the global Web-driven economy continues to expand, we are starting
to witness a profound transformation in the relationships that enterprises
maintain with their customers, suppliers, partners, and even their
own employees. The old "functional organization" archetype of a
decade ago - characterized by companies with inward-looking organizational
structures and internal processes - is rapidly vanishing. Arising
in its place is a new model of the outward-looking enterprise, characterized
by a high focus on customer needs, much more flexible organizational
and process structures, and a strong emphasis on establishing resilient
networks across the supply chain.
SAP Insider asked Dr. Peter Zencke to share his insights
on the goals and challenges associated with transforming an organization
into a real-time, customer-driven enterprise.
Q. What key challenges stand in the way of a company's transformation
into a real-time, customer-driven enterprise?
In the past, the IT organization - with help from business process engineers
- was, for the most part, the party responsible for developing a company's
commerce/communications solutions. That model is no longer valid. IT can
no longer afford to be a closed club. IT departments must now share responsibility
for the operation and success of customer-driven solutions with a variety
of internal and external organizations. And yet, at the same time, IT
is still responsible for tying everything together! You can't build a
single isolated solution for Sales, another one for Manufacturing, another
for Service, and so on.
In today's competitive climate, enterprises require fully integrated
information systems. So in addition to understanding all the prerequisite
technology, IT organizations now have to grasp sophisticated business
concepts, organizational complexities, and the diverse roles of people
inside and outside their company. Mastering business organization and
its ecosystem is much harder than mastering mere technology!
Q. Are you suggesting that the technical components required for this
transformation are easy to set in place?
Not at all. To operate and maintain a viable collaborative business process,
two omnipresent imperatives must be achieved: real-time functionality
and availability of service. Neither technology prerequisite is trivial.
Real-time functionality appears to be the less elusive goal. This can
be addressed with good engineering. But what's the key to achieving availability
once the IT people don't "own the solution" end-to-end anymore? How can
IT departments even attempt to guarantee high reliability across a collaborative
e-business solution that, by definition, is not fully theirs? At first
glance, it doesn't seem feasible.
In my opinion, it gets back to an IT organization's ability to understand
the business of its customers and suppliers. This is why SAP is
working so hard to help standardize business processes, whereby we're
actually defining the semantics of an application, not merely interfaces
to an application. Standard business processes forge the foundation
that enables you to link internally and externally developed solutions
with business practices that cut across your enterprise, as well as those
of your suppliers and partners, so that you can deliver what your customers
need and expect. In effect, you empower your partners to help you satisfy
your customers' requirements. In this collaborative Internet age, we're
well beyond the point where any one organization can accomplish this on
Q. Are there concrete steps that an IT organization can take to help
facilitate the transformation to a real-time, customer-driven enterprise?
A number of elements - both strategic and technical - must be in place:
Of course, it takes end-to-end integration of both sales and service.
It takes personalization and special offers for your customers so that
you create strong "sticky forces" for their return. It requires you to
have a very robust and efficient network of suppliers and systems. Most
critically, you must maximize both the reliability and the speed of your
processes - only then can you offer competitive pricing that stays competitive.
Q. Would you say that "customer focus" is the driving force behind
Absolutely. And it's one that really requires a mind change for many
e-business developers. mySAP.com dispenses with the much-too-internalized
focus of "this is my product, this is my solution" thinking. Responding
to customer needs and customer values requires you to be flexible. Maintaining
a keen, responsive customer focus requires agility, openness, and an interactive
role for every employee in the company. mySAP.com delivers that flexibility.
Ultimately, SAP's vision is to enable the real-time enterprise, where
suppliers, partners, customers, and their communities are transparently
linked via the Internet in one-step business processes. To that end, mySAP.com
solutions deliver the essential building blocks that enable a real-time
enterprise to better manage and service customer relationships, build
faster, more efficient supply chains, and drive all this value to the