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Technology is an enabler and a force multiplier. It can bring a lot of things together and make new sense of it. It can dive deep into small bits of information and highlight that for someone looking specifically for it. Technology solutions help demystify the complexities behind large volumes of data and simplify it for the user to find what they are looking for. It can delight people & businesses by providing them with an experience like never before and deliver on the promise of #RUNSIMPLE


Great news when times are good. But what about times of crisis. Aren't these the times that people, business and the community need to come together and help demystify all the complexities that it brings with it. Like the #NepalEarthquake, and the aftermath unfolding right now in front of us on our television sets, computers and devices. Latest reports put the death toll at over 1800, and still counting. This number will multiply in the days to come since many areas affected by the quake have been unapproachable and no confirmed statistics available on the impact of the disaster on people's lives there. The human catastrophe that has followed is mind boggling, as in any disaster of such magnitude. The impact on survivors, many of them stranded include tourists, adventure seekers, mountaineers looking to ascend the world tallest peak, and more importantly Nepal’s own citizens who make up most of it, some of them injured; quite a few left homeless; others even with their homes intact still living outside in open areas, for fears of the after shocks and not knowing what’s round the corner; children, pregnant women, old and differently abled people; all impacted in equal and different ways by this disaster – Can technology play a role here to alleviate their suffering and provide them a better experience?


With an earthquake that measured 7.9 on the ritcher scale, this is just the beginning of things to come. Rescuing people trapped in rubble and debris is a huge challenge. The next 48 hours are extremely critical to ensure they have a chance at survival. Weather pattern will also determine how quickly and effectively relief operations can be deployed and function. The after shocks which have been more than 30 till now (quite many of them measuring more than 4.5) have instilled a deep rooted fear and resulting confusion that people are in a sense of panic. Apparently Geo-Physicists have long been monitoring this region and had predicted something of this nature. Despite all that, little done to prevent this eventuality. How can technology ensure that this can be prevented or atleast its impact minimised in the future?


Communication is a key element in such times. Usually telephonelines lines go down in such instances, and a lot of associated aspects and services too get crippled. However thanks to mobile technologies, social media and all the debate around #netneutrality, there still exists channels that help people communicate and update statuses. This again is available to only to a privileged few with smart phones. But with so many smart devices and most of us owning mobile phones (smart or not smart), with all the buzz around #IoT as a technology platform connecting people and devices, how can these day to day equipments with some amount of computing power in it be turned into a communication device and play a more effective and meaningful role. How can survivors trapped in this situation let their loved ones know that they are safe, and thereby prevent a different set of chaos and confusion and ensure that relief operations are focused in the deserving areas. Can technology enable that?


Thanks to the role of media - news outlets, social media et al – the entire world is waking up to this disaster and very soon there will be a deluge of aid pouring in. Nepal closest neighbour #India has already rushed in with aid and relief. The problem with aid, which is an absolute necessity right now, is that most times it is un-cordinated. Aid needs to be matched with people and provide them with want they desperately need, and in the right order. While food, water, medicines, shelter, clothing and protection are the basic necessities; when not co-ordinated properly, as we have seen in many disaster situations prior – the right aid doesn’t reach the people needing those particular aspects. There is an aftermath to the disaster, when people need to return back to their homes and begin to put their lives together. That is again a time for aligning aid with necessity. So many times we have witnessed disaster victims being presented with relief which has no value. Raw rations when they have no means to cooking fuel and a stove. Medicines which they have no use for. Clothing when they do not have any access to clean water! How can technology help eliminate these challenges?


We live in a #NetworkedEconomy. It is so easy to connect, collaborate & co-innovate – amongst people, and enterprises. How can aspects like the #Ariba #BusinessNetwork engage with its 1.8 Million participants and help them engage and play a meaningful role is such a crisis?


The problem with natural disasters is that you can never prepare fully well to cover all eventualities. The amount of complexity involved is mammoth and many times unimaginable. How can technology be a leveler, cut through all the complexities and help deliver on the #RUNSIMPLE promise? So that aid workers can provide their services in a timely manner, relief agencies can co-ordinate their efforts best, Governments can monitor their progress and ensure everyone is attended to, people who have lost their kith and kin can bury their loved ones and mourn in a dignified manner, importantly survivors can hope to start a new life all over again.


This is a time for innovative minds & organisations to come together. Connect, Collaborate & Coinnovate.  And help the world Run-Better. This is definitely the time to #helpnepal

Fan experience has no boundaries


I was recently at the final match of the ICC World Cup 2015 in Melbourne. While soccer still tops the list as the world’s most popular sport in terms of playing and viewing, cricket is gaining in popularity thanks to technology that enables people to experience a sport anywhere, anytime. The ICC World Cup, considered the third largest sporting event behind the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, attracted over one billion TV viewers this year, engaging over one fifth of the world’s population.


While we normally think about a sport only in competitive terms, it is also be a catalyst of national identity and pride, of culture and symbols, of ideology and politics. As an example when India and Pakistan play each other, both countries literally come to a standstill. Regardless of the fact that India has always had the upper hand, winning each of the last 17 world cup matches, the anticipation of a Pakistan victory is exactly the same before every match.



That’s because cricket is probably one of the only games in the world that can go on for five days and still end in a draw. Unlike American sports like baseball and football that provide a quick adrenalin shot for a few hours, cricket can be played in three formats; one day, five day and  a recently introduced half day limited 20 overs version that is gaining popularity . At the core Cricket is about tactics and strategy; it's about outfoxing the competition, so there is always hope for a change in outcome.


The wealth of Wisden in real-time


The game was invented by the British and has existed for centuries, and significant amounts of data have been collected over generations. First published in 1864, the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack is the world’s most famous sports reference book. In the old days, the annual summary was published once a year. Now, thanks to technology, Wisden is being recreated daily in real-time, providing outcomes and insights play by play versus the old school learning approach of an encyclopedia.


Fans and players can learn from this wealth of historical data, but I believe the true value of data in sports is that it can dramatically improve the success of professional athletes. For example, Shaun Tait, one of the fastest bowlers of all time, has been plagued by injuries brought on by the repetitive actions that are typical of cricket  - running, throwing, leaning repeatedly on one side of the body. With new technology, athletes like Shaun can learn from their performance data to adjust their posture and  minimize the impact to joints  at the  the point of ball delivery and diminish the stress on their bodies.


Data is not just for professionals


Fans, amateurs and recreational players can all benefit from their physical data. In fact, citizens in general can improve their overall well being by monitoring data such as blood pressure, sugar levels, and heart rates. Data can be collected, measured and analyzed through wearable technology or embedded sensors, so you are ready for the doctor's prognosis when you go for your checkup. Not only that, but you can opt to share your data anonymously to support research projects that will benefit the well being of people today and tomorrow.


If we look at SAP’s focus on wearable technology, it is not just for athletes. It is for the masses. Over the past few years, SAP has helped create a suite of

SAP Augmented Reality Apps, SAP AR Warehouse Picker and SAP AR Service Technician for Smartglasses. We will continue to work with our customers and partners to deliver wearable software technology to enhance sports performance, improve quality of life and much more.


A new virtual experience for everyone



The next ICC  World Cup will take place in India in 2020. Teams and fans are embracing data analysis and statistics in unprecedented ways, so we can expect to have a completely different landscape by then.

With experience gained from other successfully collaborations in sports like football, basketball and tennis, SAP is increasing fan engagement and transforming the sport of cricket.



Will data help Pakistan outperform its archrival? I can’t answer that, but I do know we are enabling fans and stakeholders to enjoy the sport in ways no one could have imagined just a few years ago. Be there in 2020!



Follow me on Twitter: @i_khana





















In this post we look at the singularity of the Cambrian Explosion which spawned multi-cellular life and predict a similar singularity for businesses.

The Cambrian Explosion


For the first 2 billion years of life on earth, the only creatures were single celled, floating around in the primordial soup, not doing very much at all. Then 500 million years ago an event occurred that still has biologists scratching their heads ( Wikipedia gives 5 possibilities why). Single cellular organisms became multi-cellular, leading to complex creatures and eventually to all of us. This singularity is called The Cambrian Explosion.JellyFish.jpg


I see the same singularity approaching, but not with organisms but organisations.


Since the start of the industrial revolution, companies have been essentially operating as single cells. It's time to look beyond the cell wall and develop multi-cellular organisations. This Cambrian Explosion in the business world is the Business Network.


Let's look at the criteria for multi-cellular life, and see how it applies to Networks of companies.


Specialisation of cells


An organism is made up of many types of cell: blood, skin, bone etc. each with its own speciality. No cell can be efficient at all of the tasks required for a complex organism such as the ability to move, feed or reproduce. An extended organisation likewise has Value Chains made up of many different groups: design, engineering, marketing, distribution. These used to be departments in one company, but they are increasingly becoming separate companies. Companies that used to have in-house catering, real estate or IT support are increasingly turning to specialist companies who provide these services.


Adaptability and evolution


Multicellular life is far more varied then single cells, because cells can be repaired or regrown. With a Network of Businesses our value chains are more flexible: got a problem with a subcontractor in Manila? Switch in a similar company in Vietnam. Need a geologist in Chile? Don't hire, use a subcontractor on a three month contract. Networks also give great scope for evolution of business, some of the most innovative business models and profitable companies are network based: eBay, airBnB, BlaBlaCar

DNA keeps the network of cells in order


Every cell in an organism contains the same DNA code, which provides consistency and information. In a network of companies, there is a need for consistent data, policies, rules and interfaces. A business network also adds the component of information: advising companies on how they can work



It's early days in the evolution to multicellular organisations. Just a small number of companies are linked, and in very small groups of cells. But Business Networks are forming, and if you're outside, you're plankton.


Learn more about SAP's Business Networks and how you can move from a single-cell to multi-cellular by attending the Business Networks Campus at SapphireNow.

A better-prepared workforce delivers better results. And companies with above-average revenue growth are more likely to provide employees with advanced training and development programs, as well as give their workers access to the information they need to not just get by but to thrive.

The inverse holds true as well. Problems with talent and skills affect business performance. How significantly? High-revenue-growth companies are significantly more likely to be redefining or adapting business models in response to market opportunities and pressures, while underperformers are more likely to be downsizing and restructuring operations just hoping to survive. But by not re-thinking how to make HR a strategic priority, they will not catch up. Ask any of the 50% of the Fortune 500 in 2000 that are no longer in that category; likely not even around today at all, unless they were gobbled up by someone looking for spare parts.


I don’t think many successful companies are surprised that a big piece of the answer today is what I just said – making HR a strategic priority. I’m guessing the ones who don’t think HR can make a difference are generally the ones not in the growth category – defined here as those that reported either above-average revenue or profit margin growth over the past three years.


Executives at higher-growth companies tend to be more forward looking and better prepared to react to workforce trends. Trends like the growing number of millenials who are already in our workforce and who by 2025 are predicted to make up 75% of it. That number is a reflection that we’re at a point where we’re losing more of our company knowledge and leadership experience to retirement globally. In the US alone, 10,000 Baby Boomers a day turn 65 until 2030. More than at any time in the past. That’s a significant knowledge and leadership drain.


And with CEOs being kept awake at night wondering how they are going to find enough people with the right skills to meet the demands of our increasingly complex technical environments, both people with IT skills and people with the experience to lead the next generation, we’re seeing a rise in the use of contingent labor – a trend that looks to be sticking around. And those “outside the walls” contributors need to be connecting in new and innovative ways to gain long-term value and feed the pipeline of high value workers.


Preparation for the future workforce means more than just reacting to changing trends—it requires that workforce issues be visible and actionable priorities in the C-suite.


To catch up to high performers, underperforming companies must focus on making HR a strategic priority, recruitment efforts, and reacting to changing workforce trends. And growth companies may have something learn from underperformers – at least those acting to reverse course - when it comes to embracing and using existing talent in leadership positions and leveraging data.


While much of this is my experience, it’s not just my perspective. While much of this is my experience, it’s not just my perspective. You can learn more about how HR can help differentiate growth companies from those lagging behind in the recently released findings from Workforce2020, an independent, global study of over 2700 executives from Oxford Economics with support from SAP.

shutterstock_242816989.jpgEarlier this week I couldn’t resist an invitation from OpenMind to its book launch of “Reinventing the Company in the Digital Age.” Always on the hunt for fresh perspectives on digitization, I headed into Boston for what I hoped would be an enlightening event at the venerable Harvard Club. For the most part I wasn’t disappointed with the presentations and roundtable which turned into less of a hard sell on the book, and more of a free-wheeling conversation about how companies need to radically change pretty much everything they do or risk obsolescence.


OpenMind is an online community created by BBVA, one of Spain’s largest banks, offering free articles, books, videos and infographics on challenges across science, technology, economics and business, the environment and humanities. The latest book on the digital age is actually a compendium of articles from heavy-weights in academia and beyond including Harvard University, The Economist, Geoffrey Moore, Wharton, Stanford, Columbia and Berkeley. It covers ground similar to the Workforce 2020 Oxford Economics study I’ve been writing about.


The roundtable speakers agreed that big data and other technologies, millennials, and diversity are forcing companies to work, manage and lead differently. But what hasn’t changed is how customers compete, either by lowering cost or product differentiation. Yet many companies struggle to understand digitization and what it means for their people, business model and ability to grow.


Rethinking outmoded workplace systems

Peter Thomson, co-author of, “Future Work” talked about how millennials (and others) are upending 200-year old concepts of work.

“We have work structures that were built in the 19th century around people working based on their presence,” he said. “People whose job is mainly online still have to sit in an office because the only way their manager’s manager thinks they can have accountability is to see them there.”

Thomson also discussed the dismantling of traditional reward systems. “People want to be rewarded for their output that contributes to the bottom line, not activities around processes,” he said. “In the organization of the future, we value results with genuine rewards. It’s not about attending meetings and not producing anything. It’s not the person who works the longest hours that’s most valuable. It’s the smarter employee who gets the job done quicker who has the greatest value to the company.”


This is precisely why BBVA initiated large-scale transformation of its entire company, encompassing people and technology.

”BBVA has increased investments in digital banking to build a real-time, scalable platform that’s re-engineered processes and improved productivity. Our open, innovation platform has changed our culture and increased our customers,” said Francisco Gonzalez, Chairman and CEO at BBVA. “We’ve brought in new people too, including an American woman who doesn’t speak Spanish."

What I find particularly intriguing is that a bank is sponsoring an online knowledge community, a great example of how technology is opening up unprecedented opportunities for industries. In the digital age, everyone has a platform – provided they have the quality content and smart people behind it to foster a rewarding conversation.


Follow me @smgaler


Related posts:

Latest Oxford Economics Research Debunks 5 Myths about Millennials

To improve how you order and pay for goods and services to run your business, is your model more closely aligned with digital connections or pizza delivery?


The issue came up in a breakout session at Ariba LIVE, where procurement leaders from Al-Futtaim Group, based in the United Arab Emirates, and U.S. based Ryder Logistics & Transportation Solutions, discussed approaches to removing complexity in business transactions by “closing the loop” in their procure-to-pay operations.


Before automating procure-to-pay activities, Al-Futtaim would print purchase orders and send them as attachments via email. In many cases, though, it would go one step further: arrange for a driver to deliver the PO to a supplier. I imagine Ryder would have been willing to provide trucks for that purpose.


In that same session, Ryder talked about its own manual P2P process before taking steps to automate. Ryder got buy-in from internal stakeholders and external suppliers by sharing the cumbersome manual process, illustrated in the diagram below.

Day In Life of InvoiceV2.jpg

For both Al-Futtaim and Ryder, a disconnected business process was the source of many problems. Here’s a partial list:


  • Tedious PO approval process
  • Field locations easily bypassing the contract process
  • Many invoices with errors requiring extra attention
  • Journal entries to correct and charge back cost centers
  • Inability to control and monitor spend


Simplifying procure-to-pay operations over a business network was key to both Al-Futtaim and Ryder. For Al-Futtaim, one benefit was straight-through processing of orders and invoices. Before the change, Al-Futtaim would often fix errors relating to prices and general ledger entries. “Now, 97 percent of POs go through without any rework, and the ability to flip a PO to create an invoice provides a level of accuracy we never had before,” said Pravas Paikaray, assistant general manager, procurement services for Al-Futtaim. In addition, he added, users now handle the goods receipt notifications to further expedite transaction processing, and there is better visibility into spend.


Meanwhile, as of the first quarter of 2015, Ryder reported that 98 percent of its invoice volume was being processed electronically through the Ariba Network. In addition, purchases now have approval to buy before the money is spent. That wasn’t the case with its manual operations. The simplified procure-to-pay process is also helping Ryder get more control over its spend. Valdes shared cases where one Ryder location might be paying 15 to 20 percent more than other locations for the same product. The ability to generate reports on spend data now identifies sourcing opportunities that lower costs, and ensure that contracts will be enforced at all locations by ordering off catalogs.


Mapping commodity codes to the general ledger and automating accruals are two other business process improvements that have helped Ryder to run simple. Accruals occur upon goods receipt, not invoice receipt. “That makes finance very happy, as it often eliminates work they had to do.” said Valdes.


There's so much more to these transformative stories. For more details, you can access the recording at your leisure and learn how to improve business operations and thrive in a networked economy.

Conagra 3.pngThe United States economy is the richest in the world with $17.5 trillion in purchasing power. As such, one would assume that American children don’t go hungry. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. Approximately 20% of American children live in poverty, and in 2012, 15.8 million children lacked consistent access to nutritious foods vital to healthy living.


Leading the Fight

Determined to lower these numbers, one of North America’s largest packaged food companies, ConAgra Foods, is dedicated to ending child hunger.  For more than 20 years, ConAgra Foods and the ConAgra Foods Foundation have led this fight with over $60 million in monetary donations and 355 million pounds of food donation. In addition, employees volunteered nearly 7,000 hours in 2014 during ConAgra Foods’ Month of Service to help the cause.


Employee Pride

Conagra.jpgIn an interview with ConAgra Foods’ Director of Talent Management, KC Bradley, I asked about the corporate culture at the company and their social corporate responsibility initiatives. Immediately her face brightened. “I won’t do it justice,” she said. “It’s important to everyone in the organization.  We show it in fundraisers that we do, charities we support, and charitable work that we do throughout the year.”


Long Term Planning


Currently, SuccessFactors enables ConAgra Foods’ managers and employees to track work-related development trainings as well as relieves the HR department of manual and time consuming tasks. But KC’s vision expands much wider.


Her goal is to note employee passions within SuccessFactors profiles and use that information to match employees with charitable volunteer opportunities that meet their interests. She explained that ConAgra Foods “employs very talented people with many skills, and that’s great for the company, but it can be even better for the community.”


Watch below for the full video interview with KC Bradley.




Orange is the Color of Hunger

Conagra 2.jpgEach year, in September, ConAgra Foods employees raise awareness for Hunger Action Month.  The entire company in offices and facilities sport orange gear, and even former-CEO, Gary Rodkin, wore an orange suit to work last September.  These are very passionate people.


How can you get involved and help? 

Are you passionate about ending child hunger in America too? Visit www.hungervolunteer.org to find volunteer-opportunities near you. You can learn more about getting involved with the ConAgra Foods Foundation here.  And remember, it only takes one person to make a difference.


For the full ConAgra Foods Customer Journey with SAP, click here.


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sapphireblogteasers4hanascn.pngOne of my first blogs this year covered the epic rise of digital transformation as this year’s “New Black.”  Fast forward to just before SAP’s major annual customer conference, SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG 2015, being held May 5-7 in Orlando, Florida, and the excitement about digitization is at fever pitch. The S/4HANA vision was announced in February, and the execution is on display at SAPPHIRE NOW. Every company’s journey is unique, and here is a snapshot of must-see sessions:


La Trobe University Transforms Business with SAP Simple Finance: Find out how this world-class Australian university simplified its IT landscape, and streamlined operations using SAP Simple Finance with the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, and cloud solutions from the SAP HR portfolio.


Geberit Runs Simple and Real-Time: Recognized by the plumbing and HVAC industry as a market leader, Geberit is transforming business processes to stay ahead in the market for its globally renowned products. Hear lessons learned from the company’s worldwide deployment of SAP Simple Finance and SAP Fiori, including how easy access to real-time information supports faster, better decision-making, and simplifies database maintenance.


Bristow Embarks on Digital Transformation: A finalist in the SAP HANA Innovation Awards, Bristow is well on its way to achieving its goals for operational excellence, including business process standardization and exceptional consistent global operations. See how this Texas-based leading provider of helicopter services is replacing legacy systems with SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA, and preparing to transition toward SAP S/4HANA. The outcomes include faster innovation, simplification, and reinvented business processes.


Swiss Re Transforms Finance with Real-time Insight: Hear how this global financial services leader is reducing risk and simplifying operations by bringing together transactional processes with real-time analytical capabilities on one common finance platform: the SAP Simple Finance solution powered by SAP HANA. Find out where Swiss Re is on its transformational journey, and what’s next on the horizon.


Across SAPPHRE NOW this year, customers, along with SAP experts, will be center stage sharing step-by-step guidance on how to transform business with SAP S/4HANA. Registration is open for the ASUG (Americas’ SAP Users’ Group) Pre-Conference session, which includes SAP S/4HANA sessions. The ASUG HUB has the group’s full agenda, featuring hot topics like Internet of Things, analytics, Hybris and SuccessFactors, along with examples from major industries. And, plenty of S/4HANA product experts will be on-site providing hands-on demos with real-world examples of innovations in action. For a sneak peak at the S/4HANA Exhibit, including the “Boardroom Redefined” showcase,  take a look at my colleague Tim Clark’s blog on 5 Can’t-Miss Experiences At SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference.


There’s no doubt that digital transformation is driving growth across every industry. Companies will be at SAPPHIRE NOW to find out how they can take the next steps to run real-time and run simple.


Follow me @smgaler


Related posts:

SAPPHIRE NOW Answers the Top Questions Human Resources and IT have about Cloud

Everything we touch, say, and do generates data – and our digital fingerprints are all over it. On any given day, over 1.3 billion of us are interacting with each other on social networks. More than nine billion sensors are tracking much of what is created, sold, and delivered. And all of this activity generates data – a lot of it.


However, each piece of data is not created by itself. Rather, it’s a representation of many complex connections among people, devices and businesses. We already see these connections at work with the introduction of ‘smart’ cars, buildings, homes, industrial equipment, wearables and more.

iot.jpgThe internet of things: where data gets connected


As we continue to use technology and contribute to this ocean of data, the internet of things (IoT) begins to take a more central role in the evolution of commerce and society. Gartner projects that the number of connected devices in the IoT will increase nearly 30-fold in just over a decade, growing from about 900m connected devices in 2009 to more than 26 billion by 2020. As a result, everything – companies, processes, data, and things – is connected in a network.


Companies in all industries are well-aware of the opportunities that abound from this data. According to the report IDC Predictions 2015: Accelerating Innovation – and Growth – on the 3rd Platform, IoT spending in 2015 is expected to exceed $1.7tn. This is a 14% jump from 2014 that is driven by nearly 15 billion devices. By 2020, this will rise to $3 trillion and nearly 30 billion devices.


This trend will drastically change our lives. The IoT will revolutionise how we work, live, and play while transforming how businesses run and compete. Embedded intelligence in a growing network of connected devices will increasingly connect people and businesses to everything else – and become the very fabric of a digital economy.

The digital economy: a promise of a better life for consumers


This digitization of fast-growing, multi-layered, highly interactive, real-time connections among people, devices, and businesses is the landscape that will see the emergence of a new kind of economic environment – the networked economy.


For ordinary citizens, this means an opportunity to lead safer, simpler lives. For example, connected cars are designed to make driving safer and reduce commute times thanks to connected devices, real-time vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and historical route preferences.


We also have an opportunity to share resources in a more responsible way. This type of global sharing of stuff is gaining popularity thanks to startups such as Zipcar, Uber and Airbnb. In addition, we are better able to balance our life and professional demands for our time. By working with business networks that allow businesses to conduct commerce between buyers and sellers that is as easy to use as personal shopping networks like Amazon or Alibaba, we can help ensure the business continues to operate without disruption while we’re meeting our personal commitments.


We are even beginning to reinvent traditional value chains that were thought to be fixed. For example, crowdsourcing is lessening consumer reliance on banks for credit and loans. Some of us are generating our own power by using solar panels and building up power grids with surplus energy. Entertainment channels – such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and Sony – are changing the rules of traditional media by distributing shows refused by cable providers and now gaining worldwide popularity on our nearest iPads.


Even businesses are realizing the value of business networks for managing spend such as procurement, contingent labor management, complex services, travel and everything else in between. In response to this trend, my company (SAP) has created the world’s largest business network for managing 100% of this spend. How large is the network? It’s 75% larger than Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba combined and touches over 74% of the world’s transaction revenue.

The digital economy: business opportunity and a call for change


In the digital economy, companies can unleash unprecedented insight, innovation, and alignment. Talent can be deployed more flexibly, and decision makers can find the tools and information they need to better service customers and drive desired business outcomes. Machine networks link sensors, components, equipment, and activities that enable companies to capture market inputs, reduce operational risk, achieve nimble supply chains and deliver unsurpassed customer experience. By automating data collection and operations, companies can manage remote processes, monitor trends and gain new levels of competitive advantage.


However, if a company chooses to ignore these changes, the result can be downright damning. “The imperative for business leaders is clear: falling behind in creating internal and external networks could be a critical mistake,” research from McKinsey & Company concluded. The key to taking full advantage of the digital economy is speed in gaining the right insights at the right moment. This era of unprecedented hyper-connectivity demands a real-time enterprise.

The secret to succeeding in the digital economy: speed


There’s a small window of opportunity for companies to develop sustainable competitive advantages with the data that is now coming online. By applying the power of real-time computing, the SAP HANA platform is the key to delivering real-time insights. As a result, decision makers are better equipped to sift through every piece of data within their reach – no matter the volume, complexity, and degree of access needed. However, organizations can only really extract transformational value if these insights are connected to the core of their business.


With the introduction of SAP S/4HANA, our next-generation business suite, businesses can meet the challenge of the Digital Economy. Here’s how:


  • Re-imagine your business model by simplifying business collaboration to connect people, devices and business networks in real time. Embrace high-precision targeting and social marketing, demand-driven supply chains with downstream demand visibility, smarter business planning with real-time scheduling and simulations, and proactive risk management with powerful pattern recognition.
  • Re-imagine decision making by getting insight on any data from anywhere in real time to accelerate and intensify business impacts. Connect contextual data and business users at the point of decision.
  • Re-imagine your business processes by focusing on essential tasks in real time – with the flexibility to adapt quickly. SAP S/4HANA offers a single data foundation where both transactional and analytical workloads can be executed and the gap between insights and action is closed.
  • Re-imagine the user experience by completing the job across lines of business with a personalized, simple user experience on any device. Embed data mining and predictive tools in front-end applications. This empowers employees to make better, more informed decisions and respond to today’s real-time business challenges – even if they do not have a PhD in data science.


For more perspectives on the digital economy and its impact on our world, check out Conversations on the Digital Economy and learn more about SAP S/4HANA.


Sarah is at the top of her game. She’s been climbing the ladder at one of the top legal firms in the country.   If all goes according to plan, she will likely make partner in the next 5 years.   She worked hard to get to where she is today.   Working part-time jobs to put herself through law school and using her incredible work ethic and smarts to win the trust of clients and colleagues through clerking and as an associate.


“Won’t lawyers be replaced by computers in the next 10 years?” I say to her.   She rolls her eyes and brushes me off.   “I’m serious.” I said.   “There’s no way a machine can do what I’m doing! Sure robots can eventually replace low-end and repeatable job, but it can never match my education, work experience and relationships with my clients.” responds Sarah.


Is Sarah correct, or should highly skilled and educated professionals like Sarah be worried about their jobs being automated and done by robots and machines?


So far, low- and high-skilled jobs have been less vulnerable to automation.  Low-skilled jobs such as food service, taxi drivers, janitorial, etc. are generally physical jobs that require face-to-face interaction. There’s little doubt that as the cost of technology continues to decrease, robots will be able to fulfill these jobs. As technologies like autonomous cars and drones will eventually become mainstream, companies like Uber have already openly disclosed that their long-term plans are to replace humans with technology. However, until such time, and as evidenced by the surging growth in the gig economy, there is a large supply of humans who are willing to do low-skilled jobs for low wages.


Middle-skilled jobs such as administrative workers and manufacturing workers, among others have been rapidly declining since the 1980s. David Autor, an economist at MIT who is the leading scholar researching this phenomenon, calculates that middle-skill occupations made up 60% of all jobs in 1979. By 2012, this fell to 46%.  Autor calls it “job polarization”, a trend accentuated by the decreasing power of unions and the declining federal minimum wage. Above the rest, he credits the rise of information technology.


Middle-skilled jobs tend to have two factors in common. They are composed of lots of tasks that are both routine and they are geographically portable. These are all tasks that can be written in software—and, once there, machines can do them faster, and cheaper. Even if these jobs cannot be automated, they could be outsourced or moved to locations where wages are lower. As many as 2.6 million such jobs were outsourced in 2013 in the U.S alone.

So back to Sarah and our heated debate.   Should Sarah and highly educated professionals like her be concerned with robots and computers replacing their jobs, or are they completely in the clear? While many economists are quick to brush off this notion, or claim that any job losses will be offset with professional job gains in other sectors, if we take a closer look at what is already happening around us, the writing is already on the wall, or at least there is enough there to warrant keeping an eye on.


In Sarah’s case, in large lawsuits, the discovery process can involve literally millions of documents. This work, traditionally composed of lower-level tasks and typically done by associate lawyers or paralegals, can now be done through software that uses syntactic analysis and keyword recognition to comb through emails, texts, databases, and scanned documents to find those that one party in a lawsuit would be obliged to turn over to the other through the legal discovery process.

It’s also conceivable in the near future that a system loaded with a vast amount of cases and precedents can create drafts of briefs — the sort of research and writing work generally handled by associates in law firms.


“Ok, so some of the more tedious work can be automated. But a machine can never have intuition, emotions or critical thinking to know which legal arguments can win a case” says Sarah.


Researchers at Michigan State University and South Texas College of Law recently constructed a statistical model that was able to predict the outcome of almost 71 percent of U.S. Supreme Court cases. The model knows which arguments are most likely to win a case through assessing and scoring past court rulings and even considering the idiosyncrasies of a judge.   That 71% accuracy! Not bad, right? In reality, we are not at the point yet where artificial intelligence presents any threat to the decision-making, judgment and intuition that Sarah brings to the table. Where we may see impact is a reduction in the number of associates hired, where the work needed to turn the legal cogs can be automated.


What about healthcare professionals?   If you’ve seen Disney’s latest animated hit Big Hero 6, you likely remember Baymax, a personal healthcare robot whose job is to care for a patient. Is Baymax too sci-fi? Actually, the idea for the Baymax character came from a professor at the Robotics Institute and Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Chris Atkeson. Disney was intrigued by this type of robot and adopted it because Baymax has more of a warm, caring appearance in comparison to other options. In a recent interview Atkeson stated that he doesn’t think this sort of technology (personal health care robots) is too far off.  In fact, here’s a working concept of an inflatable robotic arm.


What about jobs in finance? Investment advisers? In a recent interview, Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, brushed off “Robo advisers”, saying most of the upstarts that leverage them are going after investors who aren’t rich enough for the bank to worry about.   In that case, how does one explain the meteoric growth of assets under management by companies like Wealthfront and Betterment, who are now managing a combined $3.5B in assets.   While this amount is barely a blip compared to the Bank of America and other giants in this space are managing, these upstarts with a mere fraction of the resources of the giants have accomplished this growth in under 3 years and only stand to accelerate as they target young high earners.   Can machines make better investment decisions? Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Deep Knowledge Ventures thought so. They’ve named an artificial intelligence program to its board of directors with equal voting right to other board members.

Predictive systems, big data, and computing power combine to provide an advanced tool for analyzing and predicting the behavior of investments. With no practical limit to the amount of company and industry data that can be considered, some financial professionals will find it difficult to keep up. Of course, wealth and investment managers will argue that their business is still very much based on relationships, and that is indeed true, but nonetheless, they will have to figure out what their value add is going to be, especially as wealth creation is starting to stem from young high earners who represent future customers, but don’t have complex investment needs.


How about cutting-edge, high tech jobs? Are those safe? Silicon Valley expert and author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, Martin Ford outlines: “Working in a cutting-edge field won’t necessarily protect you, either. “New industries that rely on a lot of technology will be more—not less—likely to automate or use labor-saving technology”.


In this decade, we’ll see more machines enter into areas of the economy that just a few years ago seemed far-fetched. They’ll be diagnosing our diseases, help us shop or bank, dispense our medicine and maybe even handle our lawsuits.


While this post isn’t meant as an alarmist view and Sarah will very likely still make Partner and continue to be a successful lawyer, the onus falls back on us to (at the very least) be aware of the trends and look for ways to future-proof our skill set. Does this mean that no professional job is safe? Likely not.   There are abilities such as creativity, social intelligence and intuition that are unique to humans and will be difficult to replicate.   However, in hindsight, those are not the skills we actively foster and appreciate in most of today’s organizations.


As Nils Bohr famously said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”, it remains to be seen just how much the rapid proliferation of technology will impact our lives and jobs.   However, if you find yourself reflecting on this over the next few days, take a good moment to observe and notice how technology has already changed lives in the past decade.   Is it one of those things we just brush off and not worry about, or perhaps there’s more to it.

Many thanks to the SCN community for an amazing 300+ entries to the first cartoon caption contest! After a slight delay caused by the sheer volume of entries that kept pouring in, I'm now happy to announce the contest winners:



Goes to Caroleigh Deneen for this entry, with 33 votes:


Appropriately enough for this community-fueled experiment, Caroleigh is part of SCN's Collaboration Team and blogs regularly on the SCN member of the month. Caroleigh is also an excellent cartoonist, as you can see by going to her currently-in-development website. Caroleigh's entry was nice and simple, yet tells a universal truth that many technical folks obviously identified with. As she explains:


“I’ve read my fair share of poorly written requirements. Volumes of pages that don’t actually give the developers answers to the questions they need. Even if you're agile, if your team is dispersed then well-written specifications that define every condition and every interaction had better be outlined somewhere. If not, you’re going to see the twists and turns and unexpected outcomes you illustrated. Maybe something like the neural networks of a typical developer’s brilliant brain.”



Goes to Jamie Oswald for this entry with 25 votes:


Jamie's day job is working on innovative projects such as using SAP HANA to improve patient care and in his spare time he's a regular contributor to the excellent DSLayer podcast that covers topics on SAP Analytics. I asked him to share how he came up with the caption:


"It doesn't feel like it should take a rocket scientist to make an application know who is logged onto the computer running that application, but it more often than not requires a lot of back-end complexity to build a "simple" user experience, especially when you've got existing systems and protocols in place.. I'm guessing personal experience with that pain helped get me some votes from SCN members."



Goes to Christopher Solomon with 19 votes:


Christopher has been working with SAP for 20 years, and is specialized in HCM, so perhaps knows more than most about the new opportunities of moving to cloud-based solutions such as SuccessFactors! (and another of his entries came in at #7 -- see below...)


Some worthy runners up:

  • Mark Richardson, whose entry "...as requested, the new Platform is integrated with all of your Legacy systems..." scored 19 votes
  • Michael Fruechtl, whose entry "And then I said to the Engineers: If you don’t like the new coffee machine feel free to build your own" scored 18 votes
  • Gretchen Lindquist, whose entry "This new release is fully integrated with mobile technologies and big data analytics, solar powered, and, as you can see, much simpler." scored 17 votes
  • Christopher Solomon, whose entry "I know this is what we asked for, but it's not what we want." also scored 17 votes

And many, many more -- you can see many of the other higher-voted captions in this post: What We Can Learn About Technology Complexity From A Cartoon Caption Contest!

Keep tuned for the next caption contest soon!

Wholesale distributors are challenged in managing increasing customer demands for a consistent and integrated transaction experience, while overseeing a global network of suppliers across multiple channels. Today, wholesale distributors struggle due to significant complexities such as:


  • Limited visibility of supplier inventories and variable costs, leading to difficulties balancing inventory on-hand with customer satisfaction
  • Inability to understand cost-to-serve with customer segmentation to identify profit drivers and the application of appropriate pricing strategies
  • Complicated vendor cost recovery along with a lack of visibility to spending and supplier performance


Going forward, wholesale distributors will face increasing demands from customers and competitor threats from all sides. To succeed, they must deliver exceptional service and carve out a value-added, differentiated role in the supply chain.


How will Wholesale Distributors do thrive?


  • Generate a superior customer experience by creating a unified and streamlined opportunity-to-cash process and a seamless multichannel experience.
  • Create transparent supply chain operations by establishing flexible capacities in inventory and fulfillment.
  • Minimize supplier risk by collaborating with the supply network, not only operationally, but strategically to drive competitive differentiation.
  • Gain end-to-end margin visibility and control by establishing full visibility into cost recovery, spending, supplier performance and cost-to-serve.


By running simple, wholesale distributors are able to:


  • Provide a better customer experience, optimize inventory, automate accurate pricing and streamline billing and collection activities.
  • Collaborate with suppliers both operationally and strategically.
  • Manage logistics, warehouses, and inventory to have the right stock available when customer needs it.
  • Establish execution excellence in vendor cost recovery and rebates operations and gain a holistic view into the cost-to-serve through customer stratification.


Leading wholesale distributors are running simple to better carve out a value-added role in the supply chain and improve operations for a true competitive advantage.  Consider Grainger, a Fortune 500 company and a member of Fortune magazine’s Most Admired Companies list.  Grainger is North American’s premier broad line distributor of maintenance, repair, and operating products. Grainger helps customers save time and money by consolidating procurement of more than 900,000 products.

Grainger is just one example of a wholesale distributor integrating systems and business processes to run simpler.  How will your
company compete and fuel profitable growth?  Share your story with us about how your company is running simple to create an agile, insight-driven organization with simplified business processes across a global network of suppliers.

If you’re looking to round out your agenda for this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual conference, look no further. Here are five "can't-miss" experiences designed to help your business run simple.

SAPHANA.jpg1. SAP S/4 HANA Exhibit

Attendees will get the full S/4HANA experience from discovery to adoption in the S/4HANA Exhibit. Located between the Business Networks and the Platform & Technology Campus, the S/4 HANA exhibit will host 6 Demo Stations. Experts will be on hand to show the latest S/4HANA demos and attendees will be also be able to experience the “Boardroom Redefined” showcase which contextualizes the boardroom, places and devices into a real-time enterprise experience. Powered by SAP S/4HANA, it understands the past, predicts the future, and drives execution enabling leaders to monitor, simulate and drive change.

2. Debut of SAP Digital


Imagine solving your own business problem, in the moment it arises, with a solution from SAP. No RFP. No contract. No invoice. Just a 1-click online user agreement and your credit card. SAP Digital makes its debut at SAPPHIRE NOW – including demos of the first apps with “digital native” characteristics. “You want it now, you buy it now, you use it now,” says Jonathan Becher, Chief Digital Offer. “How simple is that?”

3. ASUG Hub


Be sure to stop by the ASUG Hub, located on the show floor, to sit in on dozens of key educational and influence sessions, take part in Special Interest Group community meetings, watch a live interview with ASUG and SAP newsmakers, and much more. ASUG staff will be on hand to tell you all about the amazing membership benefits and year-round activities that will help you get more value from your SAP investments. In addition, you don't have to be an ASUG member to attend the educational sessions on the second and third floors at the Orange County Convention Center—all attendees are welcome to take part in the more than 500 educational sessions given by SAP customers who will be sharing their real-world experiences and lessons learned. Key topics covered during sessions include: SAP HANA, UX, SuccessFactors, BI and Analytics, Change Management, Business Suite and much more.


"It's really the best of both worlds," says ASUG CEO Geoff Scott, of the co-located ASUG Annual Conference – SAPPHIRE NOW event. "On the show floor, attendees can kick the tires on all of SAP's new products and hear from the experts, spend some time with SAP's world-class partners and also take advantage of ASUG community-driven content in the ASUG Hub. Up on the second and third floors, everyone can engage with those SAP customers who are sharing their stories of challenges and successes and how they're making the software work for their companies. You just can't find that anywhere else."

4. Value Lifecycle Manager

When it comes to HR sessions in the LoB campus, one demo that cannot be missed is the Value Lifecycle Manager (Session ID # 20660). Led by SAP’s Industry Value Engineering team, the Value Lifecycle Manager demonstrates the value and ROI of a company’s planned business transformation. In addition, attendees can learn to use the complementary SAP Value Lifecycle Manager service to benchmark processes, build a winning business case, and estimate quantifiable benefits of investments in SAP software. For more information about other can’t miss HR experiences, check out SAPPHIRE NOW Answers the Top Questions Human Resources and IT have about Cloud by Susan Galer.

5. User experience sessions and demos

There are over 80 user experience (UX) sessions at this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference with customers including The Walt Disney Company and Pacific Drilling. Sam Yen, SAP’s Chief Design Officer said attendees can speak with experts at UX demo stations within the Platform and Technology Campus and check out the latest demos of SAP Fiori, trial cloud edition and SAP Screen Personas 3.0. Yen also said it’s a good idea to attend one of the ASUG pre-conference sessions on Monday, May 4th. For more info, see the UX sample agenda available from the official SAPPHIRE NOW agenda builder and find all UX sessions by searching under “Featured Solutions”.


What experiences are you most looking forward to at this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference? Sound off in the comments below. Can't make it this year? Stay tuned to the SAPPHIRE NOW Online space to watch keynotes and presentations from your desktop or device.

aint_my_first_rodeo-150x150.jpgA few weeks ago, I asked a co-worker to take the lead on a complex situation involving a partner. When I asked him whether he was comfortable being on point, my co-worker replied:


"This ain't my first rodeo."

If you’re not familiar with the expression, it’s a colorful way of telling someone you’re prepared for a situation and it doesn’t offer a significant challenge to you. Where I grew up, locals used a similar vivid expression:


"I didn't just fall off the turnip truck."


In my experience, both expressions have a touch of sarcasm. They are often used when someone is being given unjustified and unwanted advice. Apparently my co-worker didn’t think the situation was particularly challenging.


Since I’m interested in the origin of phrases, I spent some time trying to figure out where the rodeo expression came from. The earliest instance I could find was from the 1981 movie, Mommie Dearest, which chronicles the life of Joan Crawford. When told she is going to be removed from the Board of Directors of Pepsi, Faye Dunaway (the actress playing Crawford) responds “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.” This classic scene is a fiery performance with strong language:


Who gets credit for inventing the rodeo phrase? The phrase isn’t in the book that the movie was based on and I couldn’t find any evidence this scene happened in real life. As such, the quote should probably be attributed to Frank Yablans, who wrote the screenplay.


For those of you who prefer an exact quote, I found it in the 1988 Judd family biography. From the book,


Naomi is not a shy woman; she has never claimed to be.

"I'm divorced and I've been to the circus and I've seen the clowns," as she put it "This ain't my first rodeo."

It’s a fantastic thought that Naomi Judd might have been channeling Faye Dunaway.


Now if I could only figure out where that turnip truck came from. Any ideas?


This blog was originally posted on Manage by Walking Around on April 19, 2015.

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

Last week I attended the Simplify to Innovate Forum in NYC to hear how SAP is changing the way organizations execute business internally, with customers, and with each other.


The event echoed a reoccurring theme throughout all topic discussions, one that resonated with me as a millennial.  The event stressed the importance of a simple user experience, and with SAP S/4HANA, Dave Spencer of SAP explained, “Organizations have a huge opportunity to outpace competition by providing a simplified user experience.”



This simplified user experience is something I live each day. The morning of the Simplify to Innovate Forum, I took an Uber to the train station.  I used an e-ticket on my mobile device to board the train. After arriving in Penn Station, I navigated my short walk to the forum location using my mobile Waze app.


When I returned after the event, I didn’t feel very well.  I needed fluids and soup stat, so I opened the Instacart app on my mobile and from the convenience of my couch, I ordered and paid for the groceries I needed.  Within an hour, orange juice, cough drops, and a quart of chicken noodle soup were at my door step.



This is the world of today. We want simple.  We want easy.  And we want it fast.


The Experts on the Customer Panel Agree

During the customer panel portion of the day, the concept of a simple user experience pervaded through all five panelists. “Currently there is a huge demand on the IT population to provide information to customers instantaneously,” explained ASUG CEO, Geoff Scott.

Simplify to Innovate6.jpg


Deloitte is a longtime SAP partner and customer.  The company has run SAP ERP since 1992, and recently Deloitte executes their finances with SAP HANA.  Wanting an ERP solution that could fully integrate into its other solutions, Deloitte plans to begin an SAP S/4HANA with SAP Simple Finance project this month.  Deloitte Principal, John Steele, explained that by working so closely with SAP S/4HANA as an implementation partner, the company quickly realized the value that this solution could offer its own business.  By leveraging the real-time information provided through the S/4HANA system, Deloitte will be able to derive business benefits, predictions, and future trends.


SAP also runs SAP S/4HANA with SAP Simple Finance and since removed seven days from its quarterly reporting time, shortening the time to report on business outcomes from 12 days to five. The fast turnaround enables SAP to set the tone for the market each quarter as it is the first company to release earnings reports to the public.


TE Connectivity was in attendance on the panel.  CIO and Vice President, Earl Newsome addressed TE’s huge focus on the Digital Economy and the Internet of Things (IoT).  Sanjiv Gupta, President and CEO of OpsVeda explained how IoT innovation is enabling new business processes, keeping organizations one step ahead of the customer need.  Gupta shared a story about a printer business that is working to connect its ink cartridges to sensors connected via the IoT.  The sensors will be used to alert the user when the cartridge is low and needs to be changed.



Disrupting Business Disruption

The second theme of the day focused on disrupting disruption.  The event explained that breakthrough products disrupt current lines of business because disruption, when done effectively, can lead to new business outcomes and untapped markets. However, if technology disrupts business before an organization is ready for it, the organization may lose business.


One example explained onstage described a home appliance company.  Today, with new technology like YouTube and mobile devices, when customers have trouble with a home appliance, they quickly search online and find a “do-it-yourself” video to correct the issue on their own.  This disrupts the home appliance company business because it loses the revenue gained from machine maintenance servicing.


However, by connecting its appliances to IoT sensors, the home appliance company can track the health of all machines.  When a customer’s washer starts to deteriorate, the sensor will alert a representative to contact the customer directly and explain the machine issue (before breakage occurs).  The representative then can ask to dispatch a technician to fix the device properly for a small fee, never allowing the customer to experience an issue with the machine nor resort to DIY videos.


Change at the Speed of Business

The Simplify to Innovate Forum urged customers to break from their complex and legacy processes and move forward with the innovative business trends and technology of today. Through the Internet of Things and the Digital Economy, as well as SAP innovation, businesses have a huge opportunity to simplify user experience and provide customers with the best service possible. Will you join the revolution?


For more information about how SAP S/4HANA can impact your business, click here.


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