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4 Critical Questions to Ask Before Beginning Your Journey

Editor's note: This article by Sameer Patel, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Enterprise Social Software at SAP, is reproduced from the Oct-Nov-Dec 2014 issue of SAPinsider ( with permission from its publisher, WIS Publishing. Read the entire special report on social collaboration at

With more than 40 years of experience and investment in ERP- and e-commerce-enabled operational efficiency at their companies, business leaders have now entered a time in which entire industries are being digitally transformed.

Uber and Airbnb are fundamentally changing the definition of products in transportation and hospitality, for example, by creating a more efficient networked economy of sellers and buyers.

Digital businesses that have effectively built strong bonds with customers are now encroaching on the established market share in adjacent industries. Chinese internet retailer Alibaba, for instance, is repurposing its trusted digital relationships with millions of consumers to create Yu’e Bao, the second largest mutual fund in China, disrupting traditional banks’ revenue sources.

Digital transformation differs from previous innovation spurts. At its core are three elements:

1. Purpose-built networks of employees, customers, and partners collaborating to build and sell meaningful products

2. Real-time analytics that provide rapid optimization to improve the customer experience and drive margins

3. Radically more engaging experiences for customers enabled by sophisticated data analysis and micro-segmenting

How can established companies seize these digital transformation opportunities to lead their industries through today’s changes — and keep upstarts from threatening their business?

4 Critical Questions

"It’s not as simple as selecting siloed, cookie-cutter applications"

Organizations can look to technology to help foster change and improve efficiency. Technology platforms provide a plethora of functionality that enables companies to transform their businesses — but it’s not as simple as selecting siloed, cookie-cutter applications.

Rather, leaders should be asking four imperative questions before implementing any solution:

  1. How can I assemble the right people, data, processes, and content around each discrete task to drive customer, employee, and partner performance?
  2. What networks do I need to create or be a part of?
  3. Can my technology and vendor choices help me respond to shifting market needs over the next several years?
  4. In the face of emerging one-size-fits-all cloud solutions, how do I leverage the speed of the cloud but still differentiate my company from the competition?

SAP kept these questions in mind when thinking of ways to help our customers not only defend their turf, but take a leadership position as this new footprint for doing business emerges. In 2012, SAP began this journey by introducing SAP Jam — our flagship collaboration platform that creates networks for employees, partners, and customers to collaborate and co-innovate around core business processes. The platform also removes significant latency in how information and knowledge flow across demand and supply chains. Fifteen million subscribers later, SAP Jam is helping leading organizations create the needed network effects that accelerate performance across diverse channels.

Moving Forward

This year we commenced the next phase of helping organizations digitally transform by announcing the SAP Jam developer program. The developer platform is designed to help customers drive competitive differentiation and win in their markets. Integrated with SAP HANA Cloud Platform, SAP Jam now provides our customers with the agility and flexibility to customize and continually optimize how they bring together people, data, content, and processes to get work done and to transform how they operate and engage with customers and partners.

With the broadest set of cloud applications in the industry, a powerful foundation to extend these applications and build new ones on SAP HANA Cloud Platform, and leading networks such as Ariba and SAP Jam, SAP is in a unique position to help customers not only defend but lead in the coming age of transformation.

Follow SAP Social Software on Twitter: @SAPSocial