Transforming Digital Visions Into Reality: It’s A Journey, Not A Destination

Fred Isbell

Very rarely does a day go by that we don’t see proof of the power of digital transformation. Disruptive technologies are reshaping entire industries and our world. The notions of work and the workforce are routinely redefined. Innovations are bringing entirely new business models and opportunities. And this is only the start!

One of the best aspects of my job is the honor of working with really smart people. Recently, I had the great pleasure of hosting the first of three thought-leadership Webcasts, “Transforming Digital Visions into Reality,” featuring three subject-matter experts who are well-versed the latest digital trends, innovation, and best practices:

  • Steve Harvey, vice president of IT for Dole Packaged Foods, North America and Europe
  • Shuchi Sharma, global head of Business Transformation Services Market Development, SAP
  • Christoph Steiger, global head of Business Transformation Services, SAP

Dole: Delivering impactful outcomes with a digital core

Any time we host a customer event or Webcast, the highlight for me is hearing amazing stories about our customers – and certainly, Steve Harvey’s story is no exception. As head of the IT area for Dole Packaged Foods in North America, Harvey is leading a team that is supporting US$1.1 billion in annual revenue and approximately US$350 million in manufacturing operations in the United States.

DoleAccording to Harvey, his team migrated Dole’s infrastructure to a platform built on the SAP HANA platform to process and access more data and provide quicker access to information. The ultimate goal? Operating in real time at the speed of the enterprise – and never less than that.

The platform is shrinking Dole’s overall database footprint, allowing greater agility and increased performance. Plus, the company is taking advantage of more sophisticated predictive modeling, analytics, and reporting without having to build a complex traditional database and staged business warehouse – all supporting quick changes and decision making as the company continues to evolve. For example, the organization can better plan and manage trade spend and activities based on predicted outcomes for Dole and its retailers based on critical measures such as lift, profit, and ROI. And by adding enterprise mobility, a key pillar of the 3rd Platform (click here for a recent blog post on scaling digital transformation), into the mix, Dole’s field workforce can access relevant information anytime and anywhere. Not a minute of productivity and real-time action is lost anywhere within Dole’s business network.

What Dole’s story means for your business

Digital transformation is truly a journey, not a destination. And lately, there’s been much discussion regarding new business models, as well as key trends and shifts that are powering them. So what should executives do to move forward without making all the wrong turns along the way?

Personally, I like Shuchi Sharma’s pragmatic advice:


  1. Develop a strategy. Begin with your companies’ overarching business strategy, and let it be the guidepost throughout the transformation. Then, innovate the business model to define new opportunities.
  1. Involve your own people when designing new business models. And if your executive team, managers, and employees are not familiar with digital transformation methods and techniques, you can also rely on an outside organization to help everyone understand where the company stands in a digital world and the technology available to transform it.
  1. Consider new ideas. Apply design thinking and business model innovation methods to business challenges to draw out creative solutions and new possibilities.
  1. Create an innovation roadmap. Prioritize ideas and assess the overall financial viability and value of each one.
  1. Get the right governance in place. This one step will enable your organization and skilled workforce to create a culture that will turn this transformation into a sustainable model now and in the future.

Based on his experience with our customers that are digitally transforming themselves, Christoph Steiger also advises executives to shift their personal digital mindset with an eye on:

  1. Understanding the opportunities “going digital” brings. Evaluate the options, take a bold decision, and allocate significant workforce and financial resources to support it.
  1. Establishing an agile culture. The culture should make room for swift decision making and comprehensive processes that can cope with fluid agility without disrupting operations.
  1. Leveraging existing assets. This includes customers, data, brand reputation, and cash flow.
  1. Getting the right capabilities in place. For one, master Big Data and analytics to gain new customer insights. Make the core business lean, agile, and flexible through digitization, and connect across business networks, ecosystems, partnerships, and perhaps even your competitors.

I encourage everyone to view the on-demand replay of “Transforming Digital Visions Into Reality” for the full dialogue about this very timely topic.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to hosting two more of these Webcasts soon. Please join us on April 21 for “Innovation @ Cloud Speed:  Unlocking the Potential from the Internet of Things” and on June 9 for “The Future of Support in an Era of Cloud and the Internet of Things.”

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.