Most business leaders recognize that digitally transforming how they connect with customers leads to more business opportunities. In fact, an IBM study of more than 5,000 executives worldwide found that fully 81% of them expect to incorporate more digital or virtual interaction with customers into their business strategies.1 It’s no longer a question of why a business should digitally transform, but rather how to get there.
Transforming your organization into a digital enterprise involves more than just updating your website or creating a new app, however. The most beautiful front-end experience in the world won’t matter if back-end systems aren’t in place to deliver the anticipated outcome. In the digital era, if a customer expects an order to be delivered by tomorrow and you don’t have the live back-end order management, logistics, and delivery processes in place to make it happen, not to mention support for mobile technology, then you won’t keep that customer for long.
A successful digital enterprise provides a seamless end-to-end customer experience and delivers innovative, customer-centric products and services. It requires a digitized core business with automated processes and seamless integration across all value chains, and the high-tech skills required to support business innovation. And last, but far from least, a successful digital enterprise has a strong digital ecosystem of business and technology partners — such as SAP and its partner ecosystem — that can help you transform your enterprise and enhance your offerings to meet customer expectations in the digital age.
Many organizations, however, underestimate just how vital an ecosystem of strategic partners can be on the digital transformation journey. So why are these digital ecosystems so important?
A successful digital enterprise has a strong digital ecosystem of business and technology partners — such as SAP and its partner ecosystem — that can help you transform your enterprise.
The Importance of Digital Ecosystems
Powerful shifts in the digital economy, such as increasing business innovation, evolving consumer behavior and expectations, and changing demographics, are making it difficult for traditional value chains to meet business needs. To be more agile, businesses need to shift from slower, linear value chains composed of one-to-one partnerships to more agile, non-linear digital ecosystems of partners coming together to work toward a desired outcome.
By collaborating and integrating with business and technology partners in a digital ecosystem, organizations can deliver new services and improve experiences for their customers in ways that would have been impossible if they were operating as a single entity. In fact, companies that partner well can cross industry boundaries and bring innovative digital products to market more quickly and efficiently.2 And by connecting with a vast network of businesses, customers, and suppliers from industries across the world, organizations can reap immense benefits from pooling resources to leverage transformative new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Strong partnerships are essential as business models evolve and as product innovations demand expertise often found in other industries. That is why digital ecosystems have become a core element for success in the digital age, as multiple organizations and entire industries transform themselves to achieve the ultimate goal of running a live business that can nimbly respond in the moment to changing needs. And SAP and its ecosystem of 14,000 partners (see the sidebar “SAP’s Evolving Partner Ecosystem”) are a rich resource for achieving this goal.
While the details of building and taking advantage of a digital ecosystem are unique to each organization, there are a number of ways to ensure that you gain its full value, including:
- Form new alliances, or even partner with former competitors, to deliver new offerings or streamline digital processes.
- Explore partners inside and outside of your industry, and identify potential digital partners and ecosystem scenarios.
- Share data across digital networks to collaborate with top suppliers and distributors.
Just from this brief list, it’s easy to see how quickly your business innovation can expand along with your digital ecosystem, and how the need for a platform to support it can grow right along with it.
Empowering Dynamic Partnerships with Digital Platforms
An expanded digital ecosystem can take companies and industries in entirely new directions where they have to alter the ways that they have traditionally done business.3 Even historically non-technical companies can introduce digital offerings that expand their customer base and alter the industry standard. This creates a need to collaborate quickly and easily on a larger scale, and digital platforms are an ideal way to do this. Sports Basement, a retailer based in San Francisco with a small IT department, is using technologies from SAP and Microsoft to better understand its customers’ preferences as well as provide greater variety to meet their shopping needs.4 This mobile app was developed by SAP partner the Savantis Group.
A digital platform is a single place where a variety of technologies and applications can interact with each other and communicate with multiple stakeholders in a live digital environment. Platforms allow a number of different companies to work together from both a technical and a business perspective. The SAP Connected Health platform,5 for example, enables healthcare organizations to collaborate to solve complex medical system challenges and uses data to empower more informed medical decisions. The potential of digital platforms in the healthcare industry is powerful, as it could eventually connect healthcare providers, patients, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device manufacturers on a single platform.
New platforms are also emerging in other industries, fostering collaboration between different technologies and organizations. These platforms can connect and support a broad ecosystem of partners and enable them to accelerate the development and delivery of innovative, customer-centric solutions. For example, in what used to be the exclusive domain of technology partners, SAP’s global strategic services partners, including Accenture and Capgemini, are now building innovative business apps on SAP HANA Cloud Platform. Accenture recently won the SAP TechEd Hackathon with its app Nursy,6 and Capgemini began a joint venture with SAP called Fast Digital 4 Discrete Industries by SAP and Capgemini, which seeks to address the needs of discrete manufacturers.7
Digital transformation and business partnerships matter in today’s digital economy, and they will become increasingly important as digital ecosystems expand.
Unlocking the Full Potential of a Digital Transformation
Digital transformation and business partnerships matter in today’s digital economy, and they will become increasingly important as digital ecosystems expand, resulting in multiple sectors of the economy becoming more digitally connected. This expansion of strategic partnerships will eventually unlock the full potential of the digital economy and ultimately deliver on the promise of digital transformation. SAP and its partners can help your business run digital, run live, and achieve measurable success in the digital era. Learn more at http://go.sap.com/partner.html.
1 IBM, “Redefining Boundaries: Insights from the Global C-Suite Study” (2015; http://bit.ly/GlobalCSuiteStudy). [back]
2 To learn more about how a digital ecosystem can help you bring innovative products to market more quickly and effectively, download the SAP ebook The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World (https://ebooks-sap.com/index.php?book=digital-economy). [back]
3 To hear how SAP and HPE teamed up for new innovations, visit https://news.sap.com/sap-and-hpe-race-into-the-future-of-the-internet-of-things. [back]
4 For more information, see www.s4hanalabs.com/sap/s4hana/sport-basement-in-store-sap-hana-microsoft-azure-as-seen-at-sapphire-now and www.ecommercetimes.com/story/83518.html. [back]
5 To learn more about the SAP Connected Health platform, see https://news.sap.com/sap-announces-sap-connected-health-platform-and-strategic-relationships-for-transforming-healthcare. [back]
6 For more about the app Nursy, see http://events.sap.com/teched/en/session/28881. [back]
7 Details on the joint venture can be found at www.capgemini.com/news/capgemini-and-sap-to-address-jointly-the-digital-transformation-needs-of-discrete-manufacturing. [back]