Everywhere we look, we see finance experimenting with and deploying smart automation solutions, like intelligent data capture, cognitive computing, and robotic process automation (RPA). Finance executives tell us they expect that digital transformation will have a dramatic impact on their performance, their operating model, and their skills and role definitions in the next two to three years. The results of The Hackett Group 2019 Key Issues Study predict a steep upward trajectory in the adoption of digital tools over the same period. For example, we foresee a more than threefold increase in the implementation of robotics.
But just how much impact can digital have on finance’s performance?
As finance people, we like numbers. So at The Hackett Group, we leveraged our extensive finance benchmark database to quantify the effects of smart automation on functional efficiency – at least for now – by looking at the effects of automation on full-time equivalent (FTE) requirements. We then used that information to calculate finance operating cost as a percentage of revenue.
We didn’t select efficiency metrics randomly. Nor did we do it just because it’s easier to collect and analyze the data. The reason we chose to focus on cost optimization first is that it is a huge driver of finance going digital. Seventy-five percent of finance organizations in our 2018 Digital Transformation Performance Study listed cost reduction as the number-one business objective for going digital.
The reality is that cost is a front-and-center issue for finance executives today (see image below). They are under pressure to improve margins by shrinking the bottom line, as senior executives worry about a weaker global economy, escalating trade wars, and the relentless introduction of new technologies and business models. The Hackett Group’s 2019 Key Issues Study revealed that cost reduction was finance’s top improvement priority for this year.
Quantifying the digital advantage
Is digital transformation helping finance meet these imperatives?
When we ran the numbers, we found exciting news. Our analysis of the efficiency impact of digitalization shows that the typical (i.e., peer) finance organization can slash its operating cost by 42% through digital transformation. Thus, by taking full advantage of digital tools, peers can match the efficiency levels of today’s world-class finance functions. Plus, even the best of the best (we label them world-class) can significantly widen the efficiency gap with peers (see image below).
Moving all the way to the right on this chart (from peer to digital world-class) takes significant time and resources. The shift must involve not just technological advancement, but also re-tuning processes and a massive effort to reskill talent.
But finance cannot wait that long. Our data also shows that by just deploying smart automation solutions, peers can accelerate their journey to world-class by 13%. Emergent digital technologies take a lot less time to implement and yield results faster. Thus, while it’s important that finance takes a holistic approach to digital transformation, it must also take immediate steps so as not to fall behind. From both our research and our work with clients, we know that this is already happening, and at an ever-faster pace.
Of course, efficiency is only one of the measures of digitalization success; the other two are effectiveness and experience. (Taken together, we call them the 3 E’s.) It’s harder to quantify how smart automation impacts the other two E’s. But we’ve made headway there, too. On the effectiveness front, we see that digitally enabled finance functions make fewer mistakes and complete their planning cycle much faster. On the stakeholder experience side, we found that internal customers of highly technology-enabled finance organizations are significantly more likely to perceive the function as a valued business partner.
At the most fundamental level (beyond the 3 E’s), digital technologies will alter the very nature of finance work. According to our analysis, the digitally enabled finance function will be able to perform today’s work with half as many people.
That does not mean half of finance professionals will lose their jobs, although some jobs will become obsolete. What it means is that the kind of work finance does will expand and evolve into more value-creating activities, such as analytics. We already see signs of this shift. According to our 2019 benchmarks, world-class finance functions allocate 18% of their staff to analytics and value-creating work, compared to only 10% for peers. They also dedicate 30% more staff to strategy and transformation work.
Here’s a fact that may surprise you: Our data shows that for the past decade, the efficiency gap between peer and world-class finance organizations has remained fairly fixed at 40%-45%. Digital transformation can disrupt the pattern and ultimately create a whole new category of world-class finance functions. What’s world-class today is not what’s going to be world-class tomorrow. Digital will change everything. The numbers foretell it. It’s therefore incumbent upon finance leaders to rev up their digital transformation engines.
Part 4 in the 5-part Enterprise Data Strategy series, which explores the importance of leadership and accountability in directing an overall data strategy tied to business outcomes.
People relocate, transfer jobs, and switch companies. Businesses fail and merge. Email addresses change. If you have data, it’s going to decay – that’s a given. In fact, 94% of businesses suspect that their customer and prospect data is inaccurate (Zoomdata). Yet ongoing data maintenance is the most overlooked aspect of an outcome-driven enterprise data strategy.
That’s why in this fourth installment of our data strategy series, I’m going to dive into ongoing, proactive maintenance: why it matters, what it encompasses, and how to get started.
Why is ongoing data maintenance important?
What good is data if the quality is poor? It’s not worth much and could quite possibly be costly. According to Gartner, “organizations believe poor data quality to be responsible for an average of $15 million per year in losses… and this is likely to worsen as information environments become increasingly complex – a challenge faced by organizations of all sizes.”
When building an analytic platform or moving data from legacy systems to a new solution, companies tend to put a lot of effort into profiling, cleansing, and enriching data. However, building an always-on data-maintenance capability is often neglected – and given that change is a fact of life, this is a risky proposition.
It’s essential that your outcome-driven enterprise data strategy defines how you will manage your company’s most critical data on a continuing basis, specifically:
Data-quality business rules and data operations
Data-maintenance shared services
Service-level agreements (SLAs)
Required data-maintenance processes and KPIs
What are the keys to success?
The number-one key to success is ensuring that your maintenance program is proactive, coordinated, and always on. Automation is recommended, but you must still have accountable owners in business and IT who are responsible for:
Creating and updating the business rules
Reviewing the ongoing data operations and quality reports for issues that require resolution
Establishing remediation efforts for any discovered issues
What are the “gotchas”?
The biggest gotcha is assuming that people will keep their data clean if you give them the tools. This rarely happens unless they’re motivated to do so, such as their paycheck or invoice payment being dependent upon accurate information. However, even if they maintain these needed data fields, there may be other critical fields that are ignored simply because they aren’t as important to the person.
Employees, for example, will typically keep their banking information up-to-date but maybe not their business unit. Similarly, a sales executive is incentivized to maintain bill-to-contact information but not ship-to-contact. That’s why you need accountable business and IT owners to oversee the program.
How do you get started?
You’ve done a lot of the work already when establishing the business rules in the organization and governance section of your data strategy. Reuse them – again and again. Many of the rules you created to get your data ready for a big project will be the same ones you should use to maintain the fields.
The second thing you should do is transform your workflow-based systems into proactive, always-on processes. What is the difference? Workflow-only systems require a workflow before anything happens. With an always-on process, on the other hand, there’s always a program running an email validation every month or twice a year, for example.
Setting up this type of approach requires a shift in mindset. We tend to think people keep all their accounts clean everywhere. But do you update your phone number, address, title, etc. everywhere? Probably not. That’s why tools and workflows alone aren’t enough to keep your company’s data from decaying. You need an ongoing, proactive data maintenance program as part of your overall data strategy.
Part four of a six-part blog series based on 30+ years’ experience collaborating on innovation with complex, discrete machinery manufacturers.
In the third blog in this series, I discussed how Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) have facilitated greater insight for manufacturing executives. Now I want to spend some time examining how procurement executives can gain greater insight into internal operations and partner with suppliers to achieve true innovation.
If you’ve been following this series (thank you!), you know that my motivation for writing these blogs was an article in the Harvard Business Review, “Why (and How) to Take a Plant Tour,” written by David M. Upton, professor of operations management at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. I found it fascinating to see how much things have changed since the time he wrote the article in May 1997.
Professor Upton wrote:
“Plant visits allow managers to review a supplier’s qualifications, to share best practices with a partner, or to benchmark performance and practices …. The main purpose of assessment tours is not to acquire new knowledge. Rather, it is to use what visitors already know to evaluate a plant. There are a number of different types of assessment tours. Some aim to determine whether a plant can fill a particular role. For example, a customer may visit a potential supplier to assess quality, or a corporate planner may visit a plant to decide if it could develop the ability to fill orders quickly enough to support the company’s new strategy. Other assessment tours focus less on a plant’s existing capabilities and more on how that plant might be changed to perform better or differently in the future.”
During the earliest days of industry, manufacturers found comfort in doing business with the shop across town. They believed that doing business with a long-time, trusted local source was the way to ensure both quality and cost, as well as to build a stronger community. In time, however, it became not only possible but financially desirable to procure supplies from around the globe, which in turn required those plant tours that Professor Upton was talking about.
In 1997, the term “procurement” was virtually synonymous with “purchasing,” and procurement managers generally worked under the direction of manufacturing engineers, supply chain executives, and finance officers. At the time, the best way to evaluate a supplier, as Professor Upton noted, was probably boots on the ground.
By contrast, procurement today is a far more complex and dynamic process, and it’s corporate malfeasance to do business with someone just because they’re the shop across town, a fraternity brother, or a golfing buddy. Procurement managers now may have to work with hundreds of suppliers from around the world, adding the complexity of ever-shifting concerns of shipping, international law, tariffs, currency exchange, and more.
Procurement specialists no longer work at the direction of others, but rather with them to find the most suitable suppliers. It’s not uncommon for the procurement specialist to initiate an innovation and bring it to the attention of the engineers or supply chain executives.
Procurement managers are also crucial in a crisis. Whether it’s a product recall, a humanitarian crisis, civil unrest, or a natural disaster, it may be critical that procurement responds without flinching. It could be that a supplier is unexpectedly unable to fulfill orders, or there could be an unanticipated surge in demand that must be quickly accommodated. Procurement specialists may have to identify and contract with new suppliers urgently. Better yet, they can proactively identify the lowest risk suppliers, such as those with a resilient and sustainable infrastructure, to avoid a crisis in the first place. Being able to accommodate that level of procurement requires a truly connected intelligent enterprise, one that reaches out to engineering, supply chain, finance, manufacturing, legal, marketing, and the highest levels of management.
Another benefit of digital procurement is the ability to turn a profit. It’s ironic that a business division whose central purpose is to spend money could be profitable, but it’s true. Procurement can sell data back to suppliers, who could in turn use this additional information to create superior, cost-efficient products. While it’s intuitive that suppliers should seek the maximum amount of profit from their customers, smart suppliers understand that when their customers succeed, they succeed.
Without question, there are obvious risks and liabilities in sharing information with suppliers. Not only are there competitive concerns, but legal issues as well – for example, who actually owns the data? Nonetheless, most procurement executives agree that working closely with suppliers to share information and innovate may be well worth the risk.
“Last year, 86% of procurement leaders aspired to being ‘excellent’ as a strategic business partner in the future. In 2018, only 24% consider themselves as excellent: although this is a slight improvement from 2017, it highlights the need for further improvement in business partnering by procurement teams.”
Only the best-run businesses will be excellent strategic business partners, and the best way of winning the confidence of your suppliers is to have a thoroughly integrated procurement solution. It must have an efficient digital process for sourcing both indirect and direct materials, it must work for all spend categories, and it must manage the entire source-to-contract process from integrating new bills of materials from product lifecycle management systems through sourcing, contract management, and manufacturing execution integration. It is possible. To get a glimpse of how it works, take a look at this short video.
Source Direct & Indirect Materials with SAP Ariba - YouTube
Back in 1997, Professor Upton could not have envisioned the strategic importance procurement plays today, but it’s remarkable that not long ago the most thorough way to assess a supplier was to take a quick tour of the plant. On the other hand, Professor Upton did foresee the challenge of hiring and retaining qualified industrial manufacturing talent, and that’s the topic of my next blog.
For more insight about plant tours in the 21st century, stay tuned to this six-part blog series based on my 30+ years’ experience collaborating on innovation with complex, discrete machinery manufacturers.
Software is vital to the success of businesses today. Quite simply, the speed at which you can change your software is the speed at which your business can innovate and compete. If you can’t change as fast as your peers, you’re giving them an opportunity to steal market share and competitive edge. This means there’s enormous pressure on IT teams to deliver applications, infrastructure, and services quicker than ever before.
However, an accelerated pace of delivery brings significant risk if your existing tools and processes don’t adapt at the same speed. In that case, outcomes like unplanned downtime, critical application failure, and a higher cost of delivery may be just as likely as greater business agility. For many organizations, agile development and/or DevOps are a solution to this problem. These new approaches provide the means to automatically deliver change at high speed (potentially thousands of times per day for some applications) and crucially, to do so with less risk than traditional processes.
So if that’s the case, you might well ask, why isn’t every firm already doing DevOps? Well, aside from the fact that changing the way you operate can be a very sensitive topic, particularly when you’re talking about business-critical systems like ERP, in part it’s simply because change is hard. It’s never easy to shift mindsets that have been entrenched over decades, not least because while the “downside” of change is often relatively clear – particularly in terms of cost – the benefits are not always obvious before you begin.
With that in mind, a solid business case might be essential if you’re going to get the management buy-in and investment you need for the adoption of DevOps. It might be the difference between adopting a new approach and continuing with the status quo. In this blog, I’ll suggest some key steps that can help you build a compelling business case and win you the support you need to modernize how you manage enterprise applications.
1. It’s not all about numbers
Qualitative descriptions can be useful in framing your proposal in a way that resonates with the stakeholders involved. DevOps is about modernization. It’s about optimizing resources, de-risking change, and increasing efficiency by employing automation and the principles of lean manufacturing. These terms might seem vague and perhaps irrelevant to the task at hand, but using positive, forward-looking language to position your proposal can help set the right tone and bring people with you from the very start.
2. Define what you’re asking for
Realistically, adopting DevOps in any environment, including ERP, will require some level of investment. That might be a direct cost; automation software designed to enable DevOps is essential for success, and training team members in new ways of working can take significant effort. It could also be the “opportunity cost” of reallocating people away from their normal daily work. Either way, being clear about exactly what you are asking for will avoid difficult situations at a later stage and give you a starting point for any calculation of ROI.
3. Identify quantifiable outcomes
The broad principles of DevOps help to set the scene, but they won’t be enough to justify the investment you’re asking for. You need to define some tangible outcomes that you believe are relevant to your business, such as:
Reducing the cost of downtime. DevOps can provide more rigorous processes and improve quality, stability, and risk controls, all of which combine to significantly reduce downtime in production systems. This has a significant business impact. IDC estimates that critical application failure costs up to $1 million per hour, while Gartner uses $5,600 per minute as a benchmark cost for network downtime.
Delivering business value early. DevOps can decrease development cycles and enable you to deliver solutions faster, which increases revenue and strengthens your competitive edge. If you can estimate the potential value of a change (such as a new feature), then you’ll be able to indicate the additional income (or cost savings) that earlier delivery could generate.
Eliminating expensive manual effort. DevOps helps automate the end-to-end development and delivery process. I’ve seen firms automate 90% of the development lifecycle. That adds value in numerous ways, such as reducing errors, increasing the volume of change, and freeing team members to do additional, more valuable work.
Removing rework and waste. Endless loops of QA and development occur when solutions are deployed incorrectly or incompletely or the requirements are ambiguous. DevOps shifts quality left and massively increases collaboration between teams to increase development and testing efficiency. Unnecessary work in progress may also fall into the category of “waste.” Do you know how much code has been written in your systems but never deployed?
4. Add some data
To really cement your case, supplement these general outcomes with examples of what they might mean for your business. To do so, you’ll need to identify appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) that contribute to the cost and/or efficiency of your development and delivery processes. This may not be easy. Some data might be available in the tools you use today, but much of it probably will be a “best estimate” based on discussion with members of the team. That’s OK. It’s important to remember that this process is not a science. It’s unlikely that anyone is expecting an amazingly precise cost calculation. The goal is to create a credible, understandable view of the outcomes that DevOps could deliver.
Important metrics might include:
What’s the volume and frequency of deployment (how many changes do you deliver and how often)?
What’s your cycle time (how long does it take to deliver a change from requirement to production)?
How many cycles of rework does a typical change go through (how many loops from dev to QA to dev)?
How long do approvals take on average?
What percentage of deployments fail?
How many critical production issues occur in a typical month/quarter/year?
How quickly can you recover if something goes wrong?
Once you have this information, you can start to quantify the improvement that DevOps may bring – for example, how many developer hours does a 90% decrease in manual effort actually make available? Ultimately, you may even be able to create an estimate of the cost of an “average” change and therefore the overall financial savings that DevOps can deliver.
5. Be clear on scope and approach
It’s important to set expectations effectively regarding the scope of the project you are proposing. If your intention is to start small and evolve as you prove out the method, make sure that’s clear; you’ll be more likely to secure the approval you need. On the other hand, if you’re starting with a large project or making a wholesale change in your team’s approach, it’s important to make sure the implications are transparent, including short-term risks that may lead to long-term gains. It’s also worth looking beyond your own area. In the ERP arena, we often find that teams looking to adopt DevOps can benefit from aligning with existing DevOps initiatives to leverage positive sentiment, knowledge, experience, and maybe even budget and resources that are already available.
Automating your way to success
Following this outline will help you put together a story that justifies the adoption of DevOps in terms of business outcomes rather than purely technical benefits. But remember: The amount of work you need to put into your business case will vary. For example, if you’re asking to start a small trial project in a company that has already adopted DevOps, maybe you won’t need a very detailed cost analysis to get management buy-in. Tailor your proposal to the people and circumstances you’re dealing with.
Once the business case is approved, you’ll be ready to start implementing the new tools and processes that will help you to successfully adopt DevOps.
I’m an introvert. I’m also a part-time singer. People have said to me that the stage is an unlikely place for an introvert to be comfortable. But there, I feel in control. If I’m doing my job well, the audience, the band, the engineers – all are looking to me for direction. That may seem like a daunting role, but it is really a powerful place. You are not just interacting with hundreds of people, you are singlehandedly focusing their attention and directing them toward the desired outcome: an enjoyable evening for everyone.
The same could be said of any leader – introvert or not. In their role, they direct the attention – and intention – of those they lead. And while that’s a huge responsibility, it seems to come naturally to so many. What’s their secret? I recently did some reading and found some interesting perspectives on leading companies and people. There were three common threads through much of the advice from the experts.
Ignite passion and inspire greatness
A Google search for “inspiring greatness” returns over 21 million results. Evidently, there are lots of approaches. And inspiring teams or individuals can be challenging. After all, leaders can’t mandate that their team be passionate. Where to start? Begin with the idea that everyone is passionate about something. If you can understand their passion, you can help them leverage it in their daily work. Read “6 Ways to Inspire Passion In Unmotivated Employees.”
Successful leaders also inspire their teams by modeling passionate behavior in everything they do and celebrating the successes of their teams and employees. By example, these leaders show employees how to be “all-in” every day. Read more about leadership traits that inspire teams, including authenticity, in “How to Lead Your Team and Inspire Greatness.” Some leaders use their company’s internal collaboration site to share inspiration and motivate teams. On these sites, they can share their passion for the business, and it can be consumed in-the-moment or on demand.
So, if you’ve inspired passion in your team, what’s next? As a leader, it’s your role to focus that passion on the strategies that will move your company forward. Studies have shown that only a small percentage of employees understand their company’s strategy or how they can contribute. Setting team goals can not only improve performance but also motivate the team. You’ll find ways to do this in the article “Why Your Team Must Be Setting Team Goals.”
But setting goals isn’t enough. Employees need the motivation to meet those goals and achieve the company strategy. Leaders can model this positive intention, giving team members the incentive to do the same. In his article “How Leading With Intention Drives Motivated Employees,” William Craig discusses how intention is the fuel behind “showing up and actualizing the mission.” Teams find strength and success by pulling together in the same direction.
Cultivate open, regular feedback
In live music, you sometimes have a situation where the sound “feeds back.” An open microphone picks up a sound and pushes it through the speakers where it is amplified and picked up again by the microphone, resulting in a high-pitched squeal. This loop of sound can be unwelcome if you didn’t plan it. But a creative musician can intentionally use this sound for dramatic effect. Good leaders intentionally keep an open ear for feedback and then leverage that feedback to improve their team. And they regularly give feedback that can help employees adjust their performance. You’ll find some great examples in “3 Ways You Can Provide a Feedback Loop Employees Will Value.”
Technology can help with this feedback. Most companies use a tool to cascade company and team goals and discuss performance based on those goals. But regular interaction with employees can also be based around values – those of the company and the values of the employees themselves. This helps bring teams closer together, as discussed in “Measuring Value, And Values, In Workplace Communication.” Team loyalty can be built when employees feel they add value and when they value their workplace.
A famous Chinese proverb says, “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” By leveraging the ideas of these industry experts and the technology to support them, leaders can give a performance worthy of a standing ovation.
Part 5 in the “Digital Platform” series that explores how organizations can rethink their IT infrastructure to take advantage of the increased efficiency, automation, and agility enabled by the latest intelligent technologies.
A key conundrum lies at the heart of every CIO’s decision-making process. Simply put: how to manage and leverage data in the best way possible that maximizes growth and innovation?
But of course, today’s information landscapes are no simple matter. Organizations face a glut of data from a myriad of sources, further complicated by a hodgepodge of disparate storage systems that include various multi-cloud vendors and on-premises repositories. Adding to that information headache is a growing array of digital endpoints, from mobile connected smart devices to social and business networks to public API ecosystems.
How can businesses forge ahead as intelligent enterprises if they are struggling to sift through sprawling data stored in different systems? Or if they are lacking the flexibility to quickly consume data needed to respond to shifting demands and market challenges?
A strategic approach to this data challenge
At SAP, we believe that the availability of trusted data provides much needed operational stability within an organization. But stability alone is not enough; a harmonizing layer of agility that can consume and share this trusted data is indispensable for spurring intelligent growth and innovation. A digital foundation can provide both data management and as-a-service application development, not only unifying data systems and processes but readying customers to continuously adapt to evolving business and technology conditions.
A stable, unified data landscape
The forward-thinking approach is to deploy a platform capable of executing data practices for strong security and governance that brings stability to and confidence in data systems and processes. Fragmented IT landscapes can be overhauled by integrating disparate on-premises and cloud-based systems to unify structured and unstructured data, analytics, and business processes across the organization. A data management solution can supply the intelligent enterprise with all the tools it needs—including access and process controls, data privacy encryption, masking, and anonymization functionality—to manage and orchestrate all corporate data on a single platform.
Support for business innovation
Toward that end, an integrated cloud platform can provide essential as-a-service components and development tools. The cloud enables new applications to be rapidly created, or current applications extended, to analyze and share the trusted data that sits within the digital platform. This layer of agility is essential to organizations that aim to make meaning of data both within and outside the enterprise by putting it into the hands of decision-makers to drive business innovation.
Deliver a unified foundation for the intelligent enterprise that accelerates process innovation and harnesses the value of data across connected business applications and ecosystems. Learn more.
In today’s disruptive world, one truth is beyond dispute: Innovation is absolutely critical for sustainable business growth.
McKinsey highlights the fact that 85% of CEOs rank innovation as one of their top three strategic imperatives. And for good reason – when executed properly, innovation can be truly game-changing. Consider how electricity, the fax machine, flight, the Internet, and the mobile phone (to name just a few examples) had the power to move our collective societies forward.
With the democratization of technology, small upstarts have the potential to disrupt major industries – and you won’t even see them coming. Consider Airbnb: Founded in 2008, the company now has 3,500 employees and is valued at $35 billion, making it the second most valuable startup in America (after Uber). In contrast, Hyatt Hotels, founded in 1957, has 45,000 employees with a market cap of $7.6 billion.
Uber offers another example. Founded in 2009, it has 16,000 employees globally and a market cap of $75 billion. Automaker BMW, founded in 1916, has about 135,000 employees globally and a market cap of $45 billion.
In all of these examples, consider the time to value and compare that to the employee cost to the company.
That’s the power of innovation.
Exponential growth shouldn’t create the misconception that innovation is simple, however. Suppose you have an idea – perhaps a new product or service or a new process to help your organization save run more efficiently and save millions. To boost your chances of moving your idea forward in a meaningful way, you must master critical skills. Let’s call them innovation superpowers. Mastering these superpowers will provide a platform for others to sit up and notice your ideas and to get others to listen to what you have to say.
1. Know how to tell a story
Walt Disney understood that people don’t want to just buy products and services – they want relationships, stories, and magic. In the modern age, we call this the experience economy, and with the inclusion of exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence, it has become known as the intelligent experience economy.
This notion of magic remains true to this day. Walt Disney was one of the first to truly understand this idea of experience, and he built a billion-dollar business around it.
In today’s world, we are all pressed for time. Suppose you have an idea, and it’s a great one, a game changer. If you cannot explain your idea, capture and energize people around it, and galvanize resources for it, you’ve already lost. Your idea has become the proverbial tree that falls in an empty forest: No one is around to hear it make a noise.
One of the greatest fallacies of innovation is that it’s the best ideas that win. The truth is, the best-presented ideas are the ones that win. History is full of examples of great ideas that didn’t make it.
To help make your idea one of the best-presented ones, you need to master the superpower of storytelling. And one of the biggest hurdles ideas face is to get the right audience to listen, to understand your idea, to take interest and care. A compelling story is much more powerful than simply relaying information. Stories allow your ideas to become relatable. Listeners become characters in your tale, and your ideas resonate more powerfully.
Stories make your ideas personal. Stories create empathy. Stories allow people to feel human and to buy into your vision, and once that happens, it’s much easier for them to become part of it. Suddenly, your idea becomes real; it’s no longer an abstract concept. That is the true power of stories, and that’s why the superpower of storytelling matters when it comes to innovation.
2. Be bold, be creative, be imaginative
There’s a great old adage that states, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”
The same philosophy can be applied to your ideas. Being smart is no longer enough. For every smart person, there are at least a thousand others, in different companies all over the world, who are even smarter. How are you planning to have your ideas stand out among the crowd in this interconnected world? How are you planning to demonstrate that your ideas matter?
You must be able to think differently, and for that, you need bravery, creativity, and imagination. Organizational leaders who embrace this philosophy have thrived in the digital age.
Consider Valve Corporation, a video-game development company in Seattle, Washington, that was founded in 1996. Outside of executive management, the company has no management structures, no reporting lines, no job descriptions. Employees work on teams based on what interests them. By 2012, Valve was more profitable per employee than Google, Apple, or Microsoft.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that creativity is a natural-born talent. Creativity is actually a way of operating. Next time you have an inspirational idea, focus on your surroundings. What were you doing, and where were you? Was it morning, afternoon, or evening? What triggered the inspiration?
The goal is to understand what your specific rituals and routines were in that specific moment of creative awareness and then reaffirm them over and over. This is how creativity becomes a habit or even a lifestyle of sorts. This is how you get to control your creative process and keep churning out ideas. Master this superpower and watch it yield results.
3. Have the necessary subject-matter expertise
You need to know what you are talking about. That doesn’t mean you must be the uber-expert in the domain of your idea, but you at least need to understand the fundamentals and how they relate to moving your business agenda forward.
This superpower is important because people don’t invest only in an idea. Ask any venture capitalist and they’ll tell you – they invest in people. Ideas change, but the people executing on them change less. They invest in personal equity: passion, purpose, knowledge, expertise, and skill set. Knowing your stuff when it comes to your idea gives you the confidence to tackle the difficult tasks. This confidence is visible when you communicate, and it creates an aura of competence that cultivates trust.
Become the go-to person for your idea, the face people associate with your idea, the champion of your idea. Embracing this superpower will give you credibility and confidence before and after pitching your idea.
4. Create clarity and a compelling vision
Take ownership of your idea. It is your idea, after all. Make sure you drive it, you give it life, you own it, you inspire others with it, you generate energy around it, you get the necessary resources for it – you, you, you. There will always be doubters who give you thousands of reasons why your idea shouldn’t be done – but believe in your idea. When you are told that your idea is too radical, stay true to your vision and double down on it. Clearly articulate the business benefits and transformative impact of your idea.
Remember: If you don’t build your dreams, someone will hire you to build theirs. There’s nothing wrong with building other people’s dreams; it’s a path that most people take, and many are very successful. But make sure it’s the choice you make. Don’t just let it happen to you.
5. Get things done
Mastering this superpower is critical. If you can’t get things done, your idea will die, period! In fact, many entrepreneurs’ ideas die here because they are unable to master this superpower and execute on their ideas.
There will always be unforeseen challenges and barriers, resource shortages, people issues, etc. Regardless, you must master the power of moving forward. An IDEO mantra reads, “Don’t get ready, get started.” Things will evolve from there. The quicker you start, the quicker you’ll learn, iterate, and evolve your idea.
Getting things done is the most critical superpower to ensure that your idea makes it from concept to execution. Consider this: The world would never have known Harry Potter if J.K. Rowling had given up after 10 manuscript rejections. Rowling’s brainchild was rejected 12 times before it was finally published, and the world hasn’t been the same since.
So what’s next for your idea, for the industry you find yourself in? What impact will your ideas have on the world? How will you use your ideas to create value and drive purpose that makes a difference? Master your innovation superpowers! Create a future that makes a better life for all of us.
Do you know where the canned tuna you are eating for dinner came from?
There is a 60% chance it comes from the Pacific Ocean. And according to recent findings by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), an international corporate watchdog, if it did, there is an 88% chance that it came from a company that does not conduct due diligence with the specific aim of uncovering modern slavery in their supply chains.
In fact, out of the 20 companies that responded to the reports, only 20% said they had mapped out their supply chains in full, and just eight percent stated they require their subcontractors to enforce their modern slavery-prevention policies throughout their supply chains.
The good news is that, according to the report, all 20 companies have “made a public commitment to respect human rights, which includes addressing modern slavery.”
To enable this, they need to have visibility, traceability, sustainability, and collaboration through a multi-tiered supply chain – from the source of raw materials to the delivery of goods to the end customers – a common challenge across many industries.
Social, economic, and environmental sustainability at the heart of supply chains
Data from Nielsen finds that 66% of global customers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods.
These customers are looking to buy from companies that:
Design products that are biodegradable and environmentally sustainable
Source materials ethically from organizations that follow social and humanitarian practices
Deliver with logistics processes that optimize loads to reduce mileage, emissions, and carbon footprint
Operate assets and equipment in an energy-efficient manner that is safe for the environment and workforce
While these may be daunting challenges, companies have an incentive to move forward beyond the moral imperative. Sustainable supply chain processes, after all, are good not only for the environment but also for worker safety, customer satisfaction, and – in many cases – for cost reduction.
So, next time you go to a store to get a can of tuna, wouldn’t it be great if you had an app on your phone on which you could scan a QR code that would enable you to track the journey back through the distribution centers, factories, and warehouses, all the way to the ship in the Pacific Ocean, and back to the happy, Fair Trade-certified fishermen that caught your dinner.
That’s one big advantage that banks have over their new-age competitors. Today’s savviest banks are using it, along with other data sets from inside and outside their organizations, to compete in a world of dynamic fintechs, alternative currencies, and radically changing customer expectations.
You already know the benefits of data analytics: growing revenue, mitigating risk, reducing costs, enhancing the customer experience. But tapping data from across and outside of the enterprise for analytics on a grand scale is easier said than done.
From our global experience working with the leading innovative banks, here are some SAP “next practices,” capabilities, and outcomes to help banks align and prioritize their data analytics journeys.
Integrate diverse data sources
Data is scattered. It’s in multiple applications, files, data warehouses, data lakes, and public and private clouds. Each silo walls off the data with proprietary rules and complexity. You need visibility into that data. Without it, your bank lacks an overview of the business. With it, you can use process automation to recognize patterns and opportunities. You can redeploy staff to model and test decisions, invent new products and business models, and enhance the experience for your customers.
Next practice 1: Integrate your data by combining data sets — including Big Data, transactional data, and analytical data — as needed, into a single data universe for much greater visibility.
Make data more useful
Next practice 2: Integrate your data sources using orchestration and governance solutions. Go from raw feed to intelligence with real-time analysis of vast data sets. How? With solutions to understand, integrate, cleanse, manage, associate, and archive data to optimize business processes and analytical insights.
Simplify your data landscape
Centralized. Easy-to-use. Automated. That’s what you want from your data analytics environment. But that’s been a challenge with all of the different databases, apps, and clouds in your IT environment. But now a centralized data management solution is available that manages all facets of an enterprise bank’s data universe. Represented visually, the architecture is easy to share and understand. Stakeholders assigned to an architecture team within your bank can collaborate through a user-friendly Web application in the planning, design, and governance of the architecture.
Next practice #3: Create and maintain a complete landscape architecture that is easy to share and understand. Open up this landscape to an array of banking employees and managers to jointly manage your data environment as an agile, strategic tool.
A growing number of data analytics use cases for banks
Today, data analytics fuels the decisions of the most successful and innovative banks. It is touted as a vital tool for innovating faster than the competition, creating new markets and products, and attracting and retaining customers.
SAP customers in banking are using data analytics to measure and take proactive actions related to customer sentiment, retention, and personalization. They are using process mining to analyze vast amounts of transactional data in real time and then represent it visually for a clear view of as-is business processes to support compliance and improvements.
Banks are managing integrated data landscapes via a user-friendly Web interface that is accessible to an array of internal business and IT stakeholders. Liquidity risk is being managed in real time. Multiple sub-ledgers for financial accounting are being consolidated into one to support real-time planning and financial consolidation.
These are just some of the many quickly evolving, creative ways that financial, customer, operational, and related data is being accessed, integrated, processed, analyzed, and applied to guide strategy by banks today. Some use cases are relevant to every bank. Others are more suited to different geographies, markets, and other unique characteristics.
– Tammy Powlas, Senior Business Analyst at Fairfax Water and SAP Mentor
Business users today have specific needs for analytics insights, no matter which application they are using. This podcast discusses how modern, customizable analytics solutions can provide those business insights at the fingertips of end users in all departments of the enterprise.
The era of one-size-fits-all analytics is over… if it ever existed in the first place. Data-driven businesses need to customize their analytics to generate the specific insights that will increase efficiency, lower costs, and propel the business forward.
Thankfully, businesses don’t have to settle for off-the-rack analytics anymore. It’s never been easier to create customized analytics solutions tailor-made for specific business cases across the enterprise.
On this episode, Tammy Powlas, a CPA, project manager, and SAP expert, shares how business leaders can get their own custom analytics applications up and running.
– Tammy Powlas, Senior Business Analyst at Fairfax Water and SAP Mentor
Listen to Learn
How to get started with custom analytics applications
What skills are required to build and maintain a custom application
What functionality to expect versus off-the-shelf solutions
How analytics will continue to evolve in the near future
About Our Guest
Tammy Powlas is a CPA and Certified Project Management Professional. She is also an SAP Mentor, top SAP Community Contributor, and SAP certified in BW, FI, CO, SEM, and ASAP.
– Tammy Powlas, Senior Business Analyst at Fairfax Water and SAP Mentor
Tamara: Welcome to the (SAP) Tech Unknown podcast. I’m your host, Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium.
Business users today have specific needs for analytics and insights, I mean, no matter which application they’re using. In this podcast, we’re gonna discuss how modern, customizable analytic solutions can provide those business insights at the fingertips of end users in all departments of the enterprise. And with us to share this information, I’m so excited to have you join with us to meet Tammy Powlas. Tammy is a certified public accountant, certified project management professional, and SAP certified in multiple areas. Tammy, welcome to the Tech Unknown Podcast. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are now?
Tammy: Well, I thank you for that introduction, Tamara. I’ve been working on reporting for several years, starting with SaaS several years ago, and that led into SAP in the business warehouse and business objects, and now, SAP Analytics Cloud, and I’m also an SAP mentor. And mentors provide guidance and feedback to SAP in technologies and strategies. And I’ve also been an SAP community hero, top contributor on the SAP community as well.
Tamara: Wow. I mean, I was reading a little bit about your background as I hope every host would. And I was [impressed] by how many things that you’ve done, and achieved, and accomplished. And, you know, what you’re doing within that community of SAP, and it is a community, how has your experience been with the SAP community?
Tammy: Well, I’ve been active in the SAP community about nine years, and I’ve been an Americas’ SAP User Group volunteer about 12 years. And I feel like the more you contribute to the SAP community, the more you learn. And to me, you know, contributing is one of those noblest callings. And like I said, you always learn more than what you give to it. So, it’s been a lot of fun.
Tamara: And do you recommend that people should really get involved with this community and reading and posting over there?
Tammy: Oh, absolutely. I think the more you give, the more you learn, and the more you’re able to help your company and your career. And it makes the day interesting, I think. There’s always something new going on. You know, SAP is a big, big company with a lot of products. And there’s always something new going on, some new innovations, and things to keep up with that really keep you into with the community.
Tamara: You know, I thought what would be really interesting for our listeners is if you could share with us some business use cases, and specifically around who can benefit the most from analytics application design.
Tammy: Well, really, it’s an application in the cloud. It’s built off of SAP Analytics Cloud, and it allows you to create enterprise-wide dashboards and create wide, robust applications, and you can provide your end users with guided navigation and drill-down capabilities. And to me, it gives you an ability to see things in a new light. It gives you professional applications in the cloud. And it also integrates with planning in the cloud and predictive in the cloud. So it really gives you the opportunity to create sophisticated applications.
Tamara: You know, that’s pretty fantastic. And you know, what is, in your opinion, the overall function scope of application design?
Tammy: Well, it’s an enterprise application designing tool and it allows your developers or your power users to use the SAP Analytics Cloud content and take it further by customizing and configuring the behavior with a specific set of elements. And it’s similar to the SAP linear designer application, which is on-premise, but it’s in the cloud, and it also brings in those great inbuilt planning and predictive capabilities. So it takes your self-service analytics one step further. And SAP is always providing new features and updates in every release cycle. So, the roadmap for SAP analytics designers is promising with a lot of improvements. And the best thing of all is the licensing is included as part of the SAP Analytics Cloud subscription.
Tamara: You know, when we’re talking about custom-designed analytic solutions, I mean, what kind of functionality can people really expect?
Tammy: Well, the scripting capabilities, they deliver custom capabilities to your end users, you know well, the SAP Analytics Cloud stories deliver content, but it provides standardized in interaction and navigation. The analytic application gives customized user experiences in interactions, and it’s primarily through scripting. Additionally, you can build customized planning applications. So it’s something that gives it a more professional and sophisticated look, and it’s for your developer and power users.
Tamara: You know, then, okay, this custom-designed piece is fantastic. But if you’re gonna really compare, how does the functionality actually compare to, say, some of the off-the-shelf type solutions?
Tammy: You know, the off-the-shelf solutions, I would worry as an SAP customer about the connections back to SAP. You know, SAP customers, they’ve invested a lot in their SAP solutions. And the thing about the SAP analytics designer, there’s that functionality to embed your analytics inside your SAP applications, giving your day-to-day users a nice, professional user experience.
Tamara: Myself, even as a business leader, and for anyone who’s listening, I just wonder, Tammy, if we could pick your brain a little bit about how you would recommend a business leader get started with customizable analytics solutions.
Tamara: That’s fantastic. And you know, actually, you got to meet some of my IT team earlier today, which is pretty cool. So these are genuine questions. You know, so how can someone actually lay the groundwork, though, within the organization if we’re making a shift to smarter analytics? And I think this is such a big… This is a really important issue because when we’re looking at digital transformation initiatives, and organizations really trying to, not only shore up their resources, but really allocate where they’re going to, you know, put their investment. I mean, the groundwork is actually pretty critical. How can we do that?
Tammy: Well, you know, I would recommend start today by using SAP Analytics Cloud, and you can go to sapanalytics.cloud, and there’s a free trial there. And then the SAP analytics designer is a part of SAP Analytics Cloud. And if you as a customer, you know, you’ve made a big investment in your on-premise solution, you can consider some hybrid analytics scenarios, such as using SAP Analysis Office with SAP Analytics Cloud. So I would start today. And again, there’s a lot of free materials on the SAP community.
Tamara: I saw that you’re actually one of the top contributors to the SAP community network. You know, you were listed as the top contributor back 2011 through 2016. And, A, what does that mean, “top contributor,” and, B, can you tell us the story behind that?
Tammy: Well, top contributor means, you know, I’ve helped answer questions or written blogs to help the community and, you know, people rated them well. And I think it’s a good way of giving back to the community. But like I said, I’ve learned a lot more than I’ve given. I think every day I go out there, there’s something new I didn’t know that helps my company and helps my career and be a better SAP user, or power user, or developer. So again, I think it’s a noble calling to contribute, and it’s an honor to help the community.
Tamara: All right, I just think it’s so valuable and it’s what’s needed. And honestly, we’re all, like, scratching our heads trying to, you know, I would say get up to speed, but I actually think that’s not even accurate. We’re just all trying to catch up. And, you know, I think that mentoring relationship is absolutely critical. And, you know, just a little bit more, if you will allow me to dive a little deeper into you, Tammy, the person, how did you decide you wanted to become a CPA?
Tammy: A CPA, well, you know, I was always good with math and I always enjoyed it. And it just did sort of, like, what we talked earlier about an analytical background, and it just sort of, you know, they made sense. And, you know, I still think of today, you know, accountants keep the world in balance. So it’s a great way to use the math skills, and really, you understand what’s going on in the company too.
Tamara: Yeah. But you know, looking down the road a bit, I mean, for me as a technology futurist, and looking at our future of life, our future of work, this is kind of where I live, I wonder… And you don’t have to be correct. Again, you know, when you cast a knowing glance around the corner into the future, it’s more about, you know, taking a look with the best information that you have now, what do you think you and I would be talking about five years from now?
Tammy: Well, you know, I think it’s probably already here. Maybe I just don’t know it. I think there’s gonna be more of an Alexa type analytics, where we talk to the apps, and it kind of concerns me, because, like, right now, there’s so much natural language generation and search to insight. There’s so many of those features now. Then it’s gonna be voice enabled. And I’m just worried that we’re gonna get to the point where, that old saying, “Talk to the hand, the mind ain’t listening,” and now we’re gonna be talking to the app, the mind ain’t listening. You know, I think it’s probably there now and I just don’t know it. And, you know, it’s really gonna get interesting.
Tamara: It is. You’re right. It’s here now, right? Genie is out of the bottle, vocal interfaces are here, they’re getting much more sophisticated. And by the way, with other… I mean, I think this is the juicy part about technology is that, you know, technology doesn’t live in silos like we often do as human beings. And one piece of technology affects all the others in this reverberation. And when, you know, I was in Barcelona, this year at Mobile World Congress, you know, and I’ve been there many, many years again, and again, and again, where we were talking about 5G and about what we might do with it. But this was the first year when I actually saw it demonstrated. And it really blew my mind that we’re no longer just talking about the future, we’re actually living in it right now. And these vocal interfaces are quite powerful. Now we’re, you know, seeking answers to questions, and we are driving a lot through analytics. And when you utilize a vocal interface that also then is utilizing other modalities, such as these mixed reality settings, it’s… When you look at the business application for that and then transformation of the workforce of the future with that, and how we will learn, and how we will grow, and how we will innovate, it’s positively mind-blowing, don’t you think?
Tammy: Oh, absolutely. And just think we were talking about accounting earlier, the CFO could just say, “Generate my financial statement and my analysis,” whereas, in the past, we spent hours writing the management, his statement of opinion is just gonna generate, “Just give me my financial statement.”
Tamara: Yeah. And I know some of my team will be happy about that because some of the reporting we do, some people are like, “Wait a minute, it’s 3:00 p.m, on a Friday, this means I’m gonna be working the weekend.” And how nice will it be to have access to that kind of data and those insights at our fingertips.
Tamara: All right, so now I’m gonna ask you an even bigger question. And this is gonna just ask you to step out of the analytical CPA mindset and go, all right, complete, total, off-the-leash futurist. Ten years from now, Tammy, what do we talk about?
Tammy: Well, I think it’s more virtual reality, more augmented reality more… And these aren’t new concepts. I think, you know, I learned about them about 20 years ago in grad school. It’s just, you know, now we’ve got the technology in CPUs to see it through, to see it end to end. And it’s almost like we’re living the Star Trek Next Generation, I think, because, you know, they have all these holograms and stuff. And I think you probably already saw that stuff too at the conferences you go to, so it’s not gonna be dull. How’s that?
Tamara: Right. It’s like, “Fasten your seat belts, people, we’re in for a wild ride.” Well, my last question, I mean, I’m genuinely curious, what makes you wake up in the morning inspired? What is it about what you do and how you’re living…? It doesn’t have to be professional, but it can be a little bit of both personal and professional. What really lights you up?
Tammy: You know, for me, it’s always like, “What can I learn new today? What can I do differently today? You know, what can I do differently?” And then, you know, part of that is, you know, contributing to the SAP community. And again, always learning there and giving back. And then learning more, and helping my company run SAP better. So, you know, that keeps me motivated, along with a healthy dose of exercising.
Tamara: Well, you know, that’s always good, right? Well, I really appreciate you discussing with us about analytics today. And, you know, I do think that, you know, as we’re looking at… I mean, everyone who’s been to any sort of business conference… You know, I wouldn’t even guess, we’ve been talking about digital transformation for a long time now, but now, it’s actually become not a nice to have, but it’s imperative. We’re talking about needing to innovate. And it’s difficult for some of these larger legacy companies and enterprise companies to innovate, just from the structure, the massive largeness of an organization. But when we talk about intelligent business in needing to boost business intelligence, and the pairing with customized analytic solutions versus straight out of the box, these are really important pieces. And I think sometimes it can be for business leaders a bit overwhelming with what to do first, how to prioritize, who’s owning what, and how it’s actually going to be, well, actualized within the organization. So I really appreciate your insights on this. I mean, since you are such a prolific mentor on the SAP community site, you know, any last words of wisdom or messages that you have for anyone out there that is looking to really boost those business intelligence pieces with a customized analytic solution?
Tammy: Well, I think I said it before is, you know, get out in the SAP community and start learning today with all the free tutorials and materials. And, you know, I think that’s a great way to get started. And, you know, SAP has the free trial. So, you know, there’s no time like today to get started. So it’s an exciting time, like we talked about. And you know, there’s a lot with this tool, and I didn’t even cover it with the analytics designing, the smart discovery, the augmented analytics. So it’s an exciting time, it’s not that hard to learn. You know, I’m not a programmer myself and I can do it. So I think, as a CPA and accountant can do it, anybody can do it.
Tamara: Well, my biggest takeaways from talking with you is…
Tammy: Start today.
Tamara: Start today. So it’s all about now.
Tammy: Yes, absolutely. Thank you.
Tamara: Tammy, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us, and your insights, and for getting a little personal with us, too. I really appreciate it. Everyone, it’s been such a pleasure. Tammy Powlas, and, where can we all find you? Where can we connect with you? Are you on LinkedIn? How can we find you?
Tammy: Probably the easiest way is Twitter @tpowlas. See you there.
Tamara: All right, fantastic. Well, if we’re not following you, we’re missing out. So thank you so much for joining us. And everyone, this has been a fantastic conversation about boosting our business intelligence with customized analytics with Tammy Powlas. Thank you so much.
Thanks for listening to the Tech Unknown podcast. Find us at Digitalistmag.com for a full transcript of this episode and more. And don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.