The digital transformation is perhaps a disruptive continuum – small, revolutionary steps. “That only works with an approach of gradual harmonization and not a one-time operational guideline,” says Rolf Werner with conviction. “I can set up guide rails left and right, so that nothing veers off course. I can enable in order to reach this speed. I need agile methods – in the end, that which is defined by software and communication is nothing more than agility,” is how the head of Fujitsu defines the challenges of the digital transformation.
In the discussion round, this development approach is called “scrum”: You work four weeks in a team and then present something. If it works, it will go in this or that direction. “The knowledge of ‘if we start here we will end there’ no longer exists in the traditional sense,” knows Werner about the changing behavior of providers and users.
Individual Solutions Mandatory
Michael Straub at Fujitsu has also observed this new situation in his own daily practice: “The processes at customers are very different from the past patterns. Today, we are much more open in terms of the result, which pushes for agility. We do not define digitization as a finished and closed product that we roll out as a template at the customer.”
A ready-made automation plan is not realistic: “Of course there are standard models and verified methods for digital enabling that we bring to the company,” explains Straub. “But it is very different from before, when the approach consisted of 80 percent pre-defined methods and 20 percent adjustments.
You can argue about the exact percentages, but what matters is that the process has turned towards a discussion that is more open in terms of the result.” Of course Fujitsu comes with a pre-defined, structured concept.
“But the customer must decide a lot on his own – we can enable and support him and help him to digitize his IT-supported processes. But in the end, the customer himself must define the way to the goal. At the same time, our methods can facilitate the way there and add security to the process,” explains Michael Straub with respect to the Fujitsu offer.
Advisor Henkes from Experton welcomes this approach: “If you want to help the customers with their own further development, you have to first advise them that there is an internal and external digital transformation. As a company, I have to continue developing, digitize processes and make them ready for IT.”
Fujitsu manager Straub: “We can help the customer to standardize and finally to automate. But it is his experience and requirements that must be digitized.” Previously, implementing ERP referred to an abstract process, which is no longer the case today.
Now challenges must be addressed with co-innovation (in the sense of a partnership), whereby the template approach is largely outdated, as explained by Michael Straub: “Therefore enabling means to develop solutions on the basis of a much closer partnership with the customer.”
It appears that the role between provider and user is being redefined as part of the digital transformation. The proofs of concept found in the SAP community, of which there are many, provide a glimpse of this new reality. It is a planned and evaluated disruption.
This also creates clear boundaries and new expectations. “What is not possible: that a provider or IT provider invents and revises a business model at the user. The concept of copying an example from another industry and then implementing it at the customer certainly does not work with the digital transformation,” knows Rolf Werner from many discussions with existing customers.
And the head of Fujitsu warns of false expectations and rapid solutions: “That is unfortunately a common mistake. You are asked to tell how it works in other industries or at a competitor – and then they want to do it just like them and better.”
That does not work, of course. We can only enable. We can offer the complete tool set. We can offer all methods. But we cannot invent or specify how the customer should design and operate his business.” Werner continues to emphasize that Fujitsu can moderate the way to a solution.
“Here we can help and support,” he emphasizes. And the discussion round agrees that in the end, it is the customer who must run the business. “Yes, that’s the way it is,” adds CIO Göttert.
“We as the customer must say where the journey is supposed to go. Without a plan, it will be impossible to demand and use the right products – and to start the transformation process,” adds Gerhard Göttert.
How does the digitization process start? What must companies do in advance to ensure that the offered tools and methods are accessible – that enabling can take place? What is the influence of digitization on the end customer business?
Questions that need answers
“There is a process of dematerialization,” says Göttert and explains: “Things such as maps were previously available as a physical product, whereas now they are apps on a smartphone. Does this affect my business model? If the answer is yes, then it is almost impossible not to do something,” says the CIO.
And these challenges for enablement apply to the entire SAP community: “It begins with a business transformation,” says Göttert, based on many discussions with DSAG members. What will we do with existing business models in the future? Then enabling follows the digital transformation.
“I have to think about at which points in the end-to-end process I need a higher degree of digitization. And only then comes the IT transformation. These are the steps that must be adhered to. Only then can I think about which tools and methods I will use,” is how Göttert describes his proven approach.
When one takes a look at the medium-sized business sector, it is evident that organizations are now tackling this transformation. “Of course many companies have started a flurry of activities,” says Göttert, based on numerous other discussion rounds.
This approach gives rise to the well-known front end apps. “But companies are also in the process of examining their business processes end-to-end and including their partners. We are convinced that in today‘s society, no company can be successful in the end customer market by itself because anyone wanting to force through their processes on their own will probably run into difficulty.”
Looking for Partners
Göttert knows the complexity of enabling: “In the digital transformation, one needs partners.” Different ecosystems will emerge. Understanding this can become difficult for the entire business and IT community because the digital transformation is not as tactile.
“This will also involve a cultural transformation,” says Göttert.
He is ready for collaboration: “At the end of the day, we need the support and advice from the IT providers who are working with us. And as users, we rely on the idea that our partners are well-prepared for this transformation.”
Göttert adds: “The future does not come as quickly as one would hope perhaps. But support cannot consist of telling us how an IT product works, but rather how we can integrate the solutions and methods. Which conditions must be created for the enabling process, e.g. agility? What methods must be used? What steps must be taken?”
This article is part of a series. If you would like to read the second one, click here.