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November 10, 2016

How to disrupt and succeed with innovation

Digital has changed everything. New competitors are using digital to disrupt entire markets. To survive in the age of the customer, your business must become digital.

By Ellie Burns

On the 16th November Software AG will hold its signature UK event – Innovation Day 2016. Bringing together a broad range of people to share in their digital experiences, keynote speakers such as the British Army will implore attendees to ‘be the best’ and share in how they have harnessed technology in order to compete and succeed in the digital world.

Matt Smith, CTO, Software AG N.EMEA, APJ & South Africa

Matt Smith, CTO, Software AG N.EMEA, APJ & South Africa

In the run-up to the event, CBR’s Ellie Burns spoke with Matt Smith, Software AG CTO, about the role of innovation in digital transformation and what innovation should mean to businesses as they shape their digital future.


EB: How would you define innovation?

MS: I would define innovation as the application of disruptive methods, technologies and cultural changes in order to solve problems or create opportunities where none existed before.


EB: What should innovation mean to businesses?

MS: Opportunity. Businesses are facing some serious, fundamental challenges right now – disrupt yourself or be disrupted, it’s as simple as that. Innovation should not just be seen as grinding out a few points of improvement, but rather taking a look at the fundamentals of what should be done and then carrying out a quick execution.

Too many companies are trapped in analysis paralysis. I’ve worked with one company that even set up a rival business inside their own company, with one job: disrupt the parent company’s business. They even have their own C-level team and their own budget. It’s very interesting to look at what they have come up with, and it’s all pretty worrying for the parent company! Their CEO told me that the concept is simple: “do this to yourself before someone does it to you.”

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EB: What role does innovation take in digital transformation?

MS: Technology is often less than half the game when it comes to digital transformation. Cultural acceptance, change management and common goals are all vital for a successful transformation. Innovation around working practice, staff engagement, customer engagement and successful board level guidance is critical for successful outcomes. Digital technologies have the potential to deliver information, analytics and visualisations that allow people to make better, faster and often automated decisions. Innovation feeds on exceptional quality understanding as well as better execution capabilities – two big capabilities of digital technology.


EB: What are the key technologies you are seeing being deployed in digital transformations?

MS: Faster gathering and movement of information (in-memory and high speed communication), automation technologies (processing, decisioning, etc.), sensor technologies (Internet of Important Things), analytics technologies (pattern matching and learning), collaboration technologies (direct people-to-people and people-to-machine collaboration over networks), containerisation (virtual machines hosting everything, which solves loads of problems with physical deployments of technology and includes cloud), mobile and security.


EB: How are those technologies innovating and profiting said companies?

MS: There are only three kinds of business cases: growth, risk and cost. The technologies mentioned are being deployed against all three. From pattern matching technologies being used to offer products in a more tailored way to customers, in order to increase satisfaction and increase sales; to cars becoming smarter through sensors in order to reduce the risk of accidents. Digital technology is often only limited by our imagination. Some other interesting examples we’ve seen are:

  • Trials on busy commuter rail routes where sensors look at how busy carriages are and suggest better places for you to board the train via an app. Data shows that this speeds up boarding, reduces delays and increases customer satisfaction.
  • Ships guided as to how fast they should traverse the ocean on the way to a port using analytics and communications to ensure they arrive in port in a staggered order. This greatly reduces fuel consumption and port turnaround time, benefitting everyone involved.
  • Hundreds of factories examining their output automatically and comparing themselves against one another to look for deviations from the best in their collective group and offering automated suggestions for improvement.
  • Automatic alerting on deviations from normal in supply chain – combined with full end-to-end visibility of where everything is on a moment by moment basis.
  • Complete visibility of where all people and equipment are and what projects they are involved in, giving total visibility to management for better balance of investment decision making. One customer resently told me this had saved them 2,000 people days in operational planning in just under 9 months!

There are hundreds of more examples where digital technology is working innovatively and successfully.


EB: What is your aim for Software AG’s 2016 Innovation Day?

Fundamentally, we are building a community of professionals from multiple industries and levels of government. This network of professionals are already starting to support each other with their knowledge and expertise. We’ve had military people learn from retailers, manufacturers learn from military personnel, the finance sector learn from supply chain and many more face-to-face engagements that have left the Software AG Innovation Day and expanded with direct customer-to-customer engagements – many of which have been facilitated by Software AG. Innovation Day is about sharing and learning. We have a saying here internally: “engage me, educate me, add value to my business.” This is the aim of the event.


EB: What examples of digital transformation and innovation will be on show at Innovation Day?

There will be real world customer stories on how innovation in both thinking and application is driving digital transformation and new revenue streams from IoT. Dr Christos Emmanouilidis, Senior Lecturer in IoT and Visual Analytics, at Cranfield University will outline how the university is ensuring the next generation of PhD’s are fulling leveraging the Internet of Things.

Pavlo Phitidis, CEO, Aurik Investments will be discussing how entrepreneurially driven businesses are adopting digital technology to accelerate through the business development lifecycle and secure irrecoverable revenues across a number of sectors and global industries.

Major General R J Semple CBE, CIO & Director of Information, British Army will share the lessons learned, experiences and offer advice that can be applied to any industry. Focused on how the Army’s own digital transformation journey is shaping everything from how our forces are prepared and deployed, through to the management capability needed for effective investment decision making across the whole organisation

In our interactive workshops, we are also putting into practice the benefits of IoT, and showcasing how real time intelligence and analysis can enrich every day experiences such as going to the pub and peoples’ daily morning commute.


EB: How will professionals benefit from hearing about others’ digital journeys?

MS: Many organisations suffer from decision road-blocks – either through a lack of information, lack of internal acceptance for the need to change or other factors. Learning from others, understanding the pitfalls and the best practices, is often the best medicine for removing the “no-change decision” problem many organisations face today.

One of my colleagues has a great saying: “Uber yourself before you are Kodaked.” I’d say “don’t analyse your business to death, execute change and learn as you go – time is not on anyone’s side.”


To register for the event please visit:

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