Information for Business from Lenovo
Andrew Storrier
Contributor: Andrew Storrier
Four insights from the SAP User Group Summit 2015

This year’s conference covered a range of topics, including SAP implementation, data-driven HR management, how to use big data, financial transformations, technology optimisation and much more.

Despite the near-overwhelming amount of information, Lenovo took away four key themes.

1. Technology and innovation are creating new industries

Technology has done more than just bring to life a bevy of new industries – it has also introduced unprecedented commercialisation to the digital sphere, forcing many companies to adapt their own business models.

To succeed in this new era, businesses must demonstrate agility and a willingness to evolve in order to remain competitive. New digital challenges that would traditionally be seen as a threat are now must-have growth opportunities. Resistance to change is almost certainly futile.

In his keynote ‘Digital transformation and innovation with SAP solutions’, Sven Denecken, SAP global vice president of co-innovation and strategy, said:

“I speak with so many customers who say I’m in banking or retail. I tell them you’re not. You’re in multiple industries. Your industries are changing, […] challenged by the market and digital transformation.”

He said using technology to speed up business processes is “just one small step” to transformation. Rather, many need to rethink entire business models and, in some instances, an organisation’s commercial foundation can change dramatically in just a few short years.

“Today you may be in production. Tomorrow you might be a service business.”

On day two, Holger Mueller’s keynote ‘Technological complexity, running simple and the future for SAP solutions’ reiterated this idea. Mueller explained that trucking has transformed into a software industry:

“You need to know what you can load on [a truck], what you can additionally load on that, what your driver is certified for, what is the preference of your driver to stop at a truck stop, where does he regularly fuel up, where is the cheapest fuel for that.

“The latest craze in the US is you put a portable weather station on the truck. Because when you [sell] weather capture from a truck driving across the Midwest, you make more money selling that data to the national weather service than from making a truckload.”

2. Big data isn't about size, it's about context

Big data – one of the current digital age’s hot topics – has helped create new insights into the commercial habits of consumers and clients. However, the amount of data organisations analyse doesn’t always correlate to more valuable insights. According to Paul Hawking, SAP mentor and program director at Victoria University, it is the context behind each dataset that brings out its true worth.

“I’m a big believer in context: extra information about information,” Hawking said in his session ‘Forget the hype – how to find real value in big data’. “For example, a tomato is a fruit, but your knowledge and experience tells you that you don’t tend to use tomatoes in fruit salads. Forget about the size of the dataset – forget about whether it’s unstructured data or structured data. It’s a different type of analysis.”

Denecken echoed this point with an example about salespeople deciding on which deal to chase: the $1 million deal, the $800k deal or the $600k deal. Without context, salespeople are more likely to chase the million-dollar deal “because that’s what they’re living for”.

However, the company might benefit more from the $800k deal in terms of margin and the company’s ability to service and maintain a long-term relationship with the client. Providing that kind of real-time data can better inform the salesperson’s decision.

Further, increasing communication between different areas of the business can create free-flowing information, which adds important context to all the data each employee works with.

“These are the boundaries we need to cross,” said Denecken. “We need to get above that cubicle line between those silos. And I believe there are boundaries of technology we need to start to rethink.”

3. Cater to the segment of one

The digital age is creating a world where users and consumers are always connected with the businesses that serve them. With more and more information becoming available to feed analytics systems, it is no longer sufficient to categorise by traditional segments, such as demographic or purchase history.

Businesses need to start using the wealth of information at their fingertips to personally segment each of their consumers and cater to their individual interests and priorities. Denecken said understanding the connection a business has to its consumers is the “secret sauce of how you will do business in the future”.
In his session ‘Engage your customers like never before’, John Goldrick, head of APJ Centre of Excellence, customer engagement and commerce, said:

“The challenge for an organisation is how to figure out when to talk to somebody, because there are 30 or 40 different contact points [in the buying cycle] and every one can be quite different to the other. There are infinite possibilities you have as far as journeys people take when they’re buying from you.”

Goldrick used the example of researching for three months before walking into the store to buy a car and saying to the salesperson: “I know what I want. I’ll have that one”. While salespeople still play an important part in every sales funnel, organisations need to use the information available to them to communicate with customers at every stage of their purchasing process. 

As Denecken said: “Your most viable product is your connection to your consumer.”

4. Implementation matters less than the outcome

New technology brings many exciting possibilities – such as cloud software providing businesses with simple flexibility and scalability – but it’s easy to get caught up in that excitement and carried away with the technology. Deploying a new platform is meaningless unless it has a favourable outcome for the consumer.

“Innovation only happens if what we’re thinking about and discussing is in the hands of an end user,” Denecken said. “The delivery methodology, for me, is secondary. [Instead] it is the question about how fast we can get the business outcome or the change applied. If we can do that with a cloud solution, let’s do it with a cloud solution first, because we can simplify and standardise the process.”

According to Mueller, failure to focus on outcomes can muddy the real value of tools and processes such as analytics.

“Real analytics, as I define it, is something that takes action,” Mueller said. “Your active braking system in your car is real analytics. It doesn’t ask if you want a pie chart – it brakes for you. Because taking action is a little scary in a business environment, at least make a recommendation. Tell me which manufacturing plan I should follow, tell me which lead I should chase today, which recruit to hire. That’s true analytics.”

The future of the digital age holds many mysteries, but this year the SAUG Summit demystified a few. Businesses are more connected to their users than ever before and must use the associated data in effective ways that deliver business outcomes. Here’s to solving more riddles next year.

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