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Your Best Brand Advocates: Employees With Passion

Olesya Tarasenko

When I think about developing brand advocates, customers are the ones who most often come to mind. However, after reading a recent blog post from one of my millennial peers, I was reminded of how important it is to have your most passionate employees serve as ambassadors of the purpose of your business as well. After all, they are the most organic sources of your brand promotion, both within and outside of your organization—especially if you are a purpose-driven company.

Why passion at work matters

To understand this concept better, let’s look at why passion at work matters and how that ties into purpose. Here are a few reasons why it is important to help your employees to find passion in every aspect of their lives, including their work and career:

  • Passion triggers personal and professional growth. When people follow their passion, I believe they automatically become growth-oriented and naturally tend to take on more challenging tasks. The achievement of tasks leads to greater success, both personally and professionally.
  • Passionate people strive to be their best. When passion inspires people, they work harder because they are more personally involved. This also seems to motivate them to make things happen even when a situation seems impossible.
  • Passion teaches people to tolerate uncertainty and discomfort. When people are inspired, they can tolerate a lot more ambiguity and insecurity.

More and more, passion is a quality that many dynamic companies now want to encourage in their employees. And when the passion is fired up in employees, the logical next step is to encourage them to turn that passion into projects that support a company’s purpose.

Turn passion into value

Back in 2010, Steve Jobs said Apple’s core value was the belief that people with passion can change the world for the better. He essentially was talking about purpose-driven marketing and how employees’ passions can make a difference in a company.

So how can you encourage passion in your company? Here are three simple steps you can take:

  1. Learn about your employees’ passions. Understanding what your employees are passionate about helps managers get to know them better on a more personal level. This in turn can lead to conversations that are more individually tailored and meaningful for employees.
  1. Develop a “driver profile” for each employee. Creating a profile of what drives your employees can help you quickly see where their passions can align with your company’s purpose.
  1. Launch “find your passion” programs within your organization. Once you understand what drives your employees, you can help them create “passion projects” that would interest them and nourish your company’s purpose. 

What are passion projects? They are simply projects that people feel excited about working on because they align with their own passions and purpose. For example, an Autism at Work program within your company would be a great passion project for someone who has an autistic child. Or Back-to-Work initiatives could encourage women who have returned to the workforce after having children help others who are just starting that process.

These are brilliant ways to encourage your employees to build a connection with your company’s purpose. These projects may be outside of the typical scope of a position or job responsibilities, but they are still aligned with the big-picture objectives of your organization.

Passion creates more passion

When employees are connected to a company’s purpose through passion projects at work, the sources that feed your company’s purpose initiatives multiply, creating a long-lasting natural source of nourishment. And when you encourage your employees to link their passions with meaningful projects at work, you start to build stronger connections between them and your company.

In essence, it is pretty simple: Make employees’ passions a priority of your business and you will soon find your business’s purpose among your employees’ priorities.

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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Olesya Tarasenko

About Olesya Tarasenko

Olesya Tarasenko is an HR Early Talent at SAP, currently finishing her final rotation in the HR Operations, Cloud Services, team in Prague, Czech Republic. With her multicultural background and diverse HR experiences, including international, Olesya aims to promote personal and professional development and help employees reach their full potential at work. Olesya holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Development from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and is passionate about continuous learning, innovation, and simplification.

Predict And Prevent To Protect And Prosper

Justin Bean

The merging of our physical and digital worlds is accelerating faster than ever. It’s become increasingly clear that connectivity will shape our future lives and the cities we live in. We’re already seeing the Internet of Things reshaping our communities and fundamentally changing the way we interact with one another. As connectivity increases, there will be more interaction of technology on the backend helping with everything from city planning efforts to enhancing the wellbeing of citizens. We may not always see it, but we will certainly be affected by it.

I was recently on a panel discussing the topic of smart cities – specifically, how IoT is helping to advance public safety technology. Dr. Alison Brooks, research director of Smart Cities and Public Safety at IDC, and James Alfano, global lead solutions expert for Public Security and Intelligence at SAP, were also guests on the show.

Our discussion during Game-Changing Smart Cities of the Future touched on several topics around smart city safety, but there was one prevailing conclusion: We need to shift from a strategy of reacting to one of preventing.

Technology can help us accomplish this goal, and more

Industry experts are now predicting that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. We’re looking at rapid urbanization that is beginning to cause additional challenges to the modern city – there are constrained resources to meet growing demand for services, government complexities due to the increasing population, and citizens with new digital expectations of what the city should be providing and what a city should be held accountable for.

Public safety has to be top of mind for civic leaders, as well as for service providers, workers, visitors – anybody who lives in or visits cities. It’s also not enough for just governments to be held responsible for keeping people safe – it should be a collective effort of local businesses and organizations as well. These organizations can justify their investments in technology, knowing that many of the solutions that keep people safe can also be leveraged to provide business and operational intelligence that can help businesses and economies thrive.

The definition of future success is being shaped by many factors: the need for greater safety and stability, the debate over security and privacy, and how to counter new threats like cyber-attacks that are continuing to climb to the top of national agendas, both in the United States and abroad. These factors tend to take immediate priority over longer term goals like fighting climate change and long-term economic resiliency.

That’s because public safety is a foundational requirement for thriving societies. While most cities understand how critical the issue of public safety is, they are also faced with the need to find ways to make improvements in a more cost-effective way. Technology advancements are now closing the gap, pushing citizens and stakeholders to have a more collaborative conversation with our elected officials and city governments about what needs to be done. But this does not mean that other priorities need to be ignored – cities that deploy advanced technology solutions like IoT and predictive analytics to fight crime can often leverage these same technologies to better understand traffic, environmental threats, and even the flows of people throughout a retail district in order to improve life over the long term.

Data is perhaps our greatest resource to turn these insightful conversations into actionable results. The problem, however, is that we aren’t using it to its full potential. We have enormous amounts of data – big or small, from sensors, cameras, or business systems – you name it. We are living in an era where we have become data rich. Our cities are increasing their data wealth because many have adopted systems to increase efficiency and safety – but these systems alone aren’t enough. We are gathering more and more data, but our level of actionable insight remains minimal. We are data rich, but insight poor.

How can we change this? How can our cities become as rich with holistic insight as they are with data?

The first step is to break down data silos – we need to get disparate systems connected and talking to one another. This is one of the greatest challenges we face today. Integration can unlock the insights we need to create smarter, safer, healthier, and more efficient communities.

Bringing together data from various agencies (police departments, fire departments, transit, utilities, etc.) and unifying their current systems would be a powerful first step in identifying and addressing societal challenges. It would enable us to look holistically at what the causes are and the factors that contribute to them, then to test out the different activities, policies, and programs to address them. From parking and traffic congestion, to combating crime and improving public safety, environmental sustainability, and resiliency, to education and transportation – all areas of a city ecosystem can benefit from this level of data sharing. Once we start sharing data, we lay the foundation for analytics and data mining to gain tangible civic and business insights.

In cities around the world, we’re seeing this kind of integration now starting to happen, but it could be accelerated. We are deploying more sensors than ever before; people have powerful communication devices in their pocket with access to real-time information. We have the ability to bring these factors together to create safe and thriving societies.

For example, crime tracking is now a reality. There are platforms that are leveraging machine learning to crunch a variety of informational data together in order to find patterns that humans would otherwise miss. Crime can be impacted by several variables, including weather, proximity to public transportation hubs, 911 calls, and social media. This information, while all valuable, is often too much for a human to parse through and unearth behavior patterns and predictions.

Technology can now automate this work for law enforcement, acting as a force multiplier to improve staffing and patrols – and even help prevent crimes before they happen. As advanced as this sounds, it is only the first step. When approaching crime, we should think about it in several timescales to figure out a solution to solve the challenge once and for all:

  • Incident – How can we prevent an incident or crime from occurring, or if it does, give our officers the best technology to neutralize the situation quickly and keep everyone (including themselves) safer? This includes providing situational awareness through video and IoT, along with better collaboration tools and predictive analytics.
  • Individual – Imagine all of the wasted human potential because individuals have, for one reason or another, chosen crime over more productive pursuits, or faced abuse and situations that shattered their potential. How can we leverage data and share what works to help people find their way and overcome obstacles? The Last Mile is a great example of this. It’s a program that trains prisoners to code. In a prison with a 65% recidivism rate, the rate for people that participate in this program is only seven percent.
  • Societal – There is a three-year old out there today who will someday commit a violent crime and be sent to prison. How can we create a society in which this person will not feel compelled to do so? The kind of society with the opportunity and support they need to thrive in the world will require safety, convenient access to the economy, information to educate themselves for success, and community support that human beings instinctively need to feel esteem and satisfaction in their lives.

This may seem like a gargantuan task, but it is not impossible. There are many peaceful societies around the world that do not face similar levels of crime as the United States. There are also many that are much more dangerous than the U.S. Unifying our cities across data silos to help them learn from each other is one key step toward helping us achieve this goal. The more we start to embrace data as a strategic partner in public safety and urban planning, the better positioned we’ll be to take a proactive rather than reactive approach, and create the world that we all want to live in.

For more on how technology is shaping local communities, see Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

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Justin Bean

About Justin Bean

Justin Bean is the Director of Smart City Solutions Marketing at Hitachi Insight Group, which brings IoT solutions to market with the mission of social innovation. Justin has worked with startups and fortune 500s that are applying IoT and other disruptive technologies to improve our lives and cities. He has worked on projects in the US, Japan and South Africa that include smart parking, electric vehicles, renewable energy, blockchain, machine learning and 3D printing. He was the recipient of the 2015 THINK Prize in association with renowned innovation and design firm IDEO for the Financial Empowerment Challenge, holds an MBA in sustainable management, and resides in San Francisco, California.

43 Facts On Purpose And Sustainability In The Digital Economy

Peter Johnson

Part 5 of the six-part blog series “Facts on the Future of Business

Innovation in the business world is accelerating exponentially, with new disruptive technologies and trends emerging that are fundamentally changing how businesses and the global economy operate. To adapt, thrive, and innovate, we all need to be aware of these evolutionary technologies and trends and understand the opportunities or threats they might present to our organizations, our careers, and society on a whole.

With this in mind, I recently had the opportunity to compile 99 Facts on the Future of Business in the Digital Economy. This presentation includes facts, predictions, and research findings on some of the most impactful technologies and trends that are driving the future of business in the digital economy.

To help simplify your ability to find facts for specific topics, I have grouped the facts into six subsets, and below is the fifth of these:

Earth

With the coming and going of ice ages over the last 400,000+ years, CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere fluctuated between 180 ppm and 300 ppm. However, CO2 levels have skyrocketed and now exceed 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history.

Source: “The Relentless Rise of Carbon Dioxide,” NASA Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet.

New digital technologies can enable a 20% reduction in global carbon emissions by 2030. This is equivalent to eliminating 100% of China’s CO2 emissions, plus another 1.5 billion tons.

Source: “SMARTer2030: Australian Opportunity for ICT Enabled Emission Reductions,” Telstra Corporation.

In the last two decades, 9.6% of the earth’s total wilderness areas has been lost, an estimated 3.3 million square kilometers.

Source: “Catastrophic Declines in Wilderness Areas Undermine Global Environment Targets,” Current Biology.

Many Latin American governments are turning to artificial intelligence to aid in their forest conservation efforts.

Source: “10 Innovations That Are Changing Conservation,” Cool Green Science.

Air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, and now 92% of the world population is exposed to air pollution above WHO air quality guidelines.

Source: “Ambient Air Pollution: A Global Assessment of Exposure and Burden of Disease,” World Health Organization.

Every year, nearly 600,000 children under the age of five die from diseases caused or exacerbated by the effects of air pollution.

Source: “Clear the Air for Children,” United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Inequity

GDP per capita has increased roughly 1,000% since the 1970s.

Source: “GDP Per Capita,” The World Bank.

CEO pay has risen 1,000% over the past 40-plus years.

Source: “World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017: Responsive and Responsible Leadership,” World Economic Forum.

But average worker pay has increased just 11% since the 1970s, essentially stagnating over the past 40-plus years.

Source: “The Productivity–Pay Gap,” Economic Policy Institute.

If ordinary citizens don’t have incomes to buy products made by corporations, how can those corporations prosper? The IMF found countries with less inequality perform better.

Source: “Nobel Economist: One-Percenters, Pay Your Taxes,” CNN.

Although GDP growth is an indicator of progress, it has concealed growing inequality. Economies need a balanced scorecard that also assesses and prioritizes quality of life across the population.

Source: “An Economy for the 99%,” Oxfam International.

By broadly addressing gender equity at work and in society, the world could add $12 trillion to annual gross domestic product in 2025.

Source: “Realizing Gender Equality’s $12 Trillion Economic Opportunity,” McKinsey Global Institute.

The 43 public companies in the DiversityInc Top 50 were 24% more profitable than the S&P 500 average.

Source: “Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: How Diversity at Work Makes More Money for You,” The Balance.

Migrants make up just 3.4% of the world’s population, but they contribute nearly 10% of global GDP. Today, immigrants earn 20% to 30% less than native workers, but if countries narrow this wage gap by just five to 10%, they could generate an additional $1 trillion in global economic output.

Source: “Global Migration’s Impact and Opportunity,” McKinsey Global Institute.

Improving lives

In initial tests, a machine-learning algorithm created at Carnegie Mellon was able to predict heart attacks four hours in advance, with 80% accuracy.

Source: “Of Prediction and Policy,” The Economist.

Artificial intelligence can predict where epidemics will happen. AIME developed a platform with 87% accuracy in predicting dengue fever outbreaks three months in advance. Now they hope to similarly target other diseases, such as Ebola and Zika.

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Innovation Report,” Deloitte.

An estimated 45.8 million people are trapped in some form of slavery in 167 countries.

Source: “Global Findings,” Walk Free Foundation: The Global Slavery Index.

Advanced analytics and Big Data are enabling coordinated efforts to combat human trafficking networks and rapid responses when victims are located.

Source: “Tracing a Web of Destruction: Can Big Data Fight Human Trafficking?” HBS Digital Initiative.

Two billion individuals and 200 million small businesses in emerging economies lack access to basic financial services and credit. Broad adoption of mobile banking in developing nations could create 95 million new jobs and increase GDP by $3.7 trillion by 2025.

Source: “How Digital Finance Could Boost Growth in Emerging Economies,” McKinsey Global Institute.

Patients dying while waiting for an organ donor could soon be a thing of the past. By 2030, organs will be biologically 3D-printed on demand.

Source: “Healthcare in 2030: Goodbye Hospital, Hello Home-Spital,” World Economic Forum.

Resource management

On the edge of the Sahara, Morocco is building what will be the world’s largest solar power plant, capable of providing energy even after the sun sets.

Source: “Morocco Unveils A Massive Solar Power Plant in the Sahara,” NPR.

Morocco plans to generate 14% of its energy from solar by 2020, and hopes to eventually export solar energy to Europe.

Source: “The Colossal African Solar Farm That Could Power Europe,” BBC.

An extremely large city can lose as much as 500 billion liters of drinking water each year through leakage.

Source: “Water and Cities – Facts and Figures,” United Nations.

More than 300,000 billion liters of water could be saved globally by using new information and communications technologies to increase resource management efficiencies.

Source: “Quantifying the Opportunity,” Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI).

Barcelona uses the IoT to optimize urban systems and enhance citizen services. To date, it has saved $95 million annually from reduced water and electricity consumption, increased parking revenues by $50 million a year, and generated 47,000 new jobs.

Source: “How Smart City Barcelona Brought the Internet of Things to Life,” Data-Smart City Solutions, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School.

By 2019, 40% of local and regional governments will use the IoT to turn infrastructure such as roads, streetlights, and traffic signals into assets instead of liabilities.

Source: “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Internet of Things (IoT) 2017 Predictions,” IDC Research Inc.

Global urban populations will add 2.5 billion people by 2050. This massive urban expansion will require as much as $70 trillion in infrastructure spending.

Source: “In a Fast-Changing World, Can Cities Be Built with Long-Term Perspective?” EY.

Global debt has more than doubled since the turn of the century to $152 trillion and now represents a record high 225% of global GDP. This creates a vicious feedback loop in which the debt overhang exacerbates the economic slowdown and lower economic growth hampers deleveraging.

Source: “The IMF Is Worried About the World’s $152 Trillion Debt Pile,” Bloomberg.

Trust and corruption

93% of CEOs believe it’s important to engender trust that their company “will do the right thing.”

Source: “Connecting the Dots: How Purpose Can Join Up Your Business,” PwC.

72% of people feel that companies have become more dishonest.

Source: “The State of the Debate on Purpose in Business,” EY Beacon Institute.

There is a growing level of distrust: only 15% of people believe that society’s institutional pillars (government, businesses, media) are working for the common person.

Source: “2017 Edelman Trust Barometer,” Edelman.

Leading up to the U.S. election, the top fake news stories on Facebook generated 20% more engagement than factual stories.

Source: “This Analysis Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News on Facebook,” BuzzFeed News.

Bribery reduces global GDP by $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion each year, as it drives suboptimal business decision making, corrupting economic performance.

Source: “Corruption: Costs and Mitigating Strategies,” International Monetary Fund.

To combat corruption and tax evasion in its cash economy (only 2.6% of its citizens pay taxes), the Indian government devalued 80% of its currency in three hours.

Source: “Demonetization | This Is a New Indian Sunrise,” DNA India.

India could eliminate the need for credit cards, debit cards, and ATMs in three years by switching to biometric payments, as nearly 1.1 billion citizens have already registered their biometric data.

Source: “First Cash, Now India Could Ditch Card Payments by 2020,” CNN.

Purpose

In a study of 100 variables, seeing purpose and value in work was the single most important factor that motivated employees. Yes, more than compensation.

Source: “Purpose Trumps Cash + Other New Research Findings,” LinkedIn.

75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially and environmentally responsible company.

Source: “2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study,” Cone Communications.

Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged, meaning that the other 87% are not involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and company.

Source: “The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis,” Gallup.

Companies with engaged employees outperform their peers by up to 202%.

Source: “The Importance of Employee Engagement,” Dale Carnegie Training.

How millennials want to work and live is a problem leaders need to take seriously. Just 40% of millennials feel strongly connected to their company’s mission.

Source: “Millennials Not Connecting With Their Company’s Mission,” Gallup.

During the next year, one in four millennials plans to leave his or her current employer, and by 2020, two in three millennials expect to have found a new employer.

Source: “The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey – Winning over the next generation of leaders,” Deloitte.

Organizations in which employees perceive meaning at work are 21% more profitable.

Source: “Meaning@Work, Leadership in times of digitization,” Future of Leadership Initiative.

87% of millennials say that they base their purchasing decisions on whether or not a company makes positive social efforts.

Source: “Why Millennials Care About Purpose-Driven Business,” D!gitalist Magazine.

To view all of the 99 Facts on the Future of Business in the Digital Economy, check out the Slideshare or other subsets below.

 

To see the rest of the series, check out our page Facts on the Future of Business,” every Thursday, and we will cover the six topics:

  • The value imperative to embrace the digital economy
  • Technologies driving the digital economy
  • Customer experience and marketing in digital economy
  • The future of work in the digital economy
  • Purpose and sustainability in the digital economy
  • Supply networks in the digital economy
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Peter Johnson

About Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson is a Senior Director of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership at SAP, responsible for developing easy to understand corporate level and cross solution messaging. Peter has proven experience leading innovative programs to accelerate and scale Go-To-Market activities, and drive operational efficiencies at industry leading solution providers and global manufactures respectively.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

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Vivek Bapat

About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.