The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up life science co-innovation as never before, revealing how the future of every industry’s digital transformation is literally in the cloud. During the past year, pharmaceutical and chemical organizations, government policymakers and regulators, transportation and distribution companies, healthcare providers, and citizens united to usher in the next golden era of digitalization.

“The number of interconnected processes and people involved in the vaccine supply chain, from R&D through getting shots in people’s arms worldwide, is mind-boggling,” said Peter Maier, president of Industries and Customer Advisory at SAP. “Cloud-based co-innovation is the only way organizations can sustainably get faster access to best and next industry practices for innovation.”

Cloud Platform Supports Business Resilience

Every industry consists of an interconnected ecosystem of suppliers and partners across complex networks, from product and service design through sourcing, production, and delivery. This is why SAP launched its industry cloud last year as the co-innovation space for partners and customers to shape the future of industry practices and business models.

“With SAP’s deep business domain and process expertise across 25 industries, industry cloud is our next stage,” Maier said. “Having strong partnerships to co-innovate on SAP Business Technology Platform provides customers with industry-specific solutions they can use immediately to address their unique business priorities to optimize and differentiate. Our customers and partners are on an incredible digital transformation journey to run as intelligent enterprises.”

Indeed, a Forrester Research study commissioned by SAP showed that partners that joined the company’s industry cloud gained 38% to 125% in first-year revenues, increasing the overall size of contracts and closing up to 150% more deals faster.

Co-Innovating in the Cloud for Business Results

Partners of all sizes are discovering the benefits of co-innovating on a cloud platform. For example, leading car manufacturers and supplier partners are exploring innovations in SAP’s industry cloud to create an automotive network that’s redefining e-mobility. Fashion and other retailers are finding better ways to manage excess inventory for more sustainable business in volatile markets.

“From small, boutique partners to the largest global consultancies, they’re all joining the cloud party, complementing our innovation portfolio to develop services, tools, and applications for the benefit of our shared customers’ digital transformation,” said Maier. “Companies can’t make it on their own anymore. They need to know how peers and other industries are innovating so they can apply it to their business.”

Networks Connect Blurred Industry Boundaries

The pandemic accelerated digitalization that was already shifting traditional sector boundaries.

For example, as sustainability becomes the de facto standard for business excellence, regulatory compliance, and consumer uptake, CPG companies are creating business networks to connect numerous entities for managing the circular economy. This spans suppliers and partners involved with the full product lifecycle, including sourcing recycled materials, sustainable production and transportation, customer delivery, and managing reuse and recycling. Expert partners can more quickly innovate on cloud-based platforms, connecting data and processes that deliver on sustainability promises.

“Market leaders are co-innovating in consortia of peers, experts, and consultants on cloud-based networks to establish next industry practices supported by hyperscaler-agnostic platforms,” said Maier. “The network connects everyone on one industry cloud so they can extend innovation using the latest technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain to reimagine how business processes run and create new business outcomes.”

Cloud Delivers Transparent Innovation Framework

Even when major disruptions occur, organizations can’t just hit pause on their core business to step back and innovate. Being able to collaborate in the cloud gives companies the agility to adapt processes quickly for groundbreaking industry transformation.

“The beauty of working together in SAP’s industry cloud is that companies can iterate solutions fast and seamlessly integrate them with their existing landscapes,” said Maier. “Partners can build extensions to business processes quickly, freeing up resources to drive further innovation. This is a huge part of RISE with SAP, providing partners and customers with a new innovation framework to drive business transformation.”

He added that, “After all, change is only disruptive if it happens faster than companies can adapt.”

Speed and Agility Through Simplification

Getting new products and services to customers quickly is increasingly complex in unpredictable markets. When it comes to software applications for industry-specific differentiation, organizations need to simplify with modular strategies to co-innovate with partners without sacrificing integration. Cloud-based platforms foster this kind of step-by-step iteration with harmonized data across typically hybrid systems that might include both cloud and on-premise application environments. As fast as the pandemic upended business during the past year, it heralded the beginning of a new age of digitalization, taking all of us into the next evolution in business agility.

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This blog also appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.