Reporting from the Digital Economy: SAP Launches the Digitalist

Editor’s Note:  This week SAP launched a new e-publication, Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.  We sat down with Jeff Woods, Editorial Director for the magazine and VP, Corporate and Portfolio Marketing at SAP to get the back story.

IX: What is a digitalist?  And how do you pronounce it phonetically?

Jeff: “Dijh-juh-tuh-list.”  A digitalist is someone who has leadership responsibility for his or her enterprise transformation through the digital economy.

It is somebody who sees how his or her organization can thrive in the digital economy. And whether that be an executive level or at a business unit level or even a worker’s level, various people can be digital leaders at all different levels in the organization.  We’re really writing for all of them.  I’d say we’re primarily writing for that senior executive audience, but anyone can find value from the content in the magazine.

IX: Tell us again about the intent behind the Digitalist magazine.  It is obviously a big investment. You’ve hired a serious editor.  You’re on iTunes. Why are you starting this new thought leadership platform?

Jeff: We want to have authentic conversations with our customers.  That’s how SAP established a trusted advisor innovation relationship over the past 40 years. When we asked “what is the most relevant topic that is keeping them up at night?” it was the digital economy that our customers wanted to have conversations about.

Then we asked ‘what is really the relevant forum, what’s the best way to have that conversation with our customers?’  We came up with the Digitalist Magazine as a way to package the best of SAP’s thought leadership, the best of those conversations that we are having with our customers, and also in the world at large.  The magazine is a space and a forum for that conversation.  As we got a little bit deeper into it, we realized that out there in the world, we didn’t really find a dedicated space for those conversations around the digital economy.  We really wanted this magazine to sort of fill a convening role and not just for our customers, but for the world at large. We’re committed to helping enterprises transform into the digital economy.

IX: What do you guys mean by “the digital economy?”

Jeff: There are actually a few definitions out there.  Gartner talks about bridging the physical and virtual worlds, and I think that’s a really good explanation for what is going on.  It means a few things:

  • The digitization of assets —  the ability to see assets and control and manipulate assets that are present in the physical world from a digital instrumentation perspective.
  • The digitization of the customer experience — making sure that your customers can interact with you on a very fine-grained, very granular basis through digital channels, through mobile channels or through pervasive presence channels.

One of the things we talk about in the Digital Economy Manifesto is that in the early days of the Internet, and ecommerce itself, things were very different than it is now. Then the customer experience was about creating orders, and maybe checking the status of orders online.

In contrast, what you’re doing in the digital economy is really creating end-to-end immersive customer experiences that rely on digital capabilities. There may be information services that come along with physical products that you sell.  It may be the fact that the experience is always on — for example the Amazon Echo is always on with you.

Creating those immersive digital customer experiences is another aspect of the digitization process.

  • It’s also about digitization of core processes within the business —many processes that enterprises use today were established in the ecommerce era, and were really built for the technology and the experience that people expected in the ecommerce era.

Now that we have digital capabilities that are pervasive you can also take those experiences to your core processes as well.  So, doing things like enabling configuration, enabling order changes through digital experiences are major ways that digitization of core processes will affect that immersive customer digital experience.

  • The last piece of the shift is the digitization of work. Ensuring that you have engaged employees to be able to change and have them respond to the dynamics of the digital economy.

In sum, the digital economy is based on four things: the assets, the customer experience, the processes, and, the work.

IX: There has been a promise for a long time with the evolutions of web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and all the integration they’ve envisioned.  Yet from a consumer point of view on the ground, it doesn’t seem like the immersive “seamless” customer experience the digital economy promises is actually happening in many places.  It sure doesn’t feel like it’s the norm.  I’m curious from your, and SAP’s perspective, where you think we are we along the continuum from ecommerce to the full blown digital economy?

Where are we in the evolution of organizations being able to really deliver this seamless integrated experience?  Isn’t it still early days?

Jeff: As Geoffrey Moore might have said, we’re “inside the tornado.”  We think the level of activity that we are seeing around the digital economy is accelerating dramatically.

We have been in conversations actively with customers about the digital economy for some time.

In 2014 you would talk to people and you’d say, “let’s talk about a digital transformation” and the first question would be what do you mean?  Like, is this a thing?  And now digital transformation is leading the conversation, and it’s on the minds of, of CIOs, of CEOs, of business leaders all around the world to understand the importance of this.

The title of the manifesto in the magazine is This Time It is Different.

I think that title says it. The promise of a fully integrated digital economy has been   emerging for a while. It is coming to be fulfilled for a variety of reasons.

One is the pervasiveness of the mobile technology that enables you to have that digital experience with you at all times.  Ironically the other reason we’re closer to Digital Transformation is the emergence of Lean start up methodologies inside of large enterprises which allows companies to experiment, quickly understand whether or not this digital experience is right for their customers, and then either expand, and accelerate and institutionalize, or move on and find a new digital experience.

So there’s a combination of technologies as well as practices that are coming together to make this very important, and different this time.

IX: The whole notion of using a magazine to drive authentic communications suggests that you guys put a lot of stock in the media, in the written word, in blogging, in content as a powerful accelerator of conversations.  What about this content do you think is going to be compelling enough to drive these authentic conversations?  I don’t mean to sound glib, I’m really interested…

Jeff: One thing that’s very important for us is that we have a definitive point of view.  We aspire very much to be the digital destination, the source of information of what you need in order to successfully execute a digital transformation.  We have been working with this content for several years, and it’s been a fantastic journey because it’s been driven by great conversations with customers.  With the Digitalist we have a point of view about where the market is going, and our content efforts are aligned behind satisfying everything that a customer needs in order to be a digitalist.  So, one thing that’s very different is, we are committing to be a definitive source.  It’s an authoritative source on the digital economy and digital transformation.

IX: It strikes me, Jeff that not a lot of people get to claim that, and to claim it, you have to back it up?

Jeff: Absolutely.  We work with our colleagues throughout the business.  We have organizations that are field-facing, that we collaborate with very strongly, that are in fact leading digital economy, digital transformation work, and, and are really out there on the forefront.  They are having the conversations that are at the heart of our new platform.

IX: Cool.  We wish you great luck with the Digitalist.  Where exactly can our readers find it?

Jeff: Innovation Excellence readers can check out the Digitalist app that is free to download for tablets, only, from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

“Digital doubles” of magazine content will be available starting July 29 on the newly rebranded Business Innovation site, now called Digitalist Magazine, Online Edition These digital doubles provide a way for readers to share and amplify the magazine’s content.

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Julie Anixter is the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. She also serves as the Chief Learning Officer for RELEVENTS and Executive in Residence for the Disruptor Foundation. The co-author of three books, she’s working on a fourth on the next innovators. She worked with Tom Peters for 5 years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the Healthcare, Education, Manufacturing, the Military and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference. You can follow her.

Jeff Woods is a Vice President of Marketing at SAP, where he leads up thought leadership functions. Prior to this, he held a variety of roles in the go-to-market organization of SAP. Before joining SAP, he was a research analyst at Gartner, leading up the Enterprise Applications Research Community. Learn more @digitalistmag

s Note:  This week SAP launched a new e-publication, Digitalist

Julie Anixter




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