Three things I learned from clients in 2017 about digital transformation

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I started 2018 thinking about resolutions and goals, and reflecting on the prior year; the things I want to accomplish in the New Year, both personally and professionally, and what I learned in 2017.

It was only six months ago that I stepped into my role leading the IBM Global Next Gen Enterprise Cloud Applications team. In that time, I’ve met with over 100 clients across five continents and learned a lot.

Technology solutions are not new to me. Over the years, my colleagues and I have helped clients use technology to improve their enterprises. Yet, as I met with clients about their enterprise transformations, I was amazed by what some are achieving, and surprised that many have not started their digital transformation … leading me to three things I’d like to share about digital transformation.

1. Enterprises are getting “Uber’d” more quickly than we realize

Moving to a digitally-based enterprise is not inconsequential, but at this point it is essential. Eighty-eight percent of customers today use digital channels at some point in their journey and 41 percent want more digital options.

Uber, Lyft and other digitally-based on-demand transportation companies have upended the industry. Wouldn’t you rather tap your mobile device and know that a car will arrive in three minutes to take you to the airport than hope if you raise your hand on a street corner a taxi will spot you? Know versus hope; it’s an easy choice.

Forrester Consulting surveyed nearly 500 enterprise leaders and learned that organizations undertaking modernization projects report dramatically higher product quality and greater cost reductions.

A business can’t win against a competitor with better quality products and lower costs; they’ve been “Uber’d.”

It’s been enlightening in the last six months to work with businesses that are not standing still; not being “Uber’d.”

For example, rather than keep customers hoping the components they want are available, Indus Motors made the move with SAP S/4HANA and IBM to gain an end-to-end view of their supply chain so they know how to delight customers. Know versus hope.

2. The safe thing is not safe at all

Forrester identified several characteristics of what successful leaders are doing to guide their enterprises through a digital transformation — and what so-called laggards are not.2

Leaders and future leaders are:

  • Adding automation
  • Increasing the adoption of DevOps
  • Migrating to cloud
  • Upgrading legacy applications with assets that speed delivery and improve quality

Modernization leaders are making foundational changes to core systems. Agile, flexible and automated approaches enable them to move more quickly and deliver more contextual experiences so they know how to proactively adjust inventories, for example.

Again, know versus hope

Digital transformation is not a simple undertaking, which is why IBM has a tried-and-true model that quickly helps clients understand the incremental benefit of combining IBM and SAP solutions; an approach fine-tuned across all IBM implementations that is shown to accelerate deployments by 20 to 30 percent — reducing risk, speeding implementation and delivering quicker time to value.

The new “safe” thing is to aggressively plan your reinvention.

And that is the main reason I’m excited to work with leading companies on their transformations. If people thought Uber was disruptive, wait until they see the power of an established brand, digitally transforming itself, leveraging deep client relationships, re-inventing client experiences, re-imagining the models of how to deliver value and make money. Uber, although fascinating, was just the first act, folks.

3. I must put myself out of a job

While I hope this job will last a long time, I know it won’t. The technology being offered by IBM, SAP and our other business partners is too powerful — that’s how we’re able to confidently accelerate successful enterprise transformations and hasten the delivery of client benefits.

IBM clients around the world — from consumer packaged goods to life sciences, from utilities to high tech — are taking the essential steps to modernize, and reaping the benefits of more efficient operations, superior customer service and digital automation.

These leaders are not focused on traditional consulting four-box diagrams and target-operating models. They are aggressors who have accelerated their transformation by using preconfigured industry playbooks built on information digitally encoded into IBM assets and solutions.

It’s a powerful technology approach that dramatically creates quality outcomes. And one that will effectively put me out of a job, as companies that modernize their infrastructure and applications spur competitors to either take action or become “Uber’d.”

I believe my perspective will morph into an astuteness that comes from knowing what our clients have accomplished, and how IBM helped them get there.

Knowing, not hoping.

Here are three things to help you know more about your next steps for digital transformation:

  • Join an on-demand webinar about creating the business case for modernization.
  • Learn how SAP S/4HANA is one of the key technologies in digital transformation.
  • Find out how IBM and SAP S/4HAHA can simplify complex legacy systems and digitize core business processes.

Managing Partner, Next Gen Enterprise Cloud Applications, IBM Global Business Services

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