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.

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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.

Digital Experience: The Key To User Delight

Jason Bloomberg

What if every interaction with your company – from a customer exploring your website to a clerk completing a form to a partner fulfilling an order – was simply delightful?

Whether in consumer or B2B scenarios, the digital experience (DX) drives key business priorities like sales conversions, productivity, and profitability. That’s why enterprises of every stripe are working to deliver seamless, high-quality interactions across every digital touchpoint.

Achieving this goal depends on a complex set of technologies across the enterprise working together. To address this complexity, organizations must take a holistic approach.

“Holistic” is one of those marketing buzzwords that can raise red flags in any discussion of enterprise software – but achieving a holistic experience is the key to delighting people.

Companies’ digital teams should leverage devices, systems, and tools across both systems of record and systems of engagement to deliver the quality of experience that everyone expects.

A well-orchestrated DX streamlines and accelerates both processes and interactions. The results can be extraordinary: increased customer value, higher productivity, and delighted users – inside your organization and out.

Digital experience: simple on the outside, complex on the inside

 To provide the best DX, businesses must rethink existing technology touch points for everyone who interacts with the company.

Customers require seamless interactions as they move from laptop to smartphone to, say, an in-person retail experience. Similarly, employees may interact with an increasing variety of interfaces specific to their role, from increasingly sophisticated voice interactions to a wide range of augmented reality or artificial intelligence-supported devices.

New technologies, in fact, offer both promise and additional complexity. The Internet of Things is exploding the number and variety of user touch points, while artificial intelligence improves the ability for technology to improve its interactions with people well beyond what’s available today.

The opportunities for optimized business processes, improved productivity, reduced errors, and better relationships with customers abound. But far too often user interfaces are overly complicated and disjointed, with little commonality from one to the next.

These incoherent interfaces are a natural outcome of the underlying infrastructure, which typically comprises diverse data sources, incompatible back-end systems, disconnected workflows, and competing, often contradictory business processes. Companies have been leveraging a mix of different tools within departments or lines of business in their own silos, each of which depends on different underlying systems and disjointed data sets.

Business processes often succumb to this technical complexity. Even simple processes like placing an order require multiple teams across an enterprise to collaborate, as they coordinate systems, processes, and data, as the diagram below illustrates. Too often, this results in processes too slow or fraught with errors to maintain any kind of user-friendly DX – and in the end, profitability and competitiveness suffer as well.

Even a simple order touches multiple people using different devices and applications.

Achieving a holistic digital experience

The challenges of technical complexity require organizations to leverage a digital experience platform where they can manage engagements, collaboration, and customer interactions in a single, well-integrated environment.

To succeed, this DX platform must unite all systems of record. By creating a single source of truth, organizations can integrate processes and data across the silos that have interfered with the user experience in the past.

The DX platform must provide this consolidation without disrupting the underlying systems. The goal is to create an environment for delivering end-to-end experiences without needlessly interfering with existing core processes. Thus, a holistic DX platform like SAP Cloud Platform is marked by its ability to integrate seamlessly into existing infrastructure.

Once a DX platform is in place, the digital team can streamline business operations – first by connecting tools, infrastructure, and processes, and then by designing and implementing optimized user interfaces for all audiences. As technologies advance, such platforms can leverage artificial intelligence to improve human interactions.

This optimization can pull together many different efforts. Teams can accelerate integration with back-end software to access core data while simplifying integrated business processes. They can create strategic applications that support multiple touch points – for employees, suppliers, customers, or anyone else who participates in such processes.

The end result will be to simplify and accelerate all tasks via end-to-end services across all lines of business, providing increased value across the enterprise.

The Intellyx take: achieving elusive user delight

As enterprises implement digital experience platforms as they move forward with their digital transformation initiatives, DX should continue to improve. How do you know, then, that your DX is good enough? The answer: when you consistently delight your users.

User delight is one of the most difficult to define, but most important metrics any digital initiative can have. It is essentially a combination of the subtle emotional reactions that impact a person’s perceived opinion of a set of interactions, and generally, with a company overall.

As consumers, we all recognize it—when our interactions with a company are so seamless, so customer-centered, that they are truly delightful. Get DX right, and your organization can reap the rewards.

For more on this topic, see Five Ways AI And Machine Learning Can Improve CX.

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Jason Bloomberg

About Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is founder and president of the agile digital transformation analyst firm Intellyx. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top digital transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists. Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books, including The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

Drive Business Growth With A Hybrid Analytics Strategy

Steve McHugh

Combining the most valuable aspects of on-premises and cloud solutions can be extremely beneficial: utilizing a hybrid strategy for your analytics/BI solution has been shown to improve performance and increase revenue. In a recent survey by Forrester Consulting commissioned by SAP, 92% of companies with well-established analytics/BI practices have seen revenue growth of 15% or greater over the last three years. But in order to see those performance and revenue gains, you need to make sure you’re implementing it correctly. Read on to learn what you can do with a hybrid strategy, why it’s important, and how to build up a hybrid strategy effectively.

What can you do with a hybrid approach?

You can take advantage of a hybrid strategy by appropriately leveraging your on-premises offerings and knowing when to extend or expand to the cloud. The great thing is that a successful hybrid strategy can be enacted in many forms, and it’s important to keep in mind that one size does not fit all. Some companies are using a mix of on-premises and cloud deployments by department, while others are using cloud BI as a direct replacement for on-premises deployments. Further, some companies are even using a cloud BI platform that accesses a mix of on-premises and cloud data sources via the same semantic layer.

But the list doesn’t end there. Look at your current on-premises investments and ask yourself: When can we extend or expand to the cloud to reap these benefits? True success comes from analyzing your company’s unique state and offerings and knowing where to branch out.

Why do you need a hybrid strategy?

Some 82% of survey respondents agree that a hybrid approach is a crucial next step in the evolution of their strategy, and nearly two-thirds of companies report they anticipate their future analytics/BI solution will include a mix of on-premises and cloud resources. The benefits extend far beyond the financials.

A hybrid strategy that successfully takes advantage of the best of what both an on-premises and cloud solution have to offer can deliver significant performance gains as well. You’ll see better business agility due to the self-service analytics/BI capabilities and the cloud’s flexibility. You’ll see optimized business performance thanks to rising user adoption of these tools. You’ll get more value from your on-premises data and investments by leveraging them with the cloud’s capabilities. And finally, more departments throughout your firm will be able to access analytical tools and reports, decreasing the ever-common silo effect.

How can you implement hybrid successfully?

The survey also found that 88% of respondents reported that they regard hybrid analytics/BI platforms as important to their company, and 60% are already using a hybrid strategy for their analytics and data. We know that the market sees value in hybrid solutions and that the need is real. To achieve success and build an effective hybrid analytics strategy, follow the footsteps of hybrid trailblazers by:

  • Increasing investment in analytics/BI technology and resources
  • Pursuing greater use of the cloud for data storage
  • Adopting more powerful analytics/BI tools
  • Implementing tighter security controls on data usage

One thing is certain: hybrid is the future, and those who aren’t currently utilizing a hybrid strategy may soon be feeling the weight of lost revenue. Armed with the right information, this can be a seamless transition.

For more information on how a hybrid strategy can help your firm, download this SAP-commissioned thought-leadership study from Forrester Consulting: “Improving Business Performance By Closing BI Maturity Gaps With Hybrid Cloud Deployments.”

Learn how to improve business decision-making with cloud analytics

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Steve McHugh

About Steve McHugh

Steve McHugh is director for BI Enterprise Marketing at SAP. He has a solid background in enterprise performance management and analytics. For the last several years, Steve has been involved in leading marketing efforts for SAP's on-premise enterprise BI solutions. Currently, his focus is on helping enterprise BI customers with their journey to the cloud, extending and expanding their analytics adoption and use by capitalizing on their on-premise investments and data through hybrid analytics.

Hack the CIO

By Thomas Saueressig, Timo Elliott, Sam Yen, and Bennett Voyles

For nerds, the weeks right before finals are a Cinderella moment. Suddenly they’re stars. Pocket protectors are fashionable; people find their jokes a whole lot funnier; Dungeons & Dragons sounds cool.

Many CIOs are enjoying this kind of moment now, as companies everywhere face the business equivalent of a final exam for a vital class they have managed to mostly avoid so far: digital transformation.

But as always, there is a limit to nerdy magic. No matter how helpful CIOs try to be, their classmates still won’t pass if they don’t learn the material. With IT increasingly central to every business—from the customer experience to the offering to the business model itself—we all need to start thinking like CIOs.

Pass the digital transformation exam, and you probably have a bright future ahead. A recent SAP-Oxford Economics study of 3,100 organizations in a variety of industries across 17 countries found that the companies that have taken the lead in digital transformation earn higher profits and revenues and have more competitive differentiation than their peers. They also expect 23% more revenue growth from their digital initiatives over the next two years—an estimate 2.5 to 4 times larger than the average company’s.

But the market is grading on a steep curve: this same SAP-Oxford study found that only 3% have completed some degree of digital transformation across their organization. Other surveys also suggest that most companies won’t be graduating anytime soon: in one recent survey of 450 heads of digital transformation for enterprises in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany by technology company Couchbase, 90% agreed that most digital projects fail to meet expectations and deliver only incremental improvements. Worse: over half (54%) believe that organizations that don’t succeed with their transformation project will fail or be absorbed by a savvier competitor within four years.

Companies that are making the grade understand that unlike earlier technical advances, digital transformation doesn’t just support the business, it’s the future of the business. That’s why 60% of digital leading companies have entrusted the leadership of their transformation to their CIO, and that’s why experts say businesspeople must do more than have a vague understanding of the technology. They must also master a way of thinking and looking at business challenges that is unfamiliar to most people outside the IT department.

In other words, if you don’t think like a CIO yet, now is a very good time to learn.

However, given that you probably don’t have a spare 15 years to learn what your CIO knows, we asked the experts what makes CIO thinking distinctive. Here are the top eight mind hacks.

1. Think in Systems

A lot of businesspeople are used to seeing their organization as a series of loosely joined silos. But in the world of digital business, everything is part of a larger system.

CIOs have known for a long time that smart processes win. Whether they were installing enterprise resource planning systems or working with the business to imagine the customer’s journey, they always had to think in holistic ways that crossed traditional departmental, functional, and operational boundaries.

Unlike other business leaders, CIOs spend their careers looking across systems. Why did our supply chain go down? How can we support this new business initiative beyond a single department or function? Now supported by end-to-end process methodologies such as design thinking, good CIOs have developed a way of looking at the company that can lead to radical simplifications that can reduce cost and improve performance at the same time.

They are also used to thinking beyond temporal boundaries. “This idea that the power of technology doubles every two years means that as you’re planning ahead you can’t think in terms of a linear process, you have to think in terms of huge jumps,” says Jay Ferro, CIO of TransPerfect, a New York–based global translation firm.

No wonder the SAP-Oxford transformation study found that one of the values transformational leaders shared was a tendency to look beyond silos and view the digital transformation as a company-wide initiative.

This will come in handy because in digital transformation, not only do business processes evolve but the company’s entire value proposition changes, says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at the Center for Information Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “It either already has or it’s going to, because digital technologies make things possible that weren’t possible before,” she explains.

2. Work in Diverse Teams

When it comes to large projects, CIOs have always needed input from a diverse collection of businesspeople to be successful. The best have developed ways to convince and cajole reluctant participants to come to the table. They seek out technology enthusiasts in the business and those who are respected by their peers to help build passion and commitment among the halfhearted.

Digital transformation amps up the urgency for building diverse teams even further. “A small, focused group simply won’t have the same breadth of perspective as a team that includes a salesperson and a service person and a development person, as well as an IT person,” says Ross.

At Lenovo, the global technology giant, many of these cross-functional teams become so used to working together that it’s hard to tell where each member originally belonged: “You can’t tell who is business or IT; you can’t tell who is product, IT, or design,” says the company’s CIO, Arthur Hu.

One interesting corollary of this trend toward broader teamwork is that talent is a priority among digital leaders: they spend more on training their employees and partners than ordinary companies, as well as on hiring the people they need, according to the SAP-Oxford Economics survey. They’re also already being rewarded for their faith in their teams: 71% of leaders say that their successful digital transformation has made it easier for them to attract and retain talent, and 64% say that their employees are now more engaged than they were before the transformation.

3. Become a Consultant

Good CIOs have long needed to be internal consultants to the business. Ever since technology moved out of the glasshouse and onto employees’ desks, CIOs have not only needed a deep understanding of the goals of a given project but also to make sure that the project didn’t stray from those goals, even after the businesspeople who had ordered the project went back to their day jobs. “Businesspeople didn’t really need to get into the details of what IT was really doing,” recalls Ferro. “They just had a set of demands and said, ‘Hey, IT, go do that.’”

Now software has become so integral to the business that nobody can afford to walk away. Businesspeople must join the ranks of the IT consultants.

But that was then. Now software has become so integral to the business that nobody can afford to walk away. Businesspeople must join the ranks of the IT consultants. “If you’re building a house, you don’t just disappear for six months and come back and go, ‘Oh, it looks pretty good,’” says Ferro. “You’re on that work site constantly and all of a sudden you’re looking at something, going, ‘Well, that looked really good on the blueprint, not sure it makes sense in reality. Let’s move that over six feet.’ Or, ‘I don’t know if I like that anymore.’ It’s really not much different in application development or for IT or technical projects, where on paper it looked really good and three weeks in, in that second sprint, you’re going, ‘Oh, now that I look at it, that’s really stupid.’”

4. Learn Horizontal Leadership

CIOs have always needed the ability to educate and influence other leaders that they don’t directly control. For major IT projects to be successful, they need other leaders to contribute budget, time, and resources from multiple areas of the business.

It’s a kind of horizontal leadership that will become critical for businesspeople to acquire in digital transformation. “The leadership role becomes one much more of coaching others across the organization—encouraging people to be creative, making sure everybody knows how to use data well,” Ross says.

In this team-based environment, having all the answers becomes less important. “It used to be that the best business executives and leaders had the best answers. Today that is no longer the case,” observes Gary Cokins, a technology consultant who focuses on analytics-based performance management. “Increasingly, it’s the executives and leaders who ask the best questions. There is too much volatility and uncertainty for them to rely on their intuition or past experiences.”

Many experts expect this trend to continue as the confluence of automation and data keeps chipping away at the organizational pyramid. “Hierarchical, command-and-control leadership will become obsolete,” says Edward Hess, professor of business administration and Batten executive-in-residence at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. “Flatter, distributive leadership via teams will become the dominant structure.”

5. Understand Process Design

When business processes were simpler, IT could analyze the process and improve it without input from the business. But today many processes are triggered on the fly by the customer, making a seamless customer experience more difficult to build without the benefit of a larger, multifunctional team. In a highly digitalized organization like Amazon, which releases thousands of new software programs each year, IT can no longer do it all.

While businesspeople aren’t expected to start coding, their involvement in process design is crucial. One of the techniques that many organizations have adopted to help IT and businesspeople visualize business processes together is design thinking (for more on design thinking techniques, see “A Cult of Creation“).

Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from better processes. Among the 100 companies the SAP-Oxford Economics researchers have identified as digital leaders, two-thirds say that they are making their employees’ lives easier by eliminating process roadblocks that interfere with their ability to do their jobs. Ninety percent of leaders surveyed expect to see value from these projects in the next two years alone.

6. Learn to Keep Learning

The ability to learn and keep learning has been a part of IT from the start. Since the first mainframes in the 1950s, technologists have understood that they need to keep reinventing themselves and their skills to adapt to the changes around them.

Now that’s starting to become part of other job descriptions too. Many companies are investing in teaching their employees new digital skills. One South American auto products company, for example, has created a custom-education institute that trained 20,000 employees and partner-employees in 2016. In addition to training current staff, many leading digital companies are also hiring new employees and creating new roles, such as a chief robotics officer, to support their digital transformation efforts.

Nicolas van Zeebroeck, professor of information systems and digital business innovation at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management at the Free University of Brussels, says that he expects the ability to learn quickly will remain crucial. “If I had to think of one critical skill,” he explains, “I would have to say it’s the ability to learn and keep learning—the ability to challenge the status quo and question what you take for granted.”

7. Fail Smarter

Traditionally, CIOs tended to be good at thinking through tests that would allow the company to experiment with new technology without risking the entire network.

This is another unfamiliar skill that smart managers are trying to pick up. “There’s a lot of trial and error in the best companies right now,” notes MIT’s Ross. But there’s a catch, she adds. “Most companies aren’t designed for trial and error—they’re trying to avoid an error,” she says.

To learn how to do it better, take your lead from IT, where many people have already learned to work in small, innovative teams that use agile development principles, advises Ross.

For example, business managers must learn how to think in terms of a minimum viable product: build a simple version of what you have in mind, test it, and if it works start building. You don’t build the whole thing at once anymore.… It’s really important to build things incrementally,” Ross says.

Flexibility and the ability to capitalize on accidental discoveries during experimentation are more important than having a concrete project plan, says Ross. At Spotify, the music service, and CarMax, the used-car retailer, change is driven not from the center but from small teams that have developed something new. “The thing you have to get comfortable with is not having the formalized plan that we would have traditionally relied on, because as soon as you insist on that, you limit your ability to keep learning,” Ross warns.

8. Understand the True Cost—and Speed—of Data

Gut instincts have never had much to do with being a CIO; now they should have less to do with being an ordinary manager as well, as data becomes more important.

As part of that calculation, businesspeople must have the ability to analyze the value of the data that they seek. “You’ll need to apply a pinch of knowledge salt to your data,” advises Solvay’s van Zeebroeck. “What really matters is the ability not just to tap into data but to see what is behind the data. Is it a fair representation? Is it impartial?”

Increasingly, businesspeople will need to do their analysis in real time, just as CIOs have always had to manage live systems and processes. Moving toward real-time reports and away from paper-based decisions increases accuracy and effectiveness—and leaves less time for long meetings and PowerPoint presentations (let us all rejoice).

Not Every CIO Is Ready

Of course, not all CIOs are ready for these changes. Just as high school has a lot of false positives—genius nerds who turn out to be merely nearsighted—so there are many CIOs who aren’t good role models for transformation.

Success as a CIO these days requires more than delivering near-perfect uptime, says Lenovo’s Hu. You need to be able to understand the business as well. Some CIOs simply don’t have all the business skills that are needed to succeed in the transformation. Others lack the internal clout: a 2016 KPMG study found that only 34% of CIOs report directly to the CEO.

This lack of a strategic perspective is holding back digital transformation at many organizations. They approach digital transformation as a cool, one-off project: we’re going to put this new mobile app in place and we’re done. But that’s not a systematic approach; it’s an island of innovation that doesn’t join up with the other islands of innovation. In the longer term, this kind of development creates more problems than it fixes.

Such organizations are not building in the capacity for change; they’re trying to get away with just doing it once rather than thinking about how they’re going to use digitalization as a means to constantly experiment and become a better company over the long term.

As a result, in some companies, the most interesting tech developments are happening despite IT, not because of it. “There’s an alarming digital divide within many companies. Marketers are developing nimble software to give customers an engaging, personalized experience, while IT departments remain focused on the legacy infrastructure. The front and back ends aren’t working together, resulting in appealing web sites and apps that don’t quite deliver,” writes George Colony, founder, chairman, and CEO of Forrester Research, in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Thanks to cloud computing and easier development tools, many departments are developing on their own, without IT’s support. These days, anybody with a credit card can do it.

Traditionally, IT departments looked askance at these kinds of do-it-yourself shadow IT programs, but that’s changing. Ferro, for one, says that it’s better to look at those teams not as rogue groups but as people who are trying to help. “It’s less about ‘Hey, something’s escaped,’ and more about ‘No, we just actually grew our capacity and grew our ability to innovate,’” he explains.

“I don’t like the term ‘shadow IT,’” agrees Lenovo’s Hu. “I think it’s an artifact of a very traditional CIO team. If you think of it as shadow IT, you’re out of step with reality,” he says.

The reality today is that a company needs both a strong IT department and strong digital capacities outside its IT department. If the relationship is good, the CIO and IT become valuable allies in helping businesspeople add digital capabilities without disrupting or duplicating existing IT infrastructure.

If a company already has strong digital capacities, it should be able to move forward quickly, according to Ross. But many companies are still playing catch-up and aren’t even ready to begin transforming, as the SAP-Oxford Economics survey shows.

For enterprises where business and IT are unable to get their collective act together, Ross predicts that the next few years will be rough. “I think these companies ought to panic,” she says. D!


About the Authors

Thomas Saueressig is Chief Information Officer at SAP.

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist at SAP.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer at SAP and Managing Director of SAP Labs.

Bennett Voyles is a Berlin-based business writer.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.
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Cloud Computing: Separating Myth From Reality

Misa Rawlins and Krishnakant Dave

Across industries, many enterprise leaders believe and understand that cloud computing is here to stay. Globally, public cloud services market revenue is projected to reach US$411 billion by 2020, compared with $260 billion in 2017, according to research firm Gartner, Inc. Cloud technology in all its forms—software, platform, or infrastructure as a service—is rapidly becoming essential to the needs of business today. With cloud computing, organizations can simplify IT, save costs, scale rapidly, drive standardization and user adoption, and start getting ahead of tomorrow’s needs when it comes to customer engagement, the supply chain, the workforce, a simplified finance function, and more.

Despite the short- and long-term advantages, some executives remain uncertain about the next steps or have lingering questions about the benefits of moving to the cloud. For many leaders, separating the cloud myths from the facts can prove daunting. Start here, with these insights that can help you bust big myths about the cloud and start moving confidently toward a cloud-enabled transformation of your organization.

Myth No. 1: Moving to the cloud is too costly. “Costly” is a relative term. The cloud can be costly – but costs should be weighed against benefit and return once requirements and migration plans are in place. Rapidly evolving business demands, for example, can dramatically alter cloud-related requirements. Meanwhile, new technologies are dramatically redefining the art of the possible with the cloud. Because migrating to the cloud is not a true “plug-and-play” proposition, and many enterprise leaders underestimate what a migration or implementation involves, some organizations can be surprised by the costs of a cloud transformation. Without a clear understanding of the potential benefits—without a clear business case for moving to the cloud—the focus on costs can overshadow the return on investment. Knowing the value that cloud solutions can bring—not just the costs—can help manage expectations.

Myth No. 2: The benefits of the cloud aren’t substantial enough. As vendors adopt a “cloud-first” stance for many solutions and product updates, organizations that move to the cloud may have a competitive advantage—no matter the size of the enterprise. Cloud solutions continue to offer abundant and increasing functionality. And with the help of an end-to-end solution provider, you can configure cloud solutions to the specific needs of your industry and your business. For larger organizations, rapidly deployable cloud solutions can help support growth or the unique needs of certain business units, such as new acquisitions or foreign subsidiaries, for example. For smaller organizations, the cloud can help you position your organization to tap new opportunities and tame growth challenges.

Myth No. 3: Cloud is too risky. All digital technologies and all business models come with inherent risk. In a hyperconnected world, no system is immune from cyber attacks, insider threats, data leakage, or related risks. No transformation project is a guaranteed success. Market changes, new competition, regulatory issues, and other factors can require you to change your cloud strategy overnight.

Because the risks are real, take advantage of resources and capabilities that can help reduce risk and ensure that your technology investments align tightly with clear business objectives. The maturity of the software goes a long way toward mitigating risk with cloud projects. You can add an extra layer of capabilities such as managed cloud services to provide active, hands-on oversight of cloud applications and infrastructure—helping you to avoid service interruptions and address issues proactively.

Myth No. 4: Cloud computing is still an immature technology. Like other evolving technologies, cloud is advancing every day. Those who wait for the next generation of cloud offerings may find themselves missing out on tangible benefits as competitors leverage cloud technology to sharpen their edge. Across industries, leading organizations are not waiting. Many view cloud technology as evolving but necessary, and they are leveraging it effectively today. Some, for example, are tightly integrating cloud software solutions to streamline supply chain processes, boost information transparency, and improve decision-making across the board—all the while tapping the cloud benefits of cost savings and scalability. Others are confidently turning to infrastructure solutions delivered and running solutions in a private or hybrid cloud. Still others are turning to cloud platform solutions to extend the power of existing applications, build modern analytics platforms, or support new Internet of Things business models. Turning the cloud to your advantage may depend less on the maturity of the technology and more on the power of your imagination.

Myth No. 5: Moving to the cloud will be easy. Cloud technology can help organizations streamline and simplify their IT landscapes and their business processes, reducing needs around capital expenses and infrastructure while helping to save costs. But migrating to the cloud requires more than simply plugging in technology. It requires an ability to address a host of considerations—data migration, the business-specific capabilities of solutions, change management, governance, systems integration, security, and more.

A cloud transformation is more than a plug-and-play project or a traditional system implementation. It requires progressive thinking and an ability to align technology with your business needs and processes— for today and for the future. Migrating to the cloud is a journey. Moving forward with the cloud will require a vision of your “to be” state—your destination—as well as a strategy for getting you there.

To learn more, and to find out what IDC thinks about the future of the cloud, please read this study that presents a strategic blueprint for enterprises on their digital transformation journey.

For more information on how to simplify innovation with cloud technology, learn more about SAP Cloud Platform.

Ready to reimagine the potential of the cloud? Contact us to get the conversation started.

Contact Krishnakant Dave at kdave@deloitte.com and follow him on Twitter: @kkdave

Contact Misa Rawlins at mrawlins@deloitte.com and follow her on Twitter: @misa_rawlins

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This article originally appeared on Deloitte.com and is republished by permission.

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Misa Rawlins

About Misa Rawlins

As a senior manager and consultant in Deloitte’s SAP practice, Misa Rawlins enjoys helping her clients not only to figure out how to solve their current business problems, but also to envision how a modern cloud platform can transform their organizations moving ahead. Within the practice, she has specifically chosen to take a leadership role around the sales and delivery of SAP S/4HANA Cloud because she considers it the wave of the future. She has made it her mission to deeply understand this technology to better advise clients on what moving to a cloud infrastructure really means.

Krishnakant Dave

About Krishnakant Dave

As a principal in Deloitte’s global SAP practice, KK Dave is a consulting leader for Deloitte’s largest clients; part of the U.S. SAP leadership team where he spearheads Deloitte's cloud offerings; and leader of global go-to-market efforts in the wholesale distribution and manufacturing sector. In these roles, he assists clients in their business transformation journeys using the absolute latest SAP toolset, which presently comprises SAP S/4HANA, SAP Cloud Platform, and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, among other technologies.