The Current State of SAP and its Role in Business Digital Transformation
Dinving into the Ocean of SAP
As a provider of media and marketing solutions, our business centers on data analytics, rapid accessibility to tools and perhaps most importantly mobility. With an almost entirely remote workforce, it is imperative that our systems of record support flexibility and accessibility for just about anywhere in the world. For our team the keys have been focusing on a best tool approach within our ecosystem. While I do belive that platforms are terrific (and will see continued growth in the coming year with the growth of PaaS), we take a productivity first approach that looks at each technology requirement and we incorporate the best tools to accomplish the task. This can present some challenges for integration and cooperation between tools, however, I’m seeing a shift in API technology and collaborative solution ecosystems that are allowing more disparate tools to work harmoniously.
"People must have the willingness to embrace change because at this point it is the only guarantee we have"
Surprises of SAP
I think the biggest surprise for me as we continue to incorporate new tools is just how influential shadow IT and personal user experiences are to technology adoption. C-Suite technology control has migrated away from an executive centric model to one that must be considerate to the technology that your team, partners and clients are looking to embrace. Given our state of continuous innovation or what I like to call Micro Innovation, the onus for technology adoption is on the executive suite, but not like it once was. Today we must build trust and systems of learning so our technology users can quickly adapt to changing tools and use cases all while not feeling the often painful side-effects of organizational change.
Roadblocks in SAP Landscape
I think the biggest pain points pre-SAP came down to platform declaration. With most solutions requiring an on-premise approach or a costly cloud migration, you felt almost as if what you chose was going to need to work for the next 10 or 20 years. Today, that very idea is unimaginable. The way technology is evolving we have built enterprise infrastrucutres to be ready for an almost endless state of change. The biggest mistake we can make is selling our soul to a one solution or another when the next best tools and tech may be just around the corner. By staying flexible, yet understanding the difference between erratic change and strategic change we can overcome this challenge.
Impact of SAP
Right now there may be nothing that scares CIOs and executives more than digital transformation. Business processes are being disrupted at breakneck speed and sometimes this shift feels somewhat out of our control. While the discussion around the systems, applications and products that we use is extraordinarily important, it is only a part of the bigger challenge for business leaders.
Traditional business models have long been dependent upon a combination of strategy and technology. However, with technology evolving so rapidly now business models can be in a constant state of flux that requires both agility in technology, but also agility in the culture. People must have a willingness to embrace change because at this point it is the only guarantee we have.
Companies like Cisco have done extensive research on disruption and the impact on business and it has led to an overwhelmingly visible challenge for business leaders. Essentially business Darwinism which isn’t the survival of the fittest, but survival of the most agile; adapt or die has never been more accurate when it comes to business strategy. Perhaps this is why the Fortune 500 has changed so much since the year 2000 and while one incumbent after another continue to fall; ask Blockbuster and Kodak.
With all of this in mind, the business leaders challenge is really becoming more of a hybrid of technology and people. With our systems and applications in this aforementioned constant state of change, we absolutely must build a culture that is not only change tolerant but excited about change. New tools and applications need to be a more collaborative process where leaders in technology embrace the potential and possibilities of Shadow IT and Business Line technology purchasing. SaaS has made this possible, but we must remember that those in the roles likely know better than we as to what their job requires. Their ability to be independent not only empowers them and builds loyalty, but it also drives productivity.
Having said that, a more collaborative work economy also means there are new issues and challenges for the CIO and his peers. It means that instead of being able to control the entire environment, that they have to relinquish some of that control yet they aren’t off the hook as it comes to meeting the biggest security and compliance challenges. Essentially, employees are now poking small holes in the security ecosystem by moving data from managed devices controlled by the organization to their own devices. Even if it is mandated that they use company devices with management on them, there are usually loopholes that wind up exposing company data. In short, no technology leader wants to run their ecosystem like Shawshank; this type of leadership in all but the most secure and compliance riddled industry has proven terrible for employee morale and usually leads to employees seeking ways to work around the system.
The evolution of systems, applications and processes is going to be founded in a fundamental connection between those driving the technology strategy of the organization and those leading change management in the business strategy. In itself, technology doesn’t cure a businesses challenges, however, it does have a powerful influence over a businesses results when it is properly incorporated at the technology level and the people level. The CIO of the future will have more and more of a role in figuring out how to tie those two things together because we all know that the rapid proliferation of technology isn’t driving a more centralized IT organization, but instead a more fragmented one that will require strong leadership and SAP considerations to reach its full potential.