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Digital is a “Way of Doing Business”

I started my technology career as a SAP junior consultant and got SAP certified in FI-CO in 1997. I use SAPPHIRE Orlando to keep up with what’s new. A lot has changed with SAP since I started using it 20 years ago, but it is true with all types of technology– technology never stands still.

During the SAP Sapphire keynote Tuesday morning in Orlando, the company introduced SAP C/4 Hana and Intelligent Enterprise. Digital is the buzz word around many presentations. Many of the conference attendees, the largest Sapphire attendance ever, are here to catch up with what’s new with digital enabling technologies. Here are my key takeaways from Sapphire 2018 so far. (see SAP published Sapphire presentations)

sap

What is digital?

At one point during the key note, SAP presenters discussing Intelligent Suite showed a roadmap that does not resemble a roadmap to which we are accustomed. Then the SAP presenter said, our partners like Deloitte have started building industry digital business blueprints that can be applicable to different industries. I took it as a validation that digital is not the application systems and not even a platform. Digital is not a “thing”, it is not a role, it is not a program– digital is a way of doing business.

For some businesses, digital allows consumers to have a personalized experience by touching, feeling and understanding products and services. This means understanding customer behaviors and being closely attuned to how customer decision journeys are evolving. Digital transformation is not really about technologies. Existing digital technologies are accessible to all companies. The key is using these technologies to find value at the new frontiers of business. (see what is digital for Adidas) Being digital is not being afraid to use emerging technologies to solve business problems. Being digital requires being innovative and pushing the boundaries even on areas where success is not guaranteed the first time. “Learn fast and then just move on and find a different way to solve the same problem”, says Bharti Airtel’s Global CIO Harmeen Mehta, winner of the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO.

What is Me2B or Me to Business?

We are familiar with the buzz word B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumers) but what is Me2B  (Me to business)? Digital is no longer just a way to engage customers and consumers for a personalized experience. The advent of digital manufacturing, machine learning, blockchain, Intelligent supply chain, and artificial intelligence (A.I.) allow consumers to personalize design of the products they want based on current trends. As brands in the future will be mainly shaped by consumers, digital as a new way of doing business puts the customer as the point of focus. “Trust is the ultimate human currency”, says Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP as he unveils C/4 Hana (see demo of SAP C/4 Hana), an integrated platform that will allow business to see a single view of its customer. During his keynote, McDermott described how humans and computers will work hand in hand in A.I. scenarios to link consumers on the move with modern supply chains.

What is Intelligent Enterprise?

To go with SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner’s definition, Intelligent Enterprise is not a marketing buzz, but a logical consequence of what is happening today in technology and modern applications. In the middle of this capability is the SAP Cloud Platform, SAP Leonardo (see SAP Leonardo demo) and SAP Data Management Suite surrounded by its core systems such as S/4 Hana, C/4 Hana, SAP SuccessFactor, SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass and SAP Concur. Intelligent Enterprise is not a product, it is an ecosystem or integration of these systems, not limited to SAP products, where collaboration can create intelligent enterprise capabilities. (see Hasso Plattner explain Intelligent Enterprise) Talking about intelligent capability, I also arranged for a personal walk-through of IBM Watson while at SAPPHIRE. It is probably the most widely known and used AI capability out there. “When you are starting to use Watson, it’s like training a baby by feeding her tons of information”, says Shaun Mitra an IBM Watson expert. The only difference, Watson can process it faster, 500 gigabytes of data or equivalent to a million books per second. Watson API is available to developers to create applications leveraging its cognitive capabilities. In the demo, I saw how Watson works with the SAP ecosystem and SAP Leonardo, further empowering intelligent enterprise capabilities.

Intelligent Enterprise is not a marketing buzz, but a logical consequence of what is happening today in technology and modern applications. – Hasso Plattner 

How do you develop a digital business model? “By innovating anywhere, from core to edge”, says Darwin Deano, Deloitte’s SAP CTO. Innovation and transformation are the means to achieve a digital business model using existing and emerging technology platforms. Digital is a shared responsibility between business and IT. There must be convergence of business and IT to drive successful and sustainable digital business transformation.

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How People Really Use Crowdsourcing

While on vacation, you don’t earn money… you spend them. Not my brother-in-law—he finds ways to earn a few bucks. He uses his smartphone and apps like Gigwalk. While in Las Vegas days before the New Year, he surveyed bars and restaurants in the city. He wasn’t bar-hopping or something, he was taking 360 degree pictures of restaurants’ interiors and sending them to Bing. It was a gig he acquired through Gigwalk. The rate for this micro-task is around $5 per picture. Think about this, if 50 of those photos he submitted were accepted, he earned $250. He also does work for big companies that like to employ a “mobile workforce” to check on prices and placement of their products in major supermarkets. He interviews shoppers to conduct designed surveys. The rate for this type of gig is about $10 to $ 20 each. Not bad, isn’t it? Pepsi is using crowdsourcing to promote their sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show. They have a contest where fans can submit their personal photos in the hopes that it will be featured in the introduction video. They are sending different instructions per day to fans for diverse types of pictures. I can’t wait to see the outcome of that in the Super Bowl halftime.

What is Crowdsourcing?

This is what crowdsourcing is about—collecting contributions from many individuals to achieve a goal—thus doing more with fewer resources possible. Just imagine if Bing would want to photograph interiors of full service restaurants in the United States and would be willing to employ full time workers to do so. How many workers and for how long? Bing has to consider that there are over 200,000 full service restaurants. Bing would need to contract hundreds of employees for many months to complete this and this would turn out to be a very expensive undertaking.

Crowd - Photo by James Cridland

When you think of a crowd, you think of an unruly bunch of people gathered in a disorganized way. Traditional crowd manipulation is the intentional use of techniques to engage, control, and influence the crowd in order to direct its behavior to accomplish something. Many businesses and politicians have successfully employed that technique in the past. Crowdsourcing differs from traditional crowd manipulation by taking the significance of geographical proximities away from the equation. Nowadays, you can organize individuals from different locations to do what you want using technology. The development of mobile technology in both the application side and for devices (Smartphone) is helping push crowdsourcing to be more commonplace.

Many of us use crowdsourcing without thinking about it. I bet you have used products that came out of crowdsourcing or have participated in crowdsourcing in some way without even realizing it. If you are using Wikipedia, then you are using one example of a service that is a product of the collaborative work of a crowd—or to use a better term, of volunteers.   Wikipedia has 24 million articles that were written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site, and it has about 100,000 active volunteers that contribute in this process. This is a classic crowdsourcing success story. If you have ever rented an apartment and used comments from previous tenants online to help you decide which complex to take; if you have made a purchase in Amazon.com and read customer reviews to help you decide which product to buy; or if you have used comments on TripAdvisor.com to plan a vacation, then you have taken advantage of crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing for Social Change

What can you do to contribute to changing the world? Of course, you can donate money to a good cause but beyond that, there are relatively new ways for individuals to shape social change through crowdsourcing. Prominent blogger Alexey Navalny’s site, RosPil.net, makes the most of crowdsourcing by using it as a mechanism to expose corruption in Russia. RosPil uses crowdsourcing to ask anonymous volunteers to report government anomalies in the form of tenders that are designed to generate kickbacks. From a recent HRB article, “Rospil claims, as of December 2011, to have prevented the granting of dubious contracts worth US$1.3 billion.

Married couple Swati and Ramesh Ramanathan set up the website iPaidaBribe.com in India as a unique initiative to fight corruption. They ask anonymous users to disclose the nature, amount, and recipients of bribes. The initiative provides statistics like heat maps and areas of government who have rampant corruption practices.

You don’t even need a specialized website to run crowdsourcing. Many of these initiatives happen in the internet seamlessly through netizens’ initiatives in Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media websites.

Smartphones are making crowdsourcing even more sophisticated. Smartphone use has been climbing steadily upward in the last couple of years. The simple capability of a smartphone to take a photo with location and time stamping is a major capability that is used to capture information easily. As the use of smartphones continue to increase, I foresee a proliferation in simple crowdsourcing initiatives – be it for business, social change or other purpose.

Photo courtesy of James Cridland.

Categories: Technology
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