Guaranteed Delivery?

James Marland

Guaranteed Delivery?I need to renew my passport: we UK citizens are not in the EU Schengen agreements, so need a passport each time we leave our rainy island to visit Brussels, Paris or Amsterdam. The whole process is a little stressful, and there are two separate things to worry about:

  • Will the Post Office send it safely to the Passport Office ?
  • Did I fill the form in correctly? As any small mistake will likely incur a large delay.

In order to solve the first issue I chose Guaranteed Delivery rather than the regular Mail . It is quite a lot more expensive but comes with the eponymous guarantee. I know I will be able to track the package with fancy barcodes and web pages, and that they will meet their service levels.

But what about the second worry? A passport application form has many ways to be wrong: you can sign in the wrong place, use an American format date by mistake (yep, did that once), the photograph can be wrong (my daughter once had hers returned for smiling, bless!), you can forget to include the cheque.

Up to one third of applications are delayed due to basic errors.

In order to solve this the Post Office came up with the Check-and-send service. The website lists the benefits as:

  • Peace of mind: from the form to the photos we’ll make sure everything meets the approved standard
  • Secure: we’ll send your application by Special Delivery™
  • Save time: Up to one third of applications sent to the Identity and Passport Service directly are delayed due to basic errors.

It works well, you go to the Post Office, they open the envelope and go through their long checklist. And if a mistake is made, you can immediately correct it before it leaves your possession.

So what does this mean for Business Networks?

Many networks focus exclusively on the first of my two passport worries: getting an electronic document delivered correctly. But an Invoice is also likely to be rejected “due to basic errors”. And delays to your invoice will cost you time and money. A Business Network needs to include a “Check and Send” service, just like the Post Office. The kind of errors that can be screened out could be:

  • Is the Purchase Order correct and still open?
  • Is the VAT rate correct for this country?
  • Does the price match the requested price, or is it within the tolerance specified by the buyer for this commodity?
  • If the material is flagged as hazardous, did the supplier included an MSDS sheet?

All of these errors should be screened out before the invoice leaves my possession. There is significant value to both parties in this “Check and Send”

  • Sellers can correct mistakes immediately, significantly increasing their likelihood of being paid on time
  • Buyers can get much better visibility into their cash position as invoices are not lost in a morass of paper and phone calls
  • Both parties save on significant administration costs

As noted at the start of this post, Guaranteed Delivery is a necessary condition for an effective network, but it is not sufficient. Without a comprehensive screening processes, you are merely moving bad invoices faster. A true Business Network “opens the envelope”, and checks the contents.


About James Marland

James is responsible for defining and rolling out strategies for the Network with particular focus on Europe. He joined Ariba at the launch of the Ariba Network in 1998 after previously being a Solution Consultant at SAP America. In addition he has held the position of Director of Algorithms at Vendavo, an SAP Partner in the area of Pricing. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Southampton University. Follow James's twitter feed at @JamesMarland



UPS Holiday Rate Hikes: The Impact On Retailer Promotional Calendars

Angelica Valentine

As the number of online shoppers during the holidays continues its upward trend, it’s only natural for shipping providers to raise rates. But unlike the 4.9% overall increase announced in 2016, UPS announced 2017 price increases for ground shipments by 27 cents between November 19 and December 2, as well as December 17 to December 23.

Retailers will pay most for last minute residential packages, shelling out an extra 81 cents for next-day air delivery, and 97 cents for 2nd-day air and 3-day select between December 17 and 23, 2017.
The timing of this UPS holiday rate hike is interesting because most retailers aim to get shoppers in the door around Black Friday to kickstart the holiday shopping season, but in 2017 they’ll have to pay a bit more to play. Luckily, these increased ground shipping costs cool down for two weeks before they come back in full effect between December 17 and December 23, 2017. These hikes will take off some of the burden placed on UPS over the holidays and redistribute it across retailers.

Holiday e-commerce thrives

In the UPS rate hike announcement, they set the stage for why this was necessary, and the numbers were astounding. While non-peak delivery days saw an average of 19 million packages shipped, the peak 2016 holiday season saw more than 30 million packages shipped on certain days. Keeping ecommerce running costs UPS a significant amount during the holidays in terms of nearly 100,000 seasonal workers, extra trucks, and increased warehouse space. This year’s rate hikes will require retailers shipping to residential addresses who sell at a high volume to share that cost.

The UPS decision to raise rates during prime time holiday shopping shows that they know that they can get away with it. Luckily the rates didn’t jump by too much. During this key shopping period, UPS rates will go up between 27 and 97 cents for retailers delivering to residences. Bloomberg reports that UPS made $7.97 for the average ground package last year. Therefore, the 27 cent increase only accounts a 3.4% jump in price. That might seem like a small increase, but when you take into account the 712 million packages UPS delivered worldwide during the peak holiday season in 2016, we’re talking about a serious increase in revenue from these shipments.

How promotional calendars can help

What can retailers do to offset higher shipping costs? Raising free shipping minimums or absorbing the fees with slightly higher prices sound like they could lead to decreased sales and loyalty. Shoppers won’t want to shoulder any of this UPS imposed burden, so the only way for retailers to keep sales high and costs at bay is to encourage shoppers to check out earlier than usual or in the two week break between rate increases.

For retailers who got flustered reading the UPS announcement and any other retailer aiming to cut costs, it’s very possible that promotional calendars will be shifting back even further this holiday season. And that’s saying something because holiday items and sales showed up before Halloween last year.

Last year Amazon started promoting Black Friday Deals before Halloween and started promotions on November 1. Wal-Mart followed suit and started holiday promotions online and on their app on November 10th. The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2016, retailer ads about significant deals came out three days earlier compared to 2015. And the number of emails retailers sent to subscribers jumped 15% between October 1 and November 19, 2016.

Understanding when competitors started their promotions in previous years can help retailers determine when they should start sending promotional emails and set deals live across channels. The trend has been to start them earlier and earlier, and this year we most likely will see all of this start in October. UPS has given retailers an extra incentive to get a jumpstart on holiday promotions in order to minimize the surcharges they have to pay on each package they ship during key shopping periods.

Closing thoughts

It’s clear that the fall will be heating up faster than anyone expected in retail. While these new UPS fees are no one’s idea of fun, the best time for retailers to combat them is now. Digging into historical competitor data to see when they started promotions, on which products, and where they promoted them will give retailers a solid footing for climbing their way to the top this holiday season.

Even if FedEx copies UPS and raises their rates as well, retailers will already be prepared to start promotions on hot items earlier (or during the two week period without a fee) to get customers shopping when it will cost the retailer a little less.

For more on e-commerce and the retail industry, see Is The Digital Age The Death Of Brick-And-Mortar Stores?


Flash Briefing: Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Peter Johnson

Today, we’re talking 3D printing and how it could disrupt operations and supply chains in markets around the world.


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Peter Johnson

About Peter Johnson

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

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

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

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

The City of the Future

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

For example:

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

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

Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

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

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain


About Dan Wellers

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

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

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

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

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


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

Vivek Bapat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

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


About Vivek Bapat

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