In the ever-evolving landscape of business and technology, staying ahead of the curve is crucial for success. Let’s see remarkable thought leader at the forefront of innovation to discuss the most anticipated business transformation trends for 2024. An interview held by Mr. Daniel Chirtes, the CEO from Haptic R&D Consulting, with Mr. Timo Elliott from SAP, the renowned Global Innovation Evangelist, discussing about strategies, technologies, and practices that will shape the business world in the coming year.
Timo Elliott, with his three decades of experience and a global perspective, has been instrumental in helping organizations across the world harness the power of digital transformation. As he imparts his wisdom from a rich career that spans the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and California, he currently calls Paris, France, home. His insights have been instrumental in guiding businesses toward the latest technologies and innovative strategies that lead to tangible and impactful results.
Prepare to be inspired and informed as these two luminaries explore the business transformation trends that will define the upcoming year. This conversation takes place on the occasion of the international event GoTech World 2023 in Bucharest, further enriching the dialogue with insights from a global stage. From cutting-edge technologies to emerging market shifts, this insightful conversation promises to be a valuable resource for all who seek to thrive in the fast-paced, ever-changing business world.
Daniel: With your extensive global experience, what are the common challenges you see organizations face when it comes to embracing digital transformation, and how do they overcome these challenges?
Timo Elliott: Some key challenges that jump to mind:
- The ROI of investing in new technology. Business cases for new technology projects often center around efficiencies: cost savings from current operational methods. But when I talk to organizations after the deployments have gone live, they realize that the real benefits are about new ways of working—and it’s important to take this into account upfront.
- Change management. It’s not a new problem, but the focus in most innovation projects is still the technology, rather than understanding and adapting to the market changes. In particular, projects should be managed by people who understand people!
- Data is the lifeblood of modern business, but organizations vastly underestimate how much time and effort it takes to integrate and clean the data they need to complete innovation projects. Data quality is not a technical problem—it’s a reflection of bad business processes.
Daniel: In your view, what emerging technologies hold the most potential for driving innovation in businesses today, and why?
- The latest generative AI technologies have already fundamentally changed the baseline of what is possible — and it’s only early days. The ability to synthesize new knowledge from existing systems is set to greatly augment human innovation.
- No-code/low-code. For the last few decades, the biggest barrier to innovation hasn’t been technology — it’s been the resources available to implement it. Thanks to new easier-to-use cloud platforms, we now have an amazing opportunity to accelerate innovation by letting business people do more of it themselves, in their area of expertise, without IT and technology being a bottleneck. Nonetheless, this demands a cultural shift including the adoption of “co-code” environments that optimize collaboration between technical and business experts.
- Automated automation. A combination of business process intelligence, off-the-shelf best practices, integration, automation, and cloud environments mean that we can start automating the process of innovation itself. Intelligent systems can now proactively and automatically assess the changes to business processes in your organization that could provide the business benefits, make recommendations based on your system landscape, and even install it for you in the cloud. Today, innovation is like a staircase: you have to physically move up each step. In the future, it will be more like an escalator, where you can step on and enjoy the innovation ride. Systems will become truly intelligence, systematically improving over time, as people use them.
Daniel: You’ve had the opportunity to work in various countries with diverse business cultures. How do you adapt your approach to digital transformation to suit different cultural contexts and industry landscapes?
Timo Elliot: I find leading-edge organizations are very similar around the world — they just make up a larger proportion of the total in some regions. The biggest differences are to be found in the relationships between IT and the business people. Organizations and regions that have a traditional service relationship, where IT responds to and implement requests from business units, are very different from those where Innovation is treated as an important function in its own right, combining business and technology skills. In more traditional organizations, innovation leaders have to focus on fostering cultural changes. They should start small and use agile, iterative project techniques such as Design Thinking that encourage business ownership of innovation, and then building on success over time.
Daniel: Could you highlight a case where an organization failed to adapt to digital transformation effectively? What were the key lessons learned from that experience?
Timo Elliott: When digital transformation fails, it’s never a technology problem. It’s alway about people: management, culture, organization, and expectations. It’s hard to talk about individual cases, but they tend to fall into three categories:
- Failure to change. This is where conservative, risk-averse organizations don’t realize that not changing is also a big risk in fast-changing markets. They get slowly bogged down by technical debt until a crisis arrives and gives new management an opportunity to restart innovation.
- Failure to execute. This is unfortunately the most common problem, where communications failures result in project failure, and various people squabbling over where the fault lays.
- Failure to have impact. This is where where organizations have flashy innovation projects that look good, using AI or mobile technologies, or show off the metaverse, etc. — but they are disconnected from the underlying core business processes and ultimately don’t add value.
The cure in all these cases is to ensure that everybody in the organization has a shared vision about the goals of innovation, and that their incentives are aligned with those goals (but of course, that’s much harder than installing new technology and hoping for the best!)
We extend our heartfelt thanks to Timo Elliott for sharing his invaluable insights and expertise in our recent interview with Haptic R&D Consulting. Your contributions have illuminated the path to future business transformation, and we’re truly grateful for your time and wisdom. Thank you, Timo!
Many thanks as well to GoTech World 2023 which facilitate this interview.