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American Apparel’s Hurricane Sandy Sale – Brilliant or Boneheaded?

Steve Olenski

It’s not often I have cause to quote this person but in this particular article in this particular context, something this person said (and in fact wrote a book with the same title) seems quite appropriate, at least depending on which side of the American Apparel Hurricane Sandy debate.

The quote is “There is no such thing as over exposure” and it was of course uttered by one Donald Trump.

Now if you’re in the Trump camp, so to speak, you won’t have any problem with what American Apparel did recently in trying to capitalize on the fervor and interest in Hurricane Sandy. And perhaps the word “capitalize” is the operative word for we do live in a capitalistic society, right?

In case you missed what exactly transpired, the folks at American Apparel decided what better event to tie a sale into then a hurricane? So their marketing department and/or agency put together the following email which was blasted out to their database.

Now I don’t know about you and your particular tastes and values and all that good stuff and I am not here to pass judgment on anyone, other than American Apparel, that is.

But how in the name of common sense can you send an email like this out during such a tragic situation where, oh by the way, people lost their lives? (Guess you can tell by now what side of the aisle I fall on in the brilliant or boneheaded debate)

Seriously? Bored during the storm?

Apparently I was not alone in my complete disdain for this as the Twittersphere lit up in disgust. Here’s a sampling:

Hard to pick my favorite from the above Tweets but I would have to go with Brian Clark’s for this decision had to be made by someone of such inexperience, right?

Some even went so far as to include a screenshot of the actual email just to drive home their point even further:

Is It A Crisis If You Actually Initiate The Crisis?

Way back in January I wrote a piece Crisis Management: The Real Test Of A Brand In The Social Media Space?

Now the premise of that article was how a brand, business, company, whatever handles a crisis that is not of their doing OR if if were of their doing how they respond to the crisis and in particular how they respond in the social media world.

Last check of both their Facebook and Twitter accounts I saw no mention of the Hurricane Sandy sale and no remorse whatsoever.

Fine. It is totally their call to respond or not.

But something tells me that Mr. Trump is not right when he says there’s no such thing as over exposure or too much public relations or whatever. If your brand is cast in a negative light – and the aforementioned Tweets are just a sampling of the backlash, don’t you owe it to not only your loyal customers but to everyone to respond in some fashion?

Oh Wait, This Just In

Apparently someone at American Apparel had the foresight to respond.

Whew. Thank goodness.

Let’s see what an American Apparel spokesperson told Fashionista.

“Of course we’d never mean to offend anyone and when we put the email out yesterday it came from a good place.” The motivation, the retailer explained, “is that retail stores are the lifeline of a brand like ours so when they are closed, we need to come up with ways to make up for that lost revenue. People forget how expensive it is to run a Made in USA brand like American Apparel and if we made a mistake here it came from the good place of trying to keep the machine going–for the sake of our employees and stakeholders.”

‘Came from a good place?’

What place was that exactly and how in the world was it good?

Oh that’s right, you did all of this (the Hurricane Sandy sale) to keep your doors open so you could sell more merchandise and keep your employees employed otherwise you would have to lay them off which means they couldn’t afford to buy their kids the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip for Christmas this year.

And the fact that they live by the “Made in USA” credo makes this even more galling as they took advantage of an American tragedy that killed Americans!

Ok, your turn.

Weigh in. Chime in. Jump in.

I don’t care. Just tell me what you think of all this.

Sources: MashableFashionista

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Deliver Exceptional Experiences And Customers Will Always ‘Swipe Right’

Shalini Mitha

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  – Maya Angelou

In the digital era, relationships still matter – and not just the “swipe right” ones. We still crave human interactions, and they are just as important in the business world.

As a consumer, I am loyal to those brands that make me feel special, which is why I am a loyal Nordstrom shopper – they treat each customer as a VIP, from ensuring that every visit to the store is a happy one, to a no-ask return policy if you are unhappy with any merchandise, to a free concierge service to help find that perfect outfit or LBD (little black dress). To me, their brand represents what exceptional service should look like – a brand that goes above and beyond customer expectations to create a personalized experience just for me.

When the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times as much as the cost to retain an existing customer (per Lee Resource, Inc.) , fostering customer loyalty should be at the forefront of your brand’s agenda. What do you need to know to get there?

Human interactions matter

Human interactions matter. The rise of digital sales and marketing doesn’t mean those interactions go away. It just means buyers and brands are interacting in new digital ways. But sales representatives still have the opportunity to initiate and facilitate the buying journey with the goal to emerge as your customer’s trusted advisor.

In your sales organization, embrace change centering selling around customer experience. In previous blogs, I have discussed the importance of internal changes that need to happen – from breaking down departmental silos with the union of sales and marketing to regaining sales productivity by giving sales the tools they need to spend more time selling and getting to know their customers and prospects.

Now is the time to focus on how to deliver exceptional customer experiences in the context of their buying journey. This requires you to know who your customers are and be present where they are.

Be your customer’s eyes

View the buying process through your customer’s eyes. How do you deliver great value? Look at your accounts and pick the top 10. Study and understand their industry and company initiatives and make your connections personal on how you can help. If you have a customer who sells via retail/brick and mortar, visit the store and see where change can happen – viewing what you customer’s customer experience is like. Your customer will appreciate the insight and, as Maya Angelou said, “will never forget how you make them feel” in very relevant and personalized interaction. Connect with your customer on his/her level.

Monitor industry trends and help your customer develop their 5- to 10-year plan. At times, their vision may be skewed by immediate needs or problems. But banging a broken process is not the answer; you need to step back to see if the process is still valid.

Be that trusted advisor – make your interactions personal by taking time to understand how they buy, sell, and market. Don’t just talk about technology; focus on the value your solutions can provide to your customer’s customer. If you do this, the result will be an exceptional customer experience that builds customer loyalty and keeps you a step ahead of your competition.

The measure of customer experience

How do you successfully measure something qualitative like experience? Where does customer experience start and finish? Join Nicholas Kontopolous, global vice president of fast growth markets marketing, SAP Hybris, at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia for the session “The Measure of Customer Experience” as he shares insight on how leading brands are answering these questions and staying a step ahead of their competition.

Test how strong your brand’s customer engagement is. Take a free assessment and receive a personalized report.

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10 Predictions On The Future Of Retail

Michael Brenner

Keeping ahead of the curve is as vital in retail as in any other field. So what can we expect to see as we move toward a new year and beyond? Here are 10 predictions for the future of retail that you should be aware of.

Streamlined payment

As we move forward into a brave new world for retail outlets, the focus will be on ironing out kink at each stage in the purchasing process.

This will include frictionless pay: streamlined payment methods like contactless card transactions and quick mobile app money transfer.

Social to checkout

Such streamlining will not be limited to in-store retail transactions. You may have noticed the onset of the “Buy button” across a multitude of social networks. Well, these are here to stay.

The idea is to remove the links in the traditional consumer chain and to construct a more intuitive process to drive sales.

Facing up to low growth

Moves towards a more streamlined process are backed up by research and expert opinion. Modern retailers are being forced to face up to low growth in the market and are being forced to “steal” customers from other businesses in an effort to grow their customer bases.

In this cutthroat environment, the business that can offer the highest levels of convenience is the winner.

Becoming omnipresent

An omnichannel approach is no longer something to be experimented with. It has become a necessary ingredient for success.

Expect retailers to position themselves and their products for optimum exposure, which means connecting with customers across a diverse range of digital and offline channels.

Beyond traditional retail

The traditional department store is dying. Instead, retailers are being forced to diversify what they offer in an effort to retain customers and grow sales levels.

This means branching out into dining options, in-store WiFi connectivity, and other features that encourage foot traffic into outlets.

A focus on experience

Lifetime customer value is what retailers should be aiming for, and customer experience is key to developing this.

Retailers who focus on service, on after sales care, and on support at every stage of the consumer lifecycle will be rewarded by loyalty in the long term.

Personalization in the market

Personalized ads based on consumer data are nothing new, but personalization is evolving. Instead of interrupting a consumer with an unsolicited targeted ad, retailers are focusing on integrating their services into the behavioral patterns of their consumers.

This includes providing streamlined ordering capabilities across different devices, or delivering intelligent support services to specific demographics.

Data as currency

The retailer with the best knowledge of its consumer base is now the king in the marketplace.

With this in mind, organizations are investing time, money, and effort into understanding their customers and discovering what they need. Data has become a valuable commodity.

Investment in bricks and mortar

The democratization of retail via ecommerce and digital marketing channels was a major game changer, but it was incomplete.

Retail sales are projected to grow by up to 4% by the end of 2016; something organizations need to be aware of.

Retailers still need to invest in bricks-and-mortar shop fronts and a prominent high street presence if they are to experience success in their field.

Reflecting the fast-paced millennial lifestyle

Millennials are the key demographic for the modern retailer. Their fast-paced, convenience-centric lifestyles – in which speed and access are prized as highly as cost and quality – will be reflected in the products, services, and purchase methods offered to them by retailers.

Next year’s retail winners will be the firms who keep abreast of millennial trends and behaviors.

For more on how evolving technology is impacting the retail industry, see Can IoT Really Help Retailers?

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, former Head of Strategy at NewsCred, and the former VP of Global Content Marketing here at SAP. Michael is also the co-author of the book The Content Formula, a contributor to leading publications like The Economist, Inc Magazine, The Guardian, and Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to the Marketing Insider.

More Than Noise: 5 Digital Stories From 2016 That Are Bigger Than You Think

Dan Wellers, Michael Rander, Kai Göerlich, Josh Waddell, Saravana Chandran, and Stephanie Overby

These days it seems that we are witnessing waves of extreme disruption rather than incremental technology change. While some tech news stories have been just so much noise, unlikely to have long-term impact, a few are important signals of much bigger, longer-term changes afoot.

From bots to blockchains, augmented realities to human-machine convergence, a number of rapidly advancing technological capabilities hit important inflection points in 2016. We looked at five important emerging technology news stories that happened this year and the trends set in motion that will have an impact for a long time to come.

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Immersive experiences were one of three top-level trends identified by Gartner for 2016, and that was evident in the enormous popularity of Pokémon Go. While the hype may have come and gone, the immersive technologies that have been quietly advancing in the background for years are ready to boil over into the big time—and into the enterprise.

The free location-based augmented reality (AR) game took off shortly after Nintendo launched it in July, and it became the most downloaded app in Apple’s app store history in its first week, as reported by TechCrunch. Average daily usage of the app on Android devices in July 2016 exceeded that of the standard-bearers Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, according to SimilarWeb. Within two months, Pokémon Go had generated more than US$440 million, according to Sensor Tower.

Unlike virtual reality (VR), which immerses us in a simulated world, AR layers computer-generated information such as graphics, sound, or other data on top of our view of the real world. In the case of Pokémon Go, players venture through the physical world using a digital map to search for Pokémon characters.

The game’s instant global acceptance was a surprise. Most watching this space expected an immersive headset device like Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard to steal the headlines. But it took Pikachu and the gang to break through. Pokémon Go capitalized on a generation’s nostalgia for its childhood and harnessed the latest advancements in key AR enabling technologies such as geolocation and computer vision.

sap_q416_digital_double_feature1_images8Just as mobile technologies percolated inside companies for several years before the iPhone exploded onto the market, companies have been dabbling in AR since the beginning of the decade. IKEA created an AR catalog app in 2013 to help customers visualize how their KIVIK modular sofa, for example, would look in their living rooms. Mitsubishi Electric has been perfecting an AR application, introduced in 2011, that enables homeowners to visualize its HVAC products in their homes. Newport News Shipbuilding has launched some 30 AR projects to help the company build and maintain its vessels. Tech giants including Facebook, HP, and Apple have been snapping up immersive tech startups for some time.

The overnight success of Pokémon Go will fuel interest in and understanding of all mediated reality technology—virtual and augmented. It’s created a shorthand for describing immersive reality and could launch a wave of technology consumerization the likes of which we haven’t seen since the iPhone instigated a tsunami of smartphone usage. Enterprises would be wise to figure out the role of immersive technology sooner rather than later. “AR and VR will both be the new normal within five years,” says futurist Gerd Leonhard, noting that the biggest hurdles may be mobile bandwidth availability and concerns about sensory overload. “Pokémon is an obvious opening scene only—professional use of AR and VR will explode.”

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Blockchains, the decentralized digital ledgers of transactions that are processed by a distributed network, first made headlines as the foundation for new types of financial transactions beginning with Bitcoin in 2009. According to Greenwich Associates, financial and technology companies will invest an estimated $1 billion in blockchain technology in 2016. But, as Gartner recently pointed out, there could be even more rapid evolution and acceptance in the areas of manufacturing, government, healthcare, and education.

By the 2020s, blockchain-based systems will reduce or eliminate many points of friction for a variety of business transactions. Individuals and companies will be able to exchange a wide range of digitized or digitally represented assets and value with anyone else, according to PwC. The supervised peer-to-peer network concept “is the future,” says Leonhard.

But the most important blockchain-related news of 2016 revealed a weak link in the application of technology that is touted as an immutable record.

In theory, blockchain technology creates a highly tamper-resistant structure that makes transactions secure and verifiable through a massively distributed digital ledger. All the transactions that take place are recorded in this ledger, which lives on many computers. High-grade encryption makes it nearly impossible for someone to cheat the system.

In practice, however, blockchain-based transactions and contracts are only as good as the code that enables them.

Case in point: The DAO, one of the first major implementations of a “Decentralized Autonomous Organization” (for which the fund is named). The DAO was a crowdfunded venture capital fund using cryptocurrency for investments and run through smart contracts. The rules that govern those smart contracts, along with all financial transaction records, are maintained on the blockchain. In June, the DAO revealed that an individual exploited a vulnerability in the company’s smart contract code to take control of nearly $60 million worth of the company’s digital currency.

The fund’s investors voted to basically rewrite the smart contract code and roll back the transaction, in essence going against the intent of blockchain-based smart contracts, which are supposed to be irreversible once they self-execute.

The DAO’s experience confirmed one of the inherent risks of distributed ledger technology—and, in particular, the risk of running a very large fund autonomously through smart contracts based on blockchain technology. Smart contract code must be as error-free as possible. As Cornell University professor and hacker Emin Gün Sirer wrote in his blog, “writing a robust, secure smart contract requires extreme amounts of diligence. It’s more similar to writing code for a nuclear power reactor, than to writing loose web code.” Since smart contracts are intended to be executed irreversibly on the blockchain, their code should not be rewritten and improved over time, as software typically is. But since no code can ever be completely airtight, smart contracts may have to build in contingency plans for when weaknesses in their code are exploited.

Importantly, the incident was not a result of any inherent weakness in the blockchain or distributed ledger technology generally. It will not be the end of cryptocurrencies or smart contracts. And it’s leading to more consideration of editable blockchains, which proponents say would only be used in extraordinary circumstances, according to Technology Review.

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Application programming interfaces (APIs), the computer codes that serve as a bridge between software applications, are not traditionally a hot topic outside of coder circles. But they are critical components in much of the consumer technology we’ve all come to rely on day-to-day.

One of the most important events in API history was the introduction of such an interface for Google Maps a decade ago. The map app was so popular that everyone wanted to incorporate its capabilities into their own systems. So Google released an API that enabled developers to connect to and use the technology without having to hack into it. The result was the launch of hundreds of inventive location-enabled apps using Google technology. Today, millions of web sites and apps use Google Maps APIs, from Allstate’s GoodHome app, which shows homeowners a personalized risk assessment of their properties, to Harley-Davidson’s Ride Planner to 7-Eleven’s app for finding the nearest Slurpee.

sap_q416_digital_double_feature1_images6Ultimately, it became de rigueur for apps to open up their systems in a safe way for experimentation by others through APIs. Technology professional Kin Lane, who tracks the now enormous world of APIs, has said, “APIs bring together a unique blend of technology, business, and politics into a transparent, self-service mix that can foster innovation.”

Thus it was significant when Apple announced in June that it would open up Siri to third-party developers through an API, giving the wider world the ability to integrate Siri’s voice commands into their apps. The move came on the heels of similar decisions by Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, all of which have AI bots or assistants of their own. And in October, Google opened up its Google Assistant as well.

The introduction of APIs confirms that the AI technology behind these bots has matured significantly—and that a new wave of AI-based innovation is nigh.

The best way to spark that innovation is to open up AI technologies such as Siri so that coders can use them as platforms to build new apps that can more rapidly expand AI uses and capabilities. Call it the “platformication” of AI. The value will be less in the specific AI products a company introduces than in the value of the platform for innovation. And that depends on the quality of the API. The tech company that attracts the best and brightest will win. AI platforms are just beginning to emerge and the question is: Who will be the platform leader?

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In June, Swiss citizens voted on a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all of its citizens, as reported by BBC News. It was the first country to take the issue to the polls, but it won’t be the last. Discussions about the impact of both automation and the advancing gig economy on individual livelihoods are happening around the world. Other countries—including the United States—are looking at solutions to the problem. Both Finland and the Netherlands have universal guaranteed income pilots planned for next year. Meanwhile, American startup incubator Y Combinator is launching an experiment to give 100 families in Oakland, California, a minimum wage for five years with no strings attached, according to Quartz.

The world is on the verge of potential job loss at a scale and speed never seen before. The Industrial Revolution was more of an evolution, happening over more than a century. The ongoing digital revolution is happening in relative hyper speed.

No one is exactly sure how increased automation and digitization will affect the world’s workforce. One 2013 study suggests as much as 47% of the U.S workforce is at risk of being replaced by machines over the next two decades, but even a conservative estimate of 10% could have a dramatic impact, not just on workers but on society as a whole.

The proposed solution in Switzerland did not pass, in part because a major political party did not introduce it, and citizens are only beginning to consider the potential implications of digitization on their incomes. What’s more, the idea of simply guaranteeing pay runs contrary to long-held notions in many societies that humans ought to earn their keep.

Whether or not state-funded support is the answer is just one of the questions that must be answered. The votes and pilots underway make it clear that governments will have to respond with some policy measures. The question is: What will those measures be? The larger impact of mass job displacement, what future employment conditions might look like, and what the responsibilities of institutions are in ensuring that we can support ourselves are among the issues that policy makers will need to address.

New business models resulting from digitization will create some new types of roles—but those will require training and perhaps continued education. And not all of those who will be displaced will be in a position to remake their careers. Just consider taxi drivers: In the United States, about 223,000 people currently earn their living behind the wheel of a hired car. The average New York livery driver is 46 years old, according to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, and no formal education is required. When self-driving cars take over, those jobs will go away and the men and women who held them may not be qualified for the new positions that emerge.

As digitization dramatically changes the constructs of commerce and work, no one is quite sure how people will be impacted. But waiting to see how it all shakes out is not a winning strategy. Companies and governments today will have to experiment with potential solutions before the severity of the problem is clear. Among the questions that will have to be answered: How can we retrain large parts of the workforce? How will we support those who fall through the cracks? Will we prioritize and fund education? Technological progress and shifting work models will continue, whether or not we plan for their consequences.

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In April, a young man, who was believed to have permanently lost feeling in and control over his hands and legs as the result of a devastating spine injury, became able to use his right hand and fingers again. He used technology that transmits his thoughts directly to his hand muscles, bypassing his injured spinal cord. Doctors implanted a computer chip into the quadriplegic’s brain two years ago and—with ongoing training and practice—he can now perform everyday tasks like pouring from a bottle and playing video games.

The system reconnected the man’s brain directly to his muscles—the first time that engineers have successfully bypassed the nervous system’s information superhighway, the spinal cord. It’s the medical equivalent of moving from wired to wireless computing.

The man has in essence become a cyborg, that term first coined in 1960 to describe “self-regulating human-machine systems.” Yet the beneficiary of this scientific advance himself said, “You’re not going to be looked on as, ‘Oh, I’m a cyborg now because I have this big huge prosthetic on the side of my arm.’ It’s something a lot more natural and intuitive to learn because I can see my own hand reacting.”

As described in IEEE Spectrum, the “neural-bypass system” records signals that the man generates when thinking about moving his hand, decodes those signals, and routes them to the electric sleeve around his arm to stimulate movement: “The result looks surprisingly simple and natural: When Burkhart thinks about picking up a bottle, he picks up the bottle. When he thinks about playing a chord in Guitar Hero, he plays the chord.”

sap_q416_digital_double_feature1_images5What seems straightforward on the surface is powered by a sophisticated algorithm that can analyze the vast amounts of data the man’s brain produces, separating important signals from noise.

The fact that engineers have begun to unlock the complex code that controls brain-body communication opens up enormous possibilities. Neural prostheses (cochlear implants) have already reversed hearing loss. Light-sensitive chips serving as artificial retinas are showing progress in restoring vision. Other researchers are exploring computer implants that can read human thoughts directly to signal an external computer to help people speak or move in new ways. “Human and machine are converging,” says Leonhard.

The National Academy of Engineering predicts that “the intersection of engineering and neuroscience promises great advances in healthcare, manufacturing, and communication.”

Burkhart spent two years in training with the computer that has helped power his arm to get this far. It’s the result of more than a decade of development in brain-computer interfaces. And it can currently be used only in the lab; researchers are working on a system for home use. But it’s a clear indication of how quickly the lines between man and machine are blurring—and it opens the door for further computerized reanimation in many new scenarios.

This fall, Switzerland hosted its first cyborg Olympics, in which disabled patients compete using the latest assistive technologies, including robot exoskeletons and brainwave-readers. Paraplegic athletes use electrical simulation systems to compete in cycling, for example. The winners are those who can control their device the best. “Instead of celebrating the human body moving under its own power,” said a recent article in the IEEE Spectrum, “the cyborg games will celebrate the strength and ingenuity of human-machine collaborations.” D!

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

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is the Global Lead of Digital Futures at SAP, which explores how organizations can anticipate the future impact of exponential technologies. Dan has extensive experience in technology marketing and business strategy, plus management, consulting, and sales.

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The Future Of Work Is Now

Stefan Ries

Far beyond collaboration, the digitization of work determines how we work and engage people. Technologies – such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, analytics, and cloud technologies – change the way we recruit, develop talent, and make our workforce more inclusive. They also introduce new jobs, largely with different skill set requirements. Some of the most-wanted jobs today did not exist five years ago – and many jobs we wouldn’t even imagine today will arise in the near future. Our workplace is changing at light speed.

“Beyond collaboration, the digitization of work determines how we work and engage people”

Technology accelerates the transformation of businesses and industries. We need to prepare our businesses for the future, anticipate skills requirements and workforce changes. While some of the developments are unpredictable, it is up to thought and industry leaders like us to take control and shape the future of work.

SAP Future Factor, an interactive Web series: Engaging with thought leaders about the future of work

Welcome to the SAP Future Factor Web Salon, an interactive Web series featuring perspectives of thought leaders from academia, business, and government about the workplace of the future. The series drives a continuous exchange about the impacts of digitization on organizations and shares insight on innovative practices already in place.

The inaugural episode features SAP chief human resources officer Stefan Ries and Kevin Kruse, leadership expert and author of the New York Times best-seller “We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement.” The two thought leaders exchange views on the opportunities and challenges of a digitized workplace and business culture. Their discussion will touch on the rising digital workplace, new ways to collaborate, the role technology plays to foster diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, and talent development.

Choose the topics that match your needs

Tomorrow’s workplace is all about choices – and so is the format of the SAP Future Factor Web series. All episodes are fully interactive, giving you the opportunity to interact with the content of the video by choosing topics of interest to you and your business. You determine what you would like to view and learn about, and in what order.

Episode 1 features the following topics:

  • Impacts of Digitization
  • HR’s Role in a Digitized World
  • Cloud Culture
  • Business Beyond Bias
  • Man vs. Machine
  • Rise of Social Intelligence

The future is now. Engage with us in the SAP Future Factor!

We hope you will enjoy the first episode. Tell us what you think.

Are the biggest trends from the last year on your radar screen? See More Than Noise: 5 Digital Stories From 2016 That Are Bigger Than You Think.

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Stefan Ries

About Stefan Ries

Stefan Ries is Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), Labor Relations Director, and a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE. Stefan was born in Bavaria and raised in Constance, Germany, where he spent most of his youth. After receiving his masters of business in economics from the University of Constance in 1991, he moved to Munich. He started his career as HR Manager at Microsoft, overseeing HR duties in Austria, Switzerland, and East European countries. In July 1994, he went on to lead the HR function for Compaq Computer in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Following the company’s acquisitions of Tandem Computers and Digital Equipment Corporation in 1999 and 2000, Stefan led the entire HR organization for Compaq in Germany. Stefan first joined SAP in 2002 and later became responsible for various HR functions, heading up the HR business partner organization and overseeing all HR functions on an operational level. To support innovation, Stefan attaches great importance to a diverse working culture. He is convinced that appreciating the differences among people, their unique backgrounds and personalities is a key success factor for SAP.