How Ecosystems Enable Innovation

Lindsey Nelson

An ecosystem, according to Wikipedia, is a network of interactions occurring not only among ecosystemsorganisms, but also between organisms and their environment. They are dynamic entities controlled by both external and internal factors. Although varying ecosystems occur all over the world, they all require cooperation and collaboration to survive.

In the business world, it is no different. Organizations and individuals are the living organisms dependent on each other to generate goods and services that are of value to customers. This idea of a business ecosystem came from James F. Moore, expert in the field of co-evolution in social and economic systems.

His Harvard Business Review article, published in 1993, reads:

“I suggest that a company be viewed not as a member of a single industry but as part of a business ecosystem that crosses a variety of industries. In a business ecosystem, companies coevolve capabilities around a new innovation: they work cooperatively and competitively to support new products, satisfy customer needs, and eventually incorporate the next round of innovations.”

This next round of innovations is characterized by businesses of all sizes’ desire for constant growth and innovation, says SAP’s Eric Duffaut on Xinhua (original in Chinese, English version on Financial Times here). However many businesses classified as small to midsized are “desperate to grow…[but] lack the resources and talent within their ranks to scale quickly”.

This concept of ecosystems is especially common in the high-tech industry. In the mid to late 90s, companies like Adobe were early adopters and implementers of this practice due to its highly successful track record for introducing new technologies into the marketplace.

I cannot put it any better than Eric when he shares that these partnerships and “co-innovation have huge potential to drive business growth for both companies and their partners…an ecosystem helps companies achieve what they can’t on their own.”

As Eric also shares in his article, companies like my employer SAP, partner with Bluekey Software Solutions to help South Africa’s Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation combat the spreading of HIV and AIDS. They do this by providing education, testing, and treatment. This organization runs on SAP’s Business One Software in an effort to drastically reduce the time spent managing operations. In turn, the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation can spend more time on the ground instead of in the back office.

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About Lindsey Nelson

Lindsey is the Content Curator for the Business Innovation site as well as a regular contributor. Join her in conversation @LindseyNNelson Twitter on LinkedIn or Google+.

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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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Transform Or Die: What Will You Do In The Digital Economy?

Scott Feldman and Puneet Suppal

By now, most executives are keenly aware that the digital economy can be either an opportunity or a threat. The question is not whether they should engage their business in it. Rather, it’s how to unleash the power of digital technology while maintaining a healthy business, leveraging existing IT investments, and innovating without disrupting themselves.

Yet most of those executives are shying away Businesspeople in a Meeting --- Image by © Monalyn Gracia/Corbisfrom such a challenge. According to a recent study by MIT Sloan and Capgemini, only 15% of CEOs are executing a digital strategy, even though 90% agree that the digital economy will impact their industry. As these businesses ignore this reality, early adopters of digital transformation are achieving 9% higher revenue creation, 26% greater impact on profitability, and 12% more market valuation.

Why aren’t more leaders willing to transform their business and seize the opportunity of our hyperconnected world? The answer is as simple as human nature. Innately, humans are uncomfortable with the notion of change. We even find comfort in stability and predictability. Unfortunately, the digital economy is none of these – it’s fast and always evolving.

Digital transformation is no longer an option – it’s the imperative

At this moment, we are witnessing an explosion of connections, data, and innovations. And even though this hyperconnectivity has changed the game, customers are radically changing the rules – demanding simple, seamless, and personalized experiences at every touch point.

Billions of people are using social and digital communities to provide services, share insights, and engage in commerce. All the while, new channels for engaging with customers are created, and new ways for making better use of resources are emerging. It is these communities that allow companies to not only give customers what they want, but also align efforts across the business network to maximize value potential.

To seize the opportunities ahead, businesses must go beyond sensors, Big Data, analytics, and social media. More important, they need to reinvent themselves in a manner that is compatible with an increasingly digital world and its inhabitants (a.k.a. your consumers).

Here are a few companies that understand the importance of digital transformation – and are reaping the rewards:

  1. Under Armour:  No longer is this widely popular athletic brand just selling shoes and apparel. They are connecting 38 million people on a digital platform. By focusing on this services side of the business, Under Armour is poised to become a lifestyle advisor and health consultant, using his product side as the enabler.
  1. Port of Hamburg: Europe’s second-largest port is keeping carrier trucks and ships productive around the clock. By fusing facility, weather, and traffic conditions with vehicle availability and shipment schedules, the Port increased container handling capacity by 178% without expanding its physical space.
  1. Haier Asia: This top-ranking multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company decided to disrupt itself before someone else did. The company used a two-prong approach to digital transformation to create a service-based model to seize the potential of changing consumer behaviors and accelerate product development. 
  1. Uber: This startup darling is more than just a taxi service. It is transforming how urban logistics operates through a technology trifecta: Big Data, cloud, and mobile.
  1. American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO): Even nonprofits can benefit from digital transformation. ASCO is transforming care for cancer patients worldwide by consolidating patient information with its CancerLinQ. By unlocking knowledge and value from the 97% of cancer patients who are not involved in clinical trials, healthcare providers can drive better, more data-driven decision making and outcomes.

It’s time to take action 

During the SAP Executive Technology Summit at SAP TechEd on October 19–20, an elite group of CIOs, CTOs, and corporate executives will gather to discuss the challenges of digital transformation and how they can solve them. With the freedom of open, candid, and interactive discussions led by SAP Board Members and senior technology leadership, delegates will exchange ideas on how to get on the right path while leveraging their existing technology infrastructure.

Stay tuned for exclusive insights from this invitation-only event in our next blog!
Scott Feldman is Global Head of the SAP HANA Customer Community at SAP. Connect with him on Twitter @sfeldman0.

Puneet Suppal drives Solution Strategy and Adoption (Customer Innovation & IoT) at SAP Labs. Connect with him on Twitter @puneetsuppal.



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Do You Hear The Voice Of Your Customer?

Maria Morais

Try to find a company where customers bring something else other than cash, credit, or points in loyalty cards. You won’t find much. – John S. McKean

While most companies seem to have a good grasp of what “voice of the customer” means and its importance, there seems to be a big challenge around the cultural shift that the voice-of-the-customer strategy requires in order to be truly effective.

The main reason why companies don’t implement a customer-centric strategy is because they assume that they are in charge.

  • Companies give promotions to their customers;
  • Companies produce products that customers really want;
  • Companies collaborate with their customers in social channels;
  • Companies “target,” “acquire,” “manage,” and “retain” customers as if they were not able to manage their own wills.

The thinking behind all this mentality dismisses customers’ individual differences and customers’ real ability to contribute.

Many of us expected the balance of power between companies and customers to shift with omni-channel retail, but in fact companies are less involved with their customers thanks to big data, analytics, business intelligence, and programmatic marketing.

Collaboration doesn’t mean engagement

If the company is in charge, by creating methods of engagement, predicting behavior, and controlling the customer experience, the customer is not more than a number that belongs to a group of other similar “variables.” How can you really hear the voice of your customer with all this noise around you?

Improving technology to satisfy companies is not a substitute for direct knowledge voluntarily given by customers. Over the coming years customers will be emancipated from systems that were built to control them, and customer relationship management (CRM) will finally die as a software category.

Looking beyond CRM

Information mining is a key phase in any voice-of-the-customer strategy, and ethnographic methods have been proven to be the most efficient for customer-centric innovation rather than the usual quantitative methodologies. Companies need systems that aggregate raw data from all touch points affecting decision making in real time. This type of initiative typically has a significant upfront investment before measurable benefits can be realized, but even knowing that digital transformation is moving much more rapidly in some industries than in others, no one can afford to wait much longer.

Companies that invest in their customers now are the ones that will see the biggest profits in the future. The voice of the customer is rapidly evolving along with anything connected via the Web, and customers will completely stop sharing their voice with companies that simply follow legacy approaches and are obsessed with statistical inferences.

It’s time to change; it’s time to inspire your customers

Take our e-commerce self-assessment to see how you can deliver the omni-channel experience.

Learn how Technopolis is delivering a superb omni-channel shopping experience to its customers.

Find out more about the omni-channel customer experience in the SAP eBook Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Changing Our World.


About Maria Morais

Maria Morais is Customer Engagement and Commerce Retail Lead at IBM GBS. You can follow Maria Morais on Twitter @ceumorais.

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