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In the future of business, connectedness and shared experiences will replace hierarchy and bureaucracy. Customers will be at the heart of every business process and decision made. The workforce will act as a community working together to build the best company possible. And with the current tsunami of data that’s streaming into our systems every day, we are able to solve increasingly complex problems and drive innovation and transformation at mind-boggling speeds.

If you think about it, we are heading towards an exciting time in human history. At the same time, companies cannot be complacent and wait for it all to happen. They must prepare now to take advantage of what tomorrow will bring.

In our final episode “The Future of Business Arrives in Orlando” from The Future of Business with Game Changers, a special edition series of SAP Radio, eight panelists gave their perspectives on what our work lives, the networked economy, the cloud, and transformational design thinking will look like in the years to come.

Get ready for the future of work

Kerry Brown, head of Strategy and Alliances Americas at SAP, and Dr. Steven Hunt, vice president of Customer Research at SuccessFactors – an SAP company, discussed how companies can build an empowered and engaged workforce that’s ready to tackle whatever the future brings.

Brown kicked off the discussion with a quote from the late Maya Angelou, “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” Ms. Angelou embodied a sense that everyone is a student and teacher – anywhere and all the time. “Technology enables us to share much more efficiently – providing greater flexibility and meaning. We can shape our own destiny and impact everyone who works with us based on how we contribute and consume information,” mentioned Brown.

Hunt agreed with Brown as he stated, “Few things impact happiness more than having meaningful and fulfilling work and a high-quality work environment. Despite this sentiment, workplaces are so frequently mismanaged that there’s even a genre of humor solely devoted to making fun of office life.” Poor management and bad work environments don’t just hurt the company – they hurt people, customers, their families, and the whole world. The tragic part is that we know how to manage effectively. We can stop it, but we don’t because it’s tolerated.

The work environment is much better than it was 30 years ago, but we still have a long way to go. “Today’s workforce is now global and comprises people in different career stages and life phases. Companies must learn to find talent, engage virtual organizations, and rethink the nature of work relationships,” noted Hunt.

Win in the networked economy

Vivek Bapat, global vice president of Marketing at SAP, and Dan Wellers, global lead for the Center for Business Insight at SAP, explored the growing value of the networked economy.

The networked economy is the convergence of social, device, and business connectivity. “Whenever there’s a network in operation, every addition – every person, device, processes, and more – creates exponential value for everyone else in the network. And this is especially true for the networked economy,” commented Bapat.

Wellers furthered Bapat’s thoughts by quoting Albert A. Bartlett, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” Technology has doubled computer power over the last 40 years – and there’s no end in sight. Our brains are not well-equipped to understand this sustained exponential growth. “With quadrillions of connections across the economy, it’s easy to lose our sense of what’s possible with technology – and that’s where we are now. We have to get our heads around it,” suggested Wellers.

According to Bapat, “It’s critical for companies to participate in the networked economy. It doesn’t just present an opportunity for greater efficiency in terms of how we conduct business, but it also offers a new platform for fundamental business transformation in the future.” In addition to participating, organizations need to understand the importance of what’s going on in the networked economy right now. “It’s not a choice to be in it – you are in it. But you can choose to take advantage of it by understanding the opportunities going forward, as well as actions you should take today,” advised Wellers.

Prepare for the cloud in 2020

Joe Fuster, global head of Customer Engagement at SAP, and Keith Hontz, global vice president of the Customer Line of Business Organization at SAP, predicted how the cloud will help companies transform themselves in as little as six years from now.

Fuster reflected, “Our customers can no longer manage their customers. Customer relationship management is quickly becoming obsolete. The future lies in omnichannel commerce, where every individual consumer is treated and supported as an individual.” The idea that we want to be treated as individuals seems to be common sense – but for the longest time, it was just a theory that business systems couldn’t deliver. “With the cloud, it’s now possible to disseminate information about all of us as individuals right at the point of interaction – making the concept of omnichannel a reality,” said Fuster.

Creating a customer-driven enterprise in today’s digital age comes with a whole new set of challenges.  Hontz acknowledged, “New technologies are arriving faster than organizations can absorb them, and customers have taken control of their own experiences.”  Companies across all industries are transforming the way they engage with customers and leveraging the cloud to support current and future growth.

With the convergence of mobile, social, big data, and the cloud, customers are more informed than ever before. As a result, about 57% of the buying process is done before you interact with a salesperson. Hontz cited, “Over 50% of customers abandon an in-store purchase due to negative online sentiment. And now, folks are willing to try new brands for better service. This makes it mission-critical for companies to focus on delivering an inviting customer experience.”

Rethink transformation with design thinking

Shuchi Sharma, global head of Business Transformation Services and Market Development at SAP, and Richard Strattner, Director of Service Marketing at SAP, detailed how design thinking will change how companies reinvent themselves through processes and technology.


Design thinking isn’t new, but it’s gaining momentum in a number corporate cultures. It promotes change and innovation. But, it doesn’t happen organically – you have to be a proactive agent in making that happen. Sharma explained, “Design thinking is a very human-centered approach to design is a way to come up with new and innovative solution that may not have been part of the mindset previously and foster positive change.”

More important, design thinking matches people’s needs with what’s feasible from a technology perspective. With this approach, companies can develop a viable business model that provides value to the customer.  Sharma claimed, “Design thinking breaks the mold and help companies think out of the box to prepare for the next phase of growth.”

Strattner provided the sage advice, “Oftentimes, exciting ideas are presented – especially in the world of technology. But what matters is the means by which we take these concepts and make them real.” Because the core of design thinking is human centered, companies of all sizes, industries, and geographies can understand, embrace, and benefit from this methodology. Strattner shared, “The ability to tap into a number of different resources within an organization and bring forward their collective power can help a company move forward and take that next step is a universal concept.”

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

Want to learn more about the future of business? Check out this year’s forums at SAPPHIRE NOW.

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