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Data availability drives digital business

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Nowadays the notion of running a live business is important – the days when companies could take years to develop and implement software systems are long gone. And the systems that were being deployed in these circumstances didn’t allow the business to operate in the moment.
“Because of the way we have had to build systems in the past there is typically a lot of latency between what is happening and it percolating up to a dashboard where someone can take a decision about it,” says Simon Carpenter, chief technology advisor at SAP Africa.
Digital transformation, Carpenter adds, is not an easy journey. “We also need to help customers understand that this stuff is coming really fast.
“In the exponential world, there are big hairy expectations – growth is not linear.”
There is no industry that will be untouched by this, Carpenter adds. “Everything will be touched, even old school historical industries like mining are being upended by what digital transformation can do.”
Succeeding in the new economy is possible anywhere, but companies have to change their mindsets, Carpenter says.
He adds that industry boundaries are starting to blur – for instance, a self-driving car is being developed by a software company. Fintech offerings are coming from companies not currently in the financial services industry.
“But perhaps the biggest change is in the customer experience,” he says. “While technology is changing the game, customers are changing the rules.”
Customers are choosing how they want to interact with a company, and along the way they create a lot of data about themselves – and information that companies can leverage to understand their customers better.
“We are living in a time of digital Darwinism, where only companies that can innovate will survive.”
But making the change while running the business is not easy, Carpenter says, and the instinct is to “tinker at the edges”, making small changes.
“We almost have to unlearn almost everything we learnt at school and business schools that are the basis of the economy today.”
Carpenter explains that business today is typically made u of traditional oligarchies with a small number of companies per industry that compete in similar vertical value changes and pursues efficiencies, incremental improvement and liner thinking.
In the new world, we are seeing the emergence of smaller, more agile companies that challenge this status quo.
Big companies, despite their strength and budgets, are slowly disappearing – in fact 52% of the Fortune 500 companies from 200 are already gone.
“We see a couple of things starting to emerge,” he says. “Firstly the job of running IT is becoming less important compared to how you use the information. More companies are therefore moving their IT to the cloud, where service providers can do this stuff at scale.
“The place you want to watch is the emergence of new platforms on which you can build new communities.”
Carpenter stresses that companies that want to survive have to transform, and they need to do it by figuring out how to use their network, and how to use their information.
“To do this every company will need a digital enterprise platform,” he adds.
He believes SAP is in a good position to provide that platform. Currently, about 74% of the worlds transaction revenue touches an SAP systems, in addition, 98% of the top 100 most valued brands use SAP. And the company is already well invested in the cloud.
In addition, SAP has invested $30-billion in the last couple of years into the cloud – and has doubled its cloud revenues in the last year, demonstrating how important it is to the business.
With the SAP HANA platform, with its in-memory platform, Carpenter says SAP is four to five years ahead of the rest of the market in data handling.
The company’s solution is brought together in its Digital Enterprise Platform.
“We are not an ERP company anymore,” he says. “ERP is 20% of the company now and we are getting a lot more revenue from data.”
For most companies, their existing systems are fragmented, with different systems running in silos. “This model is no longer tenable,” Carpenter says.
“Which is where HANA comes in.”
HANA is a single platform that allows companies to run all the tools and data on one platform, with processing happening fast in memory.”
Collecting and processing data is all very well, Carpenter adds – if companies are unable to act on that data, it is effectively useless.
SAP Africa’s Paul Vermaak explains that the company’s Digital Boardroom systems helps businesses to interrogate this data to make realtime decisions.
The systems is based on Business Objects Cloud, which consumes data either in the cloud or on-premise, and aims to contextualise and simplify performance reporting across all areas of business in realtime.
“SAP Digital Boardroom intends to provide total transparency to board members, executives and decision-makers with a comprehensive, realtime view of business performance across an entire company,” comments Bernd Leukert, member of the executive board of SAP SE, products and innovation.
“We have incorporated fully automated business intelligence capabilities that aim to dramatically improve the quality and speed of reporting as well as collaboration in real time. As businesses continue to transform and evolve around the digital economy, executives will be able to use SAP Digital Boardroom for instant, data-driven insights that address ad hoc questions and improve decision-making. It will ultimately build trust between all board participants, employees and investors.”
When required to make highly informed business decisions, board members, executives and decision-makers are often faced with separate reporting solutions that present data in a static, isolated way. SAP Digital Boardroom aims to harmonise the view of company operations across all lines of business on multiple devices. This view enables users to understand the past instantly, predict the future and conduct business successfully in today’s digital economy.
Anticipated customer benefits include:
* Transparency: Standards-based reporting on financials, operations, marketing and sales are based on a single source of the truth, delivered in real time, with no data duplication.
• * Data-driven insights: Powerful analytical exploration functions use a simple user interface to address ad hoc questioning and support improved decision-making.
• * Simplified processes: An intuitive user interface enables natural interactions based on a single-screen experience. It is delivered through a modern touch-screen experience, whether using a projector, a laptop or a wearable device. Rich visualisations of live data eliminate static presentations. New collaboration features assign and track action items even outside of scheduled meetings.