Conversations on the Future of Business: Optimizing Resources Amid Increasing Scarcity

Jim Fields

In an arid country like Israel, every drop of water counts.273488_l_srgb_s_gl

The Israelis are famous for making the desert bloom, and they’ve done it by optimizing scarce resources. Along with conserving water wherever possible, Israel reclaims about 80 percent of its wastewater for agriculture and other purposes—compared to less than 3 percent in the United States. Israel also creates new supplies of fresh water through its world-leading desalination program.

Simple efficiency or essential strategy?

What does Israel’s water problem have to do with your business? Plenty.

Every company, from the largest global corporation to the shop on the corner, faces the same challenge with its daily operations that Israel faces with its perpetual water shortage:  ongoing pressure to optimize resources. Companies want to know how to enhance the value and utility they receive from resources that are increasingly scarce or underused, whether it’s because they are less available, more expensive or in greater demand.

The last few years have been hard for many businesses. Operating budgets have declined, focus on corporate citizenship and accountability has increased, and shareholders and directors have called for better management at all organizational levels. As a result, resource optimization has ceased to be primarily a tool to help companies take small steps toward greater efficiency and has become instead a core strategy—one that is critical to the future of business.

How are companies optimizing their resources?

New technologies are providing part of the answer. The Internet of Things (machine-to-machine communication) is making it possible for smart vending machines and refrigerators, and other smart devices, to provide status updates and other business intelligence, making them active participants in the supply chain rather than passive or dormant assets. Other smart devices can cut energy costs and consumption by turning off lights, heat and air conditioning when they’re not required, or irrigating as-needed rather than as-scheduled. Still others can use low-cost sensors to keep track of materials and equipment.

Companies are also looking across the societal landscape and finding inspiration. Businesses like AirBnB that allow individuals to put idle resources to work, and Zipcar that enable more people to share fewer resources and still get maximum value, are providing useful models for many companies.

The same is true of a phenomenon such as the Maker movement, which is disrupting big manufacturing by creating a global cottage industry. Millions of people are setting up workshops in garages, basements and other unused spaces, and then combining new technologies such as 3D printers and laser cutters with traditional skills such as sewing and woodworking to create and sell custom goods.

Looking at this groundswell movement, some businesses are seeing the potential for using technology to create a global network of small work spaces where products can be designed and manufactured to order, thereby reducing inventory costs and streamlining supply lines.

Defining the future of resource optimization

Resource optimization, like business itself, is dynamic. Nothing stays the same for long, so companies are constantly challenged to adapt to an ever-changing world. Yet to succeed, and to ensure the future of the business, it’s a challenge that every company must meet.

Join The Conversations On The Future Of Business with today’s most influential thought leaders as they share perspectives on global trends that are transforming our world.


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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!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

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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Connected Cars Rev Up For A Revolution [VIDEO]

Michael Zipf

Every two years, almost a million car enthusiasts flock to the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA), the world’s largest automotive trade fair, to enjoy the legendary spectacle of automakers rolling out their latest models to an accompaniment of flashing lights, throbbing bass beats, and stylishly dressed dancers.

While the giant exhibition halls on the ground Couple buying a car --- Image by © Don Mason/Blend Images/Corbisfloor echo to the sound of visitors jostling to examine paint work and leather, sleek sports cars, people carriers, electric vehicles, and the ubiquitous SUVs, the atmosphere in the New Mobility World exhibition on the first floor is altogether calmer. Nevertheless, this is where pressing issues about the future of mobility are being discussed.

The exhibitors here include Samsung, IBM, Deutsche Telekom, and – making its debut appearance – SAP. Awake to the far-reaching revolution that lies ahead of the automotive sector, these IT companies are in Frankfurt to showcase ways in which information technology is already making it possible to connect today’s highly digitized vehicles with each other, with their drivers, and with the technological infrastructure around them.

Revved up for a revolution

Chris Urmson considers the convergence of vehicles and IT to be “the most exciting development of our age.” Speaking in Frankfurt, Urmson, who heads up Google’s driverless car program, described the number of people killed on America’s roads every year – 36,000 – as “unacceptable” and stressed that his company’s intensive research into autonomous vehicles was aimed at improving road safety.

Robert Wolcott, Professor of Innovation Management and Corporate Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, spoke of “a new industrial revolution” whose impact would be “on a par with that of the railroads in the 19th century.”

So it’s no surprise that the IT sector is steering its focus toward the automotive industry.

At the IAA’s Smart City Forum, SAP has teamed up with various cities to present solutions designed to put an end to the daily traffic gridlock. And, to judge by the figures below, their capabilities are sorely needed:

  • By 2050, around 70% of the global population will be living in cities.
  • The number of cars on the planet is set to almost double by 2030.
  • Experts predict that the volume of freight traffic on Europe’s roads will increase 80% by 2025.
  • On average, a car driver in Germany spends 36 hours stuck in traffic jams every year.

Smart cities for a better quality of life

Smart Traffic Control enables cities to optimize traffic-light controls and free up additional car lanes during the rush hour to alleviate congestion, while data collected by RFID chips, sensors, cameras, and induction loops is used to compile congestion profiles and monitor real-time traffic issues. The Chinese city of Nanjing, which is home to 8 million people, has chosen to adopt smart traffic control technology to crunch the 20 billion data points captured in the city every year to produce actionable information for predictively responding to traffic congestion. And the software even learns as it goes along. In June of this year, the city signed a Custom Development Project with SAP. Currently, the SAP HANA platform helps Nanging analyze the data generated by its 10,000 taxis. The plan is for other modes of transportation to provide data in the future too.

“Smart traffic is one of the hottest topics for the world’s ever-expanding cities,” says Norbert Koppenhagen from the SAP Innovation Center Network, who is also at the IAA to showcase SAP’s cooperation with the German city of Darmstadt, near Frankfurt. “If we can keep the traffic flowing, we’ll make city-dwellers’ lives a whole lot more livable.”

The SAP Vehicle Insights cloud application links vehicular data with sensor data to provide actionable insight into driver behavior patterns and efficiency. The software helps logistics and mobility services providers monitor live vehicle conditions and manage their services within the constraints imposed by pollution and traffic congestion. The SAP Vehicle Insights also helps fleet operators manage their fleets optimally.

City App is another innovation being showcased in Frankfurt. Developed in collaboration with the German city of Nuremberg, this app features crowdsourcing functions that allow citizens to report defects and damage in their immediate vicinity. Algorithms assimilate these reports with data about factors such as traffic density in the affected city zone to help municipal authorities optimize their response.

There is also considerable buzz around TwoGo, the mobile app that lets employees at enterprises, institutions, and municipal authorities link up and share their daily commute to the office. “This is an exciting time for TwoGo,” says Alexander Machold, a member of the TwoGo business development team. “We’ve got vehicle manufacturers, parking garage operators, local authorities, and government ministries all looking into how TwoGo could help them cut costs and develop new business models.” What’s more, he says, the app sometimes opens the door to cross-selling opportunities for other SAP solutions.

“The number of connected cars on our roads is growing; more and more vehicles are being outfitted with sensors; and even driverless cars are becoming a genuine possibility. All in all, this is a great opportunity for us to transform cities, industries, and businesses sustainably to create a better future,” says Stephan Brand, Vice President, PI Analytics Applications, Products and Innovation at SAP.

The Internet has changed the way we buy cars, while mobile technology is changing what we expect them to do. Learn more about The Hyperconnected Car.

This story also appeared in the SAP Business Trends community.


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Is Digital Business the Answer to the Climate Crisis?

Kai Goerlich

By Kai Goerlich, Michael Goldberg, Will Ritzrau

Among the studies of climate change that indict human inventions and activities for the ecological damage done to the earth, there is a hopeful glimmer that digital business can bend the curve to reduce carbon emissions. According to #SMARTer2030, a study by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Accenture Strategy, it is possible, during the next 15 years, to hold worldwide carbon emissions to 2015 levels by digitizing business processes and applying data to decisions about resource use. That would represent a valuable contribution, according to the research, in decoupling economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, thus helping to solve the tradeoff between the two.

SAP looked at a subset of companies in six major industries that are currently using business software such as enterprise resource planning, data analytics, supply chain, logistics, production planning, resource optimization, and remote access. Then SAP did their own analysis to estimate how applying these technologies to emerging digital business models in these industries globally would contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

The “Business as Usual” Scenario

The heat is on. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world body established in 1988 to assess the impact of humans on the climate, notes in its most recent report that “business as usual” practices would lead to temperature increases between 2.6°C and 4.8°C by the end of the century—beyond our expected ability to reverse the damage.

More IT = Less CO2

By rolling out information and communications technologies (ICT) across the global economy, total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent could be cut 12.1 gigatons by 2030 and help forestall temperature increases, GeSI research has concluded. GeSI is an ICT industry association working with, among others, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to improve its members’ sustainability performance and promote technologies that foster sustainable development.


About Kai Goerlich

Futurist and resource optimization thought leader

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