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International Social Sabbaticals Programs Benefit Startups In Emerging Economies

Derek Klobucher

Weather was partly cloudy for solar power startups last week. Investors in Santa Clara, Calif.-based photovoltaic panel maker MiaSolé saw no sun, as the acquisition price yielded pennies for the millions of dollars capitalists ventured last year, according to The Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Social Sabbaticals 01-08-2013-AOn the bright side, Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Holdings agreed last week to pay as much as $2.5 billion toward solar energy projects in California. This is the third significant solar power investment in a little more than a year for the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, The Telegraph noted on Wednesday.

But all startups, from a solar power panel maker to a girl-powered ballet school, rely on more than venture capital and decades of profoundly sage experience from an iconic investor. Small business owners in developing markets and SAP employees are learning this firsthand through SAP social sabbaticals.

People from around the company and across the globe take time away from their SAP jobs to work abroad on not-for-profit projects in emerging market economies, helping startups while gaining new experiences and insights. The first group went to Belo Horizonte, Brazil last summer.

Social Sabbatical 01-08-2013-BSAP’s Michaela Degbeon and Christoph Zeidler (pictured, left and center) recently spent a month in India helping entrepreneurs in Bangalore. The two told German daily newspaper Die Welt and public television channel Deutsche Welle how they bridged technological, economic and cultural gaps.

“Many conversations [in Bangalore] begin with questions about your family and about personal things,” Degbeon said in an English-language version of the video, which aired last week. “Generally, it’s about building up trust via interpersonal relationships, and then achieving results.”

Degbeon and Zeidler worked at the National Entrepreneurship Network, where shelves full of car batteries help prevent computers from crashing during the city’s frequent power outages. That helpful and friendly nature of the people impressed Zeidler the most.

Social Sabbatical 01-08-2013-C“It’s possible to be successful using approaches different than the way we do things in Germany,” Zeidler said. “Things always seem to end well despite the alleged chaos.”

And that’s a sunny forecast for startups around the world.

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About Derek Klobucher

Derek Klobucher is a Brand Journalist, Content Marketer and Master Digital Storyteller at SAP. His responsibilities include conceiving, developing and conducting global, company-wide employee brand journalism training; managing content, promotion and strategy for social networks and online media; and mentoring SAP employees, contractors and interns to optimize blogging and social media efforts.

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Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.

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Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Create a Culture of Continuous Learning

Polly Traylor

The digital age has transformed every aspect of corporate processes, and corporate learning is no exception. We have mobile apps, social media, and online courses to help us achieve just-in-time learning when we identify a gap in knowledge at work or in our personal lives. Companies everywhere face the challenge of training and reskilling their workforces to keep pace with technological change, business disruption, and global competition.

Yet the traditional approach to learning, accomplished through classroom training, has been transitioning quickly to more cost-effective and real-time learning methods. This transition is crucial in enabling employees to learn new technologies at the rapid pace that vendors deliver them by, along with associated skills, such as data analysis.

Additionally, Millennials, the largest workforce demographic today, are demanding new methods for learning that center on social collaboration, video, and mobile apps. Corporate learning departments are determining how and where to blend face-to-face learning with digital learning methods.

Our experts discuss the trends and challenges ahead.

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qa_qHow is the digital world affecting corporate learning today?

Elliott Masie: We’ve seen a huge spike in the use of tracked online learning. Depending on the industry, as much as 70% of learning is now driven by compliance or regulatory experiences and as much as 90% of that is delivered digitally, either to a mobile phone or a desktop or through a live Webinar. If it’s skill building, such as how to delegate in a positive way as a leader, you’ll want a blended model where some content is delivered face-to-face. When you don’t have digital learning, the irony is you have a limited supply of learning and the supply goes to the people who need it the least – those who are really enthusiastic and proactive. Once you add a digital component to learning, the supply becomes limitless, available to talent across the organization.

Karie Willyerd: My daughter wanted to apply to the Centers for Disease Control for an internship, which required statistics knowledge. So she went to Khan Academy, took a few modules, and passed the test. It’s the idea that you can instantly get the training you need. I think the softer skills, such as leadership skills, will still require a classroom. But companies are getting increasingly virtual. There will be a very limited percentage of training that is done live in the future.

Bernd Welz: The general shelf life of knowledge is shortening with the increasing pace of digital transformation, so companies need a strategy to push knowledge and make sure that knowledge is always fresh. That’s where the digital learning platforms come into play. A manager will be able to say, ”Here’s a piece of knowledge that you really need.” With the learning management platform the manager can then very effectively dispatch the course to the employee and check later to see whether the learning was completed. Learning is much more real time and proactive.

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Digital learning often consists of short snippets of content, with a video or social element, rather than longer courses that take place over a day or two. Is there a danger to fly-by-night learning?

Jim Carroll: There’s always a phrase I use with Millennials, whether it’s about video games, how they ingest knowledge, or how they play sports: it’s not bad, it’s just different. The older generations tend to retain their values and understanding of what education is, but this generation has grown up in an entirely different world. Millennials think differently about what the world is and where they can get knowledge.

Willyerd: We need to connect with other people in our learning. In one of the studies we did for my book The 2020 Workplace, people said they don’t really like e-learning. We have to come up with ways to make e-learning more sociable.

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How can companies create an effective learning culture as they transform their learning organizations to digital and just-in-time learning?

SAP_Learning-Isbell_QA_images2400x1600_2Masie: Southwest Airlines has recognized that learning is continuous. Its goal is to launch its learning program and then include follow-ups and touchbacks for the learners rather than just teach in traditional classes.

Emirates, too, has figured out that digital is where the bulk of learning takes place. It has a culture of continuous learning whereby managers regularly talk to the people about what they’re learning or bump them to new or better learning activities or resources.

Carroll: Organizations are realizing that they need to deliver knowledge where it wasn’t required before, and the time they have to do it in is compressed. Organizations used to plan a year out for the changes that were going to occur in their industry. But business is speeding up to such a degree that all of a sudden we have to get ready now, because the change is going to have a big impact on us in the next three months.

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Are corporations doing enough to invest in learning transformation?

SAP_Learning-Isbell_QA_images2400x1600_3Willyerd: Eventually, people are going to realize ”Wow, we’ve got a real reskilling thing to do here!” When you look at how much the United States puts into training as a percentage of overall revenue, I think we are in 25th place or something ridiculous like that. But how did Korea go from where it was to being such a powerhouse? The government subsidized half of all training budgets for companies. I don’t think we’re going to go that far, but I can see it being a tax deduction or a tax incentive.

I know of a large hotel chain that implemented an online social collaboration space and began to use it for innovation ideas. It got people together from different brands who could share what they were doing. Before the collaboration space, the hotel chain didn’t have a way to do this effectively; now it can foster cross-brand innovation. Corporate leaders need to understand that learning does have a bottom-line benefit when there’s the right kind of investment in it.

Welz: In many industries, companies need to transform themselves, and knowledge is the key ingredient of a successful transformation. You need to know what the state of the art is, and you can only do that if you have a systematic approach to learning. You can’t just leave it to up to the employees hoping that they will read the right books or find the right training course on their own. The transformation is much less stressful if you can assure employees that they will get the knowledge they need to be successful.

Polly Traylor is a freelance writer who reports frequently about business and technology.

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About Polly Traylor

Polly S. Traylor writes about business, technology and healthcare from Denver, Colorado.

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Will The Collaborative Economy Completely Reimagine Tomorrow's Big Business?

Daniel Newman

Today, the largest car rental and hospitality companies are Uber and Airbnb, respectively. What do they have in common? Let’s see — neither of them own physical possessions associated with their service, and both have turned a non-performing asset into an incredible revenue source.

Don’t be surprised, because this is the new model for doing business. People want to rent instead of own, and at the same time, they want to monetize whatever they have in excess. This is the core of the sharing economy. The concept of earning money by sharing may have existed before, but not at such a large scale. From renting rooms to rides to clothes to parking spaces to just about anything else you can imagine, the sharing economy is rethinking how businesses are growing.

What’s driving the collaborative economy?

The sharing economy, or the collaborative economy, as it’s also called, is “an economic model where technologies enable people to get what they need from each other—rather than from centralized institutions,” explains Jeremiah Owyang, business analyst and founder of Crowd Companies, a collaborative economy platform. This means you could rent someone’s living room for a day or two, ride someone else’s bike for a couple of hours, or even take someone’s pet out for a walk—all for a rental fee.

Even a few years ago, this sort of a thing was unthinkable. When Airbnb launched in 2008, many people were skeptical, as the whole idea seemed not only irrational, but totally stupid. I mean, why would anyone want to spend the night in a stranger’s room and sleep on an air bed, right? Well, turns out many people did! Airbnb moved from spare rooms to luxury condos, villas, and even castles and private islands in more than 30,000 cities across 190 countries, and rentals reached a staggering 15 million plus last year.

What is driving this trend? Millennials definitely play a role. Their love for everything on-demand, plus their frugal mindset, makes them ideal for the sharing economy. But the sharing economy is attractive to consumers across a wide demographic, as it only makes sense.

How collaborative economy is reshaping the future of businesses

Until recently, collaborative-economy startups like Uber and Airbnb were looked upon as threats. Disuptors to any marketplace are usually threatening, so this isn’t surprising. Established businesses that were accustomed to the way things had always been did (and still do) rail against companies like Uber or AirBnB, yet consumers seem to love them. And that’s what matters. Uber has faced many harsh criticisms, yet it continues to provide more than a million rides a month.

We are living in an era of consumer-driven enterprise, where consumers are at the helm. Perhaps this is the biggest reason why the collaborative economy is here to stay. No matter what industry, companies are trying to bring customers to the fore. A collaborative business model allows customers to call the shots. A great example is the cloud, which relies on resource sharing and allows users to scale up or down according to their needs.

Today, traditional businesses are participating in a collaborative economy in different ways. Some are acquiring startups. General Motors, for example, invested $3 million to acquire RelayRides, a peer-to-peer car sharing service. Others are entering into partnerships like Marriott, which partnered with LiquidSpace, an online platform to book flexible workspaces. Other brands, like GE, BMW, Walgreens, and Pepsi are also stepping into the collaborative-economy space and holding the hands of startups instead of competing with them.

Changes in the workplace

Remote work and telecommuting has taken off as companies become more comfortable with the idea of people working outside their offices, and cloud technology is enabling that. Now, let’s look at the scenario from the lens of the sharing economy. With companies looking to find temporary resources that can meet the fast-changing demands of the business, freelancers could replace a large chunk of full-time professionals in future. Why? Because at the heart of this disruptive practice lies the concept of sharing human resources.

As companies set out to temporarily use the services of people to meet short- and medium-term goals, it’s going to completely change the way we build companies. Also, as we have seen through the growth of companies like Airbnb and Uber, it’s going to change the deliverables that companies provide. With demand changing and technology proliferating at breakneck speed, it’s not just important that businesses start to see and adopt this change; it’s imperative because companies that over-commit to any one thing will find themselves obsolete.

When it comes to workplaces, so much is happening today that it’s impossible to predict where things are ultimately headed. But one thing is for sure: The collaborative economy is not going anywhere as long as our priorities are built around better, faster, more efficient and cost-effective.

Want more insight on today’s sharing economy? see Collaborative Economy: It’s Real And It’s Disrupting Enterprises.

This article was originally seen on Ricoh Blog.

The post Will the Collaborative Economy Completely Reimagine Tomorrows Big Business appeared first on Millennial CEO.

Photo Credit: Pedrolu33 via Compfight cc

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About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

The Future Of Documents: Signing, Payment, And Automation

Mikita Mikado

Remember when closing an agreement meant that your team had to go through each page of a paper contract with a client, have them initial or sign by hand, then scan and email it back and forth? Thanks to the emergence of e-signature software, those days are gone.

E-signatures are already having a direct impact on the productivity of companies in a variety of ways. In fact, back in 2013, Ombud Research surveyed United Healthcare and found adopting a paperless e-signature process saved the company more than $1 million in administration costs. The provider-contract turnaround was also significantly reduced, going from an average of 32.5 days to only 2.

Others are seeing benefits, too. Salesforce declared in its annual 2014 report an average savings of $20 per document after implementing electronic signing.

As more businesses realize the benefits of document automation technology, adoption rates will grow, furthering development. Business leaders who don’t adopt this technology soon will be left behind with an outdated process that impedes growth.

To keep up, here’s what’s ahead in document automation:

1. E-signatures will become fully commoditized.

Since the passing of the Electronic Signatures In Global And National Commerce (ESIGN) Act in 2000, signing all agreements on paper is no longer necessary. Electronic signatures for e-commerce agreements are legally binding and protected by the same rights as ink on paper. E-signatures are already increasing in popularity because of their convenience, and in a few years, they will be widely accepted as a transactional commodity.

As adoption grows, the demands for functionality in e-sign tools will grow, too. Signing will move beyond even some of today’s e-signature software features, like uploading a saved image of your personal signature or converting your typed name to script. Eventually, signing won’t require any typing. You’ll be able to sign with a voice command.

2. The use of enterprise automation platforms will expand.

Research from Raab Associates predicted revenue from B2B marketing automation would grow 60 percent last year, reaching $1.2 billion. The adoption of enterprise automation platforms will continue to increase as more companies experience the benefits: faster sales cycles and streamlined collaboration.

In fact, 58 percent of top-performing companies — or those where marketing contributes more than half of the sales pipeline — have already adopted marketing automation, according to a 2014 Forrester report. As marketing automation grows, businesses will be able to process more documents quickly, enabling growth.

B2B growth affects the document landscape, too. Sales is most innovative and efficient when it comes to adopting new technology. In fact, high-performing sales teams are the first to embrace new tech tools to streamline the sales process, with 44 percent using offer management tools, according to Salesforce’s 2015 State of Sales Report.

The rate at which sales grows will serve as a predictor of overall growth.

3. Document assembly will be entirely cloud-based.

Today, most sales documents are created and stored locally, either in PDFs or word processing programs. Creating and storing content in the cloud is a relatively new practice for many companies, but with the increased need to be always connected we’ll see a shift to cloud-based content, which can be accessed from any computer or mobile device.

Cloud-based office suites like Google Docs will be standard, almost entirely replacing word processing software. Compatibility will no longer be an issue, as it was with different versions of word processing documents, which will completely alter the day-to-day experience of people who work with documents. The ability to share and edit documents instantly will support tight deadlines and increase expectations for productivity.

4. Integrations will make projects seamless.

Bringing together data from separate systems that don’t otherwise talk to one another results in one complete view of the entire process. Several CRM integrations have already been developed among various document creation and storage platforms to import and keep track of customer data seamlessly.

Open API will continue to provide a vehicle for people to access and share data regardless of where or how it is stored. Extra steps of printing, signing, and scanning will be completely eliminated.

5. Processing and payment will be instant.

With the increased demand for integrations, there will be no need to upload documents into any system for approvals, payment processing, and storage; cloud-based app integrations will take care of that. Not only will it enable instant credit card transactions, but management approval will be simplified through automated requests managers can view and approve anywhere via mobile device.

Payments will be processed instantly within the document itself through integration with tools like Square and PayPal. Eventually, with the rise of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, smart documents will be able to accept payments, completely cutting out the middleman.

Once documents are processed, they’ll be automatically saved and uploaded right into the integrated cloud storage system of your choice. With a few keywords in the search bar, anyone from the team will be able to pull transaction and approval records immediately.

Even if you’re already using a document automation platform, think about areas of opportunity you could be missing. Many of the features that will be the norm in a couple of years are already available; they’re just not yet widely used. Look at how making some simple changes now might give your organization a head start on better sales efficiency.

What are some other changes you expect to see coming from document automation and e-signature software in the next few years?

For more insight on our increasingly connected world, see How To Direct Your Digital Future: 4 Questions.

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About Mikita Mikado

Mikita Mikado is the Co-Founder & CEO of PandaDoc, a platform helping sales teams create, deliver, and track intelligent sales content to close deals faster.