How Leaders Can Stay the Digital Course in a World of Surprises

Dr. Chakib Bouhdary

The outcome of the Brexit referendum in June took  the world by surprise. Many financial markets, political leaders, and CEOs are uncertain about  what lies ahead.

What is certain, however, is that the next two to five years will be a period of disruption. Specific to Brexit, as trade agreements are renegotiated, companies will need to adapt to any potential scenario. And as with any seismic business disruption, companies must be able to carry on with reimagining their business models, products, and services and with driving new operational efficiencies. Additionally, every company must stay focused on creating a unique and valuable customer experience.

When companies evaluate the potential business implications of Brexit or of any other major global economic shift, executives must confront key questions about how prepared they are to manage change. They must determine whether they have the capabilities in place to advance their digital strategies while they navigate events they can’t control.

Meet Disruption Head On

We’ve identified a short list of issues top executives need to address in four critical areas: corporate strategy and finance, manufacturing and supply chain, sales and marketing, and human resources.

For CEOs and CFOs:

In the digital economy, we are undergoing one of the biggest business transformations ever. Companies need to continue reimagining their business models and operational efficiencies.

  • Is your business ready to address challenges and exploit opportunities resulting from disruption?
  • Is your value chain resilient enough to cope with large fluctuations in demand and supply?
  • Do you have agile business processes and technology to help you adapt fast and at low cost?

For Manufacturing and Supply Chain Executives:

Reducing the cycle time between sensing and responding to market demand is becoming paramount to managing costs and delivering on the full customer experience.

  • Can you optimize your manufacturing network to balance profitability and customer demand?
  • How do you mitigate the increased risk level in your supplier network?
  • How do you reduce cycle time between demand signals and delivery of products and services?

For Sales and Marketing Leaders:

An end-to-end customer experience is at the center of every digital business model innovation. It requires a unified buying experience across all channels. It also requires speed and agility to deal with pricing, trade, tariffs, and tax changes.

  • How do you strengthen your go-to-market capability with new partnerships and innovative ways to access the market?
  • Can you minimize currency fluctuation impact through more  dynamic pricing?
  • Can you sense real-time changes in customer buying behavior or demand patterns?

For Human Resources Executives:

Labor law changes that impact workers’ ability to cross national borders for jobs will affect workforce planning, talent management, and organization structures.

  • Can you quickly align your HR planning to the new corporate strategy?
  • Are you able to evaluate the impact of new immigration and labor laws on your workforce?
  • Can you quickly design and implement the right compensation and incentive programs to neutralize the impact of external, uncontrollable factors?

Agility Through Technology

These questions put a spotlight on complexity. And complexity in your business is like cholesterol: it needs to be controlled. Investments in technologies that simplify the business environment can stave off the blockages that are likely to occur when external forces such as Brexit disrupt operations. Here’s how these technologies help:

  • A digital boardroom with real-time insight and simulation capabilities enables corporate strategy and finance to become more agile, adjusting business models on the fly and reducing cycle time between decision making and execution.
  • Predictive analytics, the Internet of Things, and supplier collaboration enable manufacturing and the supply chain to extend supply chain visibility, make faster decisions, and optimize asset utilization.
  • Personalization, omnichannel design, machine learning, and predictive analytics can deliver an end-to-end customer experience.
  • A total workforce management system optimizes the total workforce, regardless of regulatory and labor laws changes; with machine learning, it can align talent to the business need.
  • Innovation platforms accelerate customer and partner innovation by enabling collaboration with external contributors.

Digital Is More Relevant Than Ever

Companies must take advantage of the latest digital technologies to meet consumer expectations and survive and thrive when Brexit-like disruptions occur.

Brexit may have raised doubts in the minds of some CEOs on the timing of strategic IT investments. But in reality, disruption is part of the new digital-age landscape. Companies need to be prepared.

It’s time for companies to truly simplify their business processes and IT landscape and to replatform for the digital economy. The winners will be the ones that are ready for tomorrow. D!

Dr. Chakib Bouhdary is digital transformation officer with SAP.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


Dr. Chakib Bouhdary

About Dr. Chakib Bouhdary

Dr. Chakib Bouhdary is the Digital Transformation Officer at SAP. Chakib spearheads thought leadership for the SAP digital strategy and advises on the SAP business model, having led its transformation in 2010. He also engages with strategic customers and prospects on digital strategy and chairs Executive Digital Exchange (EDX), which is a global community of digital innovation leaders. Follow Chakib on LinkedIn and Twitter