The Digital Economy - A Business Imperative

Steve Lucas, President, SAP Digital Enterprise Platform
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Steve Lucas, President, SAP Digital Enterprise Platform

Think about how our world has changed in only a few years. We no longer hail a cab at the airport – we text Uber before we get off the plane. We don’t visit the doctor to get a picture of our overall health – we use fitness apps that can tell us what we need to know, then we work with the doctor to manage or improve our health. Driverless cars are on the horizon and the ramifications are huge. Manufacturing jobs are moving back to the US as robotics becomes the low-cost alternative to an offshore human workforce. The digital economy is here!

"The Cloud is essential in a digital world, although many organizations will choose to operate in a hybrid infrastructure model for many years to come"

But as we move to become digital, the rules of business change entirely. Digital technology opens new business models, which in turn give rise to new and disruptive market entrants. This shift is accelerating in every industry and compelling every established organization to transform itself into a “Digital Enterprise.” All with the goal to not only survive, but thrive in this new social and business reality.

While my job is all about helping create the technology that enables the digital enterprise, I absolutely believe that becoming a Digital Enterprise isn’t something you do for technology’s sake. It is the only way to produce better services, products and outcomes for your customers, much faster and of course at a lower cost. And no matter what, if you want to stay in business, you need to take the steps to become digital now.

As organizations begin their digital transformation, I believe the unequivocal and natural starting point and enabler for all of them is the core technology infrastructure upon which a company runs. The reason to begin at the core of your business is simple: organizations with a modern, digital enterprise platform will be more agile and responsive to their customers than their competitors. Just consider: even the best cyclist in the world today can’t win the Tour de France on a bicycle built ten years ago. Modern technology has advanced the sport far beyond the ability of the rider alone. This is also the case with businesses, technology, and the need for a Digital Enterprise Platform (DEP).

Something to ask yourself: does my organization spend more time integrating disparate technologies or do I have the time to innovate, move forward, and disrupt my industry? I find most organizations confuse lateral movement for forward motion. But the idea that you can move beyond the time-consuming integration of different products is very freeing when you understand the tremendous benefits that digital innovation can deliver.

So what does the ideal Digital Enterprise Platform look like? After speaking with companies throughout the globe, I have developed a list of core principles that every Digital Enterprise Platform needs to follow in order to succeed and thrive:

Simple: Simplicity is first and foremost. Companies need a real-time, radically simplified architecture for operating all core business functions, without the complexity of legacy enterprise infrastructure. This allows organizations to innovate rather than integrate.

Agile: All components in the DEP should be modular, instantly accessible via the public cloud or rapidly deployed as private cloud solutions. This enables organizations to quickly respond to changing market or industry conditions.

Cloud: The Cloud is essential in a digital world, although many organizations will choose to operate in a hybrid infrastructure model for many years to come. That said, the DEP should be designed to bridge these worlds while delivering the ability to do more with less. Using Cloud solutions, customers automatically benefit from the innovations as soon as they are available – no extra installation needed.

Open: Products within the DEP portfolio must be open and standards-based, using modern software design practices as well as development support for commonly accepted and advanced application languages. This openness should be woven throughout the platform as the entire portfolio integrates with any third-party data source or application development environment.

Mission critical: Operating a Digital Enterprise requires industrial-grade, highly available services that operate 24/7 with minimal support requirements. The platform should be specifically designed to run mission critical solutions for enterprises in all industries, geographies, and segments.

If your organization isn’t running a platform with these basic components, the time to begin implementing them is now. The Digital Enterprise Platform is no longer an idea, or a technology you may develop somewhere down the line. The imperative is much stronger and the consequences for those who don’t invest now are dire. Simply put, any organization who does not go digital will not survive. (Does anyone miss Blockbuster Video?)

So what kind of best approach can be taken for this undertaking? Start having conversations across your organization now. It’s not just an IT decision. HR, Finance, Marketing, Customer Relations – all of these departments will be affected and stand to benefit the most from a fully digital organization. Engage with technology vendors that offer end-to-end digital solutions that work in concert as a fully integrated portfolio. There may be some bumps and bruises as you get off the ground – but that’s true of any business transformation. In 10 years, you don’t want to be the “remember them?” story. You want to be the success story.

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