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wearables.jpgWhen you were a kid did you ever imagine that life someday would be like an episode of The Jetsons? If so, you’re in luck.

Forecast calls for 19 billion connected things by 2016, and the wearable technology sector is set to skyrocket from $3-5 billion in revenue to $30-50 billion over the next 2 years. The economic impact estimates as high as $14 trillion over the next decade (AllthingsCK.com). The products in beta and those already created are leading in the market. Fitbit fitness devices are available in 30,000 retail stores across 27 countries worldwide (Amazon published rankings). Google Glass expanded with Google Contact Lens. And the market for jackets that navigate, dresses that change color with mood, and bras that can track your heart rate are popping up everywhere.

Would you wear it? Below you’ll find five of the most interesting wearable techs currently on the market. What do you think?

1. LED Threaded Dresses

Forget about the domestic dispute between Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Solange for a second, and think back to the other guests that have attended the Met Gala through the years. Did you catch Katy Perry’s light up dress? The innovation geniuses at CuteCircuit were behind it, and Katy was glowing (no pun intended).

Watch Katy's interview here:

CuteCircuit is also the brain behind bride and groom outfits that digitally connect. They are made out of conductive silver fabric that creates a connection when the couple kisses, triggering a private message on the linings of their garments. If you really want to be the center of attention on your wedding day, put on an illuminated dress.

2. FitBark

Naturally if there is a FIT band to track human health and fitness levels, it’s only natural that humans would invent the same for their pets. Having a dog is just like having a child after all, right? With FitBark, a tiny smart activity monitor, you can better understand your dog’s health and behavior. You can share your pup’s activity report with her vet and compare her with other dogs also wearing a FitBark. The best part? FitBark can connect to human fitness trackers to ensure that the puppy is at least as active as its owner (or vice versa for those of you sitting in a desk all day).

3. Bras for Men

Just kidding, it’s not a bra, but it sure does look like one. European rugby pro, Trent Hodkinson ripped off his shirt to reveal a high-tech athlete-monitoring device made by GPSportInternational. Players base their recovery and training methods on the information provided from the unit. But if you thought Victoria’s Secret was pricey, this vest weighs in between $2000-$3000.  Maybe Seinfeld was onto something with “The Bro.”

4. GPS Jacket


Wearable Experiments created a jacket that actually navigates its wearer through New York City. The jacket works in tandem with an app to steer the wearer in the right direction. LED lights on the sleeve visualize the route and either the left or right sleeve vibrates when it’s time to turn a corner. If this jacket makes it main stream, imagine how much easier the life of a traveling student would be. Ditch the map and put on your jacket.

5. 3D Printed Make Up

Mink. No, not the furry creature seen hanging on your grandmother’s coat. Mink is the name of a prototype 3D printer created by Harvard grad, Grace Choi. Targeted to be the same size as a Mac Mini and under $200, Mink enables people to print make up (eye shadow, blush, lipstick… you name it) right from their home. The product targets girls 13-21 who are still experimenting with makeup and not loyal to any particular brand. It uses cosmetic-grade dye (FDA-compliant of course) printed onto a powder substrate. Choi’s main motive was to provide girls with access to makeup in any and every color because drug store selections tend to fall flat. To make a color, the device connects with a tool to find the hue’s hexadecimal number, and then prints it (Business Insider). Any color is possible.

Watch a demo here:


In addition to the five products listed above, wearable tech is everywhere. There’s a bracelet that controls body temperature; smart eyelashes; dresses that charge your phone; Nike sneakers that help you run faster and jump higher. The innovative ideas embodied in the Internet of Things are taking over the globe. Will you be seen wearing connected clothing?

The innovations and images listed in this blog were taken from Fashionably Wired.

Join the conversation on the Networked Economy and see more about wearable tech.

Join me on Twitter @CMDonato

This blog first appeared on LinkedIn.

It's amazingly hard to ask good questions.

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I've been in investigative mode over the last month; trying to understand the root cause of a performance issue and also designing a potential new business model. Both projects mean I've had to ask a lot of questions. And they also mean I have had to remind myself how to ask questions.


In my experience, the key to asking a good question is to know why you are asking the question. When people ask questions, they do so for one of three reasons:


  • They want a well-reasoned point of view
  • They want an opinion from an expert
  • They want a factually correct answer


That's right; people don't always want a factual answer to their questions.


As a result, asking a well-formed question is incredibly important - especially if the answer is a point of view or an opinion. Unfortunately, people usually ask questions which are unintentionally vague. Vague questions produce vague answers.


I had been looking for a memorable way to make the point about ambiguous questions when I re-watched the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance on a recent plane flight. The villain gives the good guys thirty seconds to telephone him on the number "555 plus the answer" or else a bomb will detonate.



The question is the well-known nursery rhyme:


As I was going to St. Ives,

I met a man with seven wives,

Each wife had seven sacks,

Each sack had seven cats,

Each cat had seven kits:

Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,

How many were there going to St. Ives?


Most people try to multiply the sevens to get to the answer. But, if you look closer, the passage never says the group is travelling to St. Ives. So the answer should be one: the narrator.


But wait. We don't know if the narrator is traveling alone so perhaps a better answer is at least one.


On the other hand, a plausible answer is zero. The last two lines of the riddle state "kits, cats, sacks, wives ... were going to St. Ives?" The narrator isn't a kits cat, sack, or wife, so shouldn't count as part of the answer.


Since the nursery rhyme is supposed to be a riddle, it's intentionally vague. But it makes the point. There is no factually correct answer so you can only have a well-reasoned point of view.


Ask better questions. Or as the French philosopher Voltaire said,


Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.


This blog was originally posted on Manage by Walking Around on July 20, 2014.

Please follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Communications is more than just speaking or sending a message – you need to ensure that ‘got it!’ on the other end. When you get a ‘got it’, you know you’re well on the way to successfully managing change, ensuring operational compliance, and managing on-the-job performance.  In the second of a three-part series, I’m sharing a story about successful communications within the SAP Field Enablement team.


Goal: Generate more sales pipeline


The SAP Americas Education team is actively using the latest communications tools to help with field enablement across a geographically dispersed team with a big portfolio.


In the past, the team relied on emails, webinars, and live training to share information. Though the information was good, stakeholders had no way to effectively track whether it was truly received and understood. In addition, the content was not very easily re-usable by sales teams at the point-of-need.  For example, a sales representative about to meet with a customer implementing a new SAP technology would need to be connected to the SAP network and would then search for information, possibly buried in a past webinar.  Now, reps can access the information from their mobile device, by very specific topic and in an easy-to-consume format such as small solution briefs, short videos, or a few PowerPoint slides.


Teams have reported a significant improvement in convenience and effectiveness for learning. Better prepared = more effective = more sales. And, by replacing the typical weekly 1-hour webinar with small, concise, learning snacks delivered via SAP® Communication Center by ANCILE, enablement stakeholders have contributed to significant time-management improvements for the sales field. More time for customers = more opportunity for pipeline growth.


In the final part of our series, I’ll highlight how policy training can actually be interesting for your learners.

Related resources:

How do you change a disparate, outdated IT infrastructure – in a company with 70,000 employees in 50 countries – into a best-in-class standardized IT landscape?



With a plan that can fundamentally change global business, say the authors of a recent article in 360° – the Business Transformation Journal. The article, entitled “Transformation towards the Future,” describes how a major consumer goods company recently undertook such a project – a transformation that is the largest in its history and perhaps the largest in its industry.


When the company’s future is at stake…


The organization, which asked to be anonymous, undertook this task not because it wanted a slight improvement here or there. It did so because the whole future of the company was at high risk. The company knew that a reduction in yearly costs of $250 million and the closing down of a few business units was a start – but not enough.


Company executives recognized that a cultural change was needed – one that did away with long-standing traditions, processes, and practices that were holding the organization back, particularly in the areas of customer service and operational performance.


The company had IT systems that should have been replaced 10 years ago, along with different infrastructures in various countries, and unique, highly specific systems for different countries and business units. Several acquisitions and disparate data, roles, and processes made it difficult to effectively respond to customer demands and international cost pressures.


To that end, the company undertook what is nick-named “Speeding!” for an initiative that would include a state-of-the-art IT system, standardized processes around the world, and a new dedicated customer service organization.


High demands for a best-in-class solution


The company believes that Speeding! will it achieve better customer service, a higher quality of products and services, and a reduction in costs.


The specific goals for the company’s IT transformation were many, including:

  • Efficient management of the all logistical, financial, and B2B processes internationally
  • Immediate quantifiable benefits
  • Ability to analyze massive amounts of data to drive key performance indicators in real time
  • Auditing and regulatory compliance
  • A reduced total cost of ownership
  • Easier implementation of technological innovations


And perhaps one of the most demanding requirements was the ability to accommodate the company’s business and market needs in the future.


The company worked with industry-leading vendors to build an IT system that was best-in class, with a robust and modular design. It is employing a proven holistic framework for business transformation, services, rapid-deployment solutions, and a high level of support to help it meet an aggressive timeline for the project.


Building success, country by country


The Speeding! initiative is a four-year process that has entailed careful planning and holistic transformation management, as well as a close alignment with the company’s corporate strategy. Business and change leads have been set up regionally and for specific markets to help manage the rollout.


With the focus on a smooth, non-disruptive rollout, pilots countries have gone live on the new platform, while there are temporary solutions for older processes and patchwork IT systems as a short-term fix.


While confidence is high regarding the success of this initiative, there is still fear in both executives and employees that it may not work.


For now, optimism is the driving force and it seems to be working.


To get more details on this company’s business transformation, access the full article on page 54 of Issue 10 of 360° – the Business Transformation Journal. This publication is produced by the Business Transformation Academy, a thought leadership network devoted to providing cutting-edge insights on innovation and business transformation. For more business transformation articles on the SAP Community Network, please visit the 360° – the Business Transformation Journal library.

“Hold online, reserved in store.”



These words from the GAP entrance door wandered through my mind for a few seconds as I tried to visualize what they really meant. Here is the conclusion I drew three blocks further down: my local store is now accessible right at my fingertips.



The science of connecting all available shopping channels to create a seamless customer experience is called “Omnicommerce.” This retail revolution is based on three strategic components:



  1. Better basics: quality, cleanliness and online security
  2. Hyper- convenience: ease of shopping, home delivery, digital payment
  3. Experience: entertainment, digital engagement




Industry experts predict that this new retail strategy will drive important IT budget growth into marketing over the next few years. In fact, accessibility across every possible channel and customer touchpoint has become a retail industry imperative—a must-have for retailers who want to remain competitive within the market. And that is exactly what GAP, among many others, is up to. Connecting stores with their online presence causes in-store and online experiences to blend together, therefore providing users with one complete, 360-degree brand experience.



Shoppers no longer have to choose from distinct shopping options. Omnicommerce offers a consistent and unique experience connecting all possible touch points, whether they are brick and mortar stores, retailer websites, phone applications or social media pages. This strategy within the retail industry provides users with flexible fulfillment methods like “buy online, pick up in store” or “buy online, return in store.” Because a satisfied customer is more likely to spread the word and become an advocate for the brand, Omnicommerce strategy is about creating the ability to meet customers’ expectations by offering personal and relevant experiences anytime, anywhere.



By processing increasing amounts of data, retailers are now able to more effectively track what influences purchases. The results are better management of marketing/advertising budgets and faster implementation of driven-data marketing campaigns with one single goal: to more accurately cover the right channels. More precise audience measurement allows for more targeted actions, adding relevance to the individual shopper.



Hybris, an SAP company founded in 1997, leverages the latest commerce innovations and helps stores transition to 21st century commerce by offering true 360° omni-channel strategies.  According to its website,  Hybris delivers OmniCommerce™:


          "A state-of-the-art master data management for commerce and unified commerce processes that give a business a single view of its customers, products and orders, and its customers a single view of the business.


         Hybris' omni-channel software is built on a single platform, based on open standards, that is agile in supporting limitless innovation,efficient in driving the best TCO, and scalable and expansive enough to be the last commerce platform companies will ever need. Over 500 companies have chosen Hybris, including global B2B sites W.W.Grainger, Rexel, General Electric,Thomson Reuters and 3M as well as consumer brands Toys"R"Us UK, Metro, Bridgestone, Levi's, Nikon, Galeries Lafayette, Migros, Nespresso and Lufthansa."


Learn more about SAP and hybris and be right atyour customer’s fingertips the next time they need you. SAP.com

HBRimageblog.PNGConsumers have long been empowered to locate and expect the best deals on everything from automobiles to vacations. A newly released report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services finds that buyers in the business world are almost equally empowered with information. Entitled, Winning at Sales in a Buyer-Empowered World,” the new report confirms what many have already experienced in the business-to-business sales environment. Key findings from the report, also shown here in an infographic from SAP, reveal:


  • Prospective buyers in business-to-business settings have completed 57 percent of their due diligence work before engaging with a sales representative.
  • Rising customer expectations is the number one  challenge that 65 percent of sales organizations face.
  • Seventy-two percent of decision-makers say the sale rep’s ability to help solve business objectives is a major influence on their buying decision.

This is how Gerry Murray, research manager at IDC’s CMO Advisory Service, sums up the situation:

“The vendor has historically been the primary source of information, and that is no longer true. That’s a radical change in the exploration process. If you are still training salespeople on the old model, you are going to struggle to connect with buyers.”

So what’s a sales team to do? Well, for one thing, their homework. The onus is on sales organizations to make sure their people have the information they need to be the kind of trusted advisors that prospects and customers expect. Just like consumers, telling B2B buyers what they already know (or can easily find out is or isn’t true), just won’t cut it. In order to get the information they need, here is a sampling of the report’s recommendations for sales team empowerment:

Go beyond automation: Like everything else in the digitized business environment, success comes down to quality data. Sales teams need to know what customers are doing so they can respond with the right information at the right time. For example, many companies are turning to collaborative workspaces that connect salespeople, customers and experts using social technologies. Think of it as a virtual “deal room” that reveals conversations salespeople can monitor and respond to in real-time.

Data-driven playbooks: Using analytics that track and analyze customer response, sales and marketing can get much better at informed strategies and tactics, applying them immediately and over time. This typically requires cultural change along with the technology.

Unite sales and marketing: Don’t forget to factor in organizational change management that puts marketing and sales leadership on the same page.


Obsolescence may be a fact of life in a world of fast-paced innovation. But sales organizations enabled to move one step ahead of customers with actionable insights have the best opportunity for growth.


Follow me @smgaler

Related links:

Download the complete Harvard Business Review Analytics Services report

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe has sought to integrate closer, and the European Union has expanded as a result. It was considered inevitable that more of the continent would become part of a cohesive whole. However, the results of the recent elections to the European parliament, in which right wing anti-EU parties won in Britain, France and Denmark, show that integration is by no means guaranteed.


There is a sense of fatigue within the EU, spurred by the economic crisis that started in 2008 and has continued to throttle the economy. However, there are nations where euro-skepticism is still weak. Anti-EU parties did poorly in the Netherlands and Finland, for example. And pro-European mainstream parties still retain a two-thirds majority in the parliament. But to revive support for integration, policy initiatives that would bring tangible benefits to citizens and the economy are needed.


The potential multiplier effect of a single European market cannot be overstated. A report by the European Parliamentary Research Service says that such gains can come from additional GDP generated or a more rational allocation of public resources from better coordination of spending at national and European levels. The Single digital market alone can generate about 260 billion euro in additional GDP, equivalent to Denmark's. The cumulative efficiency gain through a series of policy actions at the European level could generate 800 million euro when fully realized. That would be around 6 percent of European GDP at current prices. Another study said that a single market would allow the digital sector to grow seven times faster than EU’s GDP. In a continent where unemployment has been high since 2008, this would drive employment. European Commission figures predict that a workforce engaged in the “app economy” will rise to 4.8 million by 2018 from the current 1.8 million. Revenue would more than triple to $63 billion in the same period of time. This can be a game changer.


Without it, other nations will continue to leapfrog Europe. We have seen that happen in the recent past. There was a time when Europe led the world in technological innovation. The steam engine, wireless technology and hi-tech manufacturing were born in Europe. In recent times, its telecom operators were much quicker than America’s to build 3G networks. That’s no longer the case. Only a quarter of the EU’s population has access to 4G networks, which is much lower than that of America. South Korea has much higher broadband speeds. Apple and Samsung, both non-European companies, now rule that market.


One of the main advantages for digital companies in America is that new products and services can be rolled out to 300 million potential consumers. If the EU can unify rules and regulation for all its markets, the same companies can be enticed to launch their products here to an even bigger market of 500 million consumers. Cutting edge technology will then come to Europe first, followed by rollouts in other geographies.


The effects will be far-reaching. Digital technologies encourage principles that Europe holds dear, such as freedom of expression. Social media knows no borders and operates in a decentralized manner. This is great for democracy, and allows people to express themselves in ways not possible before.


We need to start now. Policy makers and government leaders should work to unite the market, which is fragmented into 28 separate pieces according to national boundaries. This means that while plenty of operators serve several EU countries, there are none that operate in more than half of the states, as each has its own regulator and rules. Retail prices differ widely. Europeans pay extra to call people in other EU countries or to use their phones abroad. Not surprisingly, many travelers turn off data roaming to avoid high charges.


Ending regulatory silos in telecom, copyright regulation, and data protection requires political determination. There will be resistance to such change because the current fragmented regime has created regional monopolies and convenient, protected comfort zones. Governments should push forward nevertheless and not miss this historic opportunity. For consumers, any proposal to scrap roaming fees will be welcome. More importantly, consumers should have confidence that their personal data will be protected, regardless of which country they live in, or which service they use, or where in Europe they bought the service. This would lead to greater adoption of new, high-speed connections by consumers and open up interesting opportunities for businesses.


It is great to see official support for the cause at the top. The incoming president of the parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker, has been a supporter of the single digital market. Neelie Kroes, the EU Digital Commissioner, has championed the cause of a single market. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has said he is receptive to cross-border network consolidation.


Some steps have already been taken. For example, mobile roaming charges have been reduced by 80%, despite opposition from some quarters. It is now time to show the same determination, do away with roaming altogether, and to make digital policy a priority of political parties in Europe. A digital single market would make life better for Europe’s citizens, lead to faster growth and create jobs. It would make EU competitive again.

When SAP acquired SuccessFactors, most people viewed it as a quantum leap forward for the company into the cloud, and rightly so. As an SAP employee, I’ve been an active participant in this transformational journey along with our partners and customers. Last week I blogged about several companies—Kawasaki, Triumph Foods, and Owens Corning—that are using SuccessFactors for performance advantage. These are just a sampling of the thousands of customers that have figured out how SuccessFactors can strategically change the role of human resources (HR), and in doing so, impact employee engagement for the better.


It only makes sense for SAP itself to adopt SuccessFactors for its 67,000 employees in 60 countries. In this video, Brigette McInnis Day, Executive Vice President of Human Resources at SAP, spotlights the results of SAP’s implementation of SuccessFactors. Here’s how she describes the company’s rationale for the move and manager response.

“Our business was at a critical time of change. We were on a very old version of technology from an HR perspective. Our acquisition of SuccessFactors allowed us to leap forward to all the things we knew we wanted to do. It’s really about understanding the workforce analytics for the future.”

After the initial six-week pilot, SAP executives saw results that immediately support the company’s overall “run simple” mantra. Replacing spreadsheets with real-time data, leaders have been empowered in entirely news ways says McInnis Day.

“With SuccessFactors, I’m able to identify all my talent, I know what they want, when they’re able to move, when they’re actually able to take on a new role. I’m able to match the learning solution right with them on all of the learning maps whether on SAP JAM, Performance, Employee Profile, Talent Assessment, Succession Planning, or Compensation.”

As always, the bigger story lies beyond the technology. McInnis Day emphasizes how SuccessFactors has allowed SAP to evolve HR by shifting more processes into the company’s shared services organization. This is turning HR into a business partner providing strategic consultative support for the business.


Perhaps most important, since the implementation of SuccessFactors, overall employee satisfaction with the HR organization has increased in some countries by up to 30 percent. McInnis Day says this jump is directly correlated to the technology they’re using every day. “The only thing you’ll get out of an engaged employee is passion, productivity, and a win for SAP.”


As for advice to customers that aren’t certain where to begin the move to cloud-based HR solutions, McInnis Day says that alignment between the business and employee strategies is crucial. “Base your decisions on your business strategy and also the employee lifecycle. Match it up so it doesn’t feel artificial. The important thing is, you can start anywhere and go anywhere, and that’s what you want.”


Follow me @smgaler


Related Posts:

Does Cloud-Based HR Boost Performance? Three Companies Report Back


Would anyone use an iPhone to save dialing time on an old, corded telephone?  If that was all you used it for, and ignoring the retro style aspect in this case, it would certainly be a waste of a great technology.  After all, you would miss out on the true empowerment smartphones enable (not being tied to a cord being the most basic of many).  You are certainly not that foolish, are you?


It seems that the natural tendency of most people when exposed to new technology is to do just that - apply it to do exactly what they did before, but better.  This has benefits, no doubt, but generally misses the real opportunity.  I saw this myself while running Ariba’s Spend Visibility solution.  Some customers, upon finally having access to accurate data on their spend, suppliers and the market, would continue with business as usual, just using the spend data to fill in requests for proposals more quickly and accurately.  That was an improvement, but missed the real potential to strategically look for and prioritize opportunities, assess risk and much more.


Technological advances in today’s networked economy are the latest example.  Just look at business networks.  Previously, companies would struggle connecting and collaborating with their suppliers and customers.  The effort involved in building the 1-1 connections required meant that automation would only be enabled for a handful of strategic, high volume partners.  That limited the value realized from their financial and purchasing systems since many purchase orders, invoices and other documents bypassed those systems, often manually and involving paper.


Many-many business networks address this challenge, extending corporate systems to a much broader swath of suppliers and customers.  So companies increasingly leverage such networks to automate their purchase orders and invoices.  But those companies whose use of business networks ends there just connected an iPhone to a corded telephone. 


Why?  Because business networks are not just mediums for exchanging documents electronically.  They can and should serve as a platform for innovation across functions.  Some examples of how you can innovate using business networks:

  • Beat the market by earning a high, risk-free return on your cash via dynamic discounting.  And improve your suppliers’ visibility and access to cash at the same time
  • Discover new suppliers or customers across the globe to reduce costs, improve service or meet CSR or other objectives
  • Crowdsource innovative solutions to your problems or product improvements from the network community
  • Leverage network insights to reduce risk or better segment and serve your customers’ needs
  • Improve the quality of and visibility into your contingent labor, reducing costs and improving quality.
  • Expand your horizons and strategically manage your spend.  Are you focused on capturing every last contracted supplier on your network?  Nice, but what about the huge portion of your spend that is not contracted?  Automate spot quotes and purchases for that spend, saving a multiple of what is possible on already managed spend.


So how do you help your company leverage business networks to innovate?  Here are a few basic steps I recommend:

  1. Start early.  You need to consider the full potential before evaluating providers and selecting a solution.  Educate yourself on the capabilities available.  Not all networks are created equal.  Select the wrong one and you automatically limit the potential.
  2. Lean on business network providers.  During and after evaluation, recruit vendor guidance on how to realize the full benefit and address change management.  Have them connect you to innovative customers.
  3. Plan for change management.  Establish a cross-functional team and build a change management plan into the overall project plan.  Training will be critical.


Succeed, and you will have given your organization a huge competitive advantage.  Fail, and you may prove Aldous Huxley correct when he wrote that “technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.”


Want to learn more about innovation in the networked economy.  Click here.

Taylor Swift isn’t known for her marketing savvy. She is famous for her music, her just-as-famous boyfriends and their very public breakups -- and for turning those into modern-day love songs.

But this millennial of pop and country music industry knows a thing or two about business. Swift has been able to make money in an age when streaming and stealing music downloads is supposedly killing her industry.

The Wall Street Journal agrees, having published an op-ed by Swift this month. And she has a few lessons for a modern marketer to consider.

Rely on Your Experience to Create an Experience

In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online. --Taylor Swift

We know the drill on anniversaries and birthdays. Dinner, gifts and cards are nice, but predictable. To be memorable there has to be a surprise. An unexpected proposal? A performance? An alternate set of secret plans?

Like Swift’s fans, SAP customers do their research and know what to expect. We know that. They read the studies, the blogs, the forums before they ever talk to us. They know the competition, the startups and the big business offerings.

But most of our customers think we are under prepared, according to a Development Day presentation by Carlos Horn, who leads the client results team at B2B marketing agency Yesler. Do our customers really know more than we do?

Before SAPPHIRE NOW, customers have seen the lists of everyone who is going to speak -- they can even look up prior speaking engagements of special guests to catch their flavor. Schedules are laid out in advance, and all that’s left is to run through the motions.

Our job is to exceed those expectations and leave them with the ultimate experience. They don’t need a product; they need a solution that gives them an experience they can’t stop talking about -- something worth bragging about on Facebook.

The Art of "Surprise"

I think forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. No, I did not say “shock;” I said “surprise.” I believe couples can stay in love for decades if they just continue to surprise each other, so why can’t this love affair exist between artists and their fans? --Taylor Swift


We might feel tempted to replace “fans” with “customers,” but really, we want our customers to be fans. When we make the lives of customers easier, faster and simpler they will love us.

We became fans of our smartphones when they made it simpler to check e-mail shop for groceries  And when your smartphone isn’t there, you feel like you are missing a limb -- or maybe you feel like you are missing a piece of your heart (aww)..

Likewise, we can keep SAP customers in love with us by continuing to surprise them with the innovative ways we solve their problems and make their lives easier -- via our products, our services and our solutions. Our job in marketing is to communicate all of that. We need to become masters at the art of surprise.

People Listen to Those with a Following

Taylor Swift predicts that more actors get hired for key roles based on their social media presence. This makes sense. An actress with 4 million fans would be able to bring more attention to a movie then someone who opened their account the week before the premiere.

Does that mean one day in the future, marketers would be selected based on their followings and engagement in social media? Maybe.

Does that mean customers would select their vendors based on the company’s involvement in social media and digital?  The trends are leaning this way.That’s why we have a whole organization focused on this. The company must have an account and be active -- and the same goes for those inside the company. It's notable when the CEO, CMO and CIO are engaged in social media, and soon it will be just as notable as more of us get involved too.

We may not get followers as quickly, but we have just as much to add to the conversation. And if anything, socially engaged executives provide great examples of how to engage without feeling like you are selling your soul.

Hint: you don’t have to talk about SAP all the time. It’s about finding the right mix for yourself.

So, are you free this Saturday?

To build the greatest love story in the world of enterprise software we need to take a few hints from the princess of love songs. Let’s take this one date at a time: It’s about providing a great experience; it’s about including the element of surprise; and it’s about being available in the digital world starting right now.

Follow me @SylviaSant

Would you describe the sausage you had at breakfast this morning as provocative? If not, then you probably weren’t enjoying Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick.273095_l_srgb_s_gl.jpg


Sausage on a stick is just one of the many fresh ideas to come from the folks at The Hillshire Brands Company – the Chicago-based food company well-known for such iconic brands as Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, and Hillshire Farm.


And for the last year or so, Hillshire Brands has been laser focused on delivering new products to market that the company’s Chief Executive Officer Sean Connolly describes as “contemporary, relevant, and provocative.”


Passionate about Innovation

Among the latest Hillshire Brands foods you’ll find on store shelves are flatbread sandwiches, breakfast bowls, spicy chicken meatballs, and smoked sausages made with premium Angus beef.

All these products are aimed at helping Hillshire Brands remain a leader in a global industry expected to soon be worth US$799 billion. And the company’s goal is to achieve 13% to 15% of its retail sales as a result of new innovation by the end of fiscal year 2015.


Inspiration and Execution

So what are the key ingredients of a successful product launch in the food industry? Start with a great idea, naturally. But then get that new product on store shelves as quickly as possible.


Not long ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Hillshire Brands’ Supply Chain Procurement Team, about the importance of innovation in the company’s procurement operations. “One of the things we always talk about in our supply chain is how we can get products to the marketplace even faster,” they told me, “especially when we have such competition in our industry around new offerings.”


As the Procurement Team pointed out, Hillshire Brands relies on many suppliers to get the ingredients and packaging needed for its products. So improving collaboration with these critical vendors can go a long way in accelerating time to market.


Hillshire Brands recently used the SAP SNC Supplier Collaboration rapid-deployment solution to quickly boost the efficiency of its supply chain. Among the project’s specific goals were providing greater visibility throughout the vendor network and getting suppliers more involved in the materials planning processes.


Since the rollout, vendors have 24x7 access to demand and forecast information, which lets them plan proactively and respond faster to production changes. Sales and marketing organizations can also work more effectively with both plant managers and suppliers to ensure that everything is in place to support an upcoming promotion or product launch.


More Fresh Thinking

“Our focus over the next two years will be on ramping up supplier managed inventory,” the team members explained. The Procurement Team believes sharing the responsibility for managing materials with suppliers is a key to reducing the company’s overall inventory. And Hillshire Brands plans to have suppliers themselves manage up to 80% of the inventory in some areas.


As Hillshire Brands sees it, a leaner, more efficient supply chain is a supply chain optimized for continued innovation.


Never thought of sausages and hotdogs as provocative? Better think again.


Learn more about rapid-deployment solutions from SAP, and be sure to join me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

A new era for SAP has started, this is obvious. Two major keywords are shaping the whole ecosystem: Simplification and Cloud. I would like to leave "Cloud" for another blog posting.


Relatively freshmen are more lucky than experienced SAP consultants and developers, since SAP's new strategy is very inline with their well known world. Consumerization is the main approach for new product development studies, this is clear, no doubt. However if we dig through Consumerization, we'll find : transform of existing user interfaces into a consumer centric experience.




At this phase experience over existing SAP functionality appears in the stage: reorientation of product and service designs. To develop a new user experience for SAP, existing products, solutions and services should be understood well. Existing / traditional user experiences' pain areas should be determined and documented in order to build a consumer friendly and simple user interface. Only mature SAP specialists can manage this, this means heritage should be kept and transformed.





Fiori is the new brand for the Design Thinking in SAP, by Fiori, SAP will be available in anywhere, on anytime and on any device. It's simple, designed-to-fit for the hectic life pace. Fiori enables you carry all detailed and complex business flows with you during your life journey. It's like packing up your office and teammates, and travel with them anywhere you go.



To make the real impact of Design Thinking, we, the mature SAP consultants should not leave the stage ONLY to young developers, they need our expertise and guidance through this new simplification journey. It's like racing in Tour de France, we need to act like domestics of the team, we'll carry them, they will bring us the trophy.


At the end of the race we'll celebrate together.









Let’s call out the elephant in the room – the corporations have been abuzz with talk of a new multi-generational workforce. From Baby Boomers to Generations X, Y, and, soon, Z –they are all planning to work for years to come.  According to AARP, by 2014 nearly one third of the total U.S. workforce (32 percent) will be age 50 or older. In addition, 8 of 10 Boomers plan to work at least part time during their retirement years, remaining a major part of the workplace for years to come. The Millennial (Gen Y) is also becoming the fastest growing generation at work, steadily growing to 25 percent. Lastly, generation X’ers are at the stage in their careers where they are assuming higher leadership roles.


Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 11.54.13 PM.pngChances are that your team is comprised of employees with a wide range in age and working together can sometimes be a challenge. A new workforce has emerged and it’s only just beginning to develop.  Just when you start to think that your team’s generational gap might put your results at a disadvantage, leveraging one another’s strengths can have a powerhouse effect. A new generation of people and talent requires a new work environment. Organizations that embrace this new world will out-innovate the competition. Consider what retailers face today:


  • Retail is hyper competitive environment focused on anticipating and delivering on customer expectations – regardless of generation
  • Today’s stores have multiple generational working side by side – this won’t go away and will get even more extreme
  • Each associate contributes to the brand image in each interaction with customers, so consistency in training irrespective of age
  • Must effectively and efficiently communicate with and train this range of employees, and
  • Tailor training based on the store associate’s expertise, work area, and situational needs – not age



In a competitive environment like the Retail industry for example, organizations must be able to continue to anticipate and deliver on customer expectations – regardless of which generation they are marketing to. It’s critical for retailers to effectively communicate to a wide range of audiences. Each associate must contribute to the brand image with each interaction with the customer, irrespective of age.


Successfactors, An SAP Company, produced a report detailing how your organization can bridge the generation gap, and actually use it to your advantage by creating an “age-neutral” workplace. In order to build on the retail culture, SuccessFactors understands that organizations must:


  1. Build awareness about generational differences
  2. Attract a multigenerational workforce and deliver on individual needs
  3. Encourage growth and development through networking and mentoring
  4. Communicate in ways that motivate each generation.


To find out more on how to create and leverage an “age-neutral” workforce in your retail organization, visit This Best Practices white paper from SuccessFactors, an SAP company, which provides four key steps to successfully closing this generation gap on the HR landing page at SAP

“To go out of your mind once a day is tremendously important, because by going out of your mind, you come to your senses. And if you stay in your mind all of the time, you are over rational, in other words you are like a very rigid bridge which because it has no give, no craziness in it, is going to be blown down by the first hurricane.”

-Alan Watts, Zen Philosopher

After everything we’ve learned  in Season 2 of HR Trends with Game-Changers Radio about shaping the future of work, could mindfulness be the key to everlasting joy and loving what you do? Graham4-player-wide.jpg


If you’re anxiously staring at the clock at work and questioning whether you’re committed to doing what resembles a scene out of Office Space – or worse, you’re feeling lifeless, but somehow summon the strength  to perform anyway – your company has  a serious problem. But not all is lost if they are willing to adopt a corporate workplace attitude adjustment.


On Season 2’s final episode on Health and Balance at Work: Nurturing the Innovation Mindset, the concept of mindfulness at work emerges as the glue that weaves together all of the HR Trends topics we covered in the past 12 weeks. 


Are you aspiring to be attentive, productive, and purposeful at work and still feel happy about what you do? The answer: mindfulness. If you’re a manager, do you want to know what motivates your employees and how they feel about the current workplace culture? The answer: mindfulness. Want to hire the right person? You guessed it. Mindfulness.


The bottom-line: The ability to allow and encourage your employees to pause, breathe, and regroup themselves can lead to game-changing innovation, higher profits, and a stronger team that can thrive in our era of rapid change.


As one panelist poignantly put it, “The dirty little secret of the business world is that we’re all human beings.” And it’s true! How can a leader really lead if the organization doesn’t develop and encourage a process of internal repair to help employees cope better with pressure and transition?  We all know leaders who radiate energy so contagious that without mindfulness of the actual circumstances, even the slightest slip in character can break their team’s morale.


Tune in on-demand to hear mindfulness expert Mark Lesser, CEO of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI), Dr. Jeremy Hunter, Professor at the Drucker School of Management, and Dr. Natalie Lotzmann, Global Head of Health at SAP, discuss how mindful, positive perception can become the greatest innovation of all for your organization.


Top memorable insights from this episode:

  1. We train managers to manage everything but themselves. Managers should ask, “How do I manage my body?” What's going on inside a manager is broadcast to everyone surrounding them. We're all connected. -Dr. Jeremy Hunter @JeremyHunter123
  2. [When hiring,] we must get a feeling for people and their maturities. How do you perceive yourself? How aware are you and how much do you trust your gut feeling? –Dr. Natalie Lotzmann @lifeatsap
  3. Mindfulness practice can lead to changing the perception we have of ourselves. In the business world: Having a horrible day? This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. How can we shift from ruminating about the future and shift to the present moment? Twenty minutes a day for 8 weeks can change our perception. –Marc Lesser @doingless
  4. Perception is the center of everything. How we feed our reality is what becomes our reality. If I see doom and gloom in everything, that's the world I'll live in. How do we start to consciously create our reality? What are the preconceived notions that might impact how the outcome might turn out? Divorce, death, downsizing, disaster, and disease: sadly, it often takes these five D’s  to look at our lives. -Dr. Jeremy Hunter @JeremyHunter123
  5. Mindfulness trains attention to be of higher quality. Americans are over-trained in thinking, but undertrained in the ability to see. How can I make sure that the world I'm seeing is the world that's there instead of the world I'm biased to see? What mindfulness does is to enhance all those qualities. -Dr. Jeremy Hunter @JeremyHunter123
  6. Perception creating reality is not a new concept. In the end, it's all about perception. Perception: the trust of employees, customers, being an employer of choice. It's high-time that we look at perception as the center of everything. Mind. Well-being. Results. We need people who give their best. How? Make sure people perceive they are valued, appreciated, treated nicely and equally. –Dr. Natalie Lotzmann @lifeatsap
  7. Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.  But for success, yes, you should link to numbers in the end to figure out what (your company’s) human capital is actually worth. –Dr. Natalie Lotzmann @lifeatsap
  8. Old thinking: Do more, get more work done. But there’s an inflection point. At the tipping point, if I don’t rest and make time for myself, my health gets negatively impacted. Mindfulness helps us with this. We can’t just get trapped in a cycle of making effort. -Dr. Jeremy Hunter @JeremyHunter123
  9. Mindfulness practice (has become) more prevalent in recent years. What we think and where we put our attention over and over again sculpts our brain. Develop our ability to focus, expand our awareness. –Marc Lesser @doingless

Top #CrystalBall predictions for 2020:

  1. By 2020: In the coming years, more companies will be connecting the dots between productivity, mindfulness and health. There will be a standard of measure of human and social capital in the workforce. Head of Future HR: Someone who understands culture management as key, fostering inclusive behavior and mindful cooperation. –Dr. Natalie Lotzmann @lifeatsap
  2. Mindfulness training will be part of all leadership training all over the world. This will be in all business school curriculums. More wisdom and compassion in the workplace. The head of future HR: will envision purpose and inspire people to be themselves. –Marc Lesser @doingless
  3. There will be more technologies that sculpt the brain more effectively. Pay attention to the entire flow of life. Work and home are inextricably interlinked. Work around attention rights and the capacity to control attention. Attention may become a civil rights issue - we don't know. Train the mind to become more adaptable. It will be a time of human empowerment to effectively face the challenges that are en route. The head of future HR will see HR as a developable, growable, cultivatable phenomenon. -Dr. Jeremy Hunter @JeremyHunter123

Season 3 of HR Trends with Game-Changers Radio launches in early September 2014! Visit here for upcoming dates and topics. Follow us on Twitter at #SAPRadio @mikegmontalban @bizbreakradio.


*What does it mean to create a healthy SAP? Check out the interview with Natalie Lotzmann.


**For more information on SAP’s Mindfulness Program, please contact Peter Bostelmann, or if you are an SAP Employee, check out the Mindfulness Jam Group and Global Health Management pages.

274557_l_srgb_s_gl.jpgSustainable Competitive Advantage


One of the most fundamental pillars of any successful strategy is an organizations ability to create and sustain a competitive advantage, create a niche, business practice, product, service that only is a differentiator for the organization in the market.


Some organizations use patents, some use product design (Apple), some use their ability to innovate and come up with new market categories (Uber, 3M, Proctor & Gamble), some use their ability to manage cost (SouthWest Airlines), some use their scale of operation& Gamble, Colgate), some use their customer focus (Amazon, Zappos, Ritz Carlton), some use a combination of these (Coca Cola) to build & sustain their competitive advantage.


If you notice all of these traits upon which sustainable competitive advantage is built are internal to each of these organizations. So, if there is a challenger in each of these categories who want to go after these organizations, they can still go after them using these very strengths, without their baggage and they have a good chance to pose a serious threat to these organizations and many organizations are actually using this to grow big and challenge incumbents in their respective categories.


Add to this, the amount of venture capital available for start-ups who want to go after the incumbents is staggering, to say the least. The fast paced change in the business environment is not helping either.




Death of Sustainable Competitive Advantage as we know it?


All of this has led to a lot of people believing that the era of building a sustainable competitive advantages is gone by. Hence the plethora of blogs, books that herald the death of competitive advantage as we know it. These posts talk about sustainable competitive advantage becoming a transient competitive advantage due to the rapid changes in the business environment and the ability of competitors to mirror the advantage in a short span.


Creating Business Networks to Build Sustainable Competitive Advantage:


In my opinion, there is still a lot of different ways that organizations can build sustainable competitive advantage, that can last a long time. One such option is to compete as a network-of-organizations rather than as a single organization.


What do I mean by this? You do not compete with your competitor alone. You compete as a network. The entire network moves and competes as a single entity.

This calls for a very different kind of organization and leadership. Some key aspects that can lead to such a Business network are:


  • A mindset shift among the network, where the entire network is focused on one thing only - Helping the end customer happy by fulfilling his need profitably.
  • This necessitates the need for a single version of truth for the entire network, which means that the flow of information among the various organizations in the network needs to be, real-time and complete.
  • In order to be able to achieve this, there needs to be alignment among all the participants around all the business processes.
  • Once you have aligned the business processes and the information flow, the most critical thing that remains to be done is to nurture leaders within these organizations who continue to believe in the vision and at the same time are connected with the reality of the business environment and continuous dialogue among these budding leaders and the existing leadership.


Is this fantasy or Real?


I know that this seems to be the stuff of fantasy world rather than real world, as organizations still struggle with basic challenges like silos in their own organization, not enough engagement within the walls of the organization and many such challenges. To expect them to be able to pull off something like this seems to be a big ask.


You are right. This is not easy. However, this is exactly what makes this a good option to build sustainable competitive advantage for all the participants.


Factors that could make this a Reality


This is possible today as there are


  • Technologies which can enable such networks already in place.
  • The need to build a sustainable competitive advantage is strong
  • the next generation workforce will find this idea of cross-organization collaboration native to their psyche as they would have grown up in an environment where you share everything with their network and hence this would come naturally to them.
  • The socio-politic-economic environment today is also conducive for such a network to thrive.


Already there are examples where organizations have started exploring such cross-organization collaboration, albiet in a very small and in an experimental way.


  • Google's collaboration with Nestle to release their software under the brand Kit-Kat is one such example.
  • Procter and Gamble's Connect & Develop program is another such experiment.


These are small collaboration that tested waters.


I surely hope to see a much deeper level of cross-organization collaboration (fundamental building block for the Business Network as a Sustainable Competitive advantage strategy) sooner than later.


What do you think?


These are my opinions. What do you think? Is such a business network possible? Do you know of such a network already in place? Do share your thoughts and lets continue to take this discussion further. Its time we re-thought how businesses should compete with each other.


To learn more about the Networked Economy, you could join the conversation at http://futureofbusiness.sap.com/networked-economy.


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