Posts By Ingrid Curtis

The Need to Balance Work-from-Home and Work-from-Office

Work-from-Home (WFH) is here to stay. COVID-19 forced companies to adapt to the remote model or grind to a halt. Even companies that have previously resisted WFH have found most of their concerns to be unfounded. Some have even gone so far as to claim that the WFH/virtual model will be the dominant model going forward, and that offices are effectively ‘dead’.While there are significant benefits to a WFH model for many businesses, there are still potential downsides that technology alone can’t solve. After all, we as humans are social beings.  There is a reason ‘solitary confinement’ is considered severe punishment! Human connection and interaction are essential to personal happiness.  In-person team collaboration helps to build relationships, foster ideation and strengthen company culture.  And there are ‘moments of serendipity’ that can only happen when working in an office environment.WFH Has Many BenefitsWorking independently from home provides numerous benefits for employees and businesses alike. These include:Employee flexibility and ‘spirit of freedom’, giving employees control over where and when they workHigher productivity. Although WFH has its distractions, this is likely outweighed by lower commuting times and a longer window for working hoursBroader ability to recruit talent from remote locations – not being restricted by commute times to local officesLower facilities cost due to less need for permanent space and related support systemsBut WFH Also Has its DownsidesWFH is not all ‘rainbows and unicorns’ – some of the challenges include:Employee burnout and disengagement due to longer hours, more time online and a feeling of monotony. In a recent study from DigitalOcean on remote work, 82 percent of U.S.-based remote-working professionals report feeling burnt out.Maintaining company culture and unity is challenging due to minimal personal interaction and connection, which in turn impacts consistency of performance and employee retention.Less in-person collaboration and interaction also reduces the opportunity for those ‘moments of serendipity’ where new ideas are generated, or problems handled quickly.  According to a recent PWC survey on remote working, the number one reason employees say they go into the office is to collaborate with other team members (50 percent). Difficulty collaborating is also the number one reason people give for being unproductive at home (39 percent).Ongoing skills and career development, as well as apprenticeship of junior employees can be a challenge, although this can be mitigated with investments in new systems, processes and training (both for managers and colleagues).Rural Sourcing – Taking a Balanced ApproachThe office isn’t obsolete, but it is changing. While the COVID-19 crisis showed that staff can interact well when apart, people still cherish in-person engagement with colleagues. Having colleagues interact in-person yields strong benefits to culture, innovation and ongoing career development. We feel the best approach is to blend the freedom and flexibility of WFH, with the personal interaction and collaboration found in Work-from-Office (WFO).Our development centers, located in Middle America communities, provide great hubs to enable this balanced approach.  We also feel there continues to be strong business benefits to our software development center-based model, including:Access to strong overlooked talent, and keeping IT jobs in the U.S.Lower cost of livingHigh quality of living compared to larger metropolitan areasA strong catalyst for bringing the innovation economy to Middle AmericaAs we at Rural Sourcing take steps toward moving colleagues back to development centers, our priority will be to maintain:Employee safety, well-being and satisfaction, and opportunities for in-person connection, relationship building and team collaborationProductivity and performance for our clientsEmployee skills and career development, including best-practice sharingCompany culture – preserving the ‘glue’ for retention, consistent performance and market differentiationOur focus on being part of, and giving back to, the local communities in which we operate – helping to build the technology hubs of the futureWe’ve always been intentional about creating ‘collision points’ for our colleagues to interact and work together. Now, we are rethinking how to do this safely. By strengthening the bonds our colleagues form in the development centers and across locations, we will drive greater collaboration and deliver even better results for our clients.Office space and its design are important pieces of creating a collaborative environment. That’s why we’re rethinking how best to use the space to create the type of location that fosters creativity and teamwork, rather than building just a heads down work environment.  This will include more teaming areas and better pair-programming setups.  Teams will be able to complete heads down work-from-home for part of the week and come into the office for sprint planning/grooming, difficult project points and greater innovation discussions.As we speak with our colleagues it’s very apparent that they want to return to the development centers. They don't necessarily want to come back to a ‘weird pandemic environment’ but do wish for the positive aspects of our pre-COVID environment and the ability to socialize/collaborate in person.  While we have all benefited from some aspects from WFH, we'll take the learnings from this unique time and build an environment that brings the best of both worlds together to the greatest outcome.DISCOVER MOREAbout the AuthorAs COO for Rural Sourcing, Ingrid Miller Curtis is responsible for realizing Rural Sourcing's vision to provide US-based high quality IT outsourcing solutions through her management and oversight of all Rural Sourcing development centers. Her responsibilities include leading and developing Rural Sourcing talent, client relationship management, ensuring the scalability and reliability of Rural Sourcing's process and systems and strategically determining the next set of solutions for our clients. She is also responsible for establishing and ensuring consistency across the organization with respect to Rural Sourcing's processes, values, and methodologies. Ingrid brings an expansive knowledge of underlying computer systems and technologies, allowing her to contribute to all aspects of our application development and maintenance projects.Ingrid is a graduate of Babson College, where she earned a B.S. in Business Management.

How SAP technology Helps Enable Growth

Executives will push IT and their staff to support top-line revenue growth and profitability actively; and, of course, IT professionals will do their best to accommodate leadership.  The lines that separated business units from I.T. are disappearing. While I.T. is pervasive too many executives fail to understand that SAP core systems were designed to enable business processing and financial analyses – not revenue and profitability.  So what role can SAP play in supporting growth, driving revenue and profitability without deviating from its core of process execution and business analytics?In recent years, SAP developed many modules aimed squarely at supporting companies as they grapple with the Digital Economy. S/4 HANA, Leonardo, and Hybris represent a new wave of SAP business solutions.  Further, these solutions enable prospect acquisition, customer retention and satisfaction of users and constituents generally as the technology aligns with and allows more natural digital experiences. This enablement leads to increased revenue and profitability.To ensure the decisive role of SAP technology in influencing top-line growth, the revenue creation side of the equation must be pre-defined before starting an enterprise-wide project.  Bolting on powerful new systems, after the fact, will not enable a complete adaptation to the digital world.  Early planning for enterprise-wide SAP development or upgrade must focus on critical top-line metrics and business processes to:Stay competitiveEnhance the selling processCreate great customer experiencesBuild loyaltyKeeping it simple – top-line growth is fueled by gaining new customers, retaining old customers, and adding new products and services for customers to buy.  Growth is all about the customer. Customers seek out singular experiences which are convenient, natural, mobile and thoughtful. Companies that provide these will enjoy the rewards of loyalty and advocacy.In typical implementations, SAP is good at reducing costs by integrating operational processes with accounting data across the enterprise. However, when using SAP to drive revenue and profitability, that particular adaptation requires accessing a different layer of data, various analytical tools and ultimately aligning these with sales processes that sit on top of the operational/accounting proceduresA company's revenue and profit data must synchronize with the sales and marketing strategy to achieve top-line growth. With this in mind, the typical focus of SAP on process improvement, business automation, cycle-time reductions, and other common operational issues is not enough.  Revenue generation and profitability require digital adaptations to the typical SAP implementation.  The lesson here is not to leave it till too late to consider this requirement.The Cautionary Tale - A Good Example of a Bad ExampleAn independent executive sales leader for a consumer goods company recognized the need for prioritization, identifying strengths and gaps and the value of third-party expertise and perspectives, when describing their SAP challenges, the best:"The whole system did not work when it was launched, and to this day (2014) there are glitches and problems. Many representatives couldn't even get logged into the new website, and once you got in, the system was not accepting orders, it wasn't saving orders properly, and it wasn't reserving inventory. We couldn't use it."Let's not forget this ghastly corporate failure damaged the reputations of all involved.  It also derailed revenue generation for months and tanked profitability.Among other things one of the main culprits was the back-end operational and process systems which were never designed to work with the front-end sales systems; in particular, the sales representatives.READY TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR SAP STRATEGY?That was Then; This is NowA lot has changed in the intervening years. SAP is still, at its core, a business process, and operations improvement system. As discussed in our previous SAP blogs, delivering exceptional customer experiences requires understanding behaviors. This understanding is achieved by capturing vast amounts of free-flowing data and then the ability to create valuable insights by analyzing this data. Smooth supply chains then enable the fulfillment of the promise.  Once you push the "order" button, it's all about the technology "behind the scenes." As we have all begun to realize, adapting to the digital world is a tricky business and requires careful orchestration across the enterprise and relies on technology from dependable partners like SAP.Wherever your company is on the journey to digital adaptation, it is and will be engaged in a drawn-out process.  Executives, managers, and workers will make thousands of decisions and will rely on teams of people that may or may not stick around to finish the job.  I did mention that digital adaptation is a tricky business.Ok, But Can SAP Drive Top-Line Growth?Yes, SAP can enable top-line growth. Almost every company seeking to use SAP to enhance revenue and profitability needs to start with a quality design and expert technical guidance.  Moreover, nearly every company begins the journey to improve top-line growth by building on top of their legacy computing systems.Of course, these older systems can't and won't lead to complete digital transformation, but they provide a foundation, upon which digital adaptation usually begins.  Transformation is a scary concept. Adaptation is a more practical description of what happens and includes adapting valuable technology from reliable partners.As we have said before; you can rarely buy your way to success.  Of course, you need to participate in the Digital Economy, but you must deal with your realities today, and that means keeping the lights on.  Your in-house SAP technical resources may need extra help in supporting the present while specialized experts help you move the organization, step-by-step, into the future.  Wise and prudent spending demands that precious financial resources be used to drive the company from milestone to milestone, not to fund a wild leap into the unknown.If you want SAP to drive revenue and profitability, sales and marketing must be involved from the beginning to integrate their strategies, plans, KPIs, and other quantifiable criteria into the blueprint.  When that happens, IT can understand and support those processes. SAP does not exist in a void; it is dependent on data derived from discrete or calculated business metrics throughout the enterprise.While maximizing the use of existing technologies, you need partners to secure the present (supporting current systems) or help deliver the future (that SAP digital experience). These partners need to be digitally capable, technologically competent, and culturally creative. To learn how we can help you with your SAP challenges contact us at SAPinquiry@ruralsourcing.com.NEED HELP? LET'S TALK.

SAP – The Customer Experience

A Guide To Crafting Great Digital Experiences - From Inside Out with SAP In our series on Digital Adaptation, one of the things we discuss is the importance of the digital experience, and in this series,  we try to shed light on what that means in the SAP world – the SAP Customer Experience. The digital experience is talked and written about as the deciding factor in business these days. We also talked about how the consumerization of IT  has raised our expectations and blurred the distinction between our business and social experiences. If the "experience" is as significant as everyone says it is, how do you achieve it? Can't you just buy the latest and greatest technologies? In other words, can’t you buy your way in? Well, maybe. However, there's more to creating an excellent SAP customer experience. You must tie together the back end and the front end while leveraging insights by gathering, manipulating and analyzing the biggest of big data. The good news is that SAP users probably already have the technology in place to do it, but like most companies are short of resources that can help.As a reminder we defined digital adaptation as the ability to predict, or perceive, quickly evolving business needs, and adjust through new combinations of technology, process, and workforce management. We also said it requires the use of new technologies; a willingness to adopt less familiar methods and the utilization of innovative workforce models. The goal is to create faster, more flexible solutions that simultaneously exceed user and consumer expectations while keeping competitors on their heels. However, we acknowledge that companies can neither afford, and do not need, to continually acquire new technology and dispose of the "old." There are trusted vendors whose technology has helped us come so far and whose technology can provide the backbone for our digital endeavors. SAP is one of these so let’s see how the technology can help on the CX side with a little adaptation in three areas:First, the SAP customer experience is clearly important. SAP is attacking the problem from both ends, as was made clear at this year's Sapphire Conference in June. According to Dom Nicastro’s Jun 18, 2018 article “Takeaways from SAP's Sapphire Now” in CMSWire “The traditional database-management, ERP, back-end enterprise software billionaire giant companies are taking on customer experience (CX) and the front-end." This is true when you consider SAP's acquisitions of companies Hybris (commerce), Gigya (customer identity management) and CallidusCloud (sales performance management and configure-price-quote). However, for as much noise as SAP has made at the front end, they already have the expertise in the back end. Second, an understanding that the fundamentals of crafting a great SAP digital experience is not just about what you see. It is about keeping your promises, which in the modern world means being able to deliver what you promised when you promised it. You need to seamlessly fuse the supply chain in the back end to the SAP customer experience in the front end, and that's about leveraging data. One of the keys to a creating and maintaining a satisfying (and differentiated) customer buying experience is the ability to harvest meaningful data. This can be achieved by leveraging SAP Business Objects for BW/HANA Analytics., SAP Gateway APIs for Fiori, and Personas technologies for streamlined UX. The digital footprints left by the modern customer provides insights into habits and preferences. These footprints enable your talented people to better shape that experience encouraging customers to return leaving even more of those digital footprints as their loyalty grows. Once more, Dom Nicastro emphasizes this as one of the essential takeaways from Sapphire. “SAP’s big play this year at its conference was the front-end meeting the back-end for complete customer experiences. That’s what marketers strive for, right? Complete customer journeys from purchase intent to actual purchase and post-product success and support.” Third, what does that say about SAP's current technology, roadmap, and your investment? Does this mean you have to invest in all the shiny new front-end technologies to adapt in the digital world? Well, maybe, and maybe not. Digital Adaptation isn’t about chasing the shiny new toy. It is about being able to look inside your existing business to liberate new enterprise and find new business models. It’s also about being smart about your current technology investments and leveraging them as much as you can. Only a small percentage of SAP users are on the latest versions or upgraded to the newest systems like S/4HANA or Leonardo. Therefore, most SAP customers rely on Basis, ABAP, function expertise, and improved business processes to adapt their systems to the digital economy. We encourage you to look at everything from SAP’s machine learning capabilities within Leonardo, to the new HANA Data Management Suite. You should also be looking at how you leverage SAP’s heritage in the back office (to help you deliver on the front end promises) and business intelligence technologies (so you can analyze and interpret the meaning of those digital footprints) by using the SAP NetWeaver Development Tools and SAP BW/BI platform to streamline and maximize the performance of your business transactions.  While SAP has made strategic acquisitions in front office technologies, they continue to provision and integrate robust back-office expertise and technologies with the data management and intelligence tools they have perfected over the last 15 years, like SAP Gateway and Ariba. As Kevin Cochrane, chief marketing officer for SAP Hybris made clear at Sapphire, “SAP's main competitive advantage is its ability to connect the back and front office. That will require the use of existing technologies as opposed to going on a buying spree in new technologies only.” The importance of partnering was a big topic of conversation at Sapphire. Partnerships at the enterprise level in the SAP world have become more critical, more complex and require more than just technical and functional expertise. Maintaining the current while planning (and delivering) the future presents unique challenges. It demands partners not only with proven skills but that offer expertise in modern methods as well as innovative delivery models. No one can go it alone, and partnering and outsourcing models that worked in the past are proving incapable of delivering that singular SAP customer experience demanded by the digital world.  You must squeeze all the value you can out of your current technologies while making smart investments in new technologies. While maximizing the use of existing technologies, you need partners to secure the present (supporting current systems) or help deliver the future (that SAP digital experience). These partners need to be digitally capable, technologically competent, and culturally creative. To learn how we can help you with your SAP challenges contact us at SAPinquiry@ruralsourcing.com.

Without Maturity, You Could Disappear in the Digital Economy

No business will be untouched by the Digital Economy. It affects the way organizations interact with customers, suppliers, and employees; and, as we know, it even stimulates alliances with competitors.  As we move deeper into our digital adaptation journeys, the skills and expertise needed to overcome obstacles and recoup from setbacks are essential. To manage the digital adaptation process, corporations need ‘digital maturity.’It is dramatic to say that we are in an ‘adapt or die’ scenario, but there is much truth to that claim. Perhaps a more accurate statement is this: it takes digital maturity to lead an organization through the adaptation process. As we have discussed before; digital adaptation enables an organization to predict or perceive quickly evolving business needs, and adjust through new combinations of technology, process and workforce management.What is digital maturity? The term comes from the field of psychology. It means that ‘maturity’ is a learned ability to respond appropriately in a particular environment. Digital maturity is about adapting an organization, so it competes effectively in a digital environment.For comparison, it might be useful for readers to see how 3500 business executives lined up on a digital maturity scale, from 1 to 10: An international maturity study conducted in 2017 by MIT Sloan Management Review, in collaboration with Deloitte University Press, reports that: 34% (1190) of the executives were in the early stages of digital maturity; 41% (1435) were developing, and 25% (875) were further along in the maturing process. If those statistics are reliable indicators of digital evolution, the maturation process is well underway.According to the MIT Sloan Management Review article referenced above – Achieving Digital Maturity; the leaders who exhibited the highest degree of digital maturity were able to implement systemic changes within their organization, focus on the long-term, start with small projects and evolve them into enterprise-wide projects, and secure the talent to implement the company’s digital vision.  To accomplish all that, those leaders had help.Digital Maturity and SAPBased on many SAP projects over the years, we divided digital maturity into four dimensions:Leadership Maturity and Capability Data Accessibility and Accuracy SAP Technology Systems and Processes Workforce Readiness and CultureLeadershipThe digital economy is focused on meeting the unique needs of each customer. For that reason, digital adaptation is about tailoring business operations to be more human. Consequently, mature leaders work from the premise that digital adaptation is about building relationships, not about technology. As a result, seasoned leaders construct business models that cater to the needs of people first and avoid getting hung up on the limitations of their in-house systems.SAP announced that it collaborated with the European Research Center for Information Systems (ERCIS) to create a maturity model that enables leaders to assess, track and develop the digital skills their in-house systems need to function in the digital economy.The maturity model helps the leaders prepare for a digital future by defining a skills development strategy and reinforcing the technical environments needed to keep pace with the new economy. The model is based on a survey of 116 business and IT decision makers from 18 countries, as well as a series of in-depth interviews with 24 global companies.DataTurning data into action is the cornerstone of digital adaptation. While a true statement, turning data into action is not a linear process. It requires building a sophisticated infrastructure that lets people store, protect, and analyze information. Primarily, the infrastructure enables people to access information when they want and how they want. For this reason, the mere existence of mountains of data is not enough to indicate maturity.The term data has evolved; it is now often called Big Data. However, the mystique surrounding Big Data is fading, yet it remains the primary force pushing wave after wave of digital transformation. These waves include artificial intelligence, customer experience, in-memory processing, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). SAP has been developing advanced Data Management solutions for decades, and they recently released SAP VORA (formerly known as SAP HANA VORA), which provides enriched interactive analytics on Big Data stored in Hadoop. VORA is a query engine with in-memory capabilities, and it plugs into the Apache Spark execution framework and helps to combine Big Data with enterprise data in an efficient manner.SAP TechnologyLike the new world economy, SAP is maturing. For the thousands of companies that leverage SAP, virtually all of them focus on business capabilities to react in real-time, forecast changes before they happen, and enable self-learning systems. In response, SAP is developing powerful new technologies that support Big Data, Cloud Computing, and Blockchain. However, maturing companies must use these new tools and adapt them to their needs to be considered mature.We mentioned VORA, but there are other technologies that SAP has to integrate HANA and Hadoop. SAP has the following tools to integrate data between those two components and choosing the right one depends on the use case being followed.ETL tools – such as SAP BODS Smart Data Access – such as SAP HANA Smart Data Access (SDA) SAP BusinessObjects Universe SAP LumiraWorkforceWhen it comes to the workforce and talent, nothing has changed!  Nothing has changed because skills, expertise, and experience have ALWAYS been highly valued and necessary in the workplace. That said, the new digital economy has many unique and complex skills that didn’t exist a few years ago, which makes it challenging to have the right people – in the right place – at the right time. The mature business knows how to find the right people and ensure that they work on the right project and how and when to partner.Within the SAP ecosystem, hundreds of skill sets are required, but which ones are most in demand now?  According to Red SAP Solutions, the following skills are the hottest and will continue to be hot well into the future:SAP FI/CO (Financials) SAP S/4HANA Finance which is part of the new SAP S/4 HANA solution SAP SD (Sales and Distribution) SAP Hybris SAP Fiori SAP NetWeaver and SAP BI skills A Time for ChangeWe are living through the Digital Economy’s version of Darwinism. The challenge for most of us is that technology and society are evolving so fast it is hard to keep up. In response, savvy business leaders, young and old, recognize the need for a proactive change and innovation mindset.With maturity comes wisdom and, in our new economy, wisdom is the best guide into the digital world. To drive the evolving economy forward, mature leaders rely on capable partners to help. It makes no sense to go it alone.SAP systems are often at the core of Digital Adaptation programs, and technical partners have been helping clients resolve complex challenges for decades. Throughout the transformation process and beyond, a partner should support the entire organization, leveraging skilled consultants when and where they are needed. Domestic, or rural sourcing, is a solution for companies that need an IT partner but want to keep the work closer to home. To learn how we can help you with your SAP challenges contact us at SAPinquiry@ruralsourcing.com.