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Bill McDermott's technology taxonomy

Bill McDermott Profile picture for user Bill_McD March 30, 2014
Bill McDermott, co-CEO SAP lays bare the penchant for buzzword bingo in the technology market, parsing this into what he sees as reality in the field. We can all learn from this.

bill mcdermott
Bill McDermott - co-CEO SAP

Summary: Bill McDermott, co-CEO SAP lays bare the reality of buzzword bingo in the technology market, parsing this into what he sees in the field.

The secret to success in business technology isn’t a secret at all. If you listen, customers will always tell you exactly what they need technology to do.

I just wrapped up a quick trip to France and the U.K. to visit with some SAP customers. After several hours of quality listening, I’ve never been more certain about the forces that will drive this industry for the foreseeable future.

That said, while those of us who read Diginomica like to believe that cloud, big data, mobile, HCM and other buzzwords are the big answers, these aren’t the words customers use. This isn’t to suggest the buzzwords aren’t relevant – I use them myself pretty regularly. Customers, however, don’t start conversations with buzzwords. They start conversations with business challenges.

Here’s my translation of the pillars of our industry. Discussion is welcome:

Cloud = simplicity, time to value
Customers know the pace of business model innovation is faster today than ever. SAP is a poster-child itself: 80% of our net new revenues come from businesses we weren’t in four years ago. When a CEO and her/his management team are trying to outpace the disruption, they need technology to update at the same pace. They need to understand how software can actually help advance a business strategy, then they need to see the value fast.

Big data = predictive insight
For customers, this is fundamentally a business strategy conversation. What data points exist in a business that can inform a product strategy and a sustainable customer relationship? Can these data points be synthesized in real time to deliver insight that is easy to consume and actionable?

Mobility = adaptability
The 21st century workforce works differently, period. Business leaders increasingly recognize the challenge of adapting business processes and policies from the last century. Everything an employee (or customer) can do from a physical location needs to be doable from anywhere.

CRM = customer experience
I haven’t met an executive in months who asked me about sales force automation. Instead, they’ve become obsessed with the prospect of delivering a 21st century omni-channel experience that maps to the customer’s journey. This is all about knowing and serving a customer every step of the way – from their first online search to onboarding, order fulfillment and beyond. The experience must be paved with simplicity: easy to try, easy to buy and easy for customers to engage.

HCM = employee engagement
This idea of managing a workforce is less relevant today than ever. Leaders are looking for ways to inspire their teams to dream big and execute their way to collective success. It’s about connecting the dots in a way that links organizational success to personal and professional growth. The technology itself has to be beautiful, social and simple.

SCM = business networking
Business leaders want to source products and services the same way they shop as individual consumers. The desire to get high quality for the most reasonable price is pervasive. If this means new business relationships with first-time business partners, fine. The only way to unleash the competitive power of the open market is with transparency on an open network.

“The Suite” = integrated enterprise
Wall Street analyst reports and employee surveys make it equally clear: organizational silos kill winning strategies. No executive wants wildly inconsistent and disconnected systems for employee engagement, customer retention, financials and supply chain performance. If it’s valuable to the business, it’s connected at the core and transparent to the company. Leaders want their teams aligned on the fundamentals so they can execute from a clear, consistent foundation. One team, one dream.

The final few terms in my glossary that are featured prominently in customer conversations actually predate technology itself: choice, trust, value.

If anyone understands the mindset of a sale’s professional it’s me: there’s always a natural tendency to lead with what you have. But there’s another mindset that rises above whatever we bring to the market: the customer and the customer alone determines whether we win or we lose.

Businesses are digging themselves out from a mountain of complexity.

They want choices from us about how to unleash technology. They need to trust that we’ll stay with them on the path to achieving actual outcomes.

Feasibility assessments, process measures and even technology implementations are not the “end game.” It all has to start with the business challenge and end with the business value.

If diginomica will let me do this again, I’ll dig into some of these topics in more depth.

Editor's note: heck yeah Bill, the more we hear from the field, the more we like it!

Image credit: Tom Raftery

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