Industry-Disruptive Innovation: How To Turn Illusion Into Reality

Oliver Huschke

Part 1 of the “Kick-Starting Innovation” series

Many companies are operating under a grand illusion of innovation. The business may be changing, but efforts rarely deliver on the promise of groundbreaking outcomes. Although highly valued, innovation is in direct competition with demand for predictable, consistent financial results; intolerance for risks and conspicuous failures; and the economic promise of mainstream customers.

For these reasons and many others, it’s futile to ponder whether a company can act fast, run lean, and accept risk. Unless your business is accomplishing this balance (and few are), you can’t operate like a digital startup until you adopt a new approach and mindset to adapt to a world of limitless potential and risk.

How to build a culture of industry-disruptive innovation

New intelligent systems are emerging and growing at an accelerated pace. The Internet of Things, machine learning, artificial intelligence, Big Data, collaboration, cloud computing, predictive analytics, and more are empowering businesses to create business models that open previously untapped revenue streams and wowing customers and employees with better experiences.

While digital adoption is the preferred path to inducing the birth of a new startup, established companies view it as a bridge between today’s operations and tomorrow’s opportunities and demands. But first, the right guidance, skills, and expertise are needed to turn these investments into a significant competitive advantage with a clear understanding of current business problems and the right combination of technologies to solve them.

With a fast, structured approach to digital transformation, companies can manage the complete lifecycle of their digital transformation – without spending significant time, money, and effort upfront.

Four fundamental elements accelerate innovations:

  • Showroom: Innovation use cases, the experiences of other companies, and various technology options are explored and assessed in a virtual lab environment to provide food for ideas.
  • Digital design zone: Agile and fast, the design process puts the business at the center of every stage of the innovation process. With design thinking and a dedicated innovation coach, organizations can create prototypes and, with this, materialize ideas.
  • Empowerment sessions: Remote online training facilitates expert-guided knowledge transfer and serves as a source of inspiration for innovators.
  • Innovation platform: Access to a service-enriched cloud platform and ready-to-use technology use cases takes innovation a step further by leveraging business innovation best practices to quickly connect the back end of the prototype.

In essence, the business will benefit from a “try before you decide” opportunity to determine whether the innovation makes sense for the entire company and to accelerate the concept’s transition to production.

An opportunity to redefine your potential for digital innovation

Combining the right tools, technology, and skills in a focused process for delivering change, businesses can kick-start new possibilities for industry-disruptive innovation. Expertise and experimentation in user experience design, business transformation, industry dynamics, and the latest technology provide the actionable insight and know-how needed to develop new applications that are not only functionally sound, but also enable a user experience unlike anything competitors are delivering.

Find out how your business can benefit from unlimited access to a showroom, a set of empowering sessions, and an innovation platform. Read the white paper “Achieve Digital Transformation and Create a System of Ongoing Innovation.” 

And don’t forget to check every Monday for new installments to this blog series “Kick-Starting Innovation.” Next week, we’ll explore the concept of showroom-driven innovation.


Oliver Huschke

About Oliver Huschke

Oliver Huschke is the global head of Solution Marketing for Digital Business Services at SAP. He has worked for SAP since 1997, starting with development where he built up and led the central test organization. Oliver was head of application management and managed marketing activities at SAP Hosting. Further stations include strategic development and Active Global Support with responsibility for global product management of the SAP Premium Engagement Program. Share your thoughts with Oliver on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Top 5 CIO Blogs Of November 2017

Jean Loh

A series of blogs about user experience design attracted a lot of interest in November, with two on the best-read list. Other popular topics: streamlining finance processes in shared service centers with machine learning, boosting procurement efficiency with artificial intelligence, and some really good suggestions on cybersecurity. Take a look if you missed any of these great blogs.

AI And Messaging Apps: What Every CIO Needs To Know About Trends In User Experience Design

Reshaping The Value Of Shared Services With Machine Learning

What Every CIO Needs To Know About User Experience Design Trends

Five Ignored Practices That Can Disarm Your Cybersecurity Time Bomb

It’s Time For Corporate Spending To Manage Itself

For more hot topics, read More Than Noise: Digital Trends That Are Bigger Than You Think.


Jean Loh

About Jean Loh

Jean Loh is the director, Global Audience Marketing at SAP. She is an experienced marketing and communication professional, currently responsible for developing thought leadership content that is unbiased and audience-led while addressing market challenges to illuminate and solve the unmet needs of CFOs, CIOs, and the wider global finance and IT audience.

Preparing For GDPR: Ready-FIRE!-Aim Doesn’t Always Work

Jan Gardiner

In these days of romanticizing ready-FIRE!-aim as it relates to entrepreneurship and product innovation, I’ll stand up and voice my concerns when it comes to using this as a compliance strategy for GDPR.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a sweeping regulation that will likely have a major impact on most companies—except for those few that have absolutely nothing to do with the personal data of residents of the European Union. Chances are you have already read all about GDPR, so I won’t explain it here (and besides, that’s best left to your legal team). But think of it as SOX on steroids, but with a data privacy and protection focus.

Given the siloed world many of us live in, chances are that your company deals with the introduction of each major regulation as a one-off event. Depending upon the focus of the regulation, the company may do a quick evaluation to say, “Yup, it applies to us” and then assign responsibility to the department that is most involved. For example, SOX was probably initially assigned to the financial accounting folks, until management realized it wasn’t just about getting the debits and credits right; instead, it involved tightening up a variety of activities that spanned many groups and departments from the CEO on down.

I’m a bit concerned that companies may be approaching GDPR compliance in the same way. That is, start a spreadsheet, toss GDPR to various IT owners, let them buy and implement whatever they need, and call it good. After all, if you pour enough technology on it, it should be easy—right? But there are more than a few problems with this approach:

  • First, GDPR isn’t just about technology. It includes technology, sure, but includes also people, processes, and even company attitudes towards the protection of data.
  • And while there is a myriad of vendor offerings to help with GDPR, there is not now and likely never will be a single, comprehensive tool set that does it all. There is no magic “GDPR in a box” solution, alas. So, sending IT on a quest to find this mythical solution is not likely to be a rousing success.
  • Besides, without first carefully evaluating GDPR requirements and assessing your gaps and challenges, how can you possibly know when you have found the right combination of solutions for your company? Is a spreadsheet along with numerous e-mails enough to prove that you are compliant?
  • Also, how do you know that various risks and controls surrounding GDPR will be assessed the same way for a consistent, effective, and sustainable approach?

Take aim at GDPR compliance

So instead of a ready-FIRE!-aim approach, I propose instead taking the extra time to aim by:

  • Carefully analyzing the regulation to determine which specific requirements apply to the company
  • Fact-finding to understand the situation today—which systems, data, processes, policies, contracts, and people are related to GDPR compliance
  • Comparing the detailed GDPR requirements vs. your as-is state to determine what gaps exist
  • Creating different workstreams to investigate and fill those gaps
  • Documenting what you are doing as you go along so you know where you stand and can evaluate your progress
  • Focus on creating sustainable processes and practices, not just one-time quick fixes. There is no indication that GDPR will go away any time soon.

I am personally a fan of having several workstreams working concurrently. For one thing, GDPR goes into effect on May 25, 2018, so there is not much time left.  And there is no reason why one team cannot be working on updating policies and related education materials while another team is implementing software to help locate and correlate personal data elements. So a multi-workstream approach can be beneficial and, depending upon how far along you are with GDPR compliance, it may be the only approach that will help you be compliant on time.

Don’t underestimate the GDPR requirements for being able to provide evidence of compliance and demonstrating accountability.  A ready-FIRE!-aim approach isn’t the best way to do this (no surprise!). And having a software solution to document risk assessments, evaluate controls, monitor systems, and provide the reporting that your Data Protection Officer (DPO) needs can be a huge step up from spreadsheets and e-mails.

On a related note, if yours is one of the many companies that may not be 100% GDPR-compliant on day one, generally held opinion (not legal fact) is that being able to demonstrate strong good faith efforts will go a long way. Having a clear idea of where you are, where you are going, progress made, and priorities for continuing are key.

In short, compliance with GDPR should not be a one-time unilateral project, but instead needs to be a sustainable enterprise-wide process. If you are using a ready-FIRE!-aim approach, it’s likely you’ll end up missing the target.

To learn more about consumer expectations for data privacy, read this recent blog. And read all the GRC Tuesday series blogs on GDPR.

This article originally appeared on SAP Analytics.


Human Skills for the Digital Future

Dan Wellers and Kai Goerlich

Technology Evolves.
So Must We.

Technology replacing human effort is as old as the first stone axe, and so is the disruption it creates.
Thanks to deep learning and other advances in AI, machine learning is catching up to the human mind faster than expected.
How do we maintain our value in a world in which AI can perform many high-value tasks?

Uniquely Human Abilities

AI is excellent at automating routine knowledge work and generating new insights from existing data — but humans know what they don’t know.

We’re driven to explore, try new and risky things, and make a difference.
We deduce the existence of information we don’t yet know about.
We imagine radical new business models, products, and opportunities.
We have creativity, imagination, humor, ethics, persistence, and critical thinking.

There’s Nothing Soft About “Soft Skills”

To stay ahead of AI in an increasingly automated world, we need to start cultivating our most human abilities on a societal level. There’s nothing soft about these skills, and we can’t afford to leave them to chance.

We must revamp how and what we teach to nurture the critical skills of passion, curiosity, imagination, creativity, critical thinking, and persistence. In the era of AI, no one will be able to thrive without these abilities, and most people will need help acquiring and improving them.

Anything artificial intelligence does has to fit into a human-centered value system that takes our unique abilities into account. While we help AI get more powerful, we need to get better at being human.

Download the executive brief Human Skills for the Digital Future.

Read the full article The Human Factor in an AI Future.


Dan Wellers

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.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu


Finance And HR: Friends Or Foes? Shifting To A Collaborative Mindset

Richard McLean

Part 1 in the 3-part “Finance and HR Collaboration” series

In my last blog, I challenged you to think of collaboration as the next killer app, citing a recent study by Oxford Economics sponsored by SAP. The study clearly explains how corporate performance improves when finance actively engages in collaboration with other business functions.

As a case in point, consider finance and HR. Both are being called on to work more collaboratively with each other – and the broader business – to help achieve a shared vision for the company. In most organizations, both have undergone a transformation to extend beyond operational tasks and adopt a more strategic focus, opening the door to more collaboration. As such, both have assumed three very important roles in the company – business partner, change agent, and steward. In this post, I’ll illustrate how collaboration can enable HR and finance to be more effective business partners.

Making the transition to focus on broader business objectives

My colleague Renata Janini Dohmen, senior vice president of HR for SAP Asia Pacific Japan, credits a changing mindset for both finance and HR as key to enabling the transition away from our traditional roles to be more collaborative. She says, “For a long time, people in HR and finance were seen as opponents. HR was focused on employees and how to motivate, encourage, and cheer on the workforce. Finance looked at the numbers and was a lot more cautious and possibly more skeptical in terms of making an investment. Today, both areas have made the transition to take on a more holistic perspective. We are pursuing strategies and approaching decisions based on what delivers the best return on investment for the company’s assets, whether those assets are monetary or non-monetary. This mindset shift plays a key role in how finance and HR execute the strategic imperatives of the company,” she notes.

Viewing joint decisions from a completely different lens

I agree with Renata. This mindset change has certainly impacted the way I make decisions. If I’m just focused on controlling costs and assessing expenditures, I’ll evaluate programs and ideas quite differently than if I’m thinking about the big picture.

For example, there’s an HR manager in our organization who runs Compensation and Benefits. She approaches me regularly with great ideas. But those ideas cost money. In the past, I was probably more inclined to look at those conversations from a tactical perspective. It was easy for me to simply say, “No, we can’t afford it.”

Now I look at her ideas from a more strategic perspective. I think, “What do we want our culture to be in the years ahead? Are the benefits packages she is proposing perhaps the right ones to get us there? Are they family friendly? Are they relevant for people in today’s world? Will they make us an employer of choice?” I quite enjoy the rich conversations we have about the impact of compensation and benefits design on the culture we want to create. Now, I see our relationship as much more collaborative and jointly invested in attracting and retaining the best people who will ultimately deliver on the company strategy. It’s a completely different lens.

Defining how finance and HR align to the company strategy

Renata and I believe that greater collaboration between finance and HR is a critical success factor. How can your organization achieve this shift? “Once the organization has clearly defined what role finance and HR must play and how they fundamentally align to the company strategy, then it’s more natural to structure them in a way to support such transformation,” Renata explains.

Technology plays an important role in our ability to successfully collaborate. Looking back, finance and HR were heavily focused on our own operational areas because everything we did tended to consume more time – just keeping the lights on and taking care of our basic responsibilities. Now, through a more efficient operating model with shared services, standard operating procedures, and automation, we can both be more business-focused and integrated. As a result, we’re able to collaborate in more meaningful ways to have a positive impact on business outcomes.

In our next blog, we’ll look at how finance and HR can work together as agents of change.

For a deeper dive, download the Oxford Economics study sponsored by SAP.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube


Richard McLean

About Richard McLean

Richard McLean, regional CFO for SAP Asia Pacific Japan, oversees all key finance and administrative functions for field and regional headquarters, supporting more than 16,000 employees. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior finance roles with leading global companies across a range of industries, including financial services, investment banking, automotive, and IT. He joined SAP in 2008.