There’s no escaping transformation. When managed properly, it can turn companies into winners. Take Apple, for example: The California-based company was stagnating, making a loss. It was desperately in search of a business model. And then came the iPod. But Apple wasn’t rescued by the new device, its snazzy design, or its intuitive user experience – it was rescued by the very idea of connecting an MP3 player and the user’s own music library on his or her computer with an online shop for music. With the new business model, Apple not only took the market by storm but also completely redefined mobile entertainment.
“Having a new idea is one thing,” says Lars Gollenia, head of Business Transformation Services at SAP, who advises companies going through their toughest times. “But how the idea is implemented is much more interesting.” You need to restructure organizations, redefine processes, and get employees to think in genuinely new ways. “And the question is: How did Steve Jobs do it at Apple?” he asks.
Academia and industry join forces
Business transformation is currently still a relatively unknown quantity. There is no entry for it in the German version of Wikipedia. And other information about it on the Internet is sparse. “But we’re going to change that,” says Gollenia. “Because today, business transformation is more important than ever.”
That’s why SAP recently took the initiative in this burgeoning field and launched the Business Transformation Academy. At the Academy, experts from across the globe get together. Researchers from top universities swap thoughts with professionals from international companies – and, of course, with the best brains from SAP. “With the Business Transformation Academy, we would like to provide a platform for academics and industry experts to exchange ideas in an atmosphere of trust,” says Gollenia. “This will enable companies to benefit from the most recent research and – thanks to the hands-on experience of the business world – results can be analyzed fast.” In such a way, SAP hopes to drive research activities in this area.
The key to success
Interestingly, little research has so far been conducted on business transformation, and knowledge of it is limited within companies. That’s how the idea of the global network emerged. Axel Uhl, head of the Business Transformation Academy, says, “We want to offer a platform for this. It is our vision to bring together the key players with regard to this topic and thus create a unique pool of expertise on the causes, strategies, and methods involved in successful transformation.” This knowledge should subsequently be available to all the network participants, including SAP, for employee training.
There are still some questions to be resolved. “Our existence depends on the feedback from and exchange among all the participants,” Gollenia says. And the participants have questions, too. One member explains, “Just like any other network, the lifeblood of the Business Transformation Academy is its common goal. If the two parties don’t pull together, it won’t work.” However, Gollenia is confident that the Business Transformation Academy will succeed. “The worlds of academia and industry can profit tremendously from the exchange. The topic is far too important for us to ignore,” he says.
And it’s never been possible to put a stop to transformation.