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SAP Business Trends

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In your mind, is the ability to pay an invoice without having someone grab, sort, route, validate, match, code, fix, and approve what is submitted on paper nothing but pure magic?



Then it’s time to turn your AP staff into magicians.



It’s happening all around you, as a new generation of financial supply chain applications connect trading partners over a business network. Electronic invoices are processed instantly without anyone even noticing. Yes, in today’s digital economy, invoices can process themselves.


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This is part of the transformation driven by digital technologies, as explained in Digital Finance: Transforming Finance for the Digital Economy.  And you can consider the business network as the onramp.


In my conversations with finance and procurement professionals, I’ve heard many comments about the new business value from collaborating over business networks. Here are some excerpts:



  • There is now little time spent managing invoice exceptions, as business rules in the network automate invoice validation.
  • The procure-to-pay platform is the view into procurement, where authorized users can access everything from strategic spend to individual transactions.
  • A supplier lowers pricing when transacting over the business network due to the elimination of PO-invoice match errors. The customer frees up two hours each day of a buyer’s time, across 15 plant locations, achieving a three-year operational improvement goal in less than five months.
  • The ability to flip a PO into an invoice provides a level of accuracy that didn’t exist before.
  • We’ve eliminated price discrepancies by location, and have approval to buy before the money is spent.
  • It makes external audits a breeze.
  • Commodity codes are mapped to the general ledger and accruals occur upon goods receipt, not invoice receipt.
  • Self-service discount management helps suppliers to accelerate their cash flow and buyers to increase their returns on cash.



There’s much to know about the transformation of finance in a digital economy, and a good place to learn from the experts is at SAPPHIRE NOW, May 17-19 in Orlando, FL. In the session on Ariba Collaborative Finance, for example, you will hear about a strategy for linking invoice automation, working capital, discounts, and payments on a single, unified platform.



Don’t let manual processes and piles of paper ruin your work day. Inject magic in your business processes and help your finance organization thrive in the digital economy.

In a little under two weeks, on 17th May, the doors will be open to 2016 SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, Florida.  I have little doubt that it will be yet another tremendous event put on by the many SAP teams and business partners taking part.


For my part, I’ve had the pleasure to work once again with the SAP solutions for enterprise performance management (EPM) team to define many of the EPM sessions that visitors will be able to see in Orlando. Being so deep in the planning cycle for some months now, I thought that it was about high time to shine a light on some of the key sessions. So, put the following five EPM sessions in your personal agenda for the event, and you’ll be off to a great start:


  1. Abeam Consulting will present Reimagine Planning and Analysis in the Cloud, in the Lines of Business campus on Wednesday 18th May at 3pm. This is a MUST SEE for anyone interested in business planning in the cloud.
  2. Customer panels are always entertaining and provide different viewpoints about software usage. I am sure that the Reimagine the Power of Analytics session in the Digital Enterprise Platform campus on Wednesday 18th May at 5.00pm will surface up some wonderful insights. Especially when the panellists come from organizations such as Cisco Systems, ConAgra Foods, Mercy Health and Hunt Consolidated. Don’t miss this – you’ll be disappointed if you do!
  3. Get involved in Interactive Sessions. The first one will be led by Kirk Anderson of SAP and John Steele of Deloitte talking about Transforming the Business Planning Process with Access to Real-Time Data. This will be held at 3pm on 17th May in the Digital Enterprise Platform campus. These two individuals have a vast experience of business planning; they are sure to offer you some insights that you’ll find really interesting…and hopefully to try at home.
  4. The second  Interactive Session, this time in the Lines of Business campus at 12pm on 19th May will have Pras Chatterjee of SAP and John To of ServiceNow leading the discussion on Break Down Budgeting and Forecasting Silos with Finance Leading the Charge.
  5. The third and final Interactive Session, again led by Kirk Anderson of SAP, will be on the topic Discover New Solutions for Better Financial Planning and Analysis. Join Kirk on 19th May at 4pm in the Lines of Business Campus to hear his thoughts on planning systems strategy.


Also be sure to visit the EPM demo stations in the Digital Enterprise Platform campus, pod DE401 or in the Lines of Business Campus, pod LB327. My colleagues from the SAP solutions for EPM team will be pleased to greet you and discuss any of your EPM topics each day of the event.


Have a great SAPPHIRE NOW!


As head of design at IBM, Phil Gilbert leads a program of historic proportions to reinvigorate IBM’s business through the power of Design Thinking. Since his company was acquired by IBM in 2010, Gilbert has been executing on his plan to redefine how Big Blue, the inventor of commercial computing, develops its products and services. In a recent visit to SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, we had a chance to ask Phil about design at IBM. This written interview complements the video interview below.

SAP: You’ve been visiting SAP for a two days now. Talking with employees and executives, touring spaces at SAP’s headquarters and our AppHaus in Heidelberg. What have been your impressions?


PHIL GILBERT: My visit to SAP has been incredible. It started at the AppHaus. It’s a magical place, and I loved the authentic reflection of the designers who work there. I encourage everyone who hasn’t been there to visit it. 


We also had a discussion about the history of Design Thinking here at SAP. I believe it was 2005 when the first team started in Palo Alto and Walldorf. The history of the progression and the scaling that has been done here around Design Thinking is very impressive. It was much easier to start a program of Design Thinking in 2012 [when IBM started] than it was in 2005. For example, in 2005 the iPhone hadn’t even been released yet. The iPhone came in 2007. I don’t think people understand how far ahead SAP was in terms of bringing users’ experiences to the forefront of the conversation with clients and that’s made a huge impression on me. We all suffer setbacks and enjoy advances in any program on any given day, but there’s something that has to be in SAP’s DNA today that has been inculcated over this past decade. I really hadn’t realized how early it was and how deep it sits here. So it’s been really eye-opening and humbling.


IBM has its own flavor of Design Thinking, called IBM Design Thinking. Why did you need to adapt the traditional approach?


IBM Design Thinking is the Design Thinking that everybody practices, but around that we put a few things that help us scale it to very large teams that are more complex than the typical smaller teams that Design Thinking was built to serve. Sometimes our teams can reach up to the hundreds by the time you include all of the things that need to be designed and developed and certainly when you include the other ecosystems of sales, marketing, legal, finance, and even partners, these teams can be very large and geographically dispersed. So one thing that we felt we could add to the design “literature” were techniques to scale it to environments like that. These techniques are fairly simple, lightweight and easy to understand, but they help larger teams use Design Thinking in different contexts.


You talked about scaling design with large teams, how do you ensure design quality?


I’m a bit of a pragmatist, and so I look for trends. I don’t look for absolute statements of quality. The world is moving toward a continuous delivery mode. This means that there will always be another version of something. And if you accept that human beings and their needs are more complex than you can ever fully understand, then you have to accept that whatever you deliver tomorrow is imperfect. Allowing yourself permission to accept that it is imperfect but better than it was, is freeing. That’s how we approach design – not as if there were an objective “good,” but there is a “better.” We are solving more problems for users and delighting users more than we did previously. We have mechanisms to collect the metrics to understand where we are improving or not. And that’s very important.  But again, we don’t really worry about judging whether something is some objective form of quality experience. We certainly are looking for that, but what we are really trying to embed in the program is a notion that we are always improving the experience.


How do you get engineers and others at IBM to understand that design is important?


When we started, our mission was to create a sustainable culture of design and Design Thinking at IBM. It wasn’t that design or designers weren’t valued, it was that it was unknown. We didn’t have a scaled out set of people who were formally-trained designers, so there was no way for the culture to value them. What we found was that once these new people started showing up, and they started practicing real, deep, thoughtful design, and the outcome of that design was actually things that our development population would love to build and deliver, the change was relatively easy. We didn’t have to change anybody’s mind about designers; we just had to introduce that skill at a world-class level and evangelize the outcome that the whole team delivered.


Phil Gilbert speaking at the SAP Design Talk in Walldorf, Germany

In your SAP Design Talk today, you talked about how IBM is in the process of hiring over 1000 designers – specifically visual designers, user experience designers, industrial designers, user researchers and front-end developers. Of those sub-disciplines, you emphasized the importance of user researchers. Why is that?


Like everyone nowadays, we are looking for T-shaped people. We want great generalists with a strong vertical.  But, I call out the user research discipline so specifically because it is the most transformative for those teams that really embrace it. And it is the most disruptive as well. The design research discipline is really interesting in our program because what they do is something that, when we started the program, very few people at our company would have understood as being “design.” By and large everybody could understand what the other designers do and what their contribution is. But people would be like, ”User researcher? What? We talk to users. We don’t need other people talking to users.” And so it’s very interesting when you introduce trained ethnographers that are unbiased and often times don’t have a lot of domain knowledge about a particular space. It’s scary to some people, because having these researchers go out and talk to real users in the real world on their own and bring back raw quotes and video shines a light on many biases that might have been accepted as truths. So I like to call that part of our design practice out, because bringing user researchers on board has been the most “non-design” thing that we have introduced, even though they are the heart of Design Thinking.


It’s been a pleasure and an honor for us at SAP to talk with you. Thank you so much for this interview.


Well, thank you. It’s been a real privilege. Hopefully you’ll come see us in Austin, Texas soon!




This interview took place on the same day as Phil Gilbert’s SAP Design Talk. The series regularly brings leaders from the international design scene to SAP. The sessions are held on a large stage for an audience of employees at various SAP locations around the globe, like Bangalore, Montréal, or at our headquarters in Walldorf, Germany.

Many thanks to Phil Gilbert and IBM for sharing their time and insight.


Related links:

IBM Design

Introduction to Design Thinking

3 Things to Look for in a User Researcher

What do designers at SAP do? Meet some and find out!

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Part five of a six-part weekly collaborative series between Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) and the German SAP Users’ Group, Deutschsprachige SAP-Anwendergruppe (DSAG)

Over the past four weeks of this blog series, we have defined Digital Transformation and discussed the broad opportunities it brings to your organization and how to think through new business models. Odds are that you are reading this because you have some connection to the SAP ecosystem. Therefore, we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss how SAP’s latest solutions and acquisitions help you to execute your Digital Transformation strategies. We want to be as objective as possible about the choice of SAP S/4HANA and SAP HANA, recognizing that there has already been considerable discussion across both ASUG and DSAG about how and when these products fit into our members’ business and technology landscapes.


Recall that our basic premise is that a “digitally capable” enterprise must have a strong technology core, and that core is the ERP system. In order to constitute a strong core, the ERP has to be open (i.e., easy to get information in and out of), fast, responsive and adaptable. Think about the requirements for the human central nervous system. These same requirements are needed for the ERP.


With this in mind, we see three basic reasons to consider the next generation of ERP:


  • Data volumes are increasing exponentially (McKinsey’s Global Institute stated that data volume was growing at 40 percent per year) due to the digitization of everything around us. This means a modern enterprise software environment is required to process exponentially increasing data volumes. A lightning-fast platform is required in order to keep up. Ultimately, the challenge is not in collecting the data but rather in converting it as quickly as possible to meaningful business information that drives decisions and action. For example, collecting data from the equipment that customer’s purchase from you is good, but what would be even better is using that data to create service calls when that equipment begins to operate outside of normal parameters.


  • Your business needs to connect more and more dots in order to understand how it fits into the broader ecosystem. Connecting these dots requires a robust and standardized enterprise back office and front office that can be the central clearinghouse for increasing data volumes as well as insight. We think these new SAP platforms hold great promise in this regard.


  • As the digital natives enter the workforce, they will require, if not demand, an enterprise software environment that is friendly to use on all fronts—on the data input side, the analytical side and the operational side. The user experience for SAP S/4/HANA and SAP HANA are built on the new SAP Fiori user experience, which we have been advocating is a critical technology that every member organization should be implementing.


Recent developments and use cases for both SAP HANA and SAP S/4HANA are beginning to illuminate the road ahead. Many of our user community members have undertaken substantial projects with these solutions and are reporting positive experiences. No doubt there is still much work to do, and that is why our established influence programs with SAP are so critical in incorporating the needs of our membership into future product releases.


ASUG and DSAG have surveyed the membership during the past two years on SAP HANA adoption. In sum, the results have shown that despite perennial concerns on licensing, cost savings and migration roadmaps, the question for ASUG and DSAG members is when they’re going to adopt—not if.


Building that business case for the SAP HANA platform—and now SAP S/4HANA—has been and will continue to be paramount, our respondents have told us. And that’s unlikely to change any time soon, though the rise of Digital Transformation on senior leadership’s agendas should encourage more discussion on the topic and where SAP’s platform fits into future plans.


Interestingly, the 2015 ASUG SAP HANA Adoption survey revealed SAP S/4HANA’s short-term rise to prominence among membership (since it was unveiled earlier in the year): Respondents were excited by SAP S/4HANA’s promise of real-time analytics, a simplified IT structure and reduced footprint, greater speed and new UX, SAP Fiori®. Where more work needs to be done by ASUG, DSAG and SAP is around the roadmap on “how” member organizations implement these new technologies and capitalize on the communal best practices and lessons learned.


Members who recognize the reality of Digital Transformation should think about investing in the latest SAP innovations. This means earnestly evaluating SAP HANA and SAP S/4HANA in a careful and measured fashion, as well as SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Ariba, Concur, SAP Fieldglass, SAP Hybris and SAP Cloud for Customer. As always, forward-thinking businesses must also recognize SAP HANA and SAP S/4HANA are works in progress and do not represent a panacea for solving the full complement of Digital Transformation issues. Nonetheless, the opportunities afforded by starting early far outweigh the risk of starting too late.


In sum, if you haven’t yet begun to formulate a strategy and execution plan for moving to the next generation of enterprise business systems, now would be a great time to get started. If you find yourself a little behind and in need of a sprint to catch up, both ASUG and DSAG have capabilities in place that can help you accelerate your journey.


We encourage you to share your thoughts and perspective on this important subject. As a technology community we are at our best when we collaborate and share insights that move us forward.


What is your perspective on Digital Transformation? We would like to hear your voice by participating in our Digital Transformation survey. We promise that it’s quick, relevant and digitally painless.


To learn more, visit the ASUG Digital Transformation Home Page. From there you can download webcasts and other important information. You can also watch our seminal webcast, Ready or Not, Digital Is Your Business – What SAP Customers Need to Know, which was recorded on April 20, 2016.


We release the final part of this six-part series right before SAPPHIRE® NOW and ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando – “Conclusion: Your Next Steps.”



Geoff Scott is the CEO of Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG).

A selection of my cartoons to do with innovation (more on my personal blog here!). Feel free to use in presentations, etc.... (let me know on twitter: @timoelliott)


Funnily enough, there's a strong correlation between how long people have been in a company / how senior they are and how reluctant they are to embrace change: 


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But innovators shouldn't neglect the real human costs -- not everybody is willing and/or able to change..



Most organizations try to have it both ways -- innovation without actually changing anything -- and that's as dumb as it sounds:

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To get good innovation ideas, you may have to change to a different environment (how about a Design Thinking Workshop with SAP?)

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The best way to get ideas is to shake things up -- and invite others, with different points of view, to take part (alternatively, these folks are working on their IT agility...)


Innovation these days is less about new or better products and services, and more about changing business models -- which is hard to do because it cross existing company silos, so many organizations leave it until too late:


Let's face it, most of us feel like we're too busy to get around to innovating -- but there's never a better time to do it than right now:


What's stopping us from innovating? Complexity! 


And remember, many people's jobs are tied up with that complexity -- they're not going to be happy to have you "save them" from it:


Sadly, many corporate bureaucracies manage to kill off new ideas before they get going:

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In a rapidly changing world, the only way to guarantee failure is to not try. Don't run a business, run an experiment.




If you're a technologist, you're no longer just "helping" the business -- you're building the foundation for the business models of the future. You have to help the business understand the possibilities -- it's hard work, but at the end of the day there's no better feeling than successful innovation:
Happy innovating! (if you enjoyed this, please share!)






I recently had the opportunity to visit the United Arab Emirates. While there, I gave a keynote to a group of 100 students and aspiring entrepreneurs at a youth summit hosted by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa). The center’s mission is to nurture a vibrant startup ecosystem in Sharjah and provide entrepreneurs with a launch pad for success. 


During my talk, I had the opportunity to discuss a few ideas I am passionate about. The first concept I shared was that business can – and should – take a leadership role in making the world a better place. The second idea I presented to and asked of these future leaders was to dream BIG about the mark they want to leave on the world.


We all can help make the world a better place


When people dream big – and couple those dreams with technology and purpose – it is truly possible to help the world run better and improve peoples’ lives.


A prime example of this is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which were approved in September 2015. These 17 global goals are full of big dreams, as they aim to improve billions of lives by ending poverty, protecting the planet, fighting diseases, and ensuring prosperity for all by 2030.


One of the UN goals is zero hunger (Goal #2). The principles of this goal are to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. Can we achieve zero hunger by 2030 – is it possible? It seems like a big dream, especially as experts estimate food production must grow by 70% to feed 2.2 billion more mouths by 2050.


However, countries, private and public sector organizations, and everyday citizens are working together to make the achievement of this goal a reality. For instance, digital farming is helping farmers in Africa and around the world collect crucial data to increase crop production, and become more efficient and sustainable.


Another UN goal is sustainable cities and communities (Goal # 11). It seeks to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.


Today, 10% of the world’s population lives in just 100 cities, and by the end of the 21st century, those cities will hold close to 20% of the world’s population. Technology can play a critical role in helping these hubs of innovation drive sustainability, resiliency, and inclusion.


Smart cities use Big Data to not only ensure the proper functioning of basic services but also to save people from natural disasters and other emergencies.  For instance, data collected from sensors embedded into city infrastructure, like the sewer systems in Buenos Aires, will help ensure basic services are working while saving people from natural disasters and other emergencies.


Finally, another of the goals is good health and well-being (Goal #3). The UN wants to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all people at all ages. Technology is at the epicenter of progress around complex medical issues.  It can deliver insights and simplify medicine to help diagnose, treat, cure – and ultimately prevent diseases.


For example, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) helps cancer patients and doctors find the best treatment options. About 14 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer every year. Most ask their doctor the same question: “How can you help me fight it?” It’s a difficult question to answer, but thanks to ASCO’s CancerLinQ system, it’s getting easier. Using Big Data and innovating on in-memory computing, CancerLinQ analyzes 500,000 electronic patient records to show which treatments are likely to work best.


Dream big and leave your impact


At the Sheraa summit in Dubai, I closed my talk with a personal story and a bold call to action. I shared with the young audience how my upbringing and my career have helped me realize the impact I can make in this world.  From the presentations of two young entrepreneurs from AUS that followed, I know the next generation will make even broader impact to this world.

Digital Transformation offers completely new opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs. During one of my recent interviews focusing on skills for Digital Transformation, I had the pleasure to talk with Michele McConomy, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Corporate Innovation Services at RocketSpace Inc.

During the short interview, she shared her perspective about the innovation power of start-ups, as well as the typical issues they are facing.

With new technologies emerging, entrepreneurs are able to shape our future through new business models. At the same time, they need support, and appreciate best practices and role models to perform at their best. Whether you are an entrepreneur already and would like to learn from others, or whether you are thinking about starting your own business based on a creative new idea, here’s something you may want to take a closer look at: The Global Entrepreneurship Summer School (GESS) Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) openSAP.



Global Entrepreneurship Summer School (GESS) MOOC on openSAP offers a course entitled “Enabling Entrepreneurs to Shape a Better World.”


Take advantage of this online course, provided free of charge. The course features leading entrepreneurs, practitioners, and experts sharing their experiences from around the globe.


For more insights I’d like to encourage you to visit Susan Galer’s blog “Calling all Aspiring Entrepreneurs: openSAP MOOC”.

To find out more about the course and the presenters you will meet, visit openSAP.

The characteristics of superstar leaders in the digital economy are different. We know this. Yet figuring out what it takes to stand out from the crowd has never been more challenging. Almost 200 industry experts recently gathered at the Churchill Club in Silicon Valley to discuss what sets digital leaders apart from the rest. The VIDEO below captures part of the panel discussion with Arlen Shenkman, SAP North America CFO, Heather Hiles, CEO of Pathbrite, Susan Lovegren, Senior Vice President of HR at Juniper Networks, Garvis Toler, Global Head of Capital Markets at NYSE, and Michael Chui, Global Institute Partner at McKinsey.



Their conversation was based on the preliminary findings of a study entitled, “Leaders 2020,” that will feature feedback from more than 4,100 executives and employees in 20 countries across multiple industries. SAP partnered with Oxford Economics on the research to better understand leadership in the digital economy. The results are still being compiled, but a few data points jumped out at me, revealing how work gets done at companies with digital leaders:


  • Over 70 percent of executives from high-performing organizations are more likely to say their company makes data-driven decisions
  • Sixty percent of respondents from fast growth companies say they adapt to decisions made in real-time
  • Executives from firms with strong profit growth are more likely to say that decisions are somewhat or very easy to make quickly (42 percent, vs. 18 percent of companies with slower profit growth).


While full results of the Oxford Economics survey will be announced later this year, a select group of findings will be shared at these sessions scheduled for the annual SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG Conference, being held May 17-19, in Orlando, Florida.


Leaders 2020 Panel Session – Closing the Skills Gap for the Digital Transformation: Panelists will share insights on what’s driving the digital workforce and the skills gap, including the innovative new partnership between SAP, ASUG and academic institutions to address this issue. 


Karie Willyerd, SAP SuccessFactors Workplace Futurist -- Explore New Leadership Trends for the Digital Economy: Drawing from Oxford Economics study findings, Willyerd will explain how leaders of small and midsize enterprises are successfully spearheading digital transformation using advanced technologies like digitization, analytics, networks and artificial intelligence.


Diversity & Inclusion Roundtable – Moving the Needle on Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace: How SAP SuccessFactors customers use holistic HR-centric technology solutions to support gender-inclusive policies and practices for sustained workforce gender equity.


Simple to Complex: Leading in the Digital Economy: Chris Fussell Managing Partner and Chief Growth Officer at McChrystal Group, discusses complexity theory, new research from SAP and McChrystal Group, and lessons learned from the battlefield, spotlighting the root causes of many challenges senior executives face and the leadership behavior changes required to overcome them.


Watch for updates on the Oxford Economics survey findings as they are announced. Meantime, every business needs to know that the digital leadership advantage is real. When leadership skills catch up with digital business mandates, stars will no longer be the exception but the rule.


Follow me @smgaler


Related content:


Digital HR Takes Center Stage at #SAPPHIRENOW 2016

The food sector, it turns out, is a particularly fruitful topic for exploring the changing world of work. The culinary world is setting new standards. Food has moved from pure necessity to iconic symbol. While always deeply embedded in local culture, in recent years food has become available on a global level. Kitchens have transformed from dark, Tayloristic places to decorative art. They are not merely used as a space to cook and bake. Kitchens now encourage social interaction in families, they house party guests and entertain. Kitchens display social status and they even turn into offices. Eating has metamorphosed into a sensual experience. Instead of a hand-to-mouth experience, cooking is now considered to be a full-fledged hobby and means of self-expression, as illustrated by the sheer number of food blogs, magazines and TV shows.

Despite the paradoxical situation of less time used for preparing fresh food, but at the same time a growing trend towards locally grown, organically produces and global cuisines, there is a growing cultural understanding of the culinary world. One can unquestionably refer to a new culinary culture.


The situation is similar in the business world. Companies wanting to stay innovative have started tackling their culture. New work and innovation culture are on everyone´s lips, no longer limited to the allegedly trendy start-up scene.


According to Austrian-born founder of modern management, Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Being perfectly aware of the many contradictory voices to his quote, I do not want to undermine the importance of pursuing an integrated and sustainable strategic focus within the company. However, too often a company´s strategy is ineffective due to missing alignment with the ingrained culture. Management executives tend to overlook the importance of organizational culture, stating they have bigger fish to fry. To avoid this disconnect, you have to understand that our culture decisively shapes the way we behave as a social community and sets the stage for how people interact. In a business context, it operationalizes company values, customs and traditions and translates them into a guiding framework for decision-making and interaction within the company. In short, it forms a company´s essential personality and will always leave the sturdiest aftertaste.


Despite correlating with industrialization and technical innovation, cultural change usually drags behind technological change. Translated to a business context, this means that companies wanting to remain innovative should carefully consider a transformation in their organizational culture. Initially, it may seem paradox that a digitalization and more connected world triggers a humanization of work. Still, a creative mindset, social skills and independent thinking have turned into key assets of success. A coherent operational framework forms the breeding ground for radically new ideas. 


So what´s the recipe for an innovative work culture? Wake up and smell the coffee. Become aware of your surroundings and do a reality check. What practices and values exist? Instead of asking where you want to grow, ask yourself who you want to be and what you want to be great at. No company is alike, so the following ingredients can only be considered to be the staples, which should always be available in your pantry. With different composition and herbs and spices, the flavor on the plate will change.


The Head Cook’s New Role or New Role for the Head Cook

Just as any chef in a professional kitchen needs to be more of a coach, management executives should be too. What connects a new generation of leaders, is their absolute love for people. They enjoy nurturing and shaping the further development of their employees. They recognize that people are the most central asset for the company. They even seem to magically stroke their team. The creation of an egalitarian cultures with flat hierarchies cultivates an environment of trust and truthfulness. Increasingly, executives regard their employees as individual leadership personality. Of course there is no one true style of management within the same team. But overall, the best leaders have moved from delegating decision-makers to brainstorming partners, development coaches and mentoring guides.


Diverse Cooks Pimp the Broth

Culture has to be thought through from hiring to operations. Seeing that variety is the spice of life, create a team with a wide-ranging mix of talents, experience levels, age and background. Choose people who did not wander along traditional or short paths, but took detours along the way. Such varying perspectives are the bread and butter for coming up with innovative ideas. In addition, diversity triggers mindfulness about differences. In order to evaluate whether potential new hires are a good fit to the team, get as many employees as possible involved in the recruiting process. They can best assess whether the new hires share team values or do not and will thus either reinforce the company´s culture or erode it, respectively.


A Guidance a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Fostering an environment where employees feel cared about and trusted should be your primary focus. Openness and feedback are key to encourage such an atmosphere. Feedback in this context includes both constructive criticism and meaningful positive praise, encouraging growth and development. They must be organically interwoven with daily routines to become part of the company culture. Overall, a positive, respectful and kind atmosphere leads to the feeling of appreciation.


Everyone Bakes His Own Bread

People are highly motivated when they have enough freedom to grow and develop. Within the organizational culture, provide scope for development and encourage employees to follow their unique passions. This could mean to have a guided mechanism of project distribution and staffing. Or dedicate certain days per month on which the staff can work on non-job related projects or brainstorm new ideas together. While professional training opportunities should be granted, try to additionally focus on team development rather than individual development. Provide the freedom to mutually learn from each other and grow as a team.


All Great Parties End in the Kitchen

While your dish may taste the same whether it´s been cooked on a stove in a dirty six square meter storage room or in a fully equipped open kitchen in a palace, the experience differs completely from the cook´s perspective. Space has an emotional importance for everyone who works in it. Just as the kitchen crew will come up with creative combinations in inspiring surroundings, the same applies for every company. When designing office spaces, never underestimate the way environments shape the way we work. Open collaborative spaces, flexible furniture, quiet zones and game nooks are just a few examples that will outnumber traditional work cubicles.



Do Lunch or Be Lunch

Why should you as a company even adapt the way you cook or the flavors you use? The answer is simple: palates are changing and with them, the demands for your cooked food. Agile and creative, intrinsically motivated and energetic future employees have different taste buds. If you want to bring home the bacon (or else: if you want to hire such people), you have to carefully consider your company´s culture and provide them with a higher order of meaning. Employees require a meaningful job with a purpose. The power of why we work here has become one of the most crucial elements of choice.


Never Put All Your Eggs in the Culture Basket

Changing a company´s identity is no piece of cake. Changing a company´s strategy isn´t either. Both changes take time and should not be considered by themselves. Instead of having culture consuming strategy for breakfast, have them nurture each other. In other words, a strategic focus is still important for achieving success. However, a company’s strategy must be aligned with the core values and guiding principles. While the above-mentioned ingredients form the pantry staples, it is now your task to define the mixing ratio, choose additional spices and prepare side dishes. Everyone can cook, so put your apron on!

In 2016 the chemical industry faces a serious brain drain. An aging workforce across the sector is creating a significant issue for companies.

At Dow Chemical, for example, about a third of its employees are 50 or older. These employees are expected to retire in the near future. Chemical companies are using more contractors and service providers to supplement the diminishing workforce.

This changing workforce means companies face increased compliance risk.

Chemical companies that turn to digital solutions are well positioned to mitigate these risks. This digital transformation is taking place in product development, processes, and business modeling.

Digital transformations

Digital technology has vast implications for the chemical industry.

Today core business elements are being connected to each other like never before. Platforms link products, equipment, and employees.

Suppliers and customers connect to chemical firms. These connected systems offer new opportunities for collaboration. Processes improve at a faster rate. Productivity grows across the firm.

A new frontier

Computing advances offer solutions not possible just a few years ago.

Predictive maintenance schedules and quality control are now a reality.

Supply chain efficiency and market-driven pricing are easier to put in place. New profit centers are emerging.

Cloud computing offers vast storage capacity at affordable rates. These structures allow for broad information sharing and easier analysis & reporting.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is another considerable factor. The IoT connects products, equipment, and other devices together with sensors, software, and wireless technology. These devices detect, store, and report data on a massive scale. Your things are smart and connected.

Chemical work, redefined

These improvements allow meaningful changes to the way firms work. In addition, the digital solutions play a main role in solving the aging workforce issue by reducing the workload. They also help ensure that firms remain in compliance with regulations.

For forward-looking companies, there are several ways that technology changes the nature of work.

Floor operations

Smart, connected machines improve accuracy and safety on the shop floor. Operations are more precise with the use of machines connected to database systems. Predictive systems control or support operational instructions. Self-learning systems interact with machinery and business processes.

Digital back office

Many support functions are evolving or now digitized. Procurement and invoicing are no longer siloed activities. This new digital space integrates inventory management, accounting (e.g. invoice reconciliation) with human resources.

Analytics tools take digitized data from processes in real time. Insights and reporting are immediately available. Employees are presented with more information and can make decisions faster.

Related to compliance

How does this digital growth relate to compliance? Let's take one example where contractors and compliance meet.

Chemical labeling systems often cause major headaches. Labeling systems vary in many ways. Differences in process and format can change by department and region.


Improving accuracy

These variables are a challenge to consistency and control standards across the firm. Today enterprise-wide systems offer a solution.

Such systems ensure consistency, compliance, and security. As guidelines change, there's an urgent need to change and manage label data fast. With smart technology, firms can share data and changes with remote contractors and suppliers.

These systems allow all locations to manage changes and reduce downtime. Business processes scaled across the globe ensure consistency across the enterprise.

Version control systems and documentation are important regulatory issues. Firms need systems to chart approvals, work flow, and revisions history. These modern systems connect data from all sources.

Firms today share data with contractors worldwide. This integration of corporate and partner data requires accurate label printing. Central printing oversight offers global supply chain consistency. Manual and redundant label data entry disappears.

What matters

Labeling systems now can share business rules with contractors and suppliers. With leaner work forces, these systems reduce delays caused by global variances.

Differences in regulations are a challenge to compliance. Different image requirements, formats and language complicate the issue. As a solution, single-source systems incorporate these variables centrally. Different format and printer standards are tracked at the firm level. Labor is free to work in other areas.

Shared data is another advantage. Automation allows data to be linked from different systems. Now safety and quality control info are tied to performance. Inventory and supply chain data links to order demand and sales.

Contract employees can sign off on regulatory mandates in remote locations and affirm procedures. Smart devices prevent tampering and alert contractors of safety issues in real time.

Fleet of foot

Digital advances in fleet and stock management also improve compliance with fewer employees. Systems and sensors can better match demand with supply. External market intelligence can be factored into the forecasting process.

Transportation systems are more agile. Response to customer needs increases and new markets emerge globally.

Fewer personnel costs

One other consideration is the use of basic mobile and social media tech. Leveraging these tools lets contractors and staff communicate directly. An engaged workforce can collaborate in new ways. Integrated platforms offer the right information at the right time. The right people see it. The right decisions are made.

Cloud-based content management systems streamline training. Enterprise compliance tools reduce risk and boost performance. Cloud-based talent management systems track rising stars. Hiring and training costs drop for new hires and contractors.

What it means

In short, the connected chemical firm lets employees everywhere connect. This strengthens compliance through shared data sets and consistent processes.

As workforces get leaner and more distributed, technology helps firms stay on track. The new chemical formula is there to use.

Start your journey now! Understand more about the value digital transformation brings to your company and establish the right platform and roadmap for transition.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re up to speed on digitization. But are you ready for digitalization?


What’s the difference? It may depend on your organization or industry. In some areas of business, the distinction is clear cut, while in other areas there is confusion over the two terms, with the result that they are being used interchangeably. In this blog, I will try to elucidate the difference in meaning so that you can use these terms with confidence.


As digitalization evolves, customer focus sharpens

The Wikipedia definition for digitization is distinct:  “the representation of an object, image, sound, document or signal (usually an analog signal) by generating a series of numbers that describe a discrete set of its points or samples…strictly speaking, digitizing simply means the conversion of analog source material into a numerical format.” The Wikipedia definition for digitalization however, redirects to digitization. It’s a good beginning, but in the end it only reinforces the ambiguity.


The Gartner glossary goes a good step further in assigning meaning. It defines digitalization as “the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.” Similar to Wikipedia, Gartner also says, “Digitization is the process of changing from analog to digital form.”


“At SAP we’ve done digitization for many decades,” says Uwe Riss, Senior Researcher for Digital Business, Research & Innovation Hub St. Gallen, SAP, in a recent interview with SAP News titled Digital Business Modeling: A Structural Approach Toward Digital Transformation. “Now we are on the way to digitalization, which is different. Digitizing has increased the efficiency of our processes; digitalization means that business now uses technology to engage with people to precisely address their particular needs.”


Riss explains that it is digitalization that has the greatest potential to alter the way we live. “As a simple example, it can mean that an almost invisible technology helps us find the restaurant we like or the transportation we need, wherever we are and at any time – and at once.”


Searches on digitalization are on the rise

Ambiguity about the use of these terms abounds, nonetheless. A deep-dive into Google revealed that, although Google Search recognizes both terms, they are sometimes used interchangeably in search results – somewhat like synonyms. Search statistics can reveal a great deal about how terms are really being applied today.


The following graph shows a converging trend in interest over time, with digitization still the leading term people search on – although interest in digitalization is picking up.


Source: Google Trends


The customer test

Satisfied that as an editor I could once and for all end all confusion between digitization and digitalization, I shared this research with my manager. As managers sometimes do, he confounded me with a simple question, “But do customers care?”


I had to find out. For this I needed an unsuspecting test subject.


At home in the kitchen, my husband was busy rushing back and forth, switching between spatulas as he prepared the kids their customized dinners. A CEO in a German Mittelstand company with a new, cutting-edge Industry 4.0-style factory – and an SAP customer – he seemed like a good person to ask: “Do you distinguish between digitization and digitalization?”


“No,” he said with a shrug.


“As a physicist, do you see any difference?” Because sometimes physicists do see a difference that the rest of us may miss.


“Well – let me think for a moment – and not as a physicist,” he looked at the ceiling, drying his hands on a kitchen towel. “If I scan a document, I digitize it. But I would digitalize a factory.”


Perfect, Dear. Thank you.


You tell us: Are you Digitizing or Digitalizing?

Now it’s your turn. How are you using digitization and digitalization in your business? Add a comment below to let us know.

Humanity has always been guided and shaped by thinkers and thought leaders, such as Emanuel Kant, Adam Smith and Frederic Hayek. However, for the past decade or so, both society and the market have been stressing this concept in an unprecedented fashion.


So, why do we (a society guided by globalization) need to nurture thought leadership?


How Global Competition Builds Better Mousetraps


The global market has grown stronger as nations have traded more freely, offering their citizens a variety of choices to meet their daily requirements. And production costs in all industrial sectors have fallen drastically due to cheap human capital in developing countries.


In fact, a fundamental objective of modern business economics is to reduce the prices of goods and services. But that objective can be fulfilled only by competitive market (without much of government intervention).


And competition has become the sole language of the globalized market. Therefore, organizations must always be vigilant against the next competitor that can build a better mousetrap.


That is why firms need people who can come up with new ideas to re-invigorate their deliverables.  Be they an individual expert, such as Peter Drucker, or a specific firm or a cabinet of consulting, such as Mc Kinsey, Boston Consulting Group, all of these entities play the role of thought leaders.


Thought Leadership Through Technology


The ultimate objective of thought leadership is to discover or invent a new path that can improve people’s lives in both business and society.


Thought leaders use technology as a key tool to effect change in all spheres. They have to; technology has become the new human environment, rendering the same service to globalized economies that oxygen does to the human body.


Technology has an unquenchable thirst to challenge the status-quo. It drives constant innovation and advancement, reducing the cost and time for a product, service or idea to reach its market place.


And most of the credit for technical advancement comes from the software industry.


Laying the Groundwork for Tomorrow’s Innovation


Luminaries such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Hasso Plattner and Narayan Murthy have transformed the way we work, and subsequently the way we deal with our lives. These towering figures are the pioneers in the field of modern day thought leadership in high tech.


Of course, not everyone can rise up to such heights in their lifetime.


But there is a new breed of thought leaders appearing on the surface. These thought leaders -- or rather social thinkers -- propagate their ideas with the help of blogs and other social media tools.


That may seem overwhelming, but this is a good thing: High-tech software needs more path-breaking innovation than any other technical or non-technical sector to in the marketplace.


Going Forward


Digital transformation, the Internet of Things and other innovations will further revolutionize the human surroundings. Meanwhile thought leaders will help society prepare itself for -- and respond to -- the digital transformation.


They will also help market leaders mold their research and development to make people-friendly products and services.


The role of thought leader will evolve into building the bridge between market and society. And tomorrow’s thought leaders will guide humanity as we shift our focus from the market to knowledge.

Some 100 students from around the world gathered together for an innojam at CeBIT 2016, held March 14-18 in Hanover, Germany. Watching the teams working together and solving challenges around digital transformation was a very insightful experience.  During the event I had the pleasure to talk with Dr. Joachim Bühler – Managing Director of Bitkom, responsible for the areas of politics, economy, and technology.

Bitkom, Germany’s digital association, represents more than 2,300 companies in the digital economy. Among other activities, this association fosters the modernization of Germany’s educational system in information technology (IT). To support this goal, SAP joined Bitkom’s initiative “Erlebe IT” (in English: ‘Experience IT’). The aim of this initiative is to educate young people about IT and technical subjects while at school.

Watch this short interview to find out more about Dr. Bühler’s perspective on the following questions:

  • What are some of the educational joint initiatives between Bitkom and SAP?
  • Why should education about IT skills start already with kids at a young age?
  • What are ways to engage with young kids and students to spark their interest in technology subjects?



Join the SAP Education Network for Digital Transformation now, and share your perspectives with your peers on this platform!

I spoke about the topic of Diversity by Design at the Managing Experience Conference in San Francisco on March 29th-30th, 2016. I am passionate about this topic, being a woman working in the Silicon Valley. However, my primary motivation to talk on this topic is so the next generation will not have to.

In this talk, I did a deep dive into the numbers behind Silicon Valley’s diversity problem, the implications, and how our implicit biases affects our perception. I ended with five practical tips to foster a culture of diversity that I practice at SAP’s Design and Co-Innovation Center (DCC).

· Reframe diversity as an opportunity

· Build the pipeline

· Remember bias goes both ways

· Avoid token hires

· Delight in diversity

Check out this video to learn more about these tips:

The talk was very well received and my biggest takeaway was the level of audience participation and the hallway conversations that it generated.

I hope these tips allow you to think about diversity in a new light and create a realistic action plan for your team. It is important to remember that diversity for its own sake is not worth much; however, diversity as a means of inclusion and giving people the space to be their authentic selves at work can help create a more colorful and diverse Silicon Valley.

Please share your own experience with fostering a diverse culture in your teams — I’d love to hear about different things that have worked and just as important, not worked!

For the last few decades, operations and analytics have been firmly separated in enterprise architectures, with different systems for the different needs, even as the rise of Big Data and Data Lakes has muddied the water between “real time operations” and “batch driven analytics”.


But in-memory hybrid transaction/analytical processing (HTAP) systems are now allowing organizations to do real-time, powerful analytics directly on day-to-day operational data, using a single architecture.


This idea is far from new — for example, here’s the text from a Univac computer ad in 1956:


univac ad 640.jpg



Image source: http://www.dvq.com


“…there’s only one commercially available platform capable of real time performance… It’s the ideal system for…simulation and on-line data reduction.It solves complex problems from purely sensed data at speeds that are compatible with real-time control.

Because of its ability to reduce large volumes of data at tremendous speeds, the…system easily handles even the most difficult problems.


Furthermore, it offers many other outstanding characteristics, including: superb operating efficiency, large capacity, great versatility, the ability to interface with a wide variety of different types of data, and far greater reliability than any other computer of its type…."


Just like some of today’s “internet of things” systems, the Univac scientific machine was designed to process information in-memory, directly from sensors (it could also access information from magnetic tape or punch cards).


Note how perfectly the ad ticks all the modern buzzword boxes, promising the 3Vs of big data (volume, variety, and velocity), along with powerful analytics and data compression.


Unfortunately for business in the 1950s, rising amounts of data and cheaper disk storage quickly upended the economics of computing — and we have had to deal with the complexity and latency of separate operational and analytic systems ever since.


We’re now seeing a new tipping point. The falling price of memory and the increased costs of complexity mean that in-memory platforms like SAP HANA are once again the simplest and cheapest way of running businesses.


The result is that although moving to HTAP entails “upheaval in the established architectures” according to Gartner, we’re actually getting back to the fundamentals of what we’ve always wanted.


And what could be simpler than that?


[This post first appeared in my Business Analytics Blog]


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