will be a powerful tool to boost supply chain speed and efficiency—always a worthy goal, but hardly a disruptive one.

However, if you think of blockchain as the spine of digitalization and technologies such as AI, the IoT, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and drones as the limbs, you have a powerful supply chain body that can leapfrog ahead of its competition.

What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?

Here’s why blockchain technology is critical to transforming the supply chain.

Blockchain is essentially a sequential, distributed ledger of transactions that is constantly updated on a global network of computers. The ownership and history of a transaction is embedded in the blockchain at the transaction’s earliest stages and verified at every subsequent stage.

A blockchain network uses vast amounts of computing power to encrypt the ledger as it’s being written. This makes it possible for every computer in the network to verify the transactions safely and transparently. The more organizations that participate in the ledger, the more complex and secure the encryption becomes, making it increasingly tamperproof.

Why does blockchain matter for the supply chain?

  • It enables the safe exchange of value without a central verifying partner, which makes transactions faster and less expensive.
  • It dramatically simplifies recordkeeping by establishing a single, authoritative view of the truth across all parties.
  • It builds a secure, immutable history and chain of custody as different parties handle the items being shipped, and it updates the relevant documentation.
  • By doing these things, blockchain allows companies to create smart contracts based on programmable business logic, which can execute themselves autonomously and thereby save time and money by reducing friction and intermediaries.

Hints of the Future

In the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, we had no idea that the internet would become so large and pervasive, nor that we’d find a way to carry it all in our pockets on small slabs of glass.

But we could tell that it had vast potential.

Today, with the combination of emerging technologies that promise to turbocharge digital transformation, we’re just beginning to see how we might turn the supply chain into a source of competitive advantage (see “What’s the Magic Combination?”).

What’s the Magic Combination?

Those who focus on blockchain in isolation will miss out on a much bigger supply chain opportunity.

Many experts believe emerging technologies will work with blockchain to digitalize the supply chain and create new business models:

  • Blockchain will provide the foundation of automated trust for all parties in the supply chain.
  • The IoT will link objects—from tiny devices to large machines—and generate data about status, locations, and transactions that will be recorded on the blockchain.
  • 3D printing will extend the supply chain to the customer’s doorstep with hyperlocal manufacturing of parts and products with IoT sensors built into the items and/or their packaging. Every manufactured object will be smart, connected, and able to communicate so that it can be tracked and traced as needed.
  • Big Data management tools will process all the information streaming in around the clock from IoT sensors.
  • AI and machine learning will analyze this enormous amount of data to reveal patterns and enable true predictability in every area of the supply chain.

Combining these technologies with powerful analytics tools to predict trends will make lack of visibility into the supply chain a thing of the past. Organizations will be able to examine a single machine across its entire lifecycle and identify areas where they can improve performance and increase return on investment. They’ll be able to follow and monitor every component of a product, from design through delivery and service. They’ll be able to trigger and track automated actions between and among partners and customers to provide customized transactions in real time based on real data.

After decades of talk about markets of one, companies will finally have the power to create them—at scale and profitably.

Amazon, for example, is becoming as much a logistics company as a retailer. Its ordering and delivery systems are so streamlined that its customers can launch and complete a same-day transaction with a push of a single IP-enabled button or a word to its ever-attentive AI device, Alexa. And this level of experimentation and innovation is bubbling up across industries.

Consider manufacturing, where the IoT is transforming automation inside already highly automated factories. Machine-to-machine communication is enabling robots to set up, provision, and unload equipment quickly and accurately with minimal human intervention. Meanwhile, sensors across the factory floor are already capable of gathering such information as how often each machine needs maintenance or how much raw material to order given current production trends.

Once they harvest enough data, businesses will be able to feed it through machine learning algorithms to identify trends that forecast future outcomes. At that point, the supply chain will start to become both automated and predictive. We’ll begin to see business models that include proactively scheduling maintenance, replacing parts just before they’re likely to break, and automatically ordering materials and initiating customer shipments.

Italian train operator Trenitalia, for example, has put IoT sensors on its locomotives and passenger cars and is using analytics and in-memory computing to gauge the health of its trains in real time, according to an article in Computer Weekly. “It is now possible to affordably collect huge amounts of data from hundreds of sensors in a single train, analyse that data in real time and detect problems before they actually happen,” Trenitalia’s CIO Danilo Gismondi told Computer Weekly.

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, will change Trenitalia’s business model, allowing it to schedule more trips and make each one more profitable. The railway company will be able to better plan parts inventories and determine which lines are consistently performing poorly and need upgrades. The new system will save €100 million a year, according to ARC Advisory Group.

New business models continue to evolve as 3D printers become more sophisticated and affordable, making it possible to move the end of the supply chain closer to the customer. Companies can design parts and products in materials ranging from carbon fiber to chocolate and then print those items in their warehouse, at a conveniently located third-party vendor, or even on the client’s premises.

In addition to minimizing their shipping expenses and reducing fulfillment time, companies will be able to offer more personalized or customized items affordably in small quantities. For example, clothing retailer Ministry of Supply recently installed a 3D printer at its Boston store that enables it to make an article of clothing to a customer’s specifications in under 90 minutes, according to an article in Forbes.

This kind of highly distributed manufacturing has potential across many industries. It could even create a market for secure manufacturing for highly regulated sectors, allowing a manufacturer to transmit encrypted templates to printers in tightly protected locations, for example.

Meanwhile, organizations are investigating ways of using blockchain technology to authenticate, track and trace, automate, and otherwise manage transactions and interactions, both internally and within their vendor and customer networks. The ability to collect data, record it on the blockchain for immediate verification, and make that trustworthy data available for any application delivers indisputable value in any business context. The supply chain will be no exception.

Blockchain Is the Change Driver

The supply chain is configured as we know it today because it’s impossible to create a contract that accounts for every possible contingency. Consider cross-border financial transfers, which are so complex and must meet so many regulations that they require a tremendous number of intermediaries to plug the gaps: lawyers, accountants, customer service reps, warehouse operators, bankers, and more. By reducing that complexity, blockchain technology makes intermediaries less necessary—a transformation that is revolutionary even when measured only in cost savings.

“If you’re selling 100 items a minute, 24 hours a day, reducing the cost of the supply chain by just $1 per item saves you more than $52.5 million a year,” notes Dirk Lonser, SAP go-to-market leader at DXC Technology, an IT services company. “By replacing manual processes and multiple peer-to-peer connections through fax or e-mail with a single medium where everyone can exchange verified information instantaneously, blockchain will boost profit margins exponentially without raising prices or even increasing individual productivity.”

But the potential for blockchain extends far beyond cost cutting and streamlining, says Irfan Khan, CEO of supply chain management consulting and systems integration firm Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group company. It will give companies ways to differentiate.

“Blockchain will let enterprises more accurately trace faulty parts or products from end users back to factories for recalls,” Khan says. “It will streamline supplier onboarding, contracting, and management by creating an integrated platform that the company’s entire network can access in real time. It will give vendors secure, transparent visibility into inventory 24×7. And at a time when counterfeiting is a real concern in multiple industries, it will make it easy for both retailers and customers to check product authenticity.”

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials. Although the key parts of the process remain the same as in today’s analog supply chain, performing them electronically with blockchain technology shortens each stage from hours or days to seconds while eliminating reams of wasteful paperwork. With goods moving that quickly, companies have ample room for designing new business models around manufacturing, service, and delivery.

Challenges on the Path to Adoption

For all this to work, however, the data on the blockchain must be correct from the beginning. The pills, produce, or parts on the delivery truck need to be the same as the items listed on the manifest at the loading dock. Every use case assumes that the data is accurate—and that will only happen when everything that’s manufactured is smart, connected, and able to self-verify automatically with the help of machine learning tuned to detect errors and potential fraud.

Companies are already seeing the possibilities of applying this bundle of emerging technologies to the supply chain. IDC projects that by 2021, at least 25% of Forbes Global 2000 (G2000) companies will use blockchain services as a foundation for digital trust at scale; 30% of top global manufacturers and retailers will do so by 2020. IDC also predicts that by 2020, up to 10% of pilot and production blockchain-distributed ledgers will incorporate data from IoT sensors.

Despite IDC’s optimism, though, the biggest barrier to adoption is the early stage level of enterprise use cases, particularly around blockchain. Currently, the sole significant enterprise blockchain production system is the virtual currency Bitcoin, which has unfortunately been tainted by its associations with speculation, dubious financial transactions, and the so-called dark web.

The technology is still in a sufficiently early stage that there’s significant uncertainty about its ability to handle the massive amounts of data a global enterprise supply chain generates daily. Never mind that it’s completely unregulated, with no global standard. There’s also a critical global shortage of experts who can explain emerging technologies like blockchain, the IoT, and machine learning to nontechnology industries and educate organizations in how the technologies can improve their supply chain processes. Finally, there is concern about how blockchain’s complex algorithms gobble computing power—and electricity (see “Blockchain Blackouts”).

Blockchain Blackouts

Blockchain is a power glutton. Can technology mediate the issue?

A major concern today is the enormous carbon footprint of the networks creating and solving the algorithmic problems that keep blockchains secure. Although virtual currency enthusiasts claim the problem is overstated, Michael Reed, head of blockchain technology for Intel, has been widely quoted as saying that the energy demands of blockchains are a significant drain on the world’s electricity resources.

Indeed, Wired magazine has estimated that by July 2019, the Bitcoin network alone will require more energy than the entire United States currently uses and that by February 2020 it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

Still, computing power is becoming more energy efficient by the day and sticking with paperwork will become too slow, so experts—Intel’s Reed among them—consider this a solvable problem.

“We don’t know yet what the market will adopt. In a decade, it might be status quo or best practice, or it could be the next Betamax, a great technology for which there was no demand,” Lonser says. “Even highly regulated industries that need greater transparency in the entire supply chain are moving fairly slowly.”

Blockchain will require acceptance by a critical mass of companies, governments, and other organizations before it displaces paper documentation. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue: multiple companies need to adopt these technologies at the same time so they can build a blockchain to exchange information, yet getting multiple companies to do anything simultaneously is a challenge. Some early initiatives are already underway, though:

  • A London-based startup called Everledger is using blockchain and IoT technology to track the provenance, ownership, and lifecycles of valuable assets. The company began by tracking diamonds from mine to jewelry using roughly 200 different characteristics, with a goal of stopping both the demand for and the supply of “conflict diamonds”—diamonds mined in war zones and sold to finance insurgencies. It has since expanded to cover wine, artwork, and other high-value items to prevent fraud and verify authenticity.
  • In September 2017, SAP announced the creation of its SAP Leonardo Blockchain Co-Innovation program, a group of 27 enterprise customers interested in co-innovating around blockchain and creating business buy-in. The diverse group of participants includes management and technology services companies Capgemini and Deloitte, cosmetics company Natura Cosméticos S.A., and Moog Inc., a manufacturer of precision motion control systems.
  • Two of Europe’s largest shipping ports—Rotterdam and Antwerp—are working on blockchain projects to streamline interaction with port customers. The Antwerp terminal authority says eliminating paperwork could cut the costs of container transport by as much as 50%.
  • The Chinese online shopping behemoth Alibaba is experimenting with blockchain to verify the authenticity of food products and catch counterfeits before they endanger people’s health and lives.
  • Technology and transportation executives have teamed up to create the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a forum for developing blockchain standards and education for the freight industry.

It’s likely that the first blockchain-based enterprise supply chain use case will emerge in the next year among companies that see it as an opportunity to bolster their legal compliance and improve business processes. Once that happens, expect others to follow.

Customers Will Expect Change

It’s only a matter of time before the supply chain becomes a competitive driver. The question for today’s enterprises is how to prepare for the shift. Customers are going to expect constant, granular visibility into their transactions and faster, more customized service every step of the way. Organizations will need to be ready to meet those expectations.

If organizations have manual business processes that could never be automated before, now is the time to see if it’s possible. Organizations that have made initial investments in emerging technologies are looking at how their pilot projects are paying off and where they might extend to the supply chain. They are starting to think creatively about how to combine technologies to offer a product, service, or business model not possible before.

A manufacturer will load a self-driving truck with a 3D printer capable of creating a customer’s ordered item en route to delivering it. A vendor will capture the market for a socially responsible product by allowing its customers to track the product’s production and verify that none of its subcontractors use slave labor. And a supermarket chain will win over customers by persuading them that their choice of supermarket is also a choice between being certain of what’s in their food and simply hoping that what’s on the label matches what’s inside.

At that point, a smart supply chain won’t just be a competitive edge. It will become a competitive necessity. D!

About the Authors

Gil Perez is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Tom Raftery is Global Vice President, Futurist, and Internet of Things Evangelist, at SAP.

Hans Thalbauer is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

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

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

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



Why Blockchain Is Crucial For FP&A: Part 1

Brian Kalish

Part 17 in the Dynamic Planning Series

In these times of almost continuous technological change, there is a natural tendency to be suspect of whatever is being heralded as the “flavor of the month” or the “next best bet.” In early 2017, I was graciously given the opportunity to speak on what I believed to be the technologies that were transforming finance and specifically, the FP&A function. The talk I ended up giving covered five areas:

  • Advanced analytics and forecasting
  • Robotic process automation
  • Cloud and Software-as-a-Service
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Blockchain

While all these topics deserve further investigation, for this article, I want to focus on blockchain. Part of the reason for diving deeper into blockchain is the lack of understanding of what it actually is and the great amount of time people in the finance function are currently spending talking about it. This has greatly changed in the past nine months.

Last March, while hosting an FP&A Roundtable in Boston, I ask a group of 25 senior FP&A professionals how familiar they were with the concept of blockchain. Out of this august group, there was only one participant who felt truly comfortable with the concept. I still get asked on a regular basis, all over the world, “Blockchain. What is it?”

Blockchain: What is it?

By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology has created the spine of a new type of Internet. Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Now imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet, and you have a basic understanding of blockchain.

Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared and continually reconciled database. This is a way of using the network that has obvious benefits. The blockchain database isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly transparent and easily verifiable. No centralized version of this information exists for someone to corrupt. Hosted by many computers simultaneously, its data is accessible to any authorized user.

Blockchain technology is like the Internet in that it has a built-in robustness. By storing blocks of information that are identical across its network, the blockchain 1) cannot be controlled by any single entity and 2) has no single point of failure. The Internet itself has proven to be durable for almost 30 years. It’s a track record that bodes well for blockchain technology as it continues to be developed.

A self-auditing ecosystem

The blockchain network lives in a state of consensus, one that automatically checks in with itself on a regular basis. A kind of self-auditing ecosystem of a digital value, the network reconciles every transaction that happens at regular intervals. Each group of these transactions is referred to as a “block.” Two important properties result from this:

Transparency. Data is embedded within the network as a whole, and by definition, is available to all authorized users.

Incorruptibility. Altering any unit of information on the blockchain would mean using a huge amount of computing power to override the entire network. In theory, it is possible; however, in practice, it’s unlikely to happen.

A decentralized technology

By design, the blockchain is a decentralized technology, so anything that happens on it is a function of the network as a whole. Some important implications stem from this. By creating a new way to verify transactions, aspects of traditional commerce may become unnecessary.

Today’s Internet has security problems that are familiar to everyone. However, by storing data across its network, the blockchain eliminates the risks that come with data held centrally. There are no centralized points of vulnerability that can be exploited. In addition, while we all currently rely on the “username/password” system to protect our identity and assets online, blockchain security methods use encryption technology.

I hope this little tutorial helps describe what blockchain is. In my next article, I’ll discuss the value of blockchain to the FP&A profession.

For more on this topic, read the two-part “Blockchain and the CFO” series and “When Blockchain Fulfills CFOs’ Paperless Vision.”

2018 will be a busy year with FP&A Roundtables in St. Louis, Charlotte, Atlanta, San Diego, Las Vegas, London, Boston, Minneapolis, DFW, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Jeddah, and many other locations around the world to support the global FP&A community.

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


Brian Kalish

About Brian Kalish

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