AI Cracks The Employee Retention Code For Small And Midsize Businesses

Simon Bouchez

Employee turnover is a costly problem, especially for small and midsize businesses. For every position left vacant, the time and cost associated with identifying, acquiring, and training the right person can lessen a business’ impact on what’s truly critical to its survival – revenue growth and brand expansion.

To reverse the downward spiral of poor employee retention, businesses must first automate processes and streamline everyday tasks, according to the IDC report, “HR Transformation and the Digital Journey: How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Deliver Strategic HR,” sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors. Doing so improves retention by allowing employees to feel more fulfilled at work as they spend less time on mundane tasks to focus on using their strengths for more strategic tasks and building up their skill sets.

For decades, an overwhelming flood of technologies, tools, and processes have promised these fundamental capabilities. While some of them may have their merits, a vast majority are not supported by a level of intelligence that addresses the needs (and expectations) of an increasingly digitally empowered workforce. Maybe it’s time to look under the hood of your technology investments.

How artificial intelligence can revolutionize employee retention

From the boardroom to the stockroom, chatbots, robots, virtual assistants, algorithm-powered analytics, and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) are increasingly empowering businesses to engage customers in personalized and productive interactions. The technology spots patterns found in historical data to predict future behavior, identify risks, and uncover opportunities. It intelligently listens and responds to customer feedback and makes connections at a speed that eludes most humans.

If we apply this same scenario to the HR organization, it becomes clear that a distinct, yet connected, customer experience overlaps with the needs of today’s workforce. For example, AI technologies embedded in employee feedback tools can automatically channel concerns to the HR team member with the right emotional background, expertise, and leadership role needed to resolve them quickly. Equipped with every employee’s history and recommendations on how to best engage them, HR can provide real-time counseling that is relevant and matches the perceived gravity of the situation in tone, word use, and urgency.

Forward-looking companies are also considering AI-enabled capabilities to simplify the overall work experience. AI can prompt follow-up questions that help employees detail a customer or business issue, analyze the data in isolation and aggregation, and recommend potential resolutions – all within a matter of minutes. Plus, this intelligence can be passed on to relevant business functions to let managers know where improvements are needed and how to capitalize on their success.

Beyond workplace efficiency, AI can help the HR organization understand employee performance, job-related attitudes, and the health of the broader business culture. By opening all forms of internal communication, the technology creates a systematic, deliberate, and continuous flow of insight to detect which employees could be a candidate for promotion or when and why they may choose to leave.

Why AI is a natural step to evolve talent management

By connecting the dots of truth along the entire employee experience, employers have an opportunity to track and understand their workforces better. HR teams can – and should – take advantage of the predictive capabilities of AI to carefully analyze why employees become disengaged, how to convince them to stay, and when to further develop their skills for the future.

But more importantly, AI provides a platform that allows employees to engage as co-creators of business success and a strong, unified workplace culture. This fundamental shift in talent management changes how employees view their jobs, their relationship with their employers, and their contributions to the bottom line.

Find out the key trends and actions that make employee retention a key source of digital transformation in small and midsize businesses. Read the IDC interactive report, “HR Transformation and the Digital Journey: How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Deliver Strategic HR,” sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors.

This article originally appeared on Growth Matters Network.

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Simon Bouchez

About Simon Bouchez

Simon Bouchez is CEO of Multiposting, an SAP company.

How Can Life Sciences Leverage Augmented Reality?

Michelle Schooff

When it comes to augmented reality and life sciences, many people think of the 144 billion steps taken by Pokemon Go players, leading to better health. But augmented reality is starting to play a much larger role in life sciences than you might be aware. From expanding children’s experience of science in the classroom to using technology to improve patient outcomes, augmented reality is already playing a key role in life sciences. Here’s a quick overview of some of the areas it’s impacting.

Augmented reality in the science classroom

Whether your life science classroom focuses on biology, health, or chemistry, augmented reality can help bring those topics to life. A wide range of options helps students better understand scientific principles and existing structures. Three-dimensional models of the human body enable students to explore anatomy without an anatomy lab.

Technology has many applications beyond anatomy. Are you trying to explain more complex portions of organic chemistry to pharmaceutical students? Virtual reality allows them to explore complex compounds in ways never imagined. Augmented reality apps allow students to combine compounds to see what potential issues may arise. It also allows them to observe microbiology interactions on a scale that would otherwise require complex microscope work.

Training the next generation of healers

Virtual reality has been used in surgical suites for the past decade. Combined with video conferencing capabilities, surgeons in remote areas can consult with experts across the country or around the world. A brain tumor patient in a remote area, for example, can have it removed close to home. As the surgery progresses, experts are available should any issues arise. MRI markers help determine the best path and approach to remove the tumor.

With 360-degree video, medical students and surgeons who want to expand their skills can use augmented reality to observe surgery, learning the process from a patient and expert surgeon who may be down the hall or across the globe. This type of training is also being used to help improve emergency response. A student can follow the actions of an emergency room doctor treating a patient. They can choose their actions and observe the potential benefits or drawbacks. When seconds count, this type of training can literally make the difference between life and death. Such training techniques are also being developed for emergency responders at the scene of an incident or accident.

Improving patient outcomes

Many of us have experienced a blood draw with multiple failed attempts. For patients who are nervous about needles, a new approach combining infrared and augmented reality helps improve success rates. The blood stands out on infrared, which is overlaid with the image of the patient’s skin. This makes it much easier to hit the vein the first time.

AR can also help reduce patient pain and anxiety levels without additional medication. Simple surgical procedures often require general anesthesia to reduce blood pressure levels related to anxiety. Some hospitals are experimenting with using virtual reality to “transport” patients to other locations, distracting them from the procedure taking place and reducing the need for anesthesia and pain medications. At the same time, surgeons can experiment with which approach will work best for a particularly complex surgery before they even touch a scalpel. Virtual reality combined with CT or MRI scans creates a virtual surgical environment, allowing surgeons to try the surgery several times to find the best possible solution for the patient.

Giving patients a new perspective on their health

It’s one thing to show a patient dry, dull statistics on their recent cardio tests. With patient medication adherence falling by half within a year of being prescribed, better tools are needed to convey the severity of a patient’s condition. One way to achieve this is by providing images of the effects certain actions can have on an individual.

Some augmented reality programs in development help patients see the physical results of specific medical decisions and procedures. Originally developed for doctors to see the results of calcium-based kidney medications on the heart, this technology has potential in many other areas. For example, it could enable smokers to see an image of current and future lung damage.

With the many areas augmented reality can be used in life sciences, it’s easy to see the advantages of this technology. Where can augmented reality take your company or organization?

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

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Michelle Schooff

About Michelle Schooff

Michelle Schooff is a global marketing director in the retail and wholesale distribution industries for SAP. She is responsible for the marketing strategy, messaging and positioning for SAP solutions in the global marketplace. With over 20 years experience in technology and marketing, Michelle builds strategic marketing plans that drive growth, innovation and revenue.

Data: The Underestimated Asset Of Our Time

Ingrid-Helen Arnold

Data-driven business models are the foundation for progress worldwide – and data has become the heartbeat of any business. We can now embed and extract data and intelligence out of every business transaction and physical object, from machines and cars to wearables, and we can harness the power of this connected data to create new value in the form of unprecedented revenue opportunities, efficiency improvements, and better customer experiences.

Sounds great, right? But if data is the answer for businesses to drive competitiveness and improve their bottom line, then the question boils down to this: What is the path I need to take to fully leverage the power in data?

Often, companies already have the key ingredients for using data to their advantage, though they may not be aware of the “how.” Certainly, a set of cutting-edge technologies such as machine learning, Big Data, and analytics methods are key elements on the path to discovering the intelligence within the data – but that is not all.

To build the data business inside your business, there are five imperatives to follow:

  1. Start with the business outcome, then frame a winning data strategy: The data economy is in full swing, so how will you use the data to improve your business? First, identify and prioritize the range of growth opportunities and how data can play a part. Are you looking to create new revenue streams or improve your current top line, enhance your core business processes or create and deliver new digitally driven experiences for your customer? What might be the most disruptive business scenario you can develop and execute this year? Choose the approach that best fits your company for your desired business outcomes. Data monetization models vary based on your data strategy and goals – whether you are looking to develop new business, enter an adjacent business, or enhance your core business, understanding the various models of indirect and direct data monetization strategies – and how they can work in concert together – can lead to greater efficiencies and success.
  1. Transform your culture, people, and processes: This is a tough one that takes time, but it is crucial for enabling your company to operate at the disruptive speed of an entrepreneur. Rapidly adopting new data-driven models requires the right culture, mindset, and nimble processes, including a culture that encourages entrepreneurialism and accountability, fostering diverse teams and agile organizations. Data-driven innovation tackles difficult and complex problems; thus, projects deal with a lot of inherent and inescapable uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to fail. Just fail fast, learn from it, and move on. Work from the business problem or opportunity backward to the solution. This will ensure that everything you do has business impact.
  1. Win as an ecosystem: The data economy fundamentally changes the way companies do business and deliver products. Defining your ecosystem and partnerships can be key as these relationships lead to powerful innovation hubs with the potential to disrupt entire markets. Think strategically about your ecosystem and where you can find the most benefit and with whom you can build the most trust.
  1. Ensure core technology: For companies to fully tap into the monetary value of data to capture a significant segment of this larger, growing market, you must first ensure the quality of your data. This is where technology starts to become a key differentiator. Working with trusted technology partners to extend your data monetization platform is paramount in the data economy. Look for these partners so that you can successfully design, architect and implement your data monetization strategy.
  1. Execute fast. The ocean of Big Data itself is not that exciting, but being able to navigate the waters to discover the hidden treasures is. And to do this, you need execution focus and speed. Start small and nimble to deliver tangible business outcomes quickly.

Remember that the value in data decays over time. Keeping your data assets current with real-time updates is as important as maintaining other company assets to successfully compete in a digital economy.

For more on the power of data analytics, see From Business Intelligence To Prescriptive Analytics: What’s Next?

Helen@arnold #SAPDataNetwork

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

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Ingrid-Helen Arnold

About Ingrid-Helen Arnold

Ingrid-Helen Arnold is the president of SAP Data Network, the new business unit delivering end-to-end data monetization for SAP and its customers.

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.

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How To Overcome Your Fear Of New Technology Adoption

Larry Alton

You don’t have to be a total technophobe to feel reluctant about adopting new technology in your business. Thousands of small- to midsized businesses (SMBs) are either not using or not correctly using new technologies like digital marketing, despite their ability to increase both efficiency and profitability.

But why does this hesitation exist? Is it justified? And if not, what can you do to overcome your own fears of adopting new technology?

The root causes

Let’s start by looking at the four main causes of apprehension when leveraging new technology:

  • Perceived expenses. Some business owners don’t want to invest in new technology because they see it as an additional expense that isn’t worth adding. However, this is counterintuitive; most new devices and software are designed to be more efficient, helping you save more money than you spend on them. While this isn’t true for every technology, it’s true enough that you shouldn’t write off a solution just because it costs money to get started. You need to think in terms of ROI rather than the raw amount you’re investing.
  • Complacency. It’s hard to believe, but nearly half of all businesses still didn’t have a website as of 2016. Many of these businesses existed before the Internet became popular, thus never saw the need to create one. Complacency is a powerful demotivator; if you’re already used to one way of doing things, you’ll be less incentivized to try something new. However, this isn’t a productive or rational strategy for growing a business.
  • Inexperience with new systems. Some entrepreneurs don’t want to mess with a new piece of technology because they don’t have much experience with investing in new tech. They may feel intimidated about doing the research and making a decision, or they may not know where to start. These are legitimate apprehensions, but they can be mitigated by working with someone who’s more experienced than you are.
  • Integration and training concerns. Another rational concern is the possibility of training employees on a new software platform. If you have a team of 100 people, and your new tech product has a steep learning curve that takes 10 hours to master, you’ll essentially waste 1,000 hours just getting everyone used to a new piece of technology. However, if you’re making the right choice, the time investment will be worthwhile. And you can always mitigate this by choosing more intuitive, easier-to-learn platforms.

Overcoming your apprehension

So what can you do to overcome your apprehension?

  • Do your due diligence. Take the time to read tech news, visit new websites, and see what’s out there. You might be surprised to learn what platforms are available to you. If you find yourself struggling to understand some of the technical details, enlist the help of an IT expert on your team so you can more fully understand them.
  • Take advantage of free trials. Regardless of whether or not it’s effective, most SaaS companies and other tech providers are willing to give you a free trial of their products or services, so you might as well take advantage of them. Not only will it give you a chance to evaluate the usefulness of a new piece of technology with no commitment or risk, it will also give you a more hands-on experience, which you can use to make even better tech-related decisions in the future.
  • Rely on bottom-line decision making. Don’t make your decision based on what you’re used to or what you’re most comfortable with, and don’t make your decision based on what’s newest or most popular. Instead, try to reduce everything to numbers. How much time could you save by integrating this new piece of tech? How much will it cost, in terms of time and money? Look for a positive ROI; if there is one, there’s no reason not to take the plunge.
  • Use a phased approach. Instead of investing in everything at once, consider utilizing a phased approach; switch over half your staff at a time, or focus on one new platform at a time. This will help you get your feet wet in the world of tech adoption and will simultaneously reduce the training and integration burden. This isn’t always possible, since some systems will require your entire team to switch over at the same time, but it’s worth pursuing when it’s available.

The apprehension of incorporating new technology extends beyond any one demographic, and beyond any one business type. Fortunately, learning to recognize your own biases and compensate for them can help you make clearer, more logical decisions – and hopefully enable you take advantage of the technologies that have the power to transform your business.

Uncertainty is here to say, which makes preparation even more important than ever. Learn Why Strategic Plans Need Multiple Futures.

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Larry Alton

About Larry Alton

Larry is a freelance marketing & technology consultant with a background in IT. Follow him on Twitter @LarryAlton3.