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Former Member
With the end of the year approaching, many of us will be looking back over the last twelve months to take stock of where we are. I have often described digital transformation as a “journey” and here, too, it’s important for organizations to reflect on the changes and progress that they have made.

But this is a journey with a difference, with no predefined path to follow. There are two reasons for this: First, every organization must understand what digitalization means for their specific business. There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint with step-by-step instructions on what it takes to become digital. And secondly, even when an organization has clarified its vision of its digital future, the goalposts are constantly changing. The technologies available to us are evolving at an incredible rate. While this, of course, presents us with many exciting opportunities, this constant stream of new options can nevertheless be overwhelming.

Intelligent enterprise essentials

So how do you best negotiate this unique challenge? The answer lies in being best prepared for whatever the future might bring. Companies need to focus on their ability to continuously adapt to – and, very importantly, actively shape – their markets. This kind of agility requires intelligence in every aspect and at every level of an organization.

The good news is that while there is no one magic formula to create the intelligent enterprise, at SAP, we see five clear areas that every company should prioritize on their digital journey:

  • Openness at every level
    “Openness” applies not only at the level of the technology – open source software, open APIs, the ability to combine data sets from multiple sources to provide the optimal training conditions for algorithms, and so on. Openness as a mindset across the entire organization and beyond is key to reimagining business models and disruptive innovation. This means, for example, embracing approaches such as serverless computing, complementary partnerships, and new engagement models. Openness is crucial because it allows you to focus on what you do best.

  • The data-driven organization
    A top priority for any company embarking on their digital transformation is data, or to be more specific, access to real-time data. Whether it is data from an internal or external source, structured or unstructured, companies need the tools to manage, govern, analyze, and gain insights from their data as and when they need them.

  • Automation and autonomy – Artificial Intelligence as the fuel for new value creation
    From automating individual functional tasks right through to end-to-end process automation and ultimately autonomy, the aim is to free up resources, enabling employees to spend their time on the tasks that create the most value for customers. Artificial intelligence can augment and even completely remove human-machine interaction, in both cases vastly improving organizations’ ability to deliver this additional value. At SAP, we are both embedding intelligence into our products and helping our customers understand how they can take advantage of, for example, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things to completely rethink their business scenarios.

  • Conversational user interface: Advanced human-machine interaction Gartner research has found that the next generation of consumers expect self-service options and a customer engagement process that allows them to accomplish tasks without any human interaction. Consumers of all generations have also grown accustomed to the benefits offered by the digital assistants in our phones, homes, and cars. The desire to extend this consumer-grade experience into the business context therefore comes as no surprise. Intelligent enterprises will leverage the capabilities of natural language processing and machine learning to offer a cognitive and conversational user experience. Based on their role and the specific business context, users will be guided through complex workflows, with the digital assistants recognizing and learning from situations and providing insights and suggestions for next steps. Indeed, so great is the expected impact that Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.

  • The Platform is the foundation
    Finally, it’s the platform that pulls all of these aspects together. As I’ve explained in an earlier blog, I believe platforms are so important because they bridge entire industries, allowing companies to reach new partners and communities, thereby creating exciting new ecosystems. Many companies have completely reimagined their business models in this way, showing the impact of platforms on the digital economy is not to be underestimated. Under Armour, for example, transformed from a one-website company to the world’s largest digital fitness brand thanks to its shift of focus from sports product to connected fitness platform.

As the pace of digitalization shows no signs of slowing down, optimization of business processes alone is no longer enough. Enterprises need to explore how they can harness the power of technology to make their business more intelligent. Understanding the potential of data, automation and autonomy, openness, advanced human-machine interaction, and platforms for your business – and the ways in which they can impact and enable your employees, customers, and partners – is essential to success in the digital age. Looking ahead to new year, it’s a great time to define the intelligent enterprise your company can become.