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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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About Jim Fields

Jim Fields is the Vice President of Customer Experience Marketing at SAP. He is responsible for innovating new models of engagement and generally finding margin between the organizational silos. In this role, I am the North American Marketing leader for digital and social programs, strategic events, marketing communications and content, and global sponsorship activation.

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 Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.

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Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.

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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.