Of course, none of the 200 participants at the SAP Business Transformation Summit feels like the Last Samurai – a brave fighter right to the end but defeated due to technological handicaps and battered by the ravages of time. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Still, the exhortations and warnings of the experts at the Business Transformation Summit could be clearly heard.
“How much time do you spend thinking about the major challenges of our time and facing them in an intellectual way?” asked, for example, Prof. Dr. Adrian Done from the IESE Business School, knowing well that the pressure of day-to-day business leaves little time for many of the participants to stand back and look at the big picture.
“Two thirds of the companies that were in the top 100 in 1966 no longer exist today,” he explained – largely because they failed to recognize the profound changes of their time. “The samurai underestimated the development of canons and guns – what are you underestimating? What direction is the world taking, and are you prepared for it?”
These might not be standard questions, but they need answering more desperately than ever now. The economic and financial crisis, global warming, demographic changes, the energy crisis, and worldwide famine are just some factors in an endless list of negative global trends that “actually prohibit business as usual,” Done explained. He thinks that companies need to react and, where they are already reacting, they are doing it too slowly.
As a former executive at Microsoft and IBM with a wealth of experience in the IT world, Steve Lewis was just as critical as Done. Lewis, however, added another dimension to the problem: that of the “megacities.”
According to Lewis, people are converging on the cities in the hope of prosperity, better medical care, and education – but neither the economy nor the public sector is prepared to manage or oversee this tremendous explosion in the size of cities. “In 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. But what are these cities supposed to look like? How will they be supplied with the things they need? How will we manage the masses of people, data, and goods?”
Lewis’ answer to this is with smart technology, smart cities, and the greatest efficiency possible. As the founder and CEO of Living PlanIT, he is driving such technology to create the city of the future.
Support for change
Companies already use technology to manage their processes, become more efficient, and nurture innovation. And SAP is also committed to this task, as Lars Gollenia, head of the Business Transformation Services group at SAP Consulting, explained. Large-scale changes trigger smaller-scale changes, and his group together with the SAP Business Transformation Academy network, helps customers from throughout the world to manage these changes effectively. Customers like Hilti or Daimler (see the article “Smart Move by Daimler”) are prime examples.
This network of academics and thought leaders brings the experience of the business world together with research on transformation processes, supports knowledge and experience exchange, and develops methods and informed suggestions in order to omptimize transformation projects.
Prof. Dr. Axel Uhl, head of the SAP Business Transformation Academy (see the article “The Steve Jobs Principle”), and Lars Gollenia work together to support SAP customers in change processes, not just for IT but in the company as a whole – in all departments and taking account of the entire corporate strategy.
“Social computing, mobility, and cloud computing aren’t just buzzwords, but are increasingly becoming reality,” said Gollenia. People behave differently, communicate differently, and live differently than they did a few years ago. IT needs to react to this and in some ways it’s already doing so. “Today, CIOs aren’t just lords of technology,” continued Gollenia. “They support and foster the user departments and the other business areas – they are strategic companions.”
They help make changes, improve processes, and adapt processes to new situations. These “transformation CIOs” (as coined by Gollenia) encourage innovation, create value, and increase efficiency. So they don’t take the path of the samurai, who excelled in their discipline but who didn’t heed the signs of the times.
Genuine value partnership
Therefore, CIOs should be mediators between business and IT and partners for the company as a whole. This is a role that SAP supports as part of its Business Transformation Services in the form of value partnerships, which 40 enterprises are currently engaged in. These partnerships analyze, monitor, and manage change.
Companies such as Lockheed Martin and L’Oréal, whose IT landscapes are just as diverse as their business divisions, trust SAP to help them get their business processes into shape for the challenges of the future and extract maximum value from their SAP systems.
Depending on the situation and the organization, these are projects – which may be short or may last a number of years – with one central purpose: to improve the company’s reaction to change. Rather than IT projects, they should be regarded as business projects that harmonize corporate strategy, external influences, and commercial considerations with technology.
Transformation through trust
“Business transformation means sustained change and improvement in harmony with corporate strategy,” said Gollenia. For each value partnership, SAP provides a central contact person, who is known as the “business transformation principal.” These are specially trained and experienced employees who represent not just the interface to SAP, but who are also in a position to identify potential for improvement and provide strategic advice.
“For this, openness and trust on both sides is necessary,” added Alexander Holzmann, head of the Value Partnership Service at SAP. “These aren’t classic projects where changes are made at a single point, but are companywide, strategic tasks that are decisive for further growth and maximum value.”
SAP’s customers must, of course, be confident that SAP is the right strategic partner. And SAP must be devoted to success and commit itself to implementing what was agreed. “And that’s precisely what we do,” Holzmann said.
The participants at the SAP Business Transformation Summit in Barcelona were able to learn from SAP customers who have entered into this partnership and faced up to the changes of the future. After all, who wants to be the Last Samurai?
More information on Business Transformation Services and SAP Value Partnerships is available here.