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Digital Transformation: Reimagining The World, Industry By Industry

Pat Bakey

The world as we know it is continually changing, and one of the fundamental drivers is digital transformation. Person by person, company by company, and industry by industry, a new reality is evolving.

The global economy is undergoing a digital transformation as well, and it’s happening at breakneck speed. Consequently, established business models no longer work, and previously successful business networks are rapidly disintegrating while industry boundaries evaporate. New, powerful players are emerging and shaking up the status quo as products get smart and consumers get even smarter.

What does that mean to the everyday person like you and me? It means imagining the world differently—because we must, and because we can.

Re-imagining industry

To see how the world can be imagined, let’s look at the agricultural industry—one that we can relate to because we all need food to survive.

One of the ambitious objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to eliminate hunger by 2030. However, with an estimated 9 billion people living on earth by 2050, this goal will not be possible unless we start re-imagining how food is produced today. In fact, a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that to feed the entire world population in 2050, food production must increase by 70%.

That means that the soybean farmer in Iowa as well as the cashew farmer in Africa must do things differently. And they can, thanks to digital transformation and new business models, such as precision farming, which combines a variety of technologies to enable farmers to increase production, optimize investments, and maximize returns.

Feeding the world is an attainable reality

For the agricultural industry—which consists of more than one billion workers worldwide—precision farming is a bold step. But now, farmers in even the most remote parts of the world can maximize yields like never before. They can also minimize irrigation, labor, and energy usage while intelligently using fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that may cause harm to the environment. They can produce better food, more economically and more efficiently.

It’s advancements like this that will end world hunger. In fact, the International Food and Policy Research Institute recently reported that agricultural technologies could increase global crop yields by as much as 67% percent while cutting food prices nearly in half by 2050.

Precision farming in action

Big Data, mobile, supply chain, and cloud technologies are key enablers for precision farming. Here are a few examples of how these tools are helping farmers around the globe.

  • Gaining new insights. Farmers are using Big Data from the Precision Agriculture Hub, which connects the world’s biggest agricultural businesses, farmers, and suppliers to farm smarter. Through technology solutions and the supply chain and network of F4FAgriculture, farmers can gain insights on which crops to plant where and when. They can also learn what pesticides and fertilizers to use; how upcoming weather patterns will affect their crops; and where the best market prices are. With this critical data, they can maximize their yields, optimize sales, and help feed more people.
  • Learning new ways to farm. The African Cashew Initiative works to help over 300,000 small-scale farmers increase cashew productivity and income in five African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Mozambique). By offering training programs, materials, and access to mobile business applications, these farmers are learning the best way to bring their product to market too. They can more efficiently forecast and plan, connect to the best buyers, and implement advanced marketing strategies.
  • Increasing sustainability. In northern Ghana, the StarShea Network is helping rural women learn more efficient ways to harvest and process shea nuts and butter. The network, with more than 15,000 members, provides information technology, education, and microfinancing to its members so they can conduct business independently and sustainably. For instance, through mobile technology, these women have access to the current market prices so they can sell their products competitively to global customers. They also have the technology to scan personalized barcode labels on each shea nut sack to track individual production and storage details. 

SAP is helping the world re-imagine itself

The vision and purpose of SAP is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. We are committed to accelerating our customers’ digital transformation and we challenge them to reimagine their operational processes, business models, and the way they interact with the world.

We are also committed to the United Nations SDGs, including improving the health of the world by ending hunger – because we must, and we can.

To learn more about precision farming initiatives from SAP, visit here.

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Pat Bakey

About Pat Bakey

Pat Bakey is the president of Industry Cloud for SAP. He is responsible for the industry cloud footprint, which covers 25 industries globally, the finance and extended supply chain lines of business and the go-to-market execution of SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA). By offering prescriptive cloud road maps by industry and lines of business, the Industry Cloud organization serves every customer in every cloud model (private, public, and hybrid), for any business size, anywhere in the world, enabling SAP’s customers to approach their digital transformation through an industry lens.

Let’s Get Scientific – Why Purpose-Driven Business Works

Thomas Leisen

A Boy Looking at a Toy Dinosaur with a Magnifying Glass --- Image by © Image Source/CorbisWhy are Stephen Hawking, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and other such legendary figures so popular? One simple reason: They are able to explain complex concepts in simple words that help people understand scientific theories on the fly.

So let’s get scientific and look at three explanations of why purpose-driven business works.

1. Purpose touches people’s hearts

Purpose-driven business is intrinsically tied to people’s emotions. For instance, when companies prove in an authentic way that their purpose is to improve healthcare or preserve nature, it touches our hearts.

An emotional purpose establishes a relationship between a company and its customers. Former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs understood that such relationships are much more powerful than simply selling products via advertising.

This notion becomes even more significant when we consider recent research that indicates that emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. This is because satisfied customers may buy more products from a company, but emotionally connected customers also recommend the company to others and pay more attention to its communication.

2. Purpose triggers self-actualization

Purpose-driven business also meets the need of customers for self-actualization. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that every human being strives to satisfy his or her basic needs in life. These needs include security and food as well as the ability to have intimate relationships and to achieve a feeling of accomplishment.

The highest need in Maslow’s hierarchy is self-actualization, which basically means that people strive to find something to identify with (such as a purpose) in order to achieve their full potential.

Here’s a simple explanation like Bill Nye the Science Guy would offer: Your customers want to satisfy their basic or social needs with your products, but they also want to identify with your company and even express some kind of attitude when buying your products. A business that offers an authentic purpose therefore satisfies, or at least supports, its customers’ need for self-actualization.

This concept holds true for employees as well as customers. According to sales leadership consultant Lisa Earle McLeod, employees also strive for emotional connection with their work. She explains that this is because most people strive to be part of something bigger than themselves.

3. Purpose transforms customers into fans

Last but not least, let’s consider people who have an emotional connection with a company or product and who also identify with the object of their attention—in other words, fans. Fans are not associated only with sports teams; you can find them in many areas, including consumer brands. For example, when someone uses the phrase “fanboy,” I think of Apple fanatics.

There are many reasons customers become fans of a company – including social influences, personalities, and others. But according to Peter Herrnreiter, digital marketing director at Nerdio, an essential element for transforming customers into fans is to offer an emotional purpose. And the great thing about  fans is that they are not only loyal, they also build relationships with companies and become, well, fanatical about them.

In short, purpose-driven business works because it touches the emotions of customers and satisfies their need to identify with something that’s important to them. This combination of emotion and cognitive fulfillment can transform your customers into real fans.

This blog is part of our Millennials on Purpose series. To learn more about SAP’s higher purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, visit sap.com/purpose.

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Thomas Leisen

About Thomas Leisen

Thomas Leisen is a millennial and master student working in HR at SAP. In his role, he creates insights into the heart-beat of the organization through employee surveys and assessments. In one of his internal research projects, he analyzed the communication effectiveness of millennials versus other generations with regards to modern communication channels. He is an expert in data-driven insights, business and communication psychology, and generation research (especially millennials). Leisen is also supporting purpose-driven marketing at SAP.

The Importance Of Purpose And Customer Experience To Deliver Business Success

Rahul Gohil

When we think of successful businesses, they all have a purpose, a vision, or something that makes them unique. In addition, they typically have extensive business practices that enhance their purpose and contribute to their success.

Think about an experience you’ve had with a retailer that made you a happy customer. In many cases, the reason for your satisfaction is due to an experience that the brand provided, whether before the purchase or after it.

This kind of experience typically is driven by a company’s purpose, especially in customer-centric organizations. Therefore I believe there is a formula that contributes to a business success, which is:

Purpose-Driven + Great Customer Experience = Business Success

A good customer experience is critical

Let’s talk about the impact of customer experience and how superior experiences can lead to business success and a competitive advantage. Peter Kriss’ article featured on Harvard Business Review depicts research on this topic that quantified the impact of a good customer experience.

For instance, customers who had the best past experiences tend to spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience. It is no surprise that there is a positive correlation between superior customer experience and sales. It does, however, drive home the point that brands must have certain factors in place to ensure a positive experience for their customers.

One key factor is customer loyalty – brands want to ensure they can keep their customers for as long as possible. An article on Forbes describes new customers as “silver” and existing customers as “gold.” The gold customers – the loyal ones – are certainly the most valuable to an organization.

Aspects that make customer experiences great

When providing great customer experiences, flexibility is vitally important, as it allows customers to choose which channels and devices they can use to interact with an brand. Providing customers with flexibility also gives them a more personalized experience. For instance, offering customers options such as “buy online pick up in store” or “buy online return in store” can help boost sales. Furthermore, allowing customers to start a search on one device (mobile) and finish the purchase on another (desktop) with a consistent experience (omnichannel) adds value and highlights the need for a responsive and easy-to-navigate site.

Providing customers with a positive experience repeatedly will lead to strong customer advocacy, where word-of-mouth can have extensive reach and be the least costly form of marketing. This might come in the form of an individual telling a friend about a retail experience they had, where that friend then buys from the brand and a domino effect starts. The resulting factor is sales start to grow, as does loyalty, and the number of the “gold” customers I mentioned earlier increases.

Data as a fuel for superior experiences

Working in the digital space with retail companies for a high-tech company, I hear numerous challenges as I talk to people about their customers. Many of these organizations are in the same boat and do not know how to tackle challenges like:

  • Providing seamless experiences across channels
  • Understanding customers’ behavior and providing a contextual experience
  • Retaining customers
  • Driving customer loyalty
  • Providing customers with relevant content in real-time

To deliver truly successful customer experiences and solve these challenges, I believe brands need to understand consumer behavior and leverage real-time data so they can build a “golden customer record.” This process must be dynamic and ever-changing to ensure that brands are always in touch with their customers and continually providing a relevant and real-time personalized experience.

Delivering business success

To summarize, it is essential for businesses to be purpose-driven, as well as customer-centric. With a strong purpose, companies can focus on building a great customer experience from the beginning of the buying journey to post-sale.

Combining these two really does drive success for a business, because let’s face it, consumers want choice and they each will choose their own buying journey. Make sure it is your business that is on their journey by having a purpose and delivering a memorable customer experience.

Organizations can leverage technologies like those that SAP offers to bridge the gap between themselves and customers. We can help companies gain a 360-degree view of customers and give brands the tools they need to provide personalized and contextual buying experiences in real-time across all channels.

This blog is part of our Millennials on Purpose series. To learn more about SAP’s higher purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, visit sap.com/purpose.

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Rahul Gohil

About Rahul Gohil

Rahul Gohil is a millennial and has been working at SAP since 2014, having joined SAP’s graduate Sales Academy Program. Rahul has a passion for technology specifically in the digital space, as well as interests in business strategy, entrepreneurship and innovation. He is currently working within the front office applications business focusing on customer engagement and commerce solutions. His remit within SAP Hybris has been predominantly around retail, engaging with brands within the UK around digital transformation and customer experience.

Everything You Know About Leadership Is Wrong

Michael Rander, Karie Willyerd, David Ludlow, Kerry Brown, and Randy B. Hecht

Companies that begin life digitally operate differently from the incumbents they threaten and unseat. Employees at digital companies don’t waste time gathering and analyzing information; they use live data to make decisions. They don’t need to wade through organizational hierarchies to get permission to act; their leaders explain business goals and then empower them to use their best judgment.

To compete, incumbent companies have to transform not only decision-making processes and hierarchies that have hardened over decades but also the nature of leadership itself. The leadership strategies and behaviors that drove success in the knowledge economy aren’t sufficient to navigate a successful transition to the digital economy.

sap_q416_digital_double_feature3_images5Two-thirds of Global 2000 CEOs will center their business strategies on digital transformation by the end of 2017, according to IDC. But few business executives today have the leadership mindset or skills necessary for these strategies to succeed, according to the Leaders 2020 study conducted recently by SAP, Oxford Economics, and McChrystal Group. The study found that only 16% of executives are ready to lead their companies through this transformation.

Leaders must lead differently if their companies are to transition to the digital economy and reap its rewards. In 10 years, for example, 75% of the companies that were listed on the S&P 500 Index in 2012 will have been replaced, according to a study by Innosight. Meanwhile, global competition is heating up. Rising disposable income in emerging economies has sparked the advent of new rivals—and in a survey by consulting firm Accenture, 70% of marketers in those economies expressed confidence in their ability to execute a digital business transformation. In mature economies, the figure was just 38%.

But it’s not too late to learn the essentials of digital leadership.

Communicate the Digital Mission

Fostering an organization whose employees have the skills, tools, authority, and information they need to make decisions in the moment begins with leaders who can formulate and communicate the digital mission. Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, understands the forces driving digital transformation. Under his guidance, AT&T’s lines of business have expanded—both organically and through acquisitions—to include extensive digital operations, like DirecTV and potentially, as of press time, Time Warner, according to The New York Times. So even as AT&T continues to compete for market share against established and startup telecommunications providers, the company is going head-to-head against digitally based companies like Amazon and Google.

Every business must become digital and work in the cloud, but the change doesn’t merely mean making acquisitions, buying new technology, and rewriting org charts. A new digital workforce is needed as well to meet the transformation challenge. And like the companies they serve, the members of this new workforce will have to develop new abilities and prepare to take on new roles.

That reality is the impetus for Stephenson’s ambitious initiative to transform his company by transforming his team. Through a program launched nearly three years ago, AT&T is underwriting education and professional development opportunities for employees who are willing to pursue the studies on their own time. Those who take advantage of the offer can learn new computing skills that align with the company’s blueprint for digital transformation.

AT&T’s education plan shows the extent to which data is driving a profound change in employees’ daily tasks, functions, and core value to the company. Until recently, businesses sought knowledge workers who were capable of reviewing, assessing, analyzing, and disseminating data in support of decision making. But in the digital economy, companies must be able to respond in the moment to customer, market, and competitive changes. Reviewing masses of data and following traditional hierarchical decision-making processes defeats that goal. To succeed and, in truth, to survive, companies must have that data available when they need it and make a decision in the right moment.

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Invest in Understanding How Work Gets Done

With that in mind, digital leaders must invest in understanding how work gets done and then commit to adjusting processes, deploying the right technology to support those processes, and measuring what adds value for customers and, therefore, to the bottom line. Yet only half of the executives surveyed by Oxford Economics rated their companies’ senior leaders as highly proficient in using the technology necessary for transformation.

 

Digital Leadership in Hard Numbers

Executives who have already established themselves as digital leaders demonstrate the value of their initiatives in hard numbers, according to the Oxford Economics study Leaders 2020. For example, their companies are much more likely to sustain top financial performance in terms of both revenue and profitability. Where leadership has embraced digital, companies:

  • Are 38% more likely to report strong revenue and profit growth
  • Have more mature strategies and programs for hiring skilled talent
  • Report one and a half times more effective collaboration, which contributes to productivity
  • Achieve 87% employee satisfaction and significantly higher levels of employee loyalty
  • Are better equipped for succession planning
  • Listen to Millennial executives, whose advice may provide shortcuts to digital transformation

 

What’s more, becoming digitally savvy isn’t enough. Leaders’ aptitude for cultivating teams and work environments that can make good use of technology is also essential. Indeed, nearly 80% of the companies considered farthest along in digital maturity make data-driven decisions, according to the Oxford Economics study (see Digital Leadership in Hard Numbers). Meanwhile, 53% of respondents were found to be clinging to old-school decision-making styles and failing to map decisions to strategy. As a result, only 46% qualified as equipped to make decisions in real time.

Lead by Simplifying

Digital leaders make it a priority to continually simplify processes and decision-making procedures to reduce institutionalized complexity and bureaucracy. These impediments take a real toll. A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that organizational complexity costs businesses up to 10% of profits. Flattening organizational hierarchies and encouraging transparency and organization-wide inclusivity in the decision-making process can help erase such losses, according to the Oxford Economics study.

Achieving these goals doesn’t require a committee. Empowering people at lower levels to make business-critical decisions based on available data has a natural flattening effect on the hierarchy. And as individuals and the enterprise as a whole become accustomed to having access to real-time data that speeds responsiveness, decision making becomes distributed across the organization.

That doesn’t automatically mean that the organizational pyramid is dead. Rather, it empowers employees, the organization, and leadership by placing responsibility for individual responses and actions in the hands of the people best equipped to carry them out, take ownership of the results, and ensure their success. This key characteristic distinguishes digital workers from knowledge workers: they have access to the data necessary to drive the right decisions at the right time, regardless of where they appear on the organizational chart. This not only empowers people at lower levels but also eases the bureaucratic burden on upper management, which is then freer to focus its time and energy on leading the organization forward instead of directing its day-to-day and even minute-by-minute activities.

Lead by Getting Ahead of the Customer

Creating an organization that’s capable of capturing data and making decisions in the moment can transform customer relationships. Besides responding to immediate customer needs, digitally transformed organizations can also predict emerging requirements, even before the customer is fully conscious of them.

To achieve this, digital leaders must be able to view digital in terms of its ability to support innovation: to make it possible for the business to deliver an array of services and advantages that it wasn’t possible to deliver before.

“The challenge is to not ask the question, ‘How does this affect my business?’ That’s inherently a defensive, firm-centric question,” says David Rogers, author of The Digital Transformation Playbook and a member of the faculty at Columbia Business School. “Instead, firms need to look at every new technology and digital capability and ask, ‘How might this allow us to offer new forms of value to our customers that we could not have done in the past?’ And be continuously looking.”

Being plugged into digital’s power to transform customer relationships thus allows an executive to evolve into a digital leader with the vision and the tools necessary to conceive and implement continuous innovation.

Concentrate on Team Dynamics and Employee Engagement

Millennial leadership is well suited to understand the human side of digital transformation. Digital leaders of older generations must recognize the importance of inviting and acting on input from Millennials, which is essential to inspiring them to perform at their best—and to achieving the overall goals of digital transformation.

sap_q416_digital_double_feature3_images2Digital leaders must also understand that encouraging diversity in their workforce isn’t simply a matter of fairness; it’s also a source of competitive advantage. Leaders who build diverse organizations have more engaged, productive employees, as well as higher levels of innovation, according to the Oxford Economics study. This in turn leads to better bottom-line results. Companies that reported higher revenue and profitability growth were more likely to cite the positive impact of diversity on their numbers.

Despite this, the study found that only 60% of companies have adequate programs to ensure that they are developing a digital workforce. The shortfall is hurting companies’ ability to hire and retain talent: only 53% say they are successful in attracting qualified applicants.

This problem will only get worse as Baby Boomers exit the workforce. Digital leaders will be increasingly pressured to maintain stability and continuity in their workforces. The challenge will be especially difficult for companies that lag in meeting the expectations of professionals who have entered the workforce in the era of the gig economy. They expect to make numerous career moves and don’t necessarily see length of tenure as a priority.

Thus, companies need processes for bringing new staff members up to speed as quickly as possible while optimizing their productivity, encouraging them to make constructive contributions to the business, and motivating them to deliver their best performance. They must also develop programs for continuous learning and job rotations to engage and retain workers who may not otherwise remain with the company as long as they would have in past generations.

Address the Generation Gap

Millennials and Generation Z have different expectations of what it means to be an employee and how to use technology than other generations do. They expect collaboration across the hierarchy, which is important to keeping them engaged with the organization and with their personal passions. Fostering a sense of meaning within the workplace, then, is another element of digital leadership; leaders must make the company a place where employees feel as engaged and rewarded as they can be and can do their best work.

In this respect and many others, most businesses are contending with a generation gap. The Oxford Economics study found that in comparison to older executives, Millennial executives have a much more pessimistic view of their organization’s ability to perform well in such key areas as using technology to achieve competitive advantage, collaborating internally, inspiring employees, and fostering an organizational culture that promotes feedback and reduces bureaucracy. In addition, the Millennials are more conscious of—and place a premium on—diversity and its benefits. Addressing that generational disconnect is key to digital leadership.

When today’s mid- and late-career executives entered the workforce, it was understood that younger workers invested the early years of their professional lives paying their dues. But that model no longer works in a market in which a company’s future depends on an approach to digital transformation that comes most naturally to younger executives. And those executives will not invest themselves and their expertise in companies that fail to recognize and respect Millennial workplace priorities.

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Help Employees Address Future Challenges

Digital transformation isn’t just altering employees’ expectations of their careers. It’s also remaking jobs and what work itself entails. In response to a survey by consulting firm Cap Gemini, 77% of companies reported that they saw digital skill gaps as the chief obstacle to their digital transformation.

Their concerns are well founded. Oxford University examined 702 job descriptions across all job types and found that 47% were likely to be replaced by technology within a decade. Another 19% were moderately likely to be replaced. With that in mind, part of the leadership challenge in digital transformation is anticipating how people will work in this world and how artificial intelligence, robots, and people will be integrated into a new and more efficient workforce. How will people interact with these digital forces in the workplace? What will it mean in human terms?

sap_q416_digital_double_feature3_images1Digital leaders can’t expect employees to keep up with these changes on their own: things are simply moving too quickly. AT&T’s Stephenson recognizes this. The New York Times reported that the company’s digital transformation is projected to make 30% of current jobs obsolete by 2020. That’s why, to get ahead of that challenge, Stephenson ordered the creation of AT&T’s training program, which includes an extensive curriculum of online and classroom courses.

This approach illustrates a key characteristic of digital leaders: the ability to think conscientiously about where their companies are headed, what skills their people will need, and how they can help them develop the skills they’ll need as their roles evolve. Digital leaders are also able to articulately communicate to employees where the world is headed so that they are motivated to get there and be productive now and in the future.

Unleash a New Generation of Executives

Companies can no longer afford to delay recognizing the digital sea change that is transforming decision making and the capacity to respond in real time to challenges and opportunities. Led by Millennial executives, the new digital workforce is ready to spark unprecedented performance improvements in organizations that do not constrain their ability to communicate, collaborate, and contribute. Digital leaders are devising strategies for harnessing their energy, enthusiasm, and innate understanding of digital capacities to achieve higher levels of productivity and profitability. The remaining leaders face a choice: embrace this change or get left behind. D!

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

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Michael Rander

About Michael Rander

Michael Rander is the Global Research Director for Future Of Work at SAP. He is an experienced project manager, strategic and competitive market researcher, operations manager as well as an avid photographer, athlete, traveler and entrepreneur. Share your thoughts with Michael on Twitter @michaelrander.

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What Does Blockchain Mean To The CFO?

Matthias Heiden

In my previous blogs, I’ve stated that CFOs need to play a strong, active role as an independent challenger for the business while assessing risks – balancing risk and opportunity for the business. I’ve also covered changes to our role as digitization begins to envelop our organizations. The digital economy will impact many things, that we can be sure of.

In the digital economy, collaboration is increasingly important, and the task of the CFO is to establish this collaboration role, and someone needs to establish collaborative digital finance processes and safeguard their effectiveness and efficiency. In many cases, CFOs have taken that role. Looking to next year, there’s a huge expectation that the technology known as “blockchain” will gain greater prominence in practical business applications, and I believe CFOs can and should enter the picture of this discussion early on. It’s not the realm of the technologists alone, and many are pointing towards blockchain as an underpinning of a digital economy.

The blockchain movement and its accompanying technological capabilities are incredibly intriguing, and a quick Google search delivers about 416,000 results, underscoring the interest. If we can build use cases and applications, blockchain can radically change the way we do business. As a CFO, I need to be mindful of risks, and some associated with this technology are difficult to comprehend upon first reflection. However, as I wrote previously, this is typical of the CFO in the digital economy. Both on the business and compliance sides, we are able to leverage traditional skill sets and our knowledge while stepping into unknown territory in both areas at the same time.

Singapore has announced the city state’s central bank will explore blockchain by launching a pilot project with the country’s stock exchange and eight local and foreign banks to use the technology for interbank payments. While blockchain technology, which emerged from bitcoin, is expected to draw interest by banks and other centralized institutions, it’s expected that companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google will be early adopters as well.

Being mindful of risks

Given that a lot of information is shared in a blockchain, I wonder what it would do to the system – beginning with fraud and going onward along the risk chain – if and how someone could break into it.  I’m sure there’s a good answer – maybe hackers could hardly or never access all of information, given its distributed ledgers. But my point here is that the role as a CFO is to assess the risk and benefit. The latter would include an analysis of the energy footprint of blockchain technology. Is the hardware used sufficiently and is it energy efficient? Are the algorithms computationally efficient in this regard?

Blockchain promises a huge benefit because it increases how we do business and the speed at which it can be conducted. It promises to eliminate the intermediaries and bring new life back to some professions. Some of the technology’s early adopters are public audit firms, and their perspective is in the public interest. I saw a presentation from a utilities company, and it was mind boggling what they’re exploring with blockchain. They can see a case extending collaboration and interaction all the way to the customer in a way they’ve been previously unable to achieve.

From the finance perspective, there’s a limit to optimizing processes and the number of people involved. Even with full robotics, oversight is needed, i.e., someone who watches the robot. When we reach those limits, we turn to technology to help increase volumes and transaction processes. I see a lot of potential for blockchain in this regard, with new, associated business models that have potential.

A hot topic in financial services

At I recent forum for financial services, I co-hosted a dinner where blockchain was the topic. It was amazing to see how people had picked up on the topic, and there were a lot of questions. Many had similar questions about exploring the risks and benefits, and I think it’s fair that everyone took away the sense that they need to keep their eyes on and learn more about it.

Consistently, I see a lot of people taking note, especially those close to the financial market or treasury. Predictably, IT departments are keenly curious, but I think CFOs need to step up their game and begin looking more closely, forming points of view to guide their businesses. It ties in with traditional CFO skills like business modeling, risk and compliance, and advising the business. This remains at the core of our role.

A great resource for CFOs is available now at the SAP finance content hub, specifically on topic of Enterprise Risk and Compliance Management.

To continue the discussion on the topic of governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), join the December 8, 2016 Webinar, A Case Study in Going Beyond Three Lines of Defense to Create Stakeholder Value – Embedding Integrated Thinking at Exxaro.

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Matthias Heiden

About Matthias Heiden

Dr. Matthias Heiden, senior vice president, regional CFO, Middle and Eastern Europe (MEE), is responsible for the field finance organization of MEE. In this role, he supports the organization in managing P&L, continuously driving strategic finance transformation initiatives initiated by Corporate Finance together with the other regional CFOs. This team helps improve business-related processes and supports the Market Unit CFOs in their role as business facilitator and transformation agent.