2016 Duke Disrupts: Insight From Fuqua Technology Forum

Fred Isbell

As digital technology continues to revolutionize how businesses operate with greater efficiency and productivity across operations, it emerges as the primary channel in which companies can interact with their customers. From traditional to emerging industries, digital technology is now a critical pillar of customer strategy.

This observation in where the marketplace is heading was very apparent at this year’s Duke/Fuqua Marketing Forum.  And one week later, the same theme was examined during Duke’s annual tech symposium, Duke Disrupts.

As the keynote, Ajit Kaicker, global vice president of Marketing Strategy at SAP, focused on driving live customer experiences and how digital transformation influences it. He started his session with an interesting statistic from Gartner: “By 2020, 80% of business processes and products will have been reinvented, digitized or eliminated.” When you consider where digitization is taking companies, it’s clear how early adopters are winning as traditional industry boundaries continue to blur.

Kaicker links this trend to user adoption, the rise of line-of-business solutions, the move to cloud computing, and marketing implications. By addressing all of these aspects of today’s business IT landscape, emerging technology is paving the way for live customer experiences – driven by innovation accelerators such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and 3D printing. In turn, brand value and differentiating attributes are mapped to the requirement of supporting great customer experiences throughout the modern buyer journey.

Marketing in this new digital age requires new skill sets and proficiencies. Kaicker showcased his talent as a former professor of marketing by offering six areas for marketers to fine-tune including insight-driven marketing, storytelling, and social media marketing engagement. The keynote close focused on an intriguing maturity model with a mix of modern marketing tactics mapped to specific business goals and measurement.

Bonus: Click here for Kaicker’s slides from this very informative keynote.

As a Fuqua MBA graduate, I participated in two panels as the event unfolded. The first was a main session panel with Fuqua alumni in tech roles from Microsoft, Citibank, Deloitte, McKinsey, and of course, SAP, who discussed the impact of digital transformation on our companies and business strategy; what we see as the ultimate impact; how digital transformation is being used to capture new business value; and how digital transformation is influencing innovation (and vice versa).

As the only MBA from the 20th century, I appreciated insights on how digital transformation can prepare us all for the next phase of our careers.

The second panel took on a more pragmatic tone, providing career advice for MBA students looking at tech and specifically product and solutions marketing. I highlighted my passion for lifelong learning, which enables me, along with thousands of SAP employees, to develop skillsets and interests without leaving and jumping jobs. And there was even advice for people interested in a career in technology who do not possess a technical background or degree.

I like to emerge from these gatherings with lightbulb moments as well as key insights and learnings. Key insights from these sessions reminded me why digital transformation is real and certainly not going away. On the contrary, this new reality is becoming the baseline of how businesses operate. Just as digital marketing is an evolution of marketing practices, digital transformation is now the new normal.

I can’t wait to attend next year’s tech symposium to discover how the discussion will evolve and change in what will be twelve very short months.

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About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.