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In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights series video, Amanda Razani speaks with Don Dickinson, an SAP practice executive for Navisite, about SAP services and how they relate to digital transformation.



Amanda Razani: Hello. I’m Amanda Razani with Digital CxO, and I am here today with Don Dickinson. He is an SAP practice executive for Navisite. Hello, how are you doing?

Don Dickinson: Doing great. It’s great to be here.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. So, you’ve released a press release about extending your SAP services to the cannabis industry. Can you go into detail about that?

Don Dickinson: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, basically, if you look at the heritage of Navisite, you know, for over 20 years, we’ve covered industries like ag, specialty chemical, manufacturing, which includes food, distribution and retail. And what’s been interesting, as we’ve seen in the news, you know, both with these state and local sort of loosening of restrictions around the cannabis industry, there’s been a consolidation and larger emphasis on, you know, real companies in that business. And as they grow in scale, they need solutions, and one of the things that we discovered was there was some white space in the industry, and there really wasn’t a provider that had a solution that was fit to their industry. But what we looked at, based on our heritage at those other industries I mentioned, they really embodied all the different pieces and parts that are specially unique to what goes on in cannabis. And so, it was just a logical fit to get into the industry, and we have since delivered some implementations of SAP technologies to companies in that industry.

Amanda Razani: Okay. So, when we think about SAP and how it aids in digital transformation efforts for companies, where do you come in? How does that help in these efforts?

Don Dickinson: Well, so, I mean, I think if you think about what digital transformation is, today, it’s really taking a look at how you can make your business perform better, faster, cheaper. But also, frankly, think about how being more responsive to who your customers are. And what SAP does to kind of streamline that journey is, you know, historically, from its beginning 50 years ago, SAP came to market by industry. So, they dominate and have solutions across a number of industries where they try to think about and evolve and refine, as they continue to get experience form their customers, their EOP package with all the best practices built in. And so, if you take an industry like we’re talking about with cannabis, for instance, something that’s really critical in that industry, because cannabis is distributed into the medicinal dispensaries, for instance, the tracking and tracing, from seed to sale, of a cannabis plant all the way through the point at which it’s dispensed to a patient, that’s functionality that can help drive digital transformation.

And it’s functionality that has existed in other SAP solutions for pharmaceuticals and other industries that they cover. And when you take the ERP sort of heritage that is SAP around, you know, those different industries, and now you layer over with their monitoring capabilities of their business technology platform, that brings us this sort of modern renaissance that companies are looking for when you talk about bringing together data, artificial intelligence, automation, integration, all of those things around the ERP process core the SAP has always been so dominant in. And so, when you can bring all of those capabilities from a technological perspective, it aids in prompting a company to think about, “Why not start here, and then let’s take a look at those things that are table stakes to our business, that differentiate where we may want to do some additional development around those best practices SAP brings.”

Amanda Razani: Okay. So, I have a question. You all have been in this industry for over 20 years. Why do you think that so many companies are just now thinking about digital transformation as being important?

Don Dickinson: So, it’s interesting, and I know these days it’s kind of the typical answer, but coming into the pandemic and everything that that represented, companies didn’t uniformly look at data and technology as a competitive advantage. But, you know, in the last two-and-a-half years, especially, that has all changed. If you think about what the pandemic did, it accelerated sort of corporate appetites for digital transformation. Everyone is looking at new ways of working, and we’re in this very hyperconnected environment: work anywhere with anyone through any technology through any platform. And consumer behaviors have changed.

And so, consumers want interactions with platforms that get them to their preferred vendors, but that are easy to do business with. And if you think about what companies are dealing with, they’re dealing with these lumpy economic recoveries like we’re dealing with the last 12-14 weeks. We’ve seen what’s happening to the equity markets, we’ve seen what is happening in Ukraine, from a geopolitical perspective, we’ve seen what is happening with supply chain disruptions. And so, all of those things, with new ways of working and remote environments, that is all at corporate, you know, leadership to want to look at digital transformation. And so, now, it’s really accelerating this volume of sort of rethinking businesses.

Amanda Razani: So, do you think, in order to stay relevant and to stay competitive, any business that hasn’t thought about it, yet, had better hurry up and get on the ball with digital transformation?

Don Dickinson: I mean, I think the answer is yes, and again, if you think about sort of the broader backdrop of what’s going on in business, you have a lot of consolidation in multiple industries. And you have newer companies coming to market that are venture-backed, private equity-backed, that are not looking and not sort of encumbered with these legacy IT infrastructures, these legacy business processes. They’re starting fresh and saying, “How would we build a business today?” So those companies that have existed for 20, 30, 50 years, they have to embrace digital transformation, or they will lose their competitive advantage in a matter of years. And, you know, their boards and their stakeholders, they can’t stand for that.

Amanda Razani: So, thinking ten years ago to now, what are the main focuses that businesses need to think of with digital transformation that maybe are different from ten years ago?

Don Dickinson: So, I mean, I think when you thought about sort of these very monolithic, large-scale, as-is types of transformations that went on in the ’90s and even in the early 2000s, where you would have these massive consulting firm operations come in, and you would have multiple-year efforts for companies to try and transform; companies don’t have time for that, number one. So these projects have to be faster, they have to be leaner, they have to look at, and I think companies now expect that, they want their software and their technology providers and their consulting providers to be able to bring more standardized approaches to say, “We can’t be the first ones that have looked at this before. Are there experiences that you can bring, you know, that look at the outcomes, that are similar to what we’re trying to achieve.”

And if you also think about kind of how these things happened with the cloud, the cloud has made the experience lifestyle different. And, you know, even here at Navisite, we work with cloud providers to manage the whole experience, and let customers kind of focus on running a business and bring us into what they’re trying to achieve. And then when you layer over that, you think about, SAP is sort of a solution, now, that, historically, even 10-15 years ago, if you took one of their best practice industry solutions, safer chemicals or painting or oil and gas or something like that, you had to sort of anchor on that one solution as the foundational architecture of what your application was. And with their S4 Hana product, you can now pick and choose industry capability from pharma, from manufacturing, from chemicals.

And that’s precisely why, interchangeably, we’ve been able to come up with this cannabis solution, because we’ve been able to pick the best from some of those industries. And SAP’s architecture now allows you to activate those components of best practice. So any new emerging industry that maybe has behaviors or things that look like other industries in part, but other aspects that are different, you can now get to a really defined framework of what will drive their transformation. Or in the case of a new enterprise, chart that path for their implementation.

Amanda Razani: Okay, so it really plays a big role. Well, I wanna thank you so much, Don, for coming on and speaking with us, today. And I look forward to speaking again with you, in the future, about digital transformation and SAP.

Don Dickinson: Great, sounds great, thank you very much.

Amanda Razani: Thank you.

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