Timeless Truths in a Digital Age

Bill McDermott

Not every path to success in the digital age is new –some of the most significant ways to win are as old as business itself.

During my career in the technology sector, I’ve witnessed countless innovations that have changed how people work and live. When it comes to the pace of change, it’s easy to argue that we’re living in the most fluid and fast-paced period in history.

Some things, however, have remained constant. Three truths transcend time, helping ensure that every new wave of technological innovation reaches its potential in the marketplace.

Build Trust

Social media, predictive analytics, and omnichannel commerce all give companies amazing and unprecedented insight into customers. Businesses can now anticipate market changes and make better-informed strategic decisions. And they can create new outcomes and experiences to achieve mass personalization at scale. As a result, consumers have more options. Never before has their experience been so tailored to individual preference. But maintaining this momentum in the marketplace requires a timeless trait: trust.

Trust among buyers and sellers must be earned every day, with each transaction and every user experience. When trust is lost, no level of technical proficiency can earn it back. If a brand loses trust, it loses sales and market share, as well as the very access to consumer data that helps it productively serve their customers.

Remember, trust has always been more powerful than the cutting edge.

To maintain trust, companies must be honest about what information is collected and how it is used. They must not compromise the integrity of customer data by selling it or failing to protect it. They must use information to enhance the user experience, not to blindly maximize financial gain by pushing irrelevant e-mails and products at people just because they can.

Remember, trust has always been more powerful than the cutting edge.

Invest in People

We digitize the workplace to enhance the employee experience as well as productivity. Mobile devices and cloud computing make it easier for people to work from anywhere, to collaborate and to innovate. But technology doesn’t substitute for culture. Behind every smart device is a smart human being with needs technology alone cannot satisfy.

Investing in people means employers spending time and resources on training and education to keep employees’ skills current and their career aspirations met. It means employers celebrating employees’ successes and rewarding their results. And it means helping employees honor their family life. Families provide the emotional and logistical support we need so we can do our best work. Providing for our families is among the top reasons we work.

It’s human nature to seek growth, appreciation, and balance. When these needs are met, the benefits are limitless.

Respect the Ecosystem

Social networks and digital channels give us more ways than ever to connect with each other. Thanks to business networks, partnerships among and between companies are creating a new ecosystem of innovation, a virtual extension of business relationships that makes it easier to deliver on consumers’ changing expectations of the digital economy. However businesses collaborate, partnerships must be nurtured. Only if we respect the nature of our tenuous ties can the ecosystem become stronger.

Respecting the ecosystem means showing up in person to meet, greet, and converse with those you could easily call. Put aside FaceTime, Skype, e-mail, and texts to make time for in-person, face-to-face conversations. Leave your desk to share coffee or a meal. When we look into the eyes of our business partners, when we shake their hands and get to know them beyond their titles, a new level of trust is established. Respecting the ecosystem also means treating all members of your partners’ teams—from those who make decisions to those who make the products—with equal respect. In today’s interconnected world, everyone matters.

Digital business networks can create new opportunities, but the power of the handshake will live forever.

Never forget that the technologies we use today will change tomorrow. The human behaviors and principles that we choose to cultivate—trust, time, and respect—will serve us through every phase of the digital age, and beyond.


Bill McDermott

About Bill McDermott

Bill McDermott is Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Executive Board of SAP, the world’s business software market leader with more than 296,000 customers in 190 countries. He leads the company’s 75,600 employees and more than two-million-person ecosystem in executing SAP’s vision and strategy to make the world run better and improve people’s lives.