Four Business Benefits Of Good Employee Onboarding Experiences

Duy Nguyen

Now that the first quarter of the year is behind us, it seems like a good time to revisit the topic of employee onboarding experiences. There may have been many new hires since the beginning of the year, and many of them are probably still within their probation periods. It’s a good time to reflect on their experience in your company so far.

Another reason I decided to bring up this topic is an article I read last year, about a person describing his or her first – and last – day as a junior software developer at a company, recently reappeared in my feed. It is well worth the read, and it raised a lot of red flags to me about how poor this person’s onboarding experience was.

A bad onboarding experience can leave a bad taste in both the employer and employee’s mouth, especially when the employer doesn’t hold itself accountable for the poor experience (as was the case in the article above). A good onboarding experience, however, provides many more benefits to both the employee and employer beyond just getting the employee ramped up as quickly as possible.

The onboarding experience is more than just a new hire orientation program, can start long before the person shows up on day one, and enables new employees to be part of the company culture the moment they are hired. It gives them access to materials, information, and tools needed to work toward common goals in the most productive way and also improves retention rates, particularly within the crucial first 90 days of employment.

Following are four of the main benefits of a good employee onboarding experience.

1. Improved talent acquisition

First impressions last and word spreads quickly within industries, so your employees will definitely let their peers know if they have a positive onboarding experience. This adds to a positive company culture, and when word gets around, you will have no problems attracting the best talent in the industry. A bad onboarding experience results in new hires jumping to early conclusions that your organization is poorly managed, and that’s not an impression you want to make.

2. Decreased time to productivity

The obvious benefit of a good onboarding process is to get new hires ramped up quickly so they can start making a contribution as soon as possible. This will involve arming new hires with all the information, equipment, and support they need to help them succeed. Positive experiences promote positive attitudes, so if new employees feel a high level of support from the company, they are more likely to be more engaged in their work, and you will see increases in efficiency and productivity.

3. Increased retention rates

It’s a no-brainer that employees who leave your company not only negatively affect the culture but also have a negative impact on costs. Studies show that it can cost a company up to 40% of an annual salary to hire a new employee. A good onboarding process greatly increases the likelihood that a new employee will show up on their first day, stay over the first 90 days, and (once they are immersed in the company culture) become long-term employees.

4. Promote better company culture

This is a rather broad benefit, but it ultimately comes down to the relationships new hires build with the people in the company. A good onboarding process provides new hires with a strong support network to help reduce anxieties when starting a new job and build trust and alignment. Research indicates that the most engaged employees are the ones who have strong connections to their co-workers and managers.

There are many more benefits of onboarding, which I won’t go into now, but I would love to hear your comments on what else you think would make a good onboarding experience, what other benefits you see, or stories of your own onboarding experiences.

At the end of the day, an onboarding program should treat new hires as people – not as commodities, a way to check off compliance requirements, nor a method to overload the new hire with too much information. By focusing on building and promoting the culture and connection between the new hire and the rest of the employees in an organization, a strong onboarding program will help encourage new hires really invest in their own career development.

Join us at HR Connect 2018, to be held in Auckland and Sydney, and gain insights from fellow SAP SuccessFactors customers who share their stories, inspiring people strategies, and best practices as they recount their journeys of connecting people to purpose in today’s digital world. 

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Duy Nguyen

About Duy Nguyen

Duy Nguyen is focused on providing trends and insights on Millennial behaviour and the digital innovation of HR. He is an HCM Consultant at SAP SuccessFactors based in Sydney, Australia. As a member of the Solution Architecture and Advisory team, he works with the broader sales & services team, and customers, to provide insights on HR best practices and help organizations simplify human resources processes, support talent development, and maximize employee engagement to transform strategies into measurable business outcomes.

Transportation Industry: 'Ripe For Change'

Paul Pessutti

A recent S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast looks at the urgencies facing the commercial transportation industry. Hosted by Brian Fanzo and Daniel Newman, the 12-minute audio interviews expert Paul Pessutti, global vice president and general manager of Travel, Transportation and Hospitality Industries at SAP. Pessutti, who spent 25 years with cargo logistics, discusses why the transportation industry is “ripe for change.”

Ocean shipping, rail, and trucking industry must embrace a generational shift

As Pessutti points out, the cargo industry faces disruption from today’s millennial-leaning transportation innovators. Think in terms of what modernized companies are bringing to the table. They offer tech-based transportation coupled with expanding services. For example, unlike many traditional trucking outfits, customers can click on electronic devices and enjoy real-time benefits.

“Companies that are able to not only provide the actual logistic services but value-added services on top of that to create an amazing customer experience,” Pessutti says . “That is what I think is what’s keeping a lot of shipping executives up at night, is not only how do they reduce their costs and maintain those expensive assets, but how do they innovate and provide a better experience to the customer.”

Many long-haul and regional transportation organizations have the competitive technology at their disposal. However, they tend to be hamstrung by an older workforce who are unsteady about embracing multi-level technology.

“I mean, that’s a big problem that we have in the industry, is that we have, in many cases, an aging workforce within these companies,” Pessutti says. “Whether it’s trucking, ocean shipping, the rail business, and they’re used to doing things a certain way. The whole concept of change management and doing things with technology can be a little bit scary for that group.”

Along with a workforce nearing retirement, the trucking industry also has a youth shortfall. Although artificial intelligence-functioning vehicles are on the drawing board, the trucking industry faces massive driver shortages in the United States.

Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations, concluded that the trucking industry could see its driver shortage grow to upwards of 174,000 by 2026 due to growth and attrition.

“This means that even as the shortage numbers fluctuate, it remains a serious concern for our industry, for the supply chain and for the economy at large,” Costello stated in an industry report.

SAP transportation expert Pessutti agrees with the chief economist’s conclusions.

“In addition, they’re having the challenge of attracting younger millennial talent that has the technology skills and know-how to be able to come in and help them innovate and make a change within their organization,” he says. “They’re having a hard time attracting the new talent because they’re not seen as innovators when it comes to technology. So, it’s something that we’re keeping our eye on and advising them to look at and find ways to take advantage of some of these new technologies.”

Bridging the gap between an aging workforce accustomed to traditional methods and engaging in millennial-styled outreach may be the pathway to resolving the growing workforce shortage. Costello concurs and has pointed to ideas such as lifestyle management and other industry modifications to attract a younger workforce.

Beyond making a shift that meets the ideas of tech-savvy drivers, the sector is tasked with maximizing its administrative and customer service technologies.

Blockchain innovation appears promising

When thinking about transportation in a comprehensive sense, it includes the movement of materials, manufacturing, air and sea travel, port arrivals, and warehousing. Trucking simply makes up one of the last legs of an intricate process. At each stage, stakeholders rely on traditional communication, cumbersome documents and sometimes just blind trust. The condition and timeliness of a product’s arrival are too often best guesses. Pessutti believes blockchain offers solutions.

“When you think about an indent shipment from the time an order gets placed to when it gets delivered to a customer, there’s probably 35 to 40 documents that you have to exchange in that process,” Pessutti says. “If we can get to a place where you’re able to look at those documents and actually get visibility and transparency into what’s happening as well as then trust that information, we’re going to do really well with blockchain in this industry.”

And, the SAP expert is far from alone in his assessment that blockchain can help revolutionize the transportation industry. Jillian Farrington argues in her article, “3 Ways Blockchain Technology Can Improve the Logistics Industry,” that it provides these key benefits: transparency, security, and cost-effectiveness. She makes these points.

  • Transparency: “Every time a product is handled, the transaction can be documented. The technology can enable everyone in the process of shipping to experience better visibility and connectivity.”
  • Security: “With blockchain, a copy of the essential shipping data can be stored on a decentralized network on individual nodes, so even if the network is hacked, the data remains safe.”
  • Increased efficiency and reduced costs: “The efficiencies created by this technology will get orders filled and delivered faster. It can record the transfer of raw materials and goods as they move through the supply chain as well as track purchase orders, shipment notifications, and receipts.”

Although blockchain can be a primary mover in terms of leveraging transportation industry data, the SAP expert recognizes the value of bringing a full complement of technological innovations to bear.

“I think what we’re able to do, and what we’ve proven out so far in this industry, is giving a lot of comfort to these shipping companies by connecting and integrating the digital core of what they’re running their business,” Pessutti says. “Whether it’s transportation management or an ERP environment, and then connecting them to these different capabilities around analytics and blockchain, (and) IOT.”

Transportation industry insiders appear to agree that the future of the sector faces a significant technological shift.

Take 12 minutes to get intellectually stimulated about the future of the transportation industry by listening to this S.M.A.C. Talk Technology Podcast featuring SAP expert Paul Pessutti.

Hear the full podcast episode here. Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value by reading Accelerating Digital Transformation in Transportation.

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Paul Pessutti

About Paul Pessutti

Paul Pessutti is Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Travel, Transportation, and Hospitality Industry Unit at SAP. Applying over 20 years of experience in this area, Paul is responsible for establishing and maintaining key customer relationships, ensuring customer success, enhancing the solution portfolio, growing the partner ecosystem, and acting as the brand ambassador worldwide. The industry consists of nine industry segments including airlines, airports, passenger transport, hospitality, travel service providers, freight forwarding and third parties, rail cargo, liner shipping, and trucking.

Make The Most Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Dane Poeske

Disruption? The consumer packaged goods industry is in total disarray. No other industry has been as severely affected by digital transformation. But some companies are thriving, taking market share, and growing sales because they are embracing the fourth industrial revolution.

The first industrial revolution used water and steam to mechanize production, the second revolution used electric energy to create mass production. The third revolution used electronics and information technology to automate production. The latest industrial revolution is the fourth major era since the initial industrial revolution of the 18th century. It’s characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. Here’s how the fourth revolution started – and how you can use it to your advantage.

Houston, we have a problem

Since the year 2000, more than 50 percent of the Fortune 500 have disappeared – and this was before the impact of digital technologies had truly taken hold. During that period there have been a series of breakthroughs in digital technologies. Media giants like Facebook were born. Transportation companies such as Uber came into being. And we all began to re-think the future of our CPG industry.

In addition to the macro forces that impact our industry today (demographic and regulatory shifts, security risks), CPG leaders are challenged by competitive forces such as globalization, e-commerce, the sharing economy, and a relentless focus on cost. But when it comes to the technological forces at work in our world (the explosion of data, the impact of cloud, and flexible service delivery), leaders can take heart: For those that choose to survive, the fourth industrial revolution represents change that is fundamental for CPG.

This revolution is all about data and partnerships

New technologies are emerging that can serve you well in our disrupted landscape. Examine how you’re managing data, AI, blockchain, and the IoT. Ask your team what type of new data sets are being tested and which of your organization’s pain points can be solved with AI. Ask your colleagues where the IoT can lower operational costs through predictive maintenance. Find out where you can reinvent business processes with blockchain technologies.

Examine your evolving partner networks, too. It’s worth asking what type of non-traditional partnerships will help you create new value for your consumers. Make it a point to identify which specific cross-industry partnerships could help you create new consumer experiences; some will be stronger than others. Consider these potential partners as part of your “innovation ecosystem.” Know in advance the benefits you expect from participating in the new collaboration and partner networks that you’ve identified.

Want new growth opportunities? Look to new sources of data

Sure, your organization holds plenty of data already. But does it represent the next generation of consumers? Is it creating new insights and innovation? Does this enterprise data create a competitive advantage or is it just a legacy cost of doing business? New sources of data – and the ability to use this data’s power – could well determine whether you stay competitive in the marketplace. A next-generation ERP platform gives you a digital core that helps create the real-time, matrixed knowledge that your company needs to succeed. Just investigating the new sources of opportunity will help your colleagues to shake off any “legacy thinking.”

New infrastructure such as data lakes hold true potential in the fourth industrial revolution, as do artificial intelligence technologies. How else will you manage the data produced by social media, by third parties, by the IoT, by point of sale, and weather?

Fresh data, coupled with cognitive capabilities, delivers real value

I’ve seen some remarkable success stories within CPG when leaders embrace the fourth industrial revolution. For example, one client used data-driven methodology to determine the correct product assortment on a store-by-store basis; the result was a three percent increase in existing sales. Dramatic results also accrue when data is employed to determine site selection; I’ve seen a three percent improvement in margins when the client used the right data for demand, store traffic, venues, and competition. The weather impacts everything we do on a local level, and that data is now being incorporated into demand forecasting to improve results.

So take the plunge. Examine your role in the fourth industrial revolution. The future of your company could depend upon it.

To take advantage of all the benefits described in this post, request your complimentary SAP HANA Impact assessment today. IBM will also be at SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual SAP Conference this June 5–7 in Orlando. Visit IBM at booth #612 and talk to IBM-SAP experts, and check out our event Web site to see what we’re doing at the event.

Also, visit our website to learn more about how IBM can help accelerate your SAP S/4HANA migration.

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Dane Poeske

About Dane Poeske

Dane Poeske, IBM global industry leader, works with Consumer Products Goods, Distribution, Agriculture, Fashion and Retail clients around the world. Poeske’s focus is on developing client solutions that include advanced analytics, AI, Blockchain, IoT, mobile and cloud technologies. You can reach him at dapoeske@us.ibm.com.

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.