Welcome To Our New Digital Reality

Geoff Scott

Digital Transformation – The SAP User Community Perspective – Part 1 of 4

There’s a technology-enabled business revolution occurring right now that knows no borders and seemingly has no limits. It’s the future of global business on steroids. It represents the conversion of everything we know into ones and zeros: Digits that move across the globe at lightning speed connecting people and businesses in new, innovative, and groundbreaking ways.

This revolution is called Digital Transformation, or DT, and while it seems to be the thing everyone is talking about, it really is nothing new. It was put into motion with the advent of the first computer, and with every passing year it gains tremendous speed, depth, and breadth. It grows only stronger as each mobile device, tablet, and connected sensor is imagined and sold. It has the same exponential growth curve as the Internet, and as more people and devices connect, it only gains strength. With DT, every industry, organization, and structure will change. The transactional business world we live in today will be fundamentally transformed. This is the stark reality.

If you find yourself uncomfortable with these statements, we encourage you to find the strength to read on. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, keep your eyes open: Those established supply chains and value chains on which your company depends are transforming into networked, digitized business processes and services at an ever faster pace, whether you like it or not.

Consider the following:

  • The record industry of the 1960s never conceived of what CDs, Napster, iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora would do to music distribution and consumption. Could they have envisioned the power of a multi-million-song library available globally via a smartphone for a monthly fee? Can you foresee a similar story for your company or industry?
  • The automobile of the future will drive itself and receive software updates from the cloud. Transportation will become a service requested and delivered on demand. Uber, Lyft, Google, and others are changing automotive transport faster than many industry leaders ever expected or the industry forefathers ever imagined. How will your organization remain relevant in the coming years if faced by a similar onslaught?
  • The currency of the future won’t move solely through banks. There’s no need to receive paychecks or pay bills through banks when people can engage in peer-to-peer monetary exchanges. Bitcoin or its successors are on the right track. Is your company ready for these tectonic shifts in business models?
  • 3-D printing will enable us to manufacture almost anything, anywhere, anytime, and on demand. Fashion becomes a digital design experience that will enable us to design, purchase, download, and print our clothing. Manufacturing in lower-cost countries and shipping finished goods over long distances will be a thing of the past. How might this technology, and others that are on the way, impact your supply chains? How might they impact intellectual property conventions and other legal constructs that make perfect sense in a physical world, but don’t translate quite as well in a digital one?
  • Much like we are already seeing in our manufacturing facilities and homes, connected sensors will move into our bodies and provide instant updates on our health. They will tell us the state of our health well before our bodies tell us. Our doctors will stay informed in real time, and treatment will happen without the need for an office visit. Healthcare delivery will be personal and predictive, and treatment options will expand exponentially. How might this real-time capability, and the underpinnings of the Internet of Things (IoT), impact your products and services?
  • How we work will also shift. According to MBO Partners, a provider of tools and services for the contractor labor force, in the not too distant future, approximately one-quarter of the entire U.S. workforce will be independent workers. Think about your last rideshare experience, rental housing experience, and the myriad of other emerging peer-to-peer marketplaces, and you begin to realize how the future of work will be vastly different.

Are these statements wrong? Too far-fetched? If you think so, we will gladly point to example after example that prove the revolution is real. What’s more intriguing (and alarming) is many futurists who engage with our user groups regularly tell us the above statements are too narrow and limited, and that what we are describing here is just the beginning – and we are already behind. Sobering thoughts for sure.

We sit on the precipice of changing times. As business professionals with a passion for technology, we have an opportunity to leave a great legacy for future generations to follow. But this legacy requires us to think very differently, to recognize that change is happening around us, and, ultimately, to do something about it. To lead the pack, instead of running with it or falling behind.

We have the opportunity – many would say the imperative – to reinvent, reimagine, and build a modern digital enterprise. Your user groups’ purpose is to not only think about this future, but to help you strategize and execute on it as well. We understand the complexity of your technology investments like no one else, and our goal is to help you navigate this change while ensuring your technology portfolio, including SAP, can not only carry you through these changing times but enable you to get out in front.

The perspectives that will be shared during this six-part blog series represent the collective thinking of ASUG and DSAG, the two most influential user groups in the SAP ecosystem, on the challenges you will undoubtedly face as you and your company embrace this digital age. We hope our thinking on this critical subject jump-starts new thinking and conversations about what your company’s business and technological future should be.

Regardless of our thinking, the next step on this important journey is unequivocally yours.

To learn more, join us for our upcoming webcast on April 20, Ready or Not, Digital Is Your Business – What SAP Customers Need to Know

Next up: Part 2 of 4  – What is Digital Transformation?

This article originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Geoff Scott

About Geoff Scott

Geoff Scott is CEO of Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG), the world's largest community of SAP professionals. He has more than two decades of experience as a CIO and senior IT leader. Scott has more than 20 years of ERP experience, including seven years of extensive SAP implementation and operations experience covering global operations. He has implemented SAP for a number of organizations of various sizes. His experience in the automotive, food, fashion/retail/apparel, and startup spaces brings unique and broad-based industry experience to ASUG.