The Road to Transformation: Is Insight-Driven Innovation in the Driver’s Seat?

It seems like the words “innovation” and “transformation” are thrown around quite a bit. Whether it’s in politics, tech, retail, or a stockholder meeting, these words are echoed over and over again. But what’s the end goal of investing time, money, and resources towards innovation and transformation? Most of the time, organizations are innovating for the sake of innovating. But there are still others that are innovating with real insights and with the intention to truly reinvent how the business operates – and possibly the industry in which they compete.

This week’s episode Future of Business Transformation: Insight-Driven Innovation” from The Future of Business with Game Changers, a special edition series of SAP Radio, explored the art and science of business transformation and how it may help businesses survive now and into the future. The panel featured Eric Lowitt, managing director at Nexus Global Advisors; Patrick Heffernan, practice manager for the Professional Services Practice at Technology Business Research (TBR); and Sunil Patel, vice president of the Value Partnership practice at SAP.

Be as uncomfortable as possible for as long as possible

Eric Lowitt started the discussion with an observation of where the business environment is heading. “The future of business is best defined in a single word: uncomfortable. Every closely held assumption made by employees and businesses about how and why we are in business is rapidly and unpredictably evolving. The faster employees and companies accept and embrace this new reality, the faster they can get on with the business of meaningful expansion by creating their own rules for survival,” he stated.

According to Lowitt, “there’s a perfect storm of seemingly disconnected megatrends that are coming together to shape the future of business.” For example, technology is connecting like-minded people worldwide and giving them a voice that is being heard loud and clear across the world. Plus, the workforce is getting younger and leaving behind the gold watch mentality. And now, entire industries are evolving rapidly for fear of going the way of the analog technology; print media; and traditional, fossil-fueled utilities.

More important, customers are not just buyers anymore. They are also concerned citizens, suppliers, employees, and  influencers. And as their role in business changes, so do the reasons and ways businesses and customers interact with each other. Companies are now held accountable by a wide range of stakeholders to make sure business activities evolve along with the customer. Meanwhile, as businesses struggle to find answers to these challenges, time marches on – and so does the customer.

Sometimes pumpkins look like oranges

Patrick Heffernan agreed with Lowitt’s thoughts and provided his own insight as it relates to the process of business transformation. “It’s important to listen to new ideas and be ready to overcome obstacles, including the inertia of transformation. Don’t be fooled by appearances. You may think you are full of oranges. But if you change your perspective and see pumpkins instead, you may find something new,” he advised.

Companies must know what they need to do first before they decide how they can reinvent themselves. When considering transformation, businesses often invest too much in setting and chasing the highest possible aspiration. But this is all done in vain if the entire business does not understand what can be realistically achieved while keeping the business functional. Heffernan added, “A CEO with a vision is great.  But successful transformation happens when the COO knows how to manage resources and revenues and which levers to pull.”

Companies that invest in competitive intelligence have a better understanding of their environment. They can see their competition’s movements, anticipate market-changing trends, and outperform their peers. Some companies make competitive intelligence an in-house production, with either a dedicated staff or a built-in intelligence process. Other companies hire researchers and expert firms to conduct project-specific or ongoing intelligence. Whether this function is done internally, outsourced, or a combination of both, corporate leadership needs to stay committed to investing in this effort for it to yield significant results.

Innovate and modernize now to compete in the digital future

Sunil Patel amplified the call for innovation and modernization. “Many organizations today do not feel that they have the ability to become a digital enterprise. Their spend is mostly focused on maintaining what they have, rather than innovating. With so many changes pushing them to this digital future – including the Internet of Things, Big Data, and the evolving workforce – they need new strategies to modernize and innovate simultaneously,” he stated.

Digitization of specific business processes, especially those that are customer-facing, is driving a whole new level of impact for technology. Companies are often forced to become technology experts, even to the extent of having significant software capabilities. As a result, the partnership between the business and IT is becoming increasingly tighter.  And this bond is necessary to quickly reap the benefits of new technology.  Patel commented, “For many businesses, a big decision is a choice between modernizing and restarting.”  This can be a complex or a simple decision based on the criteria and how the choices are weighed. The factors should be thought through carefully.

“The pace of transformation will continue to accelerate – partly because it can and because customers demand it so they can keep pace with their own transformation,” predicted Patel. The key to success is to make sure that the organization is thinking freely and competitively, while enforcing guidelines. This capability requires keen governance models that align transformation with business needs and keep IT flexible enough to handle it all.

To listen to a replay of this edition of the Future of Business with Game Changers series, presented by SAP Radio, click here.

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