Economic Growth

Will 2015 be the year business gets simple?

Bill McDermott
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ServiceNow
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Complexity is crippling our companies.

That’s why I’m declaring 2015 the year we simplify how work gets done by bringing the speed and ease of consumer experiences to companies — thanks to the power of business networks.

By complexity, I mean the insidious mix of time-sucking processes, bureaucratic layers, confusing computer systems, data dumps and administrative distractions. These hidden thieves steal our ability to move quickly, to manage resources wisely, to focus on what matters and to grow our companies as well as our careers.

Of course, complexity has always been part of work.

What’s finally changed is the ability to transcend it — and the expectation that we must!

Consider how easy it’s become to accomplish things in our personal lives, from how we hail a cab and bank to how we stay informed and stay in touch. Thanks to the power of consumer networks we can, with a few clicks from our couch on a Sunday afternoon, shop for our holiday gifts and restock our kitchens. Within seconds these networks allow us to reconnect with old friends and link to new contacts. A few more keystrokes and networks allow us to find a hotel for our vacation, reserve a room, schedule a flight and download a book to read on the plane.

And we haven’t even left the couch, or missed the last quarter of the game.

It’s fantastic, our networked world.

But here’s the rub: On Monday morning, as we transition into work mode, we expect to whip through tasks with the same ease that we did during the weekend.

As digitally connected consumers, we increasingly want our work experiences to be as friendly as our customer experiences. Two clicks, done!

Instead, we waste weekday mornings pushing paper, filing expense reports, seeking approvals or hunting down product information for a customer — data that should be at our fingertips. Such wasted time is more frustrating than it was just a few years ago because, as digital consumers, we know what’s possible.

Why can’t we get stuff done at work as efficiently as we do at home? Why can’t we find and hire people to support special projects as easily as we hire contractors off Angie’s List to build a new fence? Shouldn’t we be able to search for and find information within our organization as freely and transparently as we search using Google? Or share it as easily as we can using Facebook and Twitter? Or connect to business partners and new talent as seamlessly as we can through LinkedIn?

Consider, too, how information empowers our daily lives when it’s collected, analyzed and used wisely: We can get a refrigerator that alerts us when we’re out of eggs, and then automatically orders a dozen more. We have shoes that tell us they’re about to run their last mile, and cars with GPS systems that warn us about accidents, suggests faster routes or direct us to the nearest gas station when the tank is low.

Yet the connectivity that enhances people’s personal lives evaporates the moment they set foot in their workspaces, where employees revert to 20th-century processes.

No more.

Fifteen years into the 21st century, we finally have the ability to create a consumer-like experience at work. By applying the connective power of personal networks, we can now link a company’s entire ecosystem, from internal operations to external partners and suppliers, and create dynamic business networks — inter-connected industry communities that share information and ignite insights, all in real time.

Backed by these networks, organizations can collect, crunch, store, analyze, package and deliver data in unprecedented ways, giving their employees — that’s you — the ability to source, buy, bill, pay, manage, search, staff, expense, track, connect, collaborate, innovate, produce and grow faster and more easily than ever before.

Most rewarding for the digitally inclined employee, real-time networks are as easy to use on the front end as they are sophisticated on the back end.

As Winston Churchill famously said, “Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge.” We cannot predict all the ways business networks will radically simplify the business of doing business. The possibilities are as limitless as our imaginations — and that’s what makes them so exciting.

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Bill McDermott is Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Executive Board of SAP, the world’s business software market leader with more than 253,500 customers in 188 countries.

Image: Pedestrians walk inside a train station in Tokyo November 14, 2006. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao.

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