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Former Member
By Fred Isbell, senior director and head of thought Leadership – Digital Business Services Marketing, SAP

It’s that time of year again: Retrospective sharing of what we’ve learned in 2016. These “aha moments” have given us a glimpse of how far we’ve coming in our increasingly digital world and showcase how much further we still need to go. I took a look across my 2016 Digitalist BLOG posts to help me get started and some common themes, conclusions and direction emerged.

One of my favorite pop culture moments of all time is David Letterman’s “Top 10” lists. Although this is probably lost on most millennials, I found his approach to be both humorous and a great way to present information. From Webcasts to conference sessions, I enjoyed distilling things into my own “Top 10” list. So in the spirit of the season, here are my Top 10 learnings and ”aha moments” from 2016.

1.) Everything old is new again: Reflecting the changing role of the CFO, new finance strategies for running a Live Business and digital transformation are being explored. While the evolution of the finance function and the enabling technology and innovation are hardly new concepts, exciting and new opportunities are emerging. For example, in-memory technology has come of age as previous limitations on speed and data are no longer an issue, and greater data-driven insights are leading to significant impact and value. View the on-demand Webcast replay, featuring experts from SAP, E&Y and Reuters News Agency for their insights.

2.) A solid business case for digital transformation: Businesses need to address key elements of their digital transformation journey with five key learnings:

  • Seize the opportunity for innovation, but plan for quick adoption to gain the maximum market advantage.

  • Plan for value. Digital transformation is real, and we are beyond the hype phase and require tangible results.

  • Embrace digital business frameworks and leverage unique project opportunities to bring innovation to fruition and become a change agent and leader.

  • Make a solid business case for innovation by embracing simplification, move beyond buzzwords, and define and realize tangible economics benefits.

  • Make your points and build the optimal business case through storytelling to simplify the narrative and deliver the story you want the audience to hear

3.) IT leadership for the next-generation digital transformation: Like the CFO and finance line of business, the IT function is undergoing both massive changes and calling for new leadership. This includes key best practices, new and expanded expertise, and responsibilities that extend beyond traditional focus areas, requiring:

  • Increased collaboration across the enterprise

  • Flexibility and scalability in the organization’s digital strategy

  • Acknowledgment that disruption happens in unlikely places, encouraging leaders to look beyond the obvious sources of disruption and avoid being “Ubered” out of existence

Hear more from experts from SAP, the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Americas SAP User Group (ASUG) ASUG by viewing the on-demand replay “IT Leadership for the Next Phase of Digital Transformation.”

4.) Cloud solutions deliver tangible benefits: While the cloud is still relatively new, the fundamental transition from a product-centric approach to a service- and consumption-based strategy is quickly changing everything. For example, Delak US Holdings successfully deployed a cloud solution based on a private managed cloud platform environment. View the on-demand Webcast, and hear about the company’s journey.

5.) IT solutions and services firms are focused on delivering predictable business outcomes: Facing a mandate for increased profitability and reoccurring revenue, solutions and services firms are experiencing new and more pervasive change. The expansion of everything-as-a-service (XaaS) and a fundamental shift from capital expenditures (CAPEX) to operational expenditures (OPEX) is driving services and solutions based on predictable business outcomes. The challenge of growth and profit is front and center more than ever.

6.) Modern services marketing and thought leadership have never been more important: The world of services marketing is undergoing unprecedented transformation in parallel with the businesses we support. Digital marketing is rapidly becoming a component of core marketing. Thought leadership and storytelling not only help simplify what we convey, but also deliver the message we want the audience to hear without requiring them to assemble the story – and in the end (hopefully), they will arrive at the intended conclusion.

7.) The Internet of Things is accelerating the growth of data. This is beyond people-based inputs -- sensor- and machine-based communications are growing at an exponential rate. The Internet of Things (IoT) was a key concept throughout the year and has been steadily navigating the hype cycle. Use cases, including wearable technology in World Cup hockey and smart houses, demonstrate that the Internet of Things and wearable technology are indeed “the new black” as we continue in this era of data ubiquity and volume at a geometrically expanding rate. View an on-demand replay of a Webcast focused on the IoT with subject-matter experts from SAP and Ovum for additional insights.

8.) Making a solid business case for cloud solutions means moving beyond the hype: The debate is over; cloud solutions are well passed the height of hype. Now, this technology is arriving at the plateau of real and tangible business results. Not only is cloud maturity and migration real, but those who adopt the cloud will reap first-mover benefits. Managed services cloud deployment can facilitate the execution of the digital business framework and the required digital core. For Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this proved to be a classic reduced barrier to entry adoption model with a high level of security and a built-in support system. View an on-demand replay on this topic with experts from SAP, Technology Business Research (TBR), and MIT for additional insights.

9.) Marketing professionals can benefit from drinking from the proverbial firehouse of knowledge: We all need to get out of the office once in a while and network with our peers. For me, this meant attending the SiriusDecisions Summit, which some names “The Woodstock of B2B Marketing.” A major change coming to marketing is the movement to predictive analytics and the growing role of technology in bringing modern marketing to fruition as outlined by the experts from SiriusDecisions and a variety of practitioners.

10.) It’s all about customers and use cases: By far the most enjoyable and valuable insights gained during 2016 came from customers. By attending conferences including SAPPHIRE NOW/ASUG 2016, TISA/TSW, and SAPInsider, there was no shortage of insights. I had the great privilege to cover some great customer stories and showcase their journey to digital transformation and key benefits accrued along the way, including:

Well that wraps up 2016. I look forward to an amazing new year in 2017 and lots of new insights and learnings to apply to next year’s “Top 10” list of key learnings and aha moments!

Fred is the senior director and head of Thought Leadership for Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP.

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