What happens when digital technology is so deeply embedded—in both enterprise systems and everyday lives—that it’s no longer differentiating, and is simply what you need to survive? How do you achieve competitive advantage in that kind of “post-digital” world?
These are some of the really big questions raised in the Accenture Technology Vision 2019. I believe the answers are to be found in human-centricity. That is, in refocusing the business around a much deeper and more responsive understanding of customer and employee needs and the experience they will “live through” with your business.
Consider something like product and service personalization. Companies have been racing to create 360-degree views of their customers—what they’ve bought in the past and what they’re likely to want in the future. That’s a central plank in any digital customer strategy worth its salt today.
But in the post-digital world, where everything is customized around the individual’s needs, often in real time, that’s not enough on its own. Companies have to go further, using ever more sophisticated insights to craft experiences, services, and even products which are truly personalized and adapted for each customer or employee.
It’s clear that an incredible level of enterprise agility will be needed to deliver this kind of post-digital vision. And fortunately for the SAP customers we work with, SAP has been on its own journey to support the needs of a post-digital enterprise.
With SAP S/4HANA, SAP offers a next-generation digital core complemented by a suite of intelligent solutions, technologies, and industry-specific applications. With SAP Cloud Platform, companies can now better connect with their business partners and customers, and develop new capabilities with both proprietary and third-party applications, all leveraging the flexibility of the cloud.
This openness has also come with a greater focus on protecting both the enterprise’s data and its customer data. That’s because trust will be just as strong a differentiator as customer intimacy in the future.
I think the acquisition of Qualtrics is a great example of “post-digital SAP.” With Qualtrics, SAP now offers a unique ability to combine core operational data with rich customer and employee experience insights captured in real time from a whole range of sources. This opens entirely new possibilities for developing innovative brand and customer experiences, better employee experiences, even new products and services—all baseline requirements in the post-digital era.
The four big trends that will influence the post-digital future
So what does the future look like for SAP customers? Accenture’s Technology Vision for SAP Solutions 2019 sets out four themes and trends that will define the post-digital age:
Innovating with emerging technologies. The next wave of technology will be DARQ—that’s distributed ledgers (“D”), artificial intelligence (“A”), extended reality (“R”), and quantum computing (“Q”). But it’s how these technologies are used in combination that will be the true source of future competitive advantage.
Spending more quality time with customers. Post-digital businesses will take their understanding of the customer to a much deeper level, using it to create truly individualized experiences that respond to changing needs in a much more agile and effective way.
Building a tech-augmented workforce. The post-digital world is changing employees just as much as customers. Companies must find new ways to equip and empower their talent. That means blending digital tools, including artificial intelligence, into the workforce in a way that puts human needs at the center.
Investing in security, trust, and responsibility. The number of external connections that modern enterprises create means it’s no longer enough to just protect your own business—the entire ecosystem needs protection. At the same time, you should be looking to build trust with partners and customers, designing systems that offer transparent and responsible data use.
Digital, post-digital, or both?
It’s important to recognize that these post-digital trends come with an added complication for many SAP customers. That’s because these are typically large, historically successful, global businesses, many of whom are still managing the transition from legacy technologies.
In fact, some have just begun their digital transformations. Others are right in the thick of it. And these companies might reasonably ask, “How can our business be ‘post-digital’ without first being truly ‘digital’?”
But the reality is, you can’t wait for a digital transformation to be completed before you start thinking about the post-digital era. Otherwise you risk getting stuck in a never-ending game of catch up, where you’re continuously surprised by a new landscape each time you think you’ve reached the finish line.
That’s why these four post-digital trends are so pressing. And in this series of blog posts, I’ll be diving into what each of them means for today’s SAP customers in more detail.
So, please watch this space for much more on how leading businesses will be using SAP solutions to adapt and thrive in the post-digital era.