Discovering The Art Of The Possible: Getting Started On The Journey To Digital Transformation

Fred Isbell

Event season is upon us again. As I speak and attend multiple events in a short amount of time, I feel like it’s “wedding crashing season,” where we can link our pursuit of the next big idea to our own activities and interactions with customers. And now that my team and I are hosting and attending our annual cycle of events, I am finding myself especially drawn to a new multi-city road show from SAP: Art of the Possible Live.

Many people are presented with an opportunity, but their natural fears shut down any and all consideration of what may be possible. By learning to avoid this reactive instinct, we can truly embrace this “art of the possible” and evaluate and take advantage of some amazing opportunities.

This concept is paramount in this increasingly digital area. In his blog “The Art of the Possible,” Christopher A. H. Vollmer observes, “I am often surprised at how some organizations take a page from an old playbook and expect it to work online. They’re trying to forge a new path with an old map, and that’s a recipe for disaster.” Companies that pursue the very same strategies that worked in the past are not likely to succeed now. Instead, they should adopt a leadership approach and mentality that reimagines the business in a time of unprecedented disruption.

Following the road to the art of the possible

In mid-March, I was invited to attend Art of the Possible Live when it visited my beloved hometown, Boston. I was thrilled to attend and cover the event as a social media ambassador. I even tweeted and published a trip report on Storify to document my observations and “aha” moments.


The event opened with a great discussion about digital transformation and its required components:

  • Embracing the cloud
  • Adapting to a world of hyperconnectivity and ubiquitous business networks
  • Proliferation of the Internet of Things, connecting everything to everyone and back again in staggering numbers
  • Critical need for security at all levels of private and public

Of course, all of this is enabled by a digital core comprising modern in-memory computing, computational resources, next-generation databases, cognitive computing, and much more as technology continue to evolve and grow in power.

But from my perspective, the real proof is the human and customer experience. At the event, three very different customers spoke: McInnis Cement, a startup with no legacy systems; MIT, the storied institution of higher learning embarking on their own innovation journey; and Under Armour, which is powering a whole new generation of insight-driven customer relationships with Big Data and analytics.

Bonus: Click here for an inspirational video on the Under Armour experience – from a startup in the basement of its founder’s grandmother’s house in New Jersey to a major household brand.

While listening to these testimonies, I was struck by the importance of the journey strategy and roadmap to avoid the “Alice in Wonderland Paradox” of getting lost before you get started. As explained in the classic Lewis Carroll novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” you won’t get to the right place if you don’t know where you are going. Change starts with a plan and a roadmap that fits your needs, because the journey won’t be the same for any two companies or organizations. Relax! The future you make will be your own, and the ride will be worth it!

As a long-time marketer for the service and support organization at SAP, I loved the inclusion of the journey hub, which is akin to an Apple Genius Bar of our services consultants and subject-matter experts to discuss and outline key issues and recommendations. By following a pragmatic approach to planning, building, launching, running, and optimizing, best practices emerge and opportunities arise that allow you to leverage this expertise as much as possible.

However, none of this is possible without embracing enabling innovations, technologies, and solutions. As described by IDC at its Directions 2016 event, they bring the “new normal” that will scale and the transition companies and organizations of all sizes and industries to a digital future.

Transforming digital visions into reality

FMI New BLOG MIT March 2016Now that event season is in full swing, there’s no rest for the weary – at least for the next few months. I’m thrilled to host and moderate three new Webcast events that will present the latest thinking and best practices for digital transformation. I encourage everyone to register and join us live or watch the on-demand replays.

Visit our Webcast site for more information and our great speaker lineup. We’ll share our findings and lots of “aha” moments throughout this spring. And like my favorite characters from “Wedding Crashers,” we’ll put away our tuxedoes and rest … only to do it all again soon!

Fred is the senior director and head of Thought Leadership for SAP Service & Support Marketing.

Join Fred online: TwitterFacebookLinkedInsap.comSAP Services Hub

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.