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From Foe To Friend: How AI Can Boost Purpose

Thomas Leisen

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to a broad concept of machines that are able to carry out tasks in a way that we consider “smart.” Self-driving cars, lip-reading apps, and interactive robots already are examples that tend to fascinate people – but they also can frighten us.

Let’s face it – AI is not only one of the next big things in technology innovation, it is also one of the scariest!

The fear has been building…

For decades, popular movies have addressed humans’ fear that someday machines – like the infamous Terminator cyborg, or Sonny, the robotic murder suspect from I, Robot – could be as smart as, or smarter than, people are. No wonder as the use of AI becomes more commonplace, that fear continues to grow.

And it’s not only outside observers who are concerned. Many thought leaders from around the globe share their apprehension about the general principles behind AI. For instance, Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University, shared his insights in a recent article on people’s worries about AI. “The transition to machine superintelligence is a very grave matter,” he notes, “and we should take seriously the possibility that things could go radically wrong.”

There are also grave concerns about AI taking jobs away from people who need them. In the article, Julian Togelius, computer science professor at New York University, says, “I am worried about the impact on employment as more and more niches are filled by technology.”

I share this concern. As a millennial beginning my career and just finishing my master’s studies, I sometimes fear that computers may better fit for the jobs I want to pursue. 

Can AI help more than it hurts?

It’s no wonder that many companies experience resistance from their employees when they try to implement AI technology such as machine learning. But perhaps there is another approach companies can take – one that is more respectful and helpful to employees.

The answer may simply be this: When implementing AI into your business, connect these initiatives to your company’s purpose.

When AI takes over the repetitive work of your employees, they will have more quality time to concentrate on other tasks – and one of these tasks could be finding new ways to contribute to the higher purpose of your company. For instance, rather than repetitively assembling parts on a factory floor, your employees could spend time thinking about how to improve overall processes. From this perspective, AI gives your employees a better chance to really make an impact. And it can be even more impactful if this opportunity is communicated by your CEO and top managers.

Think of it this way: Implementing AI in your businesses simply to reduce human resources for repetitive work without discussing your strategy with your employees will backfire. It is a bit like taking a coloring book from your kids without telling them why, and expecting them to be happy about it. However, if you give them a blank canvas and watercolors, and explain to them that they can be creative and paint whatever they want, they won’t complain about the lost coloring book.

From foe to friend

When you replace people’s responsibilities with AI technology, you can make AI a friend rather than a foe by communicating effectively with affected employees. Position AI as an opportunity for growth rather than a reduction of responsibilities. This approach offers employees the opportunity to develop new skills and make a greater contribution to the company, which in turn will boost their sense of value and self-worth.

This approach will help your company position AI not as a job-taker, but as a source of freedom for your employees. And it will help your employees see that they have the opportunity to concentrate on issues that are not only important to them, but to your company as well.

This blog is part of our Millennials on Purpose series. To learn more about the higher purpose of SAP 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.

Why Companies Of The Future Need Purpose [VIDEO]

Florian Kunzke

“Purpose” is the new star in the economic cosmos. But what impact will this new orientation have on workers and on software development?

Just imagine it: the fifth day of your work week entirely at your disposal. You could start working on the project that you’ve always dreamed of. You could get involved in social initiatives while drawing on support and resources from your employer. Or perhaps you’d like to spend time with friends and family, or simply be all by yourself.

It sounds too good to be true, right? Not at IXDS. The Berlin-based design and innovation agency believes in a 32-hour week and envisions total employee flexibility, as wellas a company organization free from hierarchies. And it’s proven to be quite a success. For more than 10 years, IXDS has been working with its customers – including startups and DAX companies – on future scenarios, innovative products, and novel services.

Nancy Birkhölzer, CEO at IXDS, recently participated in the first SAP Research Round Table hosted in the Data Space in Berlin, alongside other representatives from industry, academia, politics, and associations. The panel discussed how digitalization is shaping the social, economic, and ecological framework, and how this could impact people, companies, and the world of work. The panel also discussed what software providers like SAP need to do to not only meet the challenges of this dynamic environment, but to actively shape it.

With these challenges in mind, the organizational team under Norbert Koppenhagen, head of research at the SAP Innovation Center Network, selected the new location, in which SAP collaborates with startups and maintains its network in Berlin thanks to a fresh event and design concept. The array of topics was as vibrant as the participants present. Discussions included the new leadership culture, alternative organizational forms, people-centered service systems, solopreneurship, as well as purpose activation in companies. Why purpose activation? At the end of the day, companies all have one purpose: to generate revenue, right?

Click to enlarge

No place for empty words without actions

For Markus Heinen, chief innovation officer at EY and keynote speaker at the round table, it’s certainly not all about revenue. In the future, companies that are aware of their social impact will make all the difference: “Companies need to follow a purpose. Purpose is an aspirational reason for being that is grounded in humanity and inspires action,” he explains.

At first, it may sound rather philosophical, having little to do with economic success. Yet social responsibility and having a credible brand promise have become key differentiating factors for companies. Thanks to Big Data, real-time reporting, and digital discussion platforms, people are constantly connected and up-to-date.

“There is no place for empty words without actions. Companies without a purpose will fail to keep pace. Only when all performance factors are rigorously targeted towards that purpose is the concept able to bring genuine added value,” affirms Markus.

But what does this all mean for employees? At IXDS, for instance, this is how the company conceives the future of work: Success is measured by how the results contribute to the company’s purpose. For each project, the team decides on a project purpose, which is both derived from the overall purpose and specified for the project-related deliverables. How the employees wish to achieve this is left up to them. And the same for how long they wish to work on it.

“We don’t want to assess our employees based on the number of hours they work anymore. We also don’t want to pay them based on their position. Everyone should assume a role in the project based on where they think they can make the best contribution. In future, we like to assess colleagues based on their impact, their value contribution,” Birkhölzer explains.

Dedication to the future of work

This example shows how it is increasingly important for companies to identify and manage non-monetary assets, such as knowledge, innovativeness, teamwork, and value-oriented conduct. Today, these factors account for 80% of a company’s value. Enterprise software must therefore be able to map not just financial metrics, but also intangible assets. It is precisely these issues that Günter Pecht-Seibert and his team from SAP Innovation Center Network are looking to focus on – in the new “Future of Work” focus area.

Günter explains his team’s ambitions as follows: “We want to develop cloud-based solutions that improve employee engagement and well-being, increase companies’ brand value, and accelerate genuine knowledge work. As a first step, we plan to help companies activate their purpose. Our long-term goal is to support companies who have not yet ventured this far, and help them transform into a purpose-led organization.”

The first two solutions are planned to be launched in 2017 with Knowledge Workspace and People Insights. A complete software suite will follow later.

The same applies for the next research round table session. The event was well received by all participants, and triggered many constructive talks. The result of the round table was the identification of promising research topics that the Research & Innovation Team from the SAP Innovation Center Network would like to tackle, and refine in additional workshops. The overarching goal: to help the world run better and improve people’s lives – yes, SAP has also defined its purpose.

Five things to know about the future of work

The experts who participated at the round table discussed many interesting topics. Here are the five key takeaways:

  1. Companies should dedicate themselves to a purpose that can be globally integrated in the company, and pursued consistently.
  2. The health and well-being of employees is the way forward to a company’s success. Recognizing, measuring, and managing these factors is a key challenge for companies.
  3. Employees must have the opportunity for lifelong learning, which corresponds to their interests, and is useful, orchestrated logically, and independent from their current employer.
  4. In the future, organizational structures will be less based on hierarchies, but rather on decentralized networks, which push beyond company boundaries, and create added value.
  5. This means that companies will need software tools that can be adapted as required. The applications of the future will enable flexible problem solving, make collective knowledge accessible in organizations, and allow companies to combine data from various internal and external systems.

For more insight on fostering a culture of purpose at your business, see 5 Ways To Become A Better Purpose-Driven Leader

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Florian Kunzke

About Florian Kunzke

Florian Kunzke is responsible for Integrated Communication in the SAP Innovation Center Network. As part of his role, he drives messaging for ICN projects, creates innovation stories and orchestrates internal communication activities. Before joining the company, he has been advising companies in the fields of corporate, change and internal communication. Florian holds an M.A. in Intercultural Communication Studies.

5 Benefits Of Being A Socially Responsible Company

Ali Robins

Just as we choose to associate with good people in our lives, customers like to associate with good companies.

Being known as a socially responsible company is a great way to attract positive attention and make your employees proud to be part of your organization.

But before you can do this, it’s important to clearly define your company’s core values.

The definition of socially responsible companies

socially responsible companies quote

Investopedia defines corporate social responsibility as follows:

A corporation’s initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social well-being. CSR may also be referred to as “corporate citizenship” and can involve incurring short-term costs that do not provide an immediate financial benefit to the company, but instead promote positive social and environmental change.

5 benefits of corporate social responsibility

The benefits of corporate social responsibility function on both an internal and external level.

  1. Build your brand

    Being socially responsible is a great way to build your brand and create a positive name. Factors like good will, trust, and an overall positive image are enhanced and developed through social responsibility. If you’re smart about it and you support the right type of business, it could also lead to co-branding and marketing opportunities.

  2. Attract and retain top talent

    A 2003 Stanford University study found that MBA graduates would sacrifice an average of $13,700 of their annual salary to work for a socially responsible company.

    Benefits of having a socially responsible company
    People want to feel like they’re making a difference in the world, and developing a reputation for social responsibility is a great way to attract and retain top talent.

    When employees are proud of where they work, they feel a sense of loyalty to the company and become company ambassadors.

    One way to measure your employees’ loyalty is with the Employee Net Promoter Score. Being socially responsible is an excellent way to get your employees on the high end of the scale.

    Millennials are especially connected to the idea of working for a socially responsible company. The Cone Millennial Cause Study found that 80 percent of 13- to 25-year-olds surveyed want to work for companies that care about their effect on and contributions to society.

  3. Customers love socially responsible companies

    A survey conducted by Nielsen group found that 50% of consumers surveyed worldwide would be willing to pay more for goods and services from socially responsible companies.

    The one caveat (and this is important for companies to remember) is that in countries where there is already some skepticism, the willingness to spend more is lower. This means that companies and the programs you’re implementing must be authentic.

    In their 2016 book, Good Is The New Cool, Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones highlight the importance of authenticity, inclusiveness, and kindness in everything from company culture to marketing campaigns.

    Quote about being socially responsible

    They want to contribute to something that makes a difference and that has a positive impact on the world.

  4. It helps engage your employees

    When you include your employees in larger processes and vision planning, such as designing and implementing a social responsibility program for your company, they’ll feel part of something bigger and more important than just their day-to-day tasks, and therefore they will be more engaged.

    Generally, employees are most engaged when they feel part of a holistic entity rather than bound only to their respective role and tasks.

  5. It keeps your company competitive

    Choosing a unique position as a company and doing things differently from competitors helps your business stand out. This applies to all facts of business, including social responsibility. Your relationship with society is as important as your relationship with customers. Having a strong vision and connection to a cause that makes a positive impact and gives you a competitive advantage.

Socially responsible companies

There are plenty of socially responsible companies today, and one of my favorite examples is an organization called 1% For The Planet.

This organization connects businesses with non-profits, and it has compiled a huge directory of companies that donate 1% of their profits to charity.

Here are some examples of well-known companies that practice social responsibility:

Coca Cola

Their #5by20 program empowers young women entrepreneurs. The plan is to bring 5 million women from the developing world into the company as bottlers or distributors. There is research that shows that this can have a multiplier effect, and create value for more than just those 5 million women.

Visa

Visa has partnered with several governments in the developing world to help offer financial solutions to those in need. Financial literacy is so important to advancing the lives of those in the developing world, and Visa is doing an amazing job to help.

Google

Google is well known for their giving program, and has been recognized as the most socially responsible company in the “workplace” category from the Reputation Institute. Not many people know about the kind of socially responsible investments that they make as a company.

Microsoft

Microsoft has corporate responsibility really deeply rooted in its culture, and organizes hundreds of social events every year, and has surpassed over $1 Billion in employee donations over 30 years.

Toms

For every pair of shoes Toms sells, they give a pair to a child in need.They’re currently given over 60 million pairs of shoes to children in need.

Patagonia

Patagonia’s mission statement is: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. They have awarded over $70 million in cash and donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups. However, their social awareness extends beyond the environment. You can read more about their very impressive impact here.

GSOFT

GSOFT’s core mission is to “make a positive impact on people’s lives at work.” Part of the way they do this is by creating a culture that is supportive of employees’ personal mission and causes. Last December, GSOFT offered to match all donations that employees’ had raised for their personal cause, 24hr Tremblant, a ski event that raised money for children in need.

Another example of GSOFT’s socially responsible mindset is their affiliation with Le Club Des Petits Déjeuners, in which employees spend a morning serving food to underprivileged children to ensure they are nourished and ready to learn. GSOFT also participates in the Dream Day at La Ronde, where employees take children from the St. Justine hospital for a fun day on the rides. It has been a poignant experience and one that’s in line with the company mission and culture.

How to build a socially responsible company

1. Choose a meaningful cause

If the nature of your company impacts or causes harm to a specific area, consider choosing a cause that helps improve that area. For example, if you print a magazine, perhaps a part of your proceeds can go to planting trees. Also, choose something that is meaningful to your team. Supporting something that you don’t connect with takes the fun, passion, and success out of the initiative.

2. Create an authentic socially responsible mission

Avoid one-time events or annual donations. Genuine social responsibility is an ongoing process that starts from within and extends outward—if you are going to do it, do it right!

3. Ingrain the mission into your company’s DNA

Every decision that’s made should address your mission so that it becomes part of the company culture, not just an outside initiative. It should be part of your company’s journey, not a standalone project. Whenever possible, think about how decisions might affect this cause or how new initiatives can include the mission into the planning.

4. Get employees involved and enthused

It is not only up to management to drive the initiatives that make your company socially responsible. Get the whole team involved and participating in the cause. You might set up an internal fundraising committee, for example, that allows employees to work hands-on with organizations to help give them a sense of ownership.

5. Offer employees time off to volunteer

The beauty of being a socially responsible organization is that you don’t necessarily need to spend money in order to be socially responsible. There are a lot of other cool ways that you can give back, such as with “volunteer time off” (VTO).

The idea here is to give employees a paid day off at least once a year to provide volunteer services, ideally for an organization of their choice.

Is your company socially responsible? Tell us about your great initiatives!

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The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage

Justin Somaini and Dan Wellers

 

The cost of data breaches will reach US$2.1 trillion globally by 2019—nearly four times the cost in 2015.

Cyberattacks could cost up to $90 trillion in net global economic benefits by 2030 if cybersecurity doesn’t keep pace with growing threat levels.

Cyber insurance premiums could increase tenfold to $20 billion annually by 2025.

Cyberattacks are one of the top 10 global risks of highest concern for the next decade.


Companies are collaborating with a wider network of partners, embracing distributed systems, and meeting new demands for 24/7 operations.

But the bad guys are sharing intelligence, harnessing emerging technologies, and working round the clock as well—and companies are giving them plenty of weaknesses to exploit.

  • 33% of companies today are prepared to prevent a worst-case attack.
  • 25% treat cyber risk as a significant corporate risk.
  • 80% fail to assess their customers and suppliers for cyber risk.

The ROI of Zero Trust

Perimeter security will not be enough. As interconnectivity increases so will the adoption of zero-trust networks, which place controls around data assets and increases visibility into how they are used across the digital ecosystem.


A Layered Approach

Companies that embrace trust as a competitive advantage will build robust security on three core tenets:

  • Prevention: Evolving defensive strategies from security policies and educational approaches to access controls
  • Detection: Deploying effective systems for the timely detection and notification of intrusions
  • Reaction: Implementing incident response plans similar to those for other disaster recovery scenarios

They’ll build security into their digital ecosystems at three levels:

  1. Secure products. Security in all applications to protect data and transactions
  2. Secure operations. Hardened systems, patch management, security monitoring, end-to-end incident handling, and a comprehensive cloud-operations security framework
  3. Secure companies. A security-aware workforce, end-to-end physical security, and a thorough business continuity framework

Against Digital Armageddon

Experts warn that the worst-case scenario is a state of perpetual cybercrime and cyber warfare, vulnerable critical infrastructure, and trillions of dollars in losses. A collaborative approach will be critical to combatting this persistent global threat with implications not just for corporate and personal data but also strategy, supply chains, products, and physical operations.


Download the executive brief The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.


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Unleash The Digital Transformation

Kadamb Goswami

The world has changed. We’ve seen massive disruption on multiple fronts – business model disruption, cybercrime, new devices, and an app-centric world. Powerful networks are crucial to success in a mobile-first, cloud-first world that’s putting an ever-increasing increasing amount of data at our fingertips. With the Internet of Things (IoT) we can connect instrumented devices worldwide and use new data to transform business models and products.

Disruption

Disruption comes in many forms. It’s not big or scary, it’s just another way of describing change and evolution. In the ’80s it manifested as call centers. Then, as the digital landscape began to take shape, it was the Internet, cloud computing … now it’s artificial intelligence (AI).

Digital transformation

Digital transformation means different things to different companies, but in the end I believe it will be a simple salvation that will carry us forward. If you Bing (note I worked for Microsoft for 15 years before experiencing digital transformation from the lens of the outside world), digital transformation, it says it’s “the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies, and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way.” (I’ll simplify that; keep reading.)

A lot of today’s digital transformation ideas are ripped straight from the scripts of sci-fi entertainment, whether you’re talking about the robotic assistants of 2001: A Space Odyssey or artificial intelligence in the Star Trek series. We’re forecasting our future with our imagination. So, let’s move on to why digital transformation is needed in our current world.

Business challenges

The basic challenges facing businesses today are the same as they’ve always been: engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations, and reinventing the value offered to customers. However, what has changed is the unique convergence of three things:

  1. Increasing volumes of data, particularly driven by the digitization of “things” and heightened individual mobility and collaboration
  1. Advancements in data analytics and intelligence to draw actionable insight from the data
  1. Ubiquity of cloud computing, which puts this disruptive power in the hands of organizations of all sizes, increasing the pace of innovation and competition

Digital transformation in plain English

Hernan Marino, senior vice president, marketing, & global chief operating officer at SAP, explains digital transformation by giving specific industry examples to make it simpler.

Automobile manufacturing used to be the work of assembly lines, people working side-by-side literally piecing together, painting, and churning out vehicles. It transitioned to automation, reducing costs and marginalizing human error. That was a business transformation. Now, we are seeing companies like Tesla and BMW incorporate technology into their vehicles that essentially make them computers on wheels. Cameras. Sensors. GPS. Self-driving vehicles. Syncing your smartphone with your car.

The point here is that companies need to make the upfront investments in infrastructure to take advantage of digital transformation, and that upfront investment will pay dividends in the long run as technological innovations abound. It is our job to collaboratively work with our customers to understand what infrastructure changes need to be made to achieve and take advantage of digital transformation.

Harman gives electric companies as another example. Remember a few years ago, when you used to go outside your house and see the little power meter spinning as it recorded the kilowatts you use? Every month, the meter reader would show up in your yard, record your usage, and report back to the electric company.

Most electric companies then made a business transformation and installed smart meters – eliminating the cost of the meter reader and integrating most homes into a smart grid that gave customers access to their real-time information. Now, as renewable energy evolves and integrates more fully into our lives, these same electric companies that switched over to smart meters are going to make additional investments to be able to analyze the data and make more informed decisions that will benefit both the company and its customers.

That is digital transformation. Obviously, banks, healthcare, entertainment, trucking, and e-commerce all have different needs than auto manufacturers and electric companies. It is up to us – marketers and account managers promoting digital transformation – to identify those needs and help our clients make the digital transformation as seamlessly as possible.

Digital transformation is more than just a fancy buzzword, it is our present and our future. It is re-envisioning existing business models and embracing a different way of bringing together people, data, and processes to create more for their customers through systems of intelligence.

Learn more about what it means to be a digital business.

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Goswami Kadamb

About Goswami Kadamb

Kadamb is a Senior Program Manager at SAP where he is responsible for developing and executing strategic sales program with Concur SaaS portfolio. Prior to that he led several initiatives with Microsoft's Cloud & Enterprise business to enable Solution Sales & IaaS offerings.