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Business leaders - not IT directors - must drive their companies' transitions to the cloud, according to SAP.
Pat Bakey, president of industry cloud at SAP, told delegates at the SAP Innovation Forum in London today: “Digital transformation isn’t an IT problem – it is a business problem that requires management innovation that can be applied across IT."
In his keynote, Bakey said businesses need to think about how they could be innovating now, before they fall behind.
“The leaders in these industries ... are those that are embracing digitalisation, that understand the digital economy and are practising innovation in a very operational sense,” he said.
He offered four examples of how SAP’s collection of cloud-enabled enterprise software – which includes the likes of expenses management software Concur and its latest ERP software, S/4 HANA – has been enabling business to work “more efficiently and effectively”.
However, SAP has previously admitted to Cloud Pro that most of the take-up of S/4 HANA has been on-premise, rather than in the cloud.
But Bakey pointed to F1 firm McLaren as a customer of SAP's HANA Cloud Platform, using it to process data from 120 sensors on its racing car to predict some 20,000 different types of driver scenarios.
This process used to take six hours to collect data, and another six to 10 to process that data, but Bakey said that via HANA McLaren can review these scenarios in real-time, meaning changes can be applied to the car much sooner than before.
“This will give them speed, agility, so that they can attach more projects [to the platform],” he said, adding that the time McLaren had saved had given it the opportunity to develop new IP with implications for other industries, specifically a prototype warning system for the medical profession that would alert doctors to changes to a patient's health.
Companies should put their digital plans into action right away so that they can begin to integrate their systems over time, Bakey claimed.
An ad hoc poll at the beginning of the keynote, which the assembled delegates took part in via an app, showed that though approximately two-thirds of the enterprises present felt that they needed to respond to the digitisation of their industry now, a third believed that responding in up to five years' time would be adequate.
Bakey said it has “never been more important for SAP to have deep relationships with every part of [a company’s] senior management team, and operations team”.
Emma Sinclair, co-founder of EnterpriseJungle and UNICEF UK’s first business mentor, said it is important for businesses to have leadership that embraces and encourages innovation from all parts of the organisation.
Managers should champion employees' ideas that could help the business, she added, but also said: “If your leadership team isn’t interested, and you have a fantastic idea, you need to think about whether you’re in the right company.”