The Future Of Enterprise IT: 30 Executives Share Their 2013 Predictions

Brian Rice

The Future of Enterprise ITIn 2012, we saw four major trends evolve: 1) a shift towards the “cloud” 2) the need for processing/analyzing “big data” 3) an increased reliability on mobile technology 4) the consumerization of IT.  As we head into 2013, these four trends will play an even larger part in enterprise IT according to the 30 executives that shared their 2013 predictions with us.

1. Oliver Bussmann – Global CIO at SAP@sapcio

In the next 12-18 months, we will see the Consumerization of IT become the norm in the enterprise. If CIO’s and IT organizations weren’t able to contend with this reality in 2012, they will need to meet it head-on in 2013. Gartner talks about the Era of Nexus and I like this because it describes the coming together of big data, constant access and connection through mobile and social and new delivery capabilities through the Cloud. The new Era is here; in order for IT organizations to stay relevant, they will have to adapt by building organizational competencies that exude speed, flexibility, security and closer ties to the business.

I predict that machine to machine communication will become a reality in the enterprise in 2013, so it will be exciting for IT to play an active role in this innovation area. I’m also hearing about “wearable” electronics but let’s check back in on this one 12 months from now.

2. Mounil Patel, North American Director, Professional Services, Mimecast

The past several years can arguably be considered the year of the cloud, during which IT began seriously planning and implementing strategies to control costs by leveraging cloud technologies, with a major trend being cloud based email. The cloud offers more than just a way to do something cheaper or easier and I expect 2013 to be the year that IT begins leveraging their cloud footprint to deliver new capabilities that are difficult to provide on premise. I also expect to see cloud solutions expand in order to provide better ways of collaborating and sharing data between employees, partners, and customers. The best cloud platforms will solve the old IT problems while providing the average worker a breadth of new features to work more efficiently on a daily basis.

3. Marc Price, CTO, Americas, Openet

Enterprises and small businesses will increasingly enable employees to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to the workplace into 2013. BYOD is shown to increase productivity, reduce a financial burden on the business, and with subsidies eroding on mobile handsets, the market is ripe for increased BYOD penetration. Appropriate policies and security measures will have to be put in place over the next year in order to enable employees to use these devices securely and smartly, in a workplace appropriate manner while on the clock. Client software coordinated with network software from service providers will assist in enabling employees to use the devices of their choice in alignment with company policies and goals.

4. Don Keane, Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy, Angel

As mobile devices continue to be favored by customers, this is quickly growing into a major channel and form of communication between brands and its customers. Keeping this in mind, designing a seamless mobile customer experience should be the number one concern for businesses in 2013 to not only help businesses better communicate with their customers, but also enable their employees to work more efficiently.

Speech capabilities in mobile apps will increase productivity for both employees and customers while providing an intuitive on-to-go mobile experience that allows people to speak their commands instead of manually typing and navigating through applications. As more and more devices compete in the mobile marketplace, users will continue to expect new emerging devices to offer better and more productive technology into 2013.

Voice integration within mobile applications has become a huge differentiator for consumer applications over the past year, however there is still a huge market opportunity for businesses. I expect to see more businesses win customer loyalty and improve their customers’ experience through voice technology integrated in mobile devices and applications in 2013.

Also, with contextual applications on the rise, mobile applications will continue to get smarter by learning the users preferences through analytics, making the mobile customer experience faster and more enjoyable. Marketers especially need to lead this effort and encourage their businesses to develop mobile applications that put the user’s needs first, especially if the app includes transactional features.

5. Dwayne Melancon – Chief Technology Officer at Tripwire, Inc. – @ThatDwayne

Tight budgets in 2013 will force organizations (public and private sector) to become more innovative, as they are required to get their job done with limited resources. This will drive the move toward more automation, as well as the search for more “proactive” projects. For example, I believe we’ll see a surge in cloud adoption, SaaS offerings, and vendor consolidation. The one area of aggressive investment will be information security, where the focus will be on system and application hardening (reducing the attack surface), as well as tighter identity and access management in an effort to protect data more effectively with less effort. We will also see a stronger move to connect security to the business to enable better prioritization of security spending and resource allocation.

6. Timothy Garcia, founder and CEO of Apptricity Corporation – @apptricity

CEOs often invest in getting their hands on “Big Data,” only to realize they don’t know what to do with it. With all of the hype surrounding Big Data, I see a huge need for applications that actually make sense of it all and help C-levels view everything within their organizations.  Additionally, with our current economy, companies now more than ever need to focus on supply chain issues to solve problems in 2013. The margin for error is smaller than it’s ever been and software applications that solve such issues are going to become increasingly important to the success of any company.

7. George Mashini, CEO of Catavolt – @CatavoltInc

Cloud technology and mobile technology are converging to deliver a completely new opportunity for enterprises to efficiently deliver enterprise data to mobile workers.

BYOD, recognized to be an industry trend due to consumerization rather than innovation, will become mainstream as IT departments are forced to deal with the useful and aesthetically-appealing applications that consumers use every day to make their personal tasks more productive.

There will be consolidation in the field of enterprise mobility. A shift away from mobilizing expensive, complex all-encompassing ERP applications will lead to more cost-effective extension of enterprise data, applications and content. This downward shift in the cost of enterprise mobility and increased efficiency will lead to increased adoption among companies actively looking for a mobile strategy. Onlookers, comprising mostly of the mid-market and up, will most likely remain onlookers and wait for a leader or two to emerge in the space.

8. Jens Karstoft, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Zmags – @Zmags

The holiday season has proven that the mobile shopping is here to stay, in particular the tablet. For marketers, this solidifies the channel as an effective way to communicate with consumers and more importantly, a powerful tool for data collection. In 2013, marketers will be tasked with combining this data with that of more traditional channels such as point-of-sale and ecommerce to effectively reach the growing number of mobile shoppers. Those marketers that can streamline this data to better target mobile shoppers with personalized catalogs, magazines and overall experiences as a result of the data will come out on top moving into 2013 and onward.

9. Brian Reagan, VP of Product Marketing at Actifio – @Actifio

The cost of managing copies of data will exceed the cost of managing production, forcing companies to rethink their strategy for Copy Data management. The need for multiple copies of data for various purposes (backup, business continuity, disaster recovery, test & development, analytics, etc) remains mission critical, yet as data volumes continue to accelerate, the ability to meet service levels at a reasonable cost is challenged. New disruptive innovations will become mainstream to address these challenges.

10. Rob May, CEO of Backupify – @RobMay

2013 will be the year of the cloud security middleware explosion. We will see middleware that sits over various levels of the cloud stack to provide enhanced security, and it will be adopted by both sides – the customer (CIO) side, and the ISV side. By the end of next year most cloud companies will be discussing the security offerings with which they are compatible.

Enterprises will start to move to public clouds, but will use a multi-cloud strategy including niche cloud offerings. 2013 will be the year when cloud moves beyond the innovator and early adopter companies to the early majority. While you will hear about how many large companies keep significant data and applications on premise, you will hear the first stories of Fortune 1000 companies going all cloud by embracing major public clouds like Amazon, Rackspace, and Azure for most of their needs, and specialized clouds for things that have heavy and unique compliance or security requirements.

The first whispers of the need for SaaS data to be discoverable and subject to legal holds will arise. E-discovery always lags the tech industry a bit because lawsuits are typically backward looking, so now that we have witnessed several years of rapid SaaS adoption, it will soon be time for some SaaS application to be an important part of a major lawsuit.

11. Andrew Graf, Lead Analyst at TeamDynamix

Many IT organizations are searching for identity. The rapid pace of changing business needs and technologies has created an environment where managing infrastructure, support and projects isn’t enough to avoid the commoditization of IT. 2013 and beyond will see those IT organizations who will thrive focusing on how they help the business achieve it’s strategic objectives and how they help their clients resolve problems with IT solutions not on the IT solutions themselves. Leading IT organizations have to manage technology well. That is requisite. The best will truly understand the organizations goals and problems and offer creative solutions to successfully addressing both.

12. Nathan Spoonts, Vice President of Technology at HomeFinder.com – @HomeFinder1

The use of mobile devices as a primary Internet source will continue to increase. Users are becoming less interested in downloading an app to access a site/upgrading to use new functionality, so companies benefit by not having to support multiple versions of the app and having the functionality from the current web release available to mobile users.

There will continue to be an upsurge in migration to cloud computing. With the increase in the range and reliability of cloud services, this can be a sound option for smaller companies that don’t have the resources to build out and maintain their own infrastructure. It can also be a more affordable way to store data, particularly of the volume required by big data analysis.

13. Dave Laurello, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board at Stratus Technologies – @stratus4uptime

This will be the year of ‘community cloud computing,’ which I like to call the affinity cloud. Large groups with shared business challenges will create or subscribe to a cloud service that meets their unique computing, security and business needs. For example, think of a few dozen community hospitals that want an electronic health records system with assured HIPPA compliance. Large organizations also can create clouds for subsets of their client bases. A charity, for example, sets up a transaction management site for micro-lenders to third-world nations, with the necessary safeguards to protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII). As with public clouds, affinity clouds provide the cost savings and scalability of compute-on-demand with the added advantages of better control and security, prevention of unplanned downtime, and a true understanding of its user community.

14. Irad Carmi, CTO at TOA Technologies – @iradcarmi

I believe that in 2013, businesses will look to the applications they have to better use this real-time data in new ways – such as enabling better social connections and making in-the-moment decisions.  For example, think about the benefits to people like service employees, out in the field, trying to get to the right customer at the right time – if they could easily know which coworkers were nearby, and with what inventory, more appointments could be completed within the allotted wait time promised to customers.

15. Carlos Montero-Luque, Chief Technology Officer at Apperian

CIOs will reach a level of comfort with mobile BYOD in the enterprise that enables broad deployments to happen in the largest companies. Access will remain somewhat restricted to very sensitive apps and content while vendors work to ensure that the mobile environment is as secure as traditional behind the firewall environments.

Mobile collaboration for specific business tasks will be a driver for innovation in enterprise apps. The ability to share content securely and temporarily across work teams will change how people interact with their mobile devices and with each other by making the enterprise mobile experience less individual and more shared across teams.

Mobile device management will be replaced by a broader view of enterprise mobility management that incorporates a holistic view of apps, content, access to backend services, as well as networks and devices that comprehensively addresses all aspects of mobility within an enterprise. Hardware vendors will integrate more MDM capabilities within their devices, to enable their easier integration into broader mobility management suites.

16. Robert E. Stroud, CGEIT, CRISC, a member of ISACA’s Strategic Advisory Council and Vice President of Innovation and Strategy and Service Management/Cloud Computing and Governance evangelist at CA Technologies – @RobertEStroud

2013 will be a year significant challenges for the IT organization, as IT continues to become more complex with the acceleration of the consumerization of IT combined with the ability to embed IT into everything, along with the growth of technology outside of IT. This will be led by a number of trends including the continuing proliferation of devices, as employees supplement employer-allocated devices with their own and organizations move to allow employees’ use of these for business.

Big Data will be a key topic and continue the growth in data and, more importantly, the use of the information for business value through linking analytics and pattern recognition. Exploitation of the information will be the business requirement, while protecting the privacy of the individual will become the subject of concern for many individuals.

Additionally, the CIO will have to cope with the proliferation of IT outside of CIO’s and IT’s span of control. In line with the ISACA mantra, “Trust in and value from IT,” 2013 is going to be a year in which security, privacy and effective enterprise governance of IT will be critical for the CIO to ensure value is delivered from IT, with an acceptable level of risk and appropriate security and privacy concerns taken into account.

17. Sven Hammar, Co-Founder and CEO of Apica – @apicasystems

By 2014, mobile Internet usage is expected to exceed desktop Internet usage. That means that in 2013 developers and marketers will be hard at work fine-tuning their mobile apps and websites to capitalize on this audience. Performance testing will become more complex as mobile features will need to be considered in all test case scenarios. As a result, application testing tools will evolve to support any type of device with dynamic HTML versus device-specific code. Special protocols like WebSocket and SPDY will also become mainstream.

As mobile Internet usage steadily increases to exceed desktop usage, and as web applications become more complex, application monitoring and more specifically the ability to detect and locate the origin of performance problems will be a challenge for IT organizations. 2013 will be the year when performance monitoring will shift focus from just “Is it up or is it down?” to provide agile support for performance status and optimization of applications both in the cloud and on local enterprise networks.

18. Lou Guercia, CEO of Scribe Software – @LouGuercia

The hybrid environments will be the leading IT infrastructure in 2013.  Although customer-facing systems such as CRM are increasingly migrating to the cloud, ERP systems, housing sensitive record information, will remain mostly on-premise. Hence, nimble data integration between cloud and on-premise systems will be a key IT trend in 2013.

19. Deepak Kumar, CTO at Adaptiva

With the integration of non-traditional IT and the deterioration of enterprise tech spending in recent years, 2013 will demand a different approach from IT departments in companies around the globe, as they will have to adapt to evolving technology and outside influences now more than ever before. This will change the industry’s focus to distributed IT network solutions, creating cost-savings and less of a demand for desktop virtualization. Also, because of the outside, consumer-based influence on enterprises today, 2013 will bring the need for lightning quick deployment cycles in the IT world, and the demand from workers for simple integrated solutions and technologies that will make their lives easier. For example, one such technology is cloud computing, as we continue to see a turn towards cloud-based systems in 2013 companies will be able to reduce their overall technology costs without losing key functionality, allowing for a more efficient management of traditional and mobile workforces.

20. Joel Bomgar, CEO of Bomgar Corporation – @JoelBomgar

With cloud solutions that can be purchased with the swipe of a credit card, departments outside of IT will continue to select and purchase their own technology solutions with little or no involvement from IT. But when employees experience issues with these solutions, the first place they’ll turn is IT support. The support center will need to equip their staff with the tools and information that allow them to collaborate with each other and external vendors to access information about these various solutions and assist their end-users.

21. Tiemo Winterkamp, SVP Global Marketing at arcplan – @arcplan

Big Data will, again, be a buzzword in 2013. There is no doubt that modern technology and social media will continue to provide even more data, nonetheless there are still questions to be answered. CIOs will need to determine the value of all this big data and for whom will it be necessary to structure these multi-terabytes and petabytes of information.

The delays associated with IT will be brushed aside in favor of the speed, control, and rapid access that comes along with self-service business intelligence (BI). BI users will become more self-sufficient so they can optimize and accelerate their decision making processes.

The democratization of information will become increasingly important. Organizations will prioritize collaborative platforms as a way to eliminate information silos between users and departments that do not currently integrate unstructured information into the decision-making process.

Accessing data anytime and anywhere will become an even more prominent business need in 2013. Mobility will be a key factor in all things IT, from business intelligence (BI) to enterprise computing.

22. Jonathan McCormick, Chief Operating Officer at  Intermedia – @intermedia_net

In 2013, we will continue to see the evolution of IT and cloud computing, in line with several important advancements in technology. Driving the business evolution are new versions of key Microsoft offerings, including Windows 8, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Office 2013. This will be a significant driver of upgrade-based sales, as well as reconsideration of existing underlying technologies, such as on-premise versus cloud. Additionally, there will be a continued increase in the move to tablets and smartphones, which will drive the adoption of synchronization technologies like ActiveSync, File Synching and BES, along with cloud storage.

23. Raghu Bala, CTO of Source Interlink Media, Board Member of Fanggle

Big Data and Cloud computing will combine to explode the amount of data stored in the cloud 4-fold or more. Smart devices will begin to emerge with the easy reach of cloud via high bandwidth wireless protocols like 4G.  Private and Public cloud adoption will boom and tablet adoption will explode with more thick apps and thin apps using HTML5.

24. Michael Rapp, President at En Pointe Technologies

One of the most common pushbacks about transitioning to the cloud is whether or not the customer is properly educated about its benefits and features. In 2013, we can expect vendors to find better ways to help VARs offer a feature-rich cloud solution. Service providers will take a more active approach by teaching the channel how to position their services properly, and not only sell a particular hosted service, but sell the cloud.  Additionally, distribution is struggling to move beyond product shipments, so we’ll also see increased adoption of managed services and subscription-based pricing. Consequently, we’ll begin to see business models slowly changing as fewer companies buy hardware and move more to the cloud – it won’t be a huge change, but it will start becoming more prevalent. The data center and/or service provider will be the larger customer in the coming years.”

25. Saad Shahzad, SVP Sales and Chief Strategy Officer at dinCloud

There has been a major shift in the business world, from the use of simple public cloud storage to a more advanced hosted computing infrastructure reserved for business continuity and back up in the cloud. In 2013, we will continue to see companies increasingly renting as a service, not just storage in the cloud, but reserving the use of computing infrastructure to host their applications and data until their primary site can be brought back up in the case of a disaster or an event that could create downtime at the primary site. Due to the high cost of downtime, most companies will continue to, or look to, work with back up in the cloud providers in the future and not have in-house or second site backup that they manage themselves.

26. Andre Pascal, CEO at Nia Technologies – @NiaTech

I predict that IT will become a utility model as per use and cloud storage and processing power become ubiquitous.   In addition technical support as we know it will be increasingly relegated to 3rd and fourth level and eventually eliminated completely as bots (algorithms) replace help desk staff.  Finally cloud computing will be adopted by a growing class of independent consultants who will leave their desktops and laptops and opt by and large for the security and dependability of virtual machines housed on cloud servers.

27. Robert Jenkins, CTO at CloudSigma – @CloudSigma

In 2013, vendors will leverage 100gig networking to offer premiere storage in the cloud through reduced latency, faster I/Os and greater performance. And, because 100gig networking uses standardized protocols, it can be implemented with the flip of a switch to offer instantaneous high performance to customers in which speed is pivotal, such as the financial sector.

Throughout 2013, software-defined networks (SDNs) will become widely adopted in the public cloud market, allowing vendors to create an optimized network between VMs. This, coupled with optimized routing, will allow for greater performance, efficiency and infrastructure control.

When the cloud first hit the mainstream, some shied away from it, more comfortable housing mission-critical data in their own data centers. But, now, as clouds become more flexible, we will increasingly see companies using the cloud as a major component of their disaster recovery strategy. By choosing a cloud vendor that places no restrictions on existing software, organizations can easily mimic their own data center in the cloud to seamlessly manage their disaster recovery process while leveraging the cloud’s innate HPC capabilities.

28. Ditlev Bredahl, CEO at OnApp

The market is polarizing: you have commodity utility computing that is now pervasive, and can be bought one-size-fits-all from providers like Amazon. But then, on the other end, you have service providers adding value with innovative services, platforms and applications.

This value-added cloud layer is the future of the industry, but how will it work? Providers engage in a global cloud marketplace, where they gain access to resources beyond the capabilities of their local infrastructure. This allows them to innovate, localize and focus on customers.

With computing provided on a utility basis, and service providers customizing it for end users rather than being mere workhorses, the cloud is no longer the cloud. It is a seamless, global computing environment that can be used for anyone, anything and anywhere.

29. Nikki Garg, COO of Icreon- @IcreonTech

In 2013, the physical and digital worlds will fuse. From the RFID tags on a runner’s bib to the real time camera feed from traffic lights that informs driving routes, the physical world is becoming an information system.

There is no such thing as an IT project; there are only business projects that are enabled by IT. IT professionals are becoming more attentive than ever to business and the role end-users play in the ultimate success of the software. 2013 will involve businesses setting aside more time and budget, towards intangibles around IT; communication plans, continuous user training and implementation support..

As 2012 comes to a close, consumers are increasingly relying on their smartphones for just about everything. From researching purchasing decisions to mobile commerce, expect to see more brands start to innovate and cater to the needs of mobile audiences, both customers and staff, that allows for more seamless use and integration of smartphones into our daily lives.

30. John Marshall, CEO at AirWatch

The next wave in the Consumerization of IT is the Consumerization of Corporate Content. BYOD and consumer devices on corporate networks have become commonplace. Employees are familiar with the iOS and Android user interface since many already use them at home and are now bringing them to work. The key for businesses is providing a similarly seamless and secure experience for accessing corporate content.

What do you think?  Share your predictions in the comment section below.

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About Brian Rice

Brian Rice is a Sr. Manager on the SAP Global Social Media Marketing Team. Follow Brian on Twitter @BrianSRice

Compelling Shopping Moments: 4 Creative Ways Stores Connect With Their Customers

Ralf Kern

compelling shopping momentsOn a recent morning, as I was going through my usual routine, my coffeemaker broke. I cannot live without coffee in the morning, so I immediately looked up my coffeemaker on Amazon and had it shipped Prime in one day. My problem was solved within minutes. My Amazon app, and my loyalty account with that company, was there for me when I needed it most.

It was in this moment that I realized the importance of digital presence for retailers. There is a chance that the store 10 minutes from my house carries this very same coffeemaker; I could have had it in one hour, instead of one day. But the need for immediate access to information pushed me to the online store. My local retailer was not able to be there for me digitally like Amazon.

Retail is still about reading the minds of your customers in order to know what they need and create a flawless experience. But the days of the unconnected shopper in a monochannel world are over. I am not alone in my digital-first mindset; according to a recent MasterCard report, 80% of consumers use technology during the shopping process. I, and consumers like me, use mobile devices as a guide to the physical world.

We don’t need to have an academic discussion about multichannel, omnichannel, and omnicommerce and their meanings, because what it really comes down to for your consumers, or fans, is shopping. And shopping has everything to do with moments in your customers’ lives: celebration moments, in-a-hurry moments, I-want-to-be-entertained moments, and more. Most companies only look for and measure very few moments along the shopping journey, like the moment of coupon download or the moment of sales.

Anticipating these moments was easier when mom and pop stores knew their customers by name. They knew how to be there for their shoppers when, where, and how they wanted it. And shoppers didn’t have any other options. Now it is crucial for companies to understand all of these moments and even anticipate or trigger the right moments for their customers.

In today’s digital economy the way to achieve customer connection is with simple, enjoyable, and personalized front ends that are supported by sophisticated, digital back ends. Then you can use that system to support your customer outreach.

Companies around the world are using creative and innovative methods to find their customers in various moments. Being there for customers comes in many different shapes and forms. Consider these examples:

Chilli Beans

A Brazilian maker of fashion sunglasses, glasses, and watches, Chilli Beans has a loyal following online and at over 700 locations around the world. Chilli Beans keeps its customers engaged by releasing 10 limited-edition styles each week. If customers like what they see, they have to buy fast or risk missing out.

Bonobos

Online men’s fashion retailer Bonobos reaches its customers with its Guide Shops. While they look like traditional retail outlets, the shops don’t actually sell any clothes. Customers come in for one-on-one appointments with the staff, and if they like anything that they try on, the staff member orders it for them online and it is shipped to their house. The 20 Guide Shops currently open have proven very successful for the company.

Peak Performance

Peak Performance, a European maker of outdoor clothing, has added a little magic to its customer experience. It has created virtual pop-up shops that customers can track on their smartphones through CatchMagicHour.com, and they are only available at sunrise and sunset at exact GPS locations. Customers who go to the location, be it at a lighthouse or on top of a mountain, are rewarded with the ability to select free clothing from the virtual shop that they have unlocked on their phones.

Shoes of Prey

The customer experience is completely custom at Shoes of Prey, a website where women can design custom shoes. From fabric to color, the customer picks every element, and then her custom creation is sent directly to her house. Shoes of Prey has even shifted its business model based on customer feedback. Its customers wanted to get inspiration and advice in a physical store. So Shoes of Prey made the move from online-only to omnicommerce and has started to open stores around the world.

While the customer experience for each of these connections is relatively simple – a website, a smartphone, an online design studio – the back end that powers them has to be powerful and nimble at the same time. These sophisticated back ends – powering simple, enjoyable, and personalized front ends – will completely change the game in retail. They will allow companies to engage their customers in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

Technology will help you be there in the shopping moment. The best technology won’t annoy your customers with irrelevant promotions or pop-up messages. Instead, like a good friend, it will know how to engage with customers and when to leave them alone – how to truly connect with customers instead of manage them. Consequently, customer relationship management as we know it is an outdated technology in the economy of today – and tomorrow. Technologies that go beyond CRM will help retailers to differentiate. Aligning your organization and those technologies will be the Holy Grail to creating true and sustainable customer loyalty.

Learn more ways that business will never be the same again. Learn 99 Mind-Blowing Ways The Digital Economy Is Changing The Future Of Business.

Find out how SAP can help you go beyond CRM and support your retail business.

Ralf Kern is Global Vice President Retail for SAP and a retail ambassador for SAP. Interested in your feedback. You can also get in touch on Twitter or LinkedIn

This blog also appeared on SAP Customer Network.

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Ralf Kern

About Ralf Kern

Ralf Kern is the Global Vice President, Business Unit Retail, at SAP, responsible for the future direction of SAP’s solution and global Go-to-Market strategy for Omnicommerce Retail, leading them into today’s digital reality.

IoT Can Keep You Healthy — Even When You Sleep [VIDEO]

Christine Donato

Today the Internet of Things is revamping technology. IoT image from American Geniuses.jpg

Smart devices speak to each other and work together to provide the end user with a better product experience.

Coinciding with this change in technology is a change in people. We’ve transitioned from a world of people who love processed foods and french fries to people who eat kale chips and Greek yogurt…and actually like it.

People are taking ownership of their well-being, and preventative care is at the forefront of focus for both physicians and patients. Fitness trackers alert wearers of the exact number of calories burned from walking a certain number of steps. Mobile apps calculate our perfect nutritional balance. And even while we sleep, people are realizing that it’s important to monitor vitals.

According to research conducted at Harvard University, proper sleep patterns bolster healthy side effects such as improved immune function, a faster metabolism, preserved memory, and reduced stress and depression.

Conversely, the Harvard study determined that lack of sleep can negatively affect judgement, mood, and the ability retain information, as well as increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even premature death.

Through the Internet of Things, researchers can now explore sleep patterns without the usual sleep labs and movement-restricting electrode wires. And with connected devices, individuals can now easily monitor and positively influence their own health.

EarlySense, a startup credited with the creation of continuous patient monitoring solutions focused on early detection of patient deterioration, mid-sleep falls, and pressure ulcers, began with a mission to prevent premature and preventable deaths.

Without constant monitoring, patients with unexpected clinical deterioration may be accidentally neglected, and their conditions can easily escalate into emergency situations.

Motivated by many instances of patients who died from preventable post-elective surgery complications, EarlySense founders created a product that constantly monitors patients when hospital nurses can’t, alerting the main nurse station when a patient leaves his or her bed and could potentially fall, or when a patient’s vital signs drop or rise unexpectedly.

Now EarlySense technology has expanded outside of the hospital realm. The EarlySense wellness sensor, a device connected via the Internet of Things, mobile solutions, and supported by SAP HANA Cloud Platform, monitors all vital signs while a person sleeps. The device is completely wireless and lies subtly underneath one’s mattress. The sensor collects all mechanical vibrations that the patient’s body emits while sleeping, continuously monitoring heart and respiratory rates.

Watch this short video to learn more about how the EarlySense wellness sensor works:

The result is faster diagnoses with better treatments and outcomes. Sleep issues can be identified and addressed; individuals can use the data collected to make adjustments in diet or exercise habits; and those on heavy pain medications can monitor the way their bodies react to the medication. In addition, physicians can use the data collected from the sensor to identify patient health problems before they escalate into an emergency situation.

Connected care is opening the door for a new way to practice health. Through connected care apps that link people with their doctors, fitness trackers that measure daily activity, and sensors like the EarlySense wellness sensor, today’s technology enables people and physicians to work together to prevent sickness and accidents before they occur. Technology is forever changing the way we live, and in turn we are living longer, healthier lives.

To learn how SAP HANA Cloud Platform can affect your business, visit It&Me.

For more stories, join me on Twitter.

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About Christine Donato

Christine Donato is a Senior Integrated Marketing Specialist at SAP. She is an accomplished project manager and leader of multiple marketing and sales enablement campaigns and events, that supported a multi million euro business.

Tick Tock: Start Preparing for Resource Disruption

By Maurizio Cattaneo, Joerg Ferchow, Daniel Wellers, and Christopher Koch

Businesses share something important with lions. When a lion captures and consumes its prey, only about 10% to 20% of the prey’s energy is directly transferred into the lion’s metabolism. The rest evaporates away, mostly as heat loss, according to research done in the 1940s by ecologist Raymond Lindeman.

Today, businesses do only about as well as the big cats. When you consider the energy required to manage, power, and move products and services, less than 20% goes directly into the typical product or service—what economists call aggregate efficiency (the ratio of potential work to the actual useful work that gets embedded into a product or service at the expense of the energy lost in moving products and services through all of the steps of their value chains). Aggregate efficiency is a key factor in determining productivity.

After making steady gains during much of the 20th century, businesses’ aggregate energy efficiency peaked in the 1980s and then stalled. Japan, home of the world’s most energy-efficient economy, has been skating along at or near 20% ever since. The U.S. economy, meanwhile, topped out at about 13% aggregate efficiency in the 1990s, according to research.

Why does this matter? Jeremy Rifkin says he knows why. Rifkin is an economic and social theorist, author, consultant, and lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education program who believes that economies experience major increases in growth and productivity only when big shifts occur in three integrated infrastructure segments around the same time: communications, energy, and transportation.

But it’s only a matter of time before information technology blows all three wide open, says Rifkin. He envisions a new economic infrastructure based on digital integration of communications, energy, and transportation, riding atop an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that incorporates Big Data, analytics, and artificial intelligence. This platform will disrupt the world economy and bring dramatic levels of efficiency and productivity to businesses that take advantage of it, he says.

Some economists consider Rifkin’s ideas controversial. And his vision of a new economic platform may be problematic—at least globally. It will require massive investments and unusually high levels of government, community, and private sector cooperation, all of which seem to be at depressingly low levels these days.

However, Rifkin has some influential adherents to his philosophy. He has advised three presidents of the European Commission—Romano Prodi, José Manuel Barroso, and the current president, Jean-Claude Juncker—as well as the European Parliament and numerous European Union (EU) heads of state, including Angela Merkel, on the ushering in of what he calls “a smart, green Third Industrial Revolution.” Rifkin is also advising the leadership of the People’s Republic of China on the build out and scale up of the “Internet Plus” Third Industrial Revolution infrastructure to usher in a sustainable low-carbon economy.

The internet has already shaken up one of the three major economic sectors: communications. Today it takes little more than a cell phone, an internet connection, and social media to publish a book or music video for free—what Rifkin calls zero marginal cost. The result has been a hollowing out of once-mighty media empires in just over 10 years. Much of what remains of their business models and revenues has been converted from physical (remember CDs and video stores?) to digital.

But we haven’t hit the trifecta yet. Transportation and energy have changed little since the middle of the last century, says Rifkin. That’s when superhighways reached their saturation point across the developed world and the internal-combustion engine came close to the limits of its potential on the roads, in the air, and at sea. “We have all these killer new technology products, but they’re being plugged into the same old infrastructure, and it’s not creating enough new business opportunities,” he says.

All that may be about to undergo a big shake-up, however. The digitalization of information on the IoT at near-zero marginal cost generates Big Data that can be mined with analytics to create algorithms and apps enabling ubiquitous networking. This digital transformation is beginning to have a big impact on the energy and transportation sectors. If that trend continues, we could see a metamorphosis in the economy and society not unlike previous industrial revolutions in history. And given the pace of technology change today, the shift could happen much faster than ever before.

The speed of change is dictated by the increase in digitalization of these three main sectors; expensive physical assets and processes are partially replaced by low-cost virtual ones. The cost efficiencies brought on by digitalization drive disruption in existing business models toward zero marginal cost, as we’ve already seen in entertainment and publishing. According to research company Gartner, when an industry gets to the point where digital drives at least 20% of revenues, you reach the tipping point.

“A clear pattern has emerged,” says Peter Sondergaard, executive vice president and head of research and advisory for Gartner. “Once digital revenues for a sector hit 20% of total revenue, the digital bloodbath begins,” he told the audience at Gartner’s annual 2017 IT Symposium/ITxpo, according to The Wall Street Journal. “No matter what industry you are in, 20% will be the point of no return.”

Communications is already there, and energy and transportation are heading down that path. If they hit the magic 20% mark, the impact will be felt not just within those industries but across all industries. After all, who doesn’t rely on energy and transportation to power their value chains?

The eye of the technology disruption hurricane has moved beyond communications and is heading toward … the rest of the economy.

That’s why businesses need to factor potentially massive business model disruptions into their plans for digital transformation today if they want to remain competitive with organizations in early adopter countries like China and Germany. China, for example, is already halfway through an US$88 billion upgrade to its state electricity grid that will enable renewable energy transmission around the country—all managed and moved digitally, according to an article in The Economist magazine. And it is competing with the United States for leadership in self-driving vehicles, which will shift the transportation process and revenue streams heavily to digital, according to an article in Wired magazine.

Once China’s and Germany’s renewables and driverless infrastructures are in place, the only additional costs are management and maintenance. That could bring businesses in these countries dramatic cost savings over those that still rely on fossil fuels and nuclear energy to power their supply chains and logistics. “Once you pay the fixed costs of renewables, the marginal costs are near zero,” says Rifkin. “The sun and wind haven’t sent us invoices yet.”

In other words, zero marginal cost has become a zero-sum game.

To understand why that is, consider the major industrial revolutions in history, writes Rifkin in his books, The Zero Marginal Cost Society and The Third Industrial Revolution. The first major shift occurred in the 19th century when cheap, abundant coal provided an efficient new source of power (steam) for manufacturing and enabled the creation of a vast railway transportation network. Meanwhile, the telegraph gave the world near-instant communication over a globally connected network.

The second big change occurred at the beginning of the 20th century, when inexpensive oil began to displace coal and gave rise to a much more flexible new transportation network of cars and trucks. Telephones, radios, and televisions had a similar impact on communications.

Breaking Down the Walls Between Sectors

Now, according to Rifkin, we’re poised for the third big shift. The eye of the technology disruption hurricane has moved beyond communications and is heading toward—or as publishing and entertainment executives might warn, coming for—the rest of the economy. With its assemblage of global internet and cellular network connectivity and ever-smaller and more powerful sensors, the IoT, along with Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence, is breaking down the economic walls that have protected the energy and transportation sectors for the past 50 years.

Daimler is now among the first movers in transitioning into a digitalized mobility internet. The company has equipped nearly 400,000 of its trucks with external sensors, transforming the vehicles into mobile Big Data centers. The sensors are picking up real-time Big Data on weather conditions, traffic flows, and warehouse availability. Daimler plans to establish collaborations with thousands of companies, providing them with Big Data and analytics that can help dramatically increase their aggregate efficiency and productivity in shipping goods across their value chains. The Daimler trucks are autonomous and capable of establishing platoons of multiple trucks driving across highways.

It won’t be long before vehicles that navigate the more complex transportation infrastructures around the world begin to think for themselves. Autonomous vehicles will bring massive economic disruption to transportation and logistics thanks to new aggregate efficiencies. Without the cost of having a human at the wheel, autonomous cars could achieve a shared cost per mile below that of owned vehicles by as early as 2030, according to research from financial services company Morgan Stanley.

The transition is getting a push from governments pledging to give up their addiction to cars powered by combustion engines. Great Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

The Final Piece of the Transition

Considering that automobiles account for 47% of petroleum consumption in the United States alone—more than twice the amount used for generators and heating for homes and businesses, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration—Rifkin argues that the shift to autonomous electric vehicles could provide the momentum needed to upend the final pillar of the economic platform: energy. Though energy has gone through three major disruptions over the past 150 years, from coal to oil to natural gas—each causing massive teardowns and rebuilds of infrastructure—the underlying economic model has remained constant: highly concentrated and easily accessible fossil fuels and highly centralized, vertically integrated, and enormous (and enormously powerful) energy and utility companies.

Now, according to Rifkin, the “Third Industrial Revolution Internet of Things infrastructure” is on course to disrupt all of it. It’s neither centralized nor vertically integrated; instead, it’s distributed and networked. And that fits perfectly with the commercial evolution of two energy sources that, until the efficiencies of the IoT came along, made no sense for large-scale energy production: the sun and the wind.

But the IoT gives power utilities the means to harness these batches together and to account for variable energy flows. Sensors on solar panels and wind turbines, along with intelligent meters and a smart grid based on the internet, manage a new, two-way flow of energy to and from the grid.

Today, fossil fuel–based power plants need to kick in extra energy if insufficient energy is collected from the sun and wind. But industrial-strength batteries and hydrogen fuel cells are beginning to take their place by storing large reservoirs of reserve power for rainy or windless days. In addition, electric vehicles will be able to send some of their stored energy to the digitalized energy internet during peak use. Demand for ever-more efficient cell phone and vehicle batteries is helping push the evolution of batteries along, but batteries will need to get a lot better if renewables are to completely replace fossil fuel energy generation.

Meanwhile, silicon-based solar cells have not yet approached their limits of efficiency. They have their own version of computing’s Moore’s Law called Swanson’s Law. According to data from research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), Swanson’s Law means that for each doubling of global solar panel manufacturing capacity, the price falls by 28%, from $76 per watt in 1977 to $0.41 in 2016. (Wind power is on a similar plunging exponential cost curve, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.)

Thanks to the plummeting solar price, by 2028, the cost of building and operating new sun-based generation capacity will drop below the cost of running existing fossil power plants, according to BNEF. “One of the surprising things in this year’s forecast,” says Seb Henbest, lead author of BNEF’s annual long-term forecast, the New Energy Outlook, “is that the crossover points in the economics of new and old technologies are happening much sooner than we thought last year … and those were all happening a bit sooner than we thought the year before. There’s this sense that it’s not some distant risk or distant opportunity. A lot of these realities are rushing toward us.”

The conclusion, he says, is irrefutable. “We can see the data and when we map that forward with conservative assumptions, these technologies just get cheaper than everything else.”

The smart money, then—72% of total new power generation capacity investment worldwide by 2040—will go to renewable energy, according to BNEF. The firm’s research also suggests that there’s more room in Swanson’s Law along the way, with solar prices expected to drop another 66% by 2040.

Another factor could push the economic shift to renewables even faster. Just as computers transitioned from being strictly corporate infrastructure to becoming consumer products with the invention of the PC in the 1980s, ultimately causing a dramatic increase in corporate IT investments, energy generation has also made the transition to the consumer side.

Thanks to future tech media star Elon Musk, consumers can go to his Tesla Energy company website and order tempered glass solar panels that look like chic, designer versions of old-fashioned roof shingles. Models that look like slate or a curved, terracotta-colored, ceramic-style glass that will make roofs look like those of Tuscan country villas, are promised soon. Consumers can also buy a sleek-looking battery called a Powerwall to store energy from the roof.

The combination of solar panels, batteries, and smart meters transforms homeowners from passive consumers of energy into active producers and traders who can choose to take energy from the grid during off-peak hours, when some utilities offer discounts, and sell energy back to the grid during periods when prices are higher. And new blockchain applications promise to accelerate the shift to an energy market that is laterally integrated rather than vertically integrated as it is now. Consumers like their newfound sense of control, according to Henbest. “Energy’s never been an interesting consumer decision before and suddenly it is,” he says.

As the price of solar equipment continues to drop, homes, offices, and factories will become like nodes on a computer network. And if promising new solar cell technologies, such as organic polymers, small molecules, and inorganic compounds, supplant silicon, which is not nearly as efficient with sunlight as it is with ones and zeroes, solar receivers could become embedded into windows and building compounds. Solar production could move off the roof and become integrated into the external facades of homes and office buildings, making nearly every edifice in town a node.

The big question, of course, is how quickly those nodes will become linked together—if, say doubters, they become linked at all. As we learned from Metcalfe’s Law, the value of a network is proportional to its number of connected users.

The Will Determines the Way

Right now, the network is limited. Wind and solar account for just 5% of global energy production today, according to Bloomberg.

But, says Rifkin, technology exists that could enable the network to grow exponentially. We are seeing the beginnings of a digital energy network, which uses a combination of the IoT, Big Data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to manage distributed energy sources, such as solar and wind power from homes and businesses.

As nodes on this network, consumers and businesses could take a more active role in energy production, management, and efficiency, according to Rifkin. Utilities, in turn, could transition from simply transmitting power and maintaining power plants and lines to managing the flow to and from many different energy nodes; selling and maintaining smart home energy management products; and monitoring and maintaining solar panels and wind turbines. By analyzing energy use in the network, utilities could create algorithms that automatically smooth the flow of renewables. Consumers and businesses, meanwhile, would not have to worry about connecting their wind and solar assets to the grid and keeping them up and running; utilities could take on those tasks more efficiently.

Already in Germany, two utility companies, E.ON and RWE, have each split their businesses into legacy fossil and nuclear fuel companies and new services companies based on distributed generation from renewables, new technologies, and digitalization.

The reason is simple: it’s about survival. As fossil fuel generation winds down, the utilities need a new business model to make up for lost revenue. Due to Germany’s population density, “the utilities realize that they won’t ever have access to enough land to scale renewables themselves,” says Rifkin. “So they are starting service companies to link together all the different communities that are building solar and wind and are managing energy flows for them and for their customers, doing their analytics, and managing their Big Data. That’s how they will make more money while selling less energy in the future.”

The digital energy internet is already starting out in pockets and at different levels of intensity around the world, depending on a combination of citizen support, utility company investments, governmental power, and economic incentives.

China and some countries within the EU, such as Germany and France, are the most likely leaders in the transition toward a renewable, energy-based infrastructure because they have been able to align the government and private sectors in long-term energy planning. In the EU for example, wind has already overtaken coal as the second largest form of power capacity behind natural gas, according to an article in The Guardian newspaper. Indeed, Rifkin has been working with China, the EU, and governments, communities, and utilities in Northern France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg to begin building these new internets.

Hauts-de-France, a region that borders the English Channel and Belgium and has one of the highest poverty rates in France, enlisted Rifkin to develop a plan to lift it out of its downward spiral of shuttered factories and abandoned coal mines. In collaboration with a diverse group of CEOs, politicians, teachers, scientists, and others, it developed Rev3, a plan to put people to work building a renewable energy network, according to an article in Vice.

Today, more than 1,000 Rev3 projects are underway, encompassing everything from residential windmills made from local linen to a fully electric car–sharing system. Rev3 has received financial support from the European Investment Bank and a handful of private investment funds, and startups have benefited from crowdfunding mechanisms sponsored by Rev3. Today, 90% of new energy in the region is renewable and 1,500 new jobs have been created in the wind energy sector alone.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to generous government financial support, Germany is already producing 35% of its energy from renewables, according to an article in The Independent, and there is near unanimous citizen support (95%, according to a recent government poll) for its expansion.

If renewables are to move forward …, it must come from the ability to make green, not act green.

If renewable energy is to move forward in other areas of the world that don’t enjoy such strong economic and political support, however, it must come from the ability to make green, not act green.

Not everyone agrees that renewables will produce cost savings sufficient to cause widespread cost disruption anytime soon. A recent forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that in 2040, oil, natural gas, and coal will still be the planet’s major electricity producers, powering 77% of worldwide production, while renewables such as wind, solar, and biofuels will account for just 15%.

Skeptics also say that renewables’ complex management needs, combined with the need to store reserve power, will make them less economical than fossil fuels through at least 2035. “All advanced economies demand full-time electricity,” Benjamin Sporton, chief executive officer of the World Coal Association told Bloomberg. “Wind and solar can only generate part-time, intermittent electricity. While some renewable technologies have achieved significant cost reductions in recent years, it’s important to look at total system costs.”

On the other hand, there are many areas of the world where distributed, decentralized, renewable power generation already makes more sense than a centralized fossil fuel–powered grid. More than 20% of Indians in far flung areas of the country have no access to power today, according to an article in The Guardian. Locally owned and managed solar and wind farms are the most economical way forward. The same is true in other developing countries, such as Afghanistan, where rugged terrain, war, and tribal territorialism make a centralized grid an easy target, and mountainous Costa Rica, where strong winds and rivers have pushed the country to near 100% renewable energy, according to The Guardian.

The Light and the Darknet

Even if all the different IoT-enabled economic platforms become financially advantageous, there is another concern that could disrupt progress and potentially cause widespread disaster once the new platforms are up and running: hacking. Poorly secured IoT sensors have allowed hackers to take over everything from Wi-Fi enabled Barbie dolls to Jeep Cherokees, according to an article in Wired magazine.

Humans may be lousy drivers, but at least we can’t be hacked (yet). And while the grid may be prone to outages, it is tightly controlled, has few access points for hackers, and is physically separated from the Wild West of the internet.

If our transportation and energy networks join the fray, however, every sensor, from those in the steering system on vehicles to grid-connected toasters, becomes as vulnerable as a credit card number. Fake news and election hacking are bad enough, but what about fake drivers or fake energy? Now we’re talking dangerous disruptions and putting millions of people in harm’s way.

The only answer, according to Rifkin, is for businesses and governments to start taking the hacking threat much more seriously than they do today and to begin pouring money into research and technologies for making the internet less vulnerable. That means establishing “a fully distributed, redundant, and resilient digital infrastructure less vulnerable to the kind of disruptions experienced by Second Industrial Revolution–centralized communication systems and power grids that are increasingly subject to climate change, disasters, cybercrime, and cyberterrorism,” he says. “The ability of neighborhoods and communities to go off centralized grids during crises and re-aggregate in locally decentralized networks is the key to advancing societal security in the digital era,” he adds.

Start Looking Ahead

Until today, digital transformation has come mainly through the networking and communications efficiencies made possible by the internet. Airbnb thrives because web communications make it possible to create virtual trust markets that allow people to feel safe about swapping their most private spaces with one another.

But now these same efficiencies are coming to two other areas that have never been considered core to business strategy. That’s why businesses need to begin managing energy and transportation as key elements of their digital transformation portfolios.

Microsoft, for example, formed a senior energy team to develop an energy strategy to mitigate risk from fluctuating energy prices and increasing demands from customers to reduce carbon emissions, according to an article in Harvard Business Review. “Energy has become a C-suite issue,” Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s top environmental and sustainability executive told the magazine. “The CFO and president are now actively involved in our energy road map.”

As Daimler’s experience shows, driverless vehicles will push autonomous transportation and automated logistics up the strategic agenda within the next few years. Boston Consulting Group predicts that the driverless vehicle market will hit $42 billion by 2025. If that happens, it could have a lateral impact across many industries, from insurance to healthcare to the military.

Businesses must start planning now. “There’s always a period when businesses have to live in the new and the old worlds at the same time,” says Rifkin. “So businesses need to be considering new business models and structures now while continuing to operate their existing models.”

He worries that many businesses will be left behind if their communications, energy, and transportation infrastructures don’t evolve. Companies that still rely on fossil fuels for powering traditional transportation and logistics could be at a major competitive disadvantage to those that have moved to the new, IoT-based energy and transportation infrastructures.

Germany, for example, has set a target of 80% renewables for gross power consumption by 2050, according to The Independent. If the cost advantages of renewables bear out, German businesses, which are already the world’s third-largest exporters behind China and the United States, could have a major competitive advantage.

“How would a second industrial revolution society or country compete with one that has energy at zero marginal cost and driverless vehicles?” asks Rifkin. “It can’t be done.” D!


About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy and Natural Resources, at SAP.

Joerg Ferchow is Senior Utilities Expert and Design Thinking Coach, Digital Transformation, at SAP.

Daniel Wellers is Digital Futures Lead, Global Marketing, at SAP.

Christopher Koch is Editorial Director, SAP Center for Business Insight, at SAP.


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

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Human Is The Next Big Thing

Traci Maddox

One of my favorite movies of 2016 was Hidden Figures. The main character, Katherine Johnson, and her team of colleagues had an interesting job title: Computer. Here’s what Katherine said about her job: “On any given day, I analyze the binomial levels of air displacement, friction, and velocity. And compute over 10 thousand calculations by cosine, square root, and lately analytic geometry. By hand.”

That was the 1960s. It was amazing work, but work that took hours to complete – and something an in-memory computer could do in a fraction of a second today.

Just as in-memory computing transformed calculating by hand (and made jobs like Katherine’s much easier), digital technologies are transforming the way we work today – and making our day-to-day activities more efficient.

What’s the real impact of technology in today’s workplace?

We are surrounded by technology, both at home and at work. Machine learning and robotics are making their way into everyday life and are affecting the way we expect to engage with technology at work. That has a big impact on organizations: If a machine can do a job safely and more efficiently, a company, nonprofit, or government – and its employees – will benefit. Digital technologies are becoming increasingly more feasible, affordable, and desirable. The challenge for organizations now is effectively merging human talent and digital business to harness new capabilities.

How will jobs change?

What does this mean for humans in the workplace? In a previous blog, Kerry Brown showed that as enterprises continue to learn, human/machine collaboration increases. People will direct technology and hand over work that can be done more efficiently by machine. Does that mean people will go away? No – but they will need to leverage different skills than they have today.

Although we don’t know exactly how jobs will change, one thing is for sure: Becoming more digitally proficient will help every employee stay relevant (and prepare them to move forward in their careers). Today’s workforce demographic complicates how people embrace technology – with up to five generations in the workforce, there is a wide variety in digital fluency (i.e., the ability to understand which technology is available and what tools will best achieve desired outcomes).

What is digital fluency and how can organizations embrace it?

Digital fluency is the combination of several capabilities related to technology:

  • Foundation skills: The ability to use technology tools that enhance your productivity and effectiveness
  • Information skills: The ability to research and develop your own perspective on topics using technology
  • Collaboration skills: The ability to share knowledge and collaborate with others using technology
  • Transformation skills: The ability to assess your own skills and take action toward building your digital fluency

No matter how proficient you are today, you can continue to build your digital IQ by building new habits and skills. This is something that both the organization and employee will have to own to be successful.

So, what skills are needed?

In a Technical University of Munich study released in July 2017, 64% of respondents said they do not have the skills necessary for digital transformation.

Today's workplace reality

These skills will be applied not only to the jobs of today, but also to the top jobs of the future, which haven’t been imagined yet! A recent article in Fast Company mentions a few, which include Digital Death Manager, Corporate Disorganizer, and 3D Printing Handyman.

And today’s skills will be used differently in 2025, as reported by another Fast Company article:

  • Tech skills, especially analytical skills, will increase in importance. Demand for software developers, market analysts, and computer analysts will increase significantly between now and 2025.
  • Retail and sales skills, or any job related to soft skills that are hard for computers to learn, will continue to grow. Customer service representatives, marketing specialists, and sales reps must continue to collaborate and understand how to use social media effectively to communicate worldwide.
  • Lifelong learning will be necessary to keep up with the changes in technology and adapt to our fast-moving lives. Teachers and trainers will continue to be hot jobs in the future, but the style of teaching will change to adapt to a “sound bite” world.
  • Contract workers who understand how businesses and projects work will thrive in the “gig economy.” Management analysts and auditors will continue to be in high demand.

What’s next?

How do companies address a shortage of digital skills and build digital fluency? Here are some steps you can take to increase your digital fluency – and that of your organization:

  • Assess where you are today. Either personally or organizationally, knowing what skills you have is the first step toward identifying where you need to go.
  • Identify one of each of the skill sets to focus on. What foundational skills do you or your organization need? How can you promote collaboration? What thought leadership can your team share – and how can they connect with the right information to stay relevant?
  • Start practicing! Choose just one thing – and use that technology every day for a month. Use it within your organization so others can practice too.

And up next for this blog series – a look at the workplace of the future!

The computer made its debut in Hidden Figures. Did it replace jobs? Yes, for some of the computer team. But members of that team did not leave quietly and continue manual calculations elsewhere. They learned how to use that new mainframe computer and became programmers. I believe humans will always be the next big thing.

If we want to retain humanity’s value in an increasingly automated world, we need to start recognizing and nurturing Human Skills for the Digital Future.

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Traci Maddox

About Traci Maddox

Traci Maddox is the Director of the North America Customer Transformation Office at SAP, where she is elevating customer success through innovation and digital transformation. Traci is also part of the Digital Workforce Taskforce, a team of SAP leaders whose mission is to help companies succeed by understanding and addressing workforce implications of digital technology.