Digital Transformation Is All About Disruption

Matthias Harbusch

There are already tons of articles out there about digital transformation, and everyone has different thoughts and opinions on this hyped topic. I believe digital transformation is just a means to generate new business models, and new business models are disruptive. We can only benefit from all these discussions if we compare and contrast our attitudes to those of others, so let me explain my point of view.

It’s all about the disruptive factor

As already mentioned, digital transformation is disruptive for a company in a given market, which leads me to the question: What is actually meant by “digital transformation”? The number of definitions is just as overwhelming as the different perspectives on it. In my view, digital transformation refers to the activity of taking a step into a new world and not just for the sake of presenting something new.

Uber and Amazon are two great examples of disruptive businesses.

Uber has made good use of the technological progress and emerging opportunities to revolutionize the taxi market. It connects users and contracting parties, even though it is actually just a platform – something that has existed a thousand times before. But the easiness of the platform and the flexibility of the business model are its distinguishing factors. Amazon, originally primarily an online platform, now profits by leasing server space, a second and obviously very successful part of its business.

International phenomena such as globalization put pressure on organizations, which require them to react to changes and meet new requirements. It’s not just about creating and developing a competitive edge while being oriented towards well-known competitors. Some companies, such as Tesla, are highly successful, even though no one might have expected it to build efficient cars.

But too often, digital transformation approaches are company-focused and miss the broader picture. Challenges in digital transformation cannot be reduced to the formula: new business model + breakthrough technology = digital transformation. There is more. As digital transformation is about more than technology and should put users at the forefront of all activities, the right formula is: reimagining business models + reimaging customer and user experience + leveraging latest technology trends = design-led digital transformation.

Design to innovate

Our customers usually say they want to be more innovative, but lack the knowledge and tools to generate new ideas and business models. We use design-thinking methods and other innovative approaches to overcome this dilemma. Our strong end-user focus and close customer contact enable us to identify a huge potential for ideas. This is our differentiator. We observe users during their daily work and are therefore able to detect problems of which IT is often not aware.

In the exploration phase we discover and identify the potential for optimized processes and new business models. We also derive the effects on internal business models and user interfaces that support these new processes.

But we don’t want to just save the world. Our expertise allows us to go a step further to build and design impactful solutions that our customers desperately need. Customers often approach us with a specific problem they want to solve. Throughout our collaboration they realize that their problem might be bigger than expected or maybe even totally different from the initial problem they identified. We help them think more broadly and leave their comfort zone to expand, to go further to adapt processes. IT is usually just a supporting factor, but offers great potential for innovation.

The design part is an essential component and maybe the distinguishing factor. We don’t stay on the high level. This is where we start. We apply and adapt the design-thinking method to the challenges our customers face and elaborate on the details to create disruptive business models that ultimately cause and support the transformation.

This is how we create deeper relationships between IT and business and also design experiences for users. We are sometimes pushed into the corner of user experience. But actually the skills of empathy and creativity enable us to apply our methods to business challenges. We not only prepare our customers for the future, but design customized solutions both for and with them.

Digital transformation is not just happening “out there,” it is hitting us directly, which presents us with the possibility and obligation to create it.

There is no avoiding digital disruption. Learn more about 4 Ways to Digitally Disrupt Your Business Without Destroying It.

This article originally appeared on SAP User Experience Community.


Matthias Harbusch

About Matthias Harbusch

Matthias Harbusch has been working in several user experience positions at SAP SE since 1999. He started his career at SAP in development in 1996. During the first big user experience (UX) wave at SAP in 1999, he moved into the position of a UX designer. From 2003 until 2006, he grew from a team lead position to Vice President, managing UX suite applications. The team size went up from 5 to 90 UX specialists in 7 different locations around the world. The UX team covered interaction designer, visual designer and user researcher and supported all UX-related activities in the SAP Business Suite. In 2014, Matthias decided to move into the SAP Heidelberg Apphaus as program manager. Here, he supports design-thinking workshops in the Apphaus and workshops on the customer side.