In this exclusive interview, Klaus Weber, executive vice president and general manager of SAP Innovative Business Solutions, discusses how his team is working with clients to support the innovation process, end-to-end, and to empower enterprises to overcome their biggest hurdles, realize their goals and achieve business transformation.
Q: In conversations with your clients, what are you hearing about innovation in this era of digital transformation – any major concerns or challenges?
A: It’s a really interesting dynamic our clients face today. They’re excited by the prospect of digital transformation, but they feel pressure to deliver and that causes insecurity. That insecurity is heightened by the urgency of having to compete in new ways and against new players.
Many of our clients are trying to figure out how to shift their business models and longstanding processes so that they stand out from the competition. At the same time, they have to figure out what new technologies need to be introduced. Many choose to just act – or react – first and think second. And that’s not the best approach.
In fact, the best digital transformation projects start with self-reflection. Companies must figure out what their competitive advantages are and, in turn, what new threats they’re facing in this digital economy. Bottom line, what does the business need to do to remain competitive or become the disruptor in their market? That’s where SAP can offer value.
How does your organization deliver value to its clients?
With business environments shifting at such a rapid pace, companies rarely have the time to brainstorm digital strategies, let alone realize them. SAP provides cloud-based enterprise applications, powered by advanced technologies, that are the central nervous system of the intelligent enterprise. And SAP Innovative Business Solutions helps drive innovation that quickly brings our client’s vision to life. We do that by collaborating with our clients– from discovery and design to development and deployment – to build tailored, high-value applications.
Through an end-to-end process, starting with exploration workshops, we use design thinking practices to help our clients diagnose their challenges and opportunities, zero in on their specific business process requirements and determine the solutions and technology needed to deliver on their vision. The result is a roadmap that delivers individualized, transformative solutions, faster and cost-effectively through an agile collaborative approach that puts their users at the center of every stage of development.
With access to our team of over 2,000 development professionals and backed by the strength of 38,000 SAP R&D and services experts, clients are guided through the entire innovation process. And the best part is, we don’t stop there. We enable our clients to stay focused on their next innovation by offering to support, continuously improve and operate their tailored solution using the same support infrastructure and cloud operation centers as their standard SAP software.
Can you share a client example?
Absolutely, a perfect example is Nanjing City, a megalopolis in eastern China aiming to become a modern international green city. Nanjing is currently home to a rapidly growing population of 8 million, which creates immense amounts of traffic and makes it difficult for the city’s government to ensure the mobility and safety of its citizens. To help optimize its population’s mobility experience, and find a “smart traffic solution,” Nanjing turned to SAP. SAP Leonardo was able to help Nanjing centralize and analyze all traffic data to help commuters get where they need to go in an efficient and safe manner. Currently, Nanjing is using IoT technology to improve the perception of every sensor throughout the whole city, including those in taxis, buses, transit cards and more, with the aim of measuring and improving the city’s transit and overall mobility challenges.
How does SAP Innovative Business Solutions help its clients take advantage of technological advances, like machine learning, IoT, blockchain, and others to help drive their innovation?
There are so many technological advances today. It’s all moving so quickly, and each is at a different stage of maturity and adoption. For example, IoT is arguably the most mature (although still quite young), whereas blockchain is still in the exploratory phases, and machine learning is somewhere in between. Our job is to help our clients navigate each of these advances and to understand how each can be used to positively impact their business, or solve a critical challenge. Once we identify the right technology for the job, we develop solutions that fit the exact need that the client is trying to address.
One such example is the work we have done with CITIC Pacific Mining (CPM), one of the biggest mining, processing and port operators in Australia. With over 200 light vehicles and movable assets like generators and elevated work platforms, CPM needed more transparency regarding the location and status of their vehicles, in order to track condition, diesel usage, and manage insurance costs in real time. SAP Innovative Business Solutions incorporated SAP Leonardo Internet of Things capabilities and SAP Vehicle Insights to develop a cloud application extension, which equipped all vehicles with sensors to track data, helping to streamline CPM’s claims for monthly fuel tax credits and improve the utilization and maintenance of its light vehicle fleet. SAP Vehicle Insights is able to grow as the operation grows, integrating with third-party software and monitoring driver behavior in real time. As a result of CPM’s innovation and collaboration with SAP Innovative Business Solutions, stakeholders are pleased with the operational outcomes, and looking towards taking further steps to enhance their business operations.
What are the major changes you see in the marketplace by 2020 and how will your team and SAP support them?
If you look at the digital leaders, they are actively experimenting. The technological advances will continue to come to light at a pace that is faster than ever before and the digital leaders will keep looking for ways to use those new advances to disrupt the way things are done in business today. Clients can expect SAP Innovative Business Solutions to be on the cutting edge of understanding how to put the latest advances into practice and make innovation real for their business. And they can expect for us to continue finding ways to deliver the solutions even more quickly so they can reap the rewards faster.
And remember that innovation is cyclical. As the value of new technologies is proven, we expect to see some common industry themes and patterns of success emerge. We have already seen it with IoT for predictive maintenance in heavy asset intensive enterprises like utilities and oil and gas. We are starting to see it with blockchain, and to track and trace products in consumer and ethics driven industries like pharmaceuticals, consumer products and agriculture. And we expect to see many more in the coming years.
This is something we actively collaborate on with the core SAP development organization as we evaluate what trends gain the most traction among our client base. It will help guide us over the course of the next two to three years as we determine which offerings to standardize and productize. From there, we can help to set industry best practices that will inform how the next generation of technological advances can be put to use for all SAP clients to leverage.