A strong business is an interconnected business on several fronts. We have learned that the resilience and agility of any business rely on internal and external insights, which is underpinned by data — a lot of data.

COVID-19 has taught us that we cannot rely on in-person interactions to stay informed about business performance. With countless employees still working from home, it now takes extra effort to avoid disconnection and gain better insights. We have seen that some businesses were able to seamlessly transition from offices to remote working with little impact, while others struggled to make the adjustment.

During the first half of 2020, to better understand the extent of connections and collaboration within and beyond the walls of the enterprise, SAP worked with Oxford Economics to survey 3,000 executives from 10 different industries and across 16 countries globally. The results are both fascinating and relevant to these times. Here are just a few of the findings that organizations of all sizes could implement when looking more broadly at the web of relationships that define and unify their business.

Tear Down Silos

The first step toward creating an interconnected business is tearing down existing silos. It can be so easy for departments and subsidiaries to perfect their own processes, but they often keep this knowledge in-house. In order to break down these barriers, businesses need a common view of the world, or enterprise, that can be accessed by all relevant parties. Important data is then always on-hand and can inform day-to-day operations and decisions.

This closely ties to SAP’s vision of the Intelligent Enterprise, a strategy that helps businesses increase efficiency and gain insight to guide their business, as well as make confident decisions and drive continuous innovation to gain visibility into their operational, customer, and employee data. The benefits of this data integration are clear. For companies that integrated their business processes, the Oxford Economics study found that 47% saw a reduction in spend and costs and 19% improved employee retention.

Become Agile to Meet Changing Consumer Needs

Seemingly overnight, business models that worked pre-COVID-19 became irrelevant, sending businesses scrambling to reinvent their operating models or fast track digitization efforts.

Brakes, for example, is typically a direct-to-business food service in the UK, but with their key customers — schools and restaurants — shut down, it had to figure out how to implement a direct-to-consumer supply chain quickly. Within seven days, the company was able to shift its approach and provide food to vulnerable individuals, as well as COVID-19 patients.

More broadly, some companies are looking to run their value chains end to end. They require verticalized, industry-specific processes — ideally run in a cloud deployment — with seamless integration to core enterprise solutions.

Share Data Across the Value Chain

Data is the lifeblood of modern business. Employees need to harness huge amounts of data to excel at their jobs. In fact, 63% of respondents in the Oxford study say sharing data across the organization helps connect them with customers. Data sharing also helps exceed performance goals among 55% of respondents. But there is a long way to go in terms of adopting optimal data cleaning, analysis, and privacy practices. This must be a priority if companies want to reap the benefits of data sharing across relevant departments in their organization. Indeed, the survey showed that many organizations are investing in technologies that harness data such as artificial intelligence (34%), the Internet of Things (33%), and analytics (27%). As an example, Honeywell and SAP recently announced that they will be leveraging AI to help businesses identify cost savings and efficiencies in their building portfolios.  This is extremely relevant while offices have been closed or are just starting to reopen, and businesses aim to ensure maximum efficiency and carbon savings now and in the future.

Stand for Something

Many companies have a mission or a purpose that transcends revenue or share-price goals. CEOs of large and small businesses want to make a positive impact on the world and on their company culture. The study identified that these organizations tend to lead in innovation, employee retention, and engagement, all attributes which also drive organizational success.

This is echoed by a recent interview with the new boss of BP, Bernard Looney, who is quoted as saying, “Oil is increasingly becoming socially challenged, there’s no question about that. I would talk about the people we’ve hired into BP in the past six months that we would have struggled to hire had we not laid out the ambition [to become a net-zero carbon company] that we laid out.”

While the economy is in a constant state of flux, interconnected organizations tend to be more agile, resilient, and able to make the decisions needed to drive long-term growth. Add to that a focus on a higher goal, to exist with a purpose, and you have the winning combination of an agile, resilient, business.

For further insights from the Oxford Economics study,
access the executive summary here.

Mandy Lin is global vice president for Intelligent Enterprise Marketing at SAP.