Impossible Things with David Terrar S1 E8
DAVID TERRAR [00:00:29] Hi, this is David Terrar for Impossible Things with David Terrar talking to you live, this is Episode 8, and I’m really looking forward to this guest. But before I get into that, why is it called Impossible Things? Well, there’s a couple of reasons. Partly because of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law about any technology that’s sufficiently advanced. It’s like magic. And also because the queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass likes to do six impossible things before breakfast. So we’re into impossible things. We’re very hot on diversity and inclusion. And so I realised I hadn’t had anybody Irish on the channel. So I’m delighted to introduce Tom Raftery, who is the Global VP of SAP, and he’s their Evangelist for Innovation. Tom, welcome. How are you doing? Tell us about what you did for SAP.
TOM RAFTERY [00:01:24] Dave. Thanks, man. Thanks for inviting me on the show. And I’m honoured. It’s been a long time since you and I have been together. I think the last thing we were together was one of the well amongst “Octoberfest” of one of the… When I was when I was with Red Monk, we met at one of the events.
DAVID TERRAR [00:01:40] And you were you were injured at the time because you had you had a walking stick. You actually hurt your leg, as I recall,.
TOM RAFTERY [00:01:47] That’s right, that’s right. Had an operation of my ankle. What do for SAP? It’s a good question. I’m still trying to figure that out.
DAVID TERRAR [00:01:56] Brilliant.
TOM RAFTERY [00:01:57] I was recruited into SAP in 2016, September 2016 I joined. And my title when I joined was a IoT evangelist. I’d been doing a lot of research and publication at the time around, IoT and energy particularly. Which is a big kind of topic that I’m very passionate about. And they recruited me and as an IoT Evangelist, VP and IoT Evangelist and about six months after I joined, there was a reorg which is, you know, kind of a typical thing in a big company like SAP, you have reorgs and the IoT function was given to another group. So I said to my manager, his name was Thomas “Animos” at the time, I said, Thomas, look, I can’t keep calling myself an IoT Evangelist if IoT, “you know, over with this other organisation”. And he said, yeah, I think you’re right, Tom. I said, how about if I change from IoT Evangelist to Innovation Evangelist? Would you be okay with that? Yeah, that’d be great. And, you know, it actually more really reflected what I was doing because I wasn’t just speaking about IoT’s. I was speaking about all the kind of technologies around IoT or which work with IoT. I mean, nobody comes up and says, Can I have an IoT, please? You know, it’s not an individual thing. It does, they don’t, why IoT devices don’t work in isolation. So it was the whole suite of technologies, the whole innovation suite. So yeah, I became an Innovation Evangelist. And so there was there was another guy in the organisation, Timo Elliott. Timo already had the title Innovation Evangelist. So when Thomas said he’s okay with me doing it. The next thing I did was I called Timo and as a team I listen. I’m thinking about making this change. Would you be pokay if I did? And he said, yeah, course, no problem. So then I went to LinkedIn and I changed my title there. And I changed into the bottom of my emails. And suddenly I was an Innovation Evangelist. And so that’s what I do. I’ve been doing doing a lot of speaking gigs and writing and podcasting and stuff like that. I did it.
DAVID TERRAR [00:04:13] You have a popular podcast. I noticed it, “you’ve ranked at the top this year” and you’ve got a lot more a lot more listeners because of it, isn’t that right?
DAVID TERRAR [00:04:21] That’s right. That’s radio. Exactly. So I was doing a lot of keynotes. I did north of 40 keynotes last year in countries all over the world, North America, Central America, the Asias, Africa, all over Europe, you know, everywhere. Ridiculous amount of travel. And then, of course, in February of this year, the shutters came down and all of that and no more travel. I had started the podcast last July. And so the… as a kind of an accident of the reorganisations within SAP, I’ve ended up in the supply chain organisation, supply chain and manufacturing organisation. And so I thought, well, I bet her apart from doing all these keynotes, I better, you know, contribute something to the team. I said, well, if I start a supply chain podcast. So I did this last July. I said, if I start a supply chain podcast, then I could get people on to the podcast. They could be talking all this cool supply chain stuff, which kind of sounds contradictory, but actually some of the stuff is quite cool in the supply chain space. So they could be talking all this cool supply chain stuff. I could be learning. I could figure out what’s going on in supply chain, because I don’t know much about supply chain at the time. So through standing up the podcast, I was putting out about one episode every two weeks or so, you know, in between flights and so on. And then, as I said, the shutters came down last February and I thought, Okay, I’m gonna have to pivot here because I’m not gonna be getting on a plane for, you know, probably 18 months. If you’re lucky. Yeah, well, there’s not gonna be a vaccine. So even when the vaccine is available, I’ll be low down on the list of people on the priorities of who gets it. You know, it’ll be medical personnel first and elderly and so on and so on. So anyway, I’m looking at about 18 months of no travel. So I said, I got got to do something else. So I did a lot of research in to how to set up a good audio setup and how to set up a good video setup so that I could increase the quality of the podcasts that I was putting out. And also, I started putting out more, as you said. So I was, as I said, putting out about one every two weeks, whereas now I’m putting out two a week and put out one typically on Mondays and one on Fridays. And it’s like I said, it’s called the Digital Supply-Chain podcast, cause, you know, I wanted to be found when people do a search for digital supply chain or supply chain podcast or something like that if it comes up right up at the top as a consequence. And it’s actually I wonder if I’m a registered digitalsupplychainpodcast.com, which is where you find the podcast again, you know, lack of imagination or maybe it was because I thought about Search Engine Optimisation or maybe the two things just happened to come to the same place. But that’s where it is digitalsupplychainpodcast.com and yeah the numbers have been ridiculous. It’s been crazy that the amount of downloads has increased almost fivefold since January, since I started ramping up the output. And the the quality of the guests has been great as well, because no one else is travelling either. So there’s a lot of people, a lot of people suddenly who are available to come on the show.
DAVID TERRAR [00:07:46] Yeah, I have to tell you Tom that you know, in terms of quality, your setup is by far the best of any guest we’ve had on the show so far. All of the technology really shows up. And actually, Tom and I go back a long way. And it’s interesting, your SAP, because we actually met through the SAP blogger outreach way back in 2006. And Tom and I, both members of the blogging group called Enterprise Irregulars, which started back in 2006. So we’ve known each other for a long time. But, Tom, you describe yourself as a futurist. What you mean by that?
TOM RAFTERY [00:08:25] So that it’s a good question. It’s it’s kind of what I’ve always been doing. Always and ever. I’m a bit ADD. I’m so, you know, when I was in college, the things that interested me most were the things that were at the leading edge to and the things that were just coming, so I went into science. And in science, I went into biology, and in biology, I did molecular biology and plant science. And, you know, my fourth year project was on using ribosomal RNA for genetically fingerprinting plants, you know, things like that. So, yeah, it was it was cool stuff. And then I went on to do to start a PhD project and biological control. So, you know, I’ve always been quite strong environmentally as well of a huge interest in that area. So using biological control methods as opposed to chemical methods for controlling pests was something that, you know, really appealed to me. So I did a… I carried out some.. I won’t say I finished. I had some of the PhD project “on it.” I didn’t quite finish it because I got sidetracked by my hobby of computers. And, you know, the Internet was starting, oh, this was the early to mid 90s. And I, I started learning how to build a web and they stood up a software company and we were doing software as a service websites. Basically, we were back ending websites with databases and front ending them with a browser. And so literally it was software as a service. We sold the first game to what was then AirCell, who were then the Irish mobile phone operator. So it was a mobile phone game that worked on those flip phones that came from Nokia. Not not kind of not flip phones that operate like that, but flip phones that kind of slipped down like the Nokia 71, the Matrix ones. So we built the game for those and sold it to AirCell. So very bleeding edge the whole time. And then I got into software as a service in “URP” and in 2004 I set up a social media consultancy and run that through to 2008. And, you know, the whole time has always been stuff that’s, you know, ahead of its time. Because I because I’m so ADD I’m I was looking at the new one with that kind of flashy stuff, you know, whatever catches my attention. And so, yeah, I stood up a data centre between 2006 and 2008 who is a hyper energy efficient data centre, because I was looking at carbon neutrality and, you know, I was giving talks about that at the time. But carbon neutrality and the need for that. I got a name and the energy space because when I was developing the data centre, I open sourced the development of a completely documented the build out of the data centre on Green through blogs and flicker and video. And no one was doing that at the time when people were developing data centres that were very closed, you know, with the open hardware movement hasn’t really taken off. And of course, that gave me a name in the energy space. And then in 2008, I moved here to Spain. I live in the south of Spain and in Seville, and I moved here in 2008 for personal rather than professional reasons. And that meant I had to leave a lot of my gigs behind and I had to get a job that would allow me to work remotely because I didn’t speak Spanish. I had to find a job that would allow me to work remotely through English. And James Governor in Red Monk, I had brought him to Ireland to speak at an event I was running about green energy or green technologies or something like that. And as I was dropping him back to the airport, I remember getting on coffee and saying, listen, if you ever need someone to stand up the Spanish arm of Red Monk, I’d be more than happy to do it. And he said, well, leave that with me. I didn’t think any more of that and sure enough, he came back a few weeks later, offered me the job. So I became the the green monk of Red Monk. I headed up the energy and sustainability arm of Red Monk, which we called Green Monk. And I did that until early 2016 and then stepped out and then joined SAP. And, you know, the whole thread through the entire thing has been looking to the future, seeing what’s coming as an analyst. I was always looking at what’s coming and saying, you know, this is where we’re going. This is what’s happening. Looking at trends and predicting where things were going to go. And, of course, you know, that’s just another name for a futurist. You know, you’re looking at trends. You’re analysing, seeing where things are going. And you say, okay, it’s all going this way. Well, obviously, it’s going to go today. And this is this is where the world is going to be.
DAVID TERRAR [00:13:27] And the sustainability topic is still a big part of what you do isn’t? You drive an electric car and you get solar panels on the roof, that kind of thing.
TOM RAFTERY [00:13:35] Yeah, absolutely. And we’re starting in SAP, we’re starting an initiative called Climate 21. We haven’t talked very much externally about that yet. I did a podcast on it a couple of weeks ago with a guy called Toby Croucher and. Toby’s a colleague in SAP, and he’s leading the Climate 21 initiative internally from the product solution perspective. And what it is, is the long term idea of this is that it will be a way for organisations who are using SAP technologies to be able to calculate and report their carbon emissions. So the same way that they can use our software to track transactions, financial transactions. They were also able to use our software to, you know, report and calculate and report their carbon transactions and emissions. And the long term aim of this, where I want to see it go, is that we will then allow people to look down through their supply chain. And today, as you look down through your supply chain, you can see what are the financial implications of choosing supplier X over supplier Y. Now, I want it to be that you can also see the carbon implications of choosing supplier X over supplier Y, and then depending what your filter is, you decide, okay, I’m going to have this carbon footprint or I’m going to add that carbon footprint “we’re going to” zero carbon footprint because I choose that person over there. You know, so that that’s the Climate 21 initiative. You know, there’ll be talk about that in the coming week at one of pur big customer events that’s happening next week.
DAVID TERRAR [00:15:14] So if I now converge, “is there a code?”.
TOM RAFTERY [00:15:17] There are several names. There’s “Sapphire Now, Converge” is the one that I’m participating in, the “Sapphire Noc Converge” vision as well, which is the one where Christian Klein is and there’s a third one whose name escapes me off the top of my head. Basicaly…
DAVID TERRAR [00:15:32] They’re all happening simultaneously or one after the other?
TOM RAFTERY [00:15:35] One after the other. The vision one is the first one with Christian Klein, the CEO and then there’s the other two after that.
DAVID TERRAR [00:15:43] And you’re obviously following down your supply chain topic on the on that presentation?
TOM RAFTERY [00:15:50] Yes, exactly. The one I’m on is on Thursday. It’ll be Thursday morning and Thursday afternoon, depending on where you are. So it’ll be broadcast at least twice that I know of. It’ll be broadcast in the morning European time. I think it’s around 11 a.m. on Thursday. And then it’ll be afternoon European time for the Americans. So it’ll be their morning time and it’ll be broadcast again.
DAVID TERRAR [00:16:16] I imagine that topic is one of the ones where the IoT chasing that you first came into SAP to do is play a big part of it. Is that right?
TOM RAFTERY [00:16:25] It is, yeah. So a lot of it, because the organisation man, I mean, is supply chain and manufacturing. There’s a lot of the whole Industry 4.0 theme there, as well as sustainability. Sustainability is a huge part of supply chain and manufacturing as well. But the whole automation, if you think about where we are today, and I don’t mean geographically, you know where we are today, we’re in the middle of the pandemic. And, you know, it’s a scary time. But it’s also… that was my dog.
DAVID TERRAR [00:17:00] That’s life. That’s live streaming for you. Something like that happens. Oh, my God.
TOM RAFTERY [00:17:05] Anyway, sorry about that.
DAVID TERRAR [00:17:06] No worries.
TOM RAFTERY [00:17:06] He won’t shut up. Somebody at the door. So, yeah, in the middle of a pandemic, if you are a manufacturer, it’s quite possible that your line’s quite probable that your manufacturing lines are not set up for physical distancing. You know, some that don’t require a lot of, you know, manual intervention. They’ll be fine. But a lot of the ones, particularly that, you know, meat production and stuff like out there require very close people to be very closely, very close together on the lines. So if you are a manufacturer whose lines have not been set up for for a physical distancing, you’re in trouble. You know, you’ve only got a few options. You have to get the physical licencing in place. So that means fewer people per line. So now you either extend the hours that your lines are running, but many lines are running 24/7. So that’s not always possible. You stand up new lines. Most manufacturers don’t have the physical space to stand up new lines. They’re already maxed or the other big option is you increase the automation. And that’s where a lot of the manufacturers are going, because it makes the most sense long term. It’s the one that will pay off. We’ve been talking about digital transformation for five, six years. Dave, I’m not sure exactly. It’s that “all park”? There’s never been a burning platform like there is today. You know, we’ve seen lots of proof of the concept. We’ve seen people dip their toes in the water. Now, there’s a huge burning platform. Now, be it for supply chain or be it from manufacturing. If you want resilient and supply chains with end to end visibility, the only way you can have that. It’s through digitisation. And for manufacturing, the only way you can increase the automation, roll your industry 4.0 stuff is again through digital transformation. So it’s a real burning platform. It’s happening now, we… And I don’t want this to turn into an ad for SAP. You know…
DAVID TERRAR [00:19:21] We’ll charge it.
TOM RAFTERY [00:19:24] We stood up several offers for our customers, free offers for our customers to use our Cloud based solutions, for supply chain them for manufacturing. When this all started, because we saw that, you know, people supply chains were in deep trouble and we looked across our portfolio products and said, okay, which ones can we make free and have the biggest impact on our customer base? And like I said, I don’t want to turn this into an ad for SAP. We’re not the only company who did this. Lots of companies did this to their customers, you know. So this wasn’t any great thing on SAP’s behalf. But where I was going is that the uptake of this blew us away. It went beyond our wildest expectations. And, you know, it did makes a huge amount of sense because customers have to do this. And because it was they were Cloud delivered solutions. You know, there is no requirement to put a datacenter in place or anything like that. So. And it… yeah. It just did, the whole burning platform thing that I talked to earlier. It’s real. It’s real.
DAVID TERRAR [00:20:33] It totally is. Just as an aside, as part of that explanation, you gave me a flashback to Madison’s meat factory in the East end where I had a summer job when I was a university. So it’s a strange flashback you just use there. But, um, but, you know, as you say, with where we’re at now, you agree like me that this is kind of kicked forward the digital transformation topic in a big way.
TOM RAFTERY [00:20:57] Hugely.
DAVID TERRAR [00:20:57] When we are hopefully as we come out of the current scenario. How do the companies that are actually doing it best? How are they planning to to kind of the recovery challenge, how they’re handling what they’re good at, what’s going to happen next?
TOM RAFTERY [00:21:16] It’s probably a bit early to say, because, you know, we’re two months into this and this is going to go on, you know, 18 to 24 months. What the big thing that’s gonna happen is the digital projects that are that are taking place right now are going to increase in pace. There’s gonna be a big move to Cloud for those who are not there. Some will go for a hybrid. But, you know, very few will try and maintain their own data centres or start new ones.
DAVID TERRAR [00:21:46] Totally agree.
TOM RAFTERY [00:21:47] Most of the new projects would be Cloud delivered because it makes the most sense and it’s the easiest to get going from scratch. We’re seeing that with manufacturing organisations who would have been very slow to consider Cloud before now. Same with utilities. You know, just from seeing the internal emails that I’m seeing at the moment, you know, it’s impressive. It really is. So, yeah, there’s going to be a sustained move to digital and a sustained move to Cloud across the next 24 months and ending a huge increase in automation as a consequence.
DAVID TERRAR [00:22:24] So, I mean, I can see that sustained move, as you say, and automation “also” a big thing. Are there any other particular technologies like blockchain or things that people ought to be considering as they talk about what’s next?
TOM RAFTERY [00:22:39] So I’ve seen one or two blockchain things, yeah, but nothing, nothing, nothing huge yet. Where I’m seeing more at the moment is around A.I. and ML, you know, so that there’s more of those happening and being rolled out successfully than anything I’ve seen in blockchain. And like I say, I’ve seen one or two block chain ones. But those are the exception rather than the rule. No. Will it stay that way? Who knows? I know I’m supposed to be a futurist, but I haven’t seen enough of a trend there yet to call that. You know, there is a lot to block change. It has huge potential in certain niche applications. You know, another big interest in transportation and people often ask me about hydrogen for transportation. And they say, yeah. But it has a niche place that it will play, you know. But it’s not going to be mainstream by a longshot ever. So block chain could be something like that will have certain niche applications where it’ll work really well. Will it be mainstream? I’m not so sure.
DAVID TERRAR [00:23:43] Are there any kind of leadership or cultural issues that come into helping get this right?
TOM RAFTERY [00:23:53] Probably. I guess if I were to say anything there, I would say the whole Black Lives Matter movement that we’re seeing at the moment really, really underlines the need for diversity in organisations. You know, you you said it at the start when introducing me. I can’t claim to be very diverser, you know, ticking any boxes for diversity, maybe red hair and blue eyes, as you probably haven’t had many red haired, blue eyed people on because we’re in a huge minority. But no, be more serious. The whole like I say, Black Lives Matter thing is a huge change. And organisations need to embrace diversity and diversity in in gender equality, diversity in race, diversity in neuro diversity as well, which is hugely important. We have a programme in SAP to hire 600 people with autism, for example. And we see. I’m not sure. Last time I checked, we were at one hundred and twenty something, but that’s a year and a half ago. So I’m not sure where we are now. But, you know, that’s been a hugely successful programme. So lots of things that, you know, people of different abilities and different skills, bringing different viewpoints and different perspectives to the table. And if you have a very diverse internal organisation, you are better, better reflecting your customer base and your partner base, and therefore you will work better with them and produce better products for them. That will better reflect what they’re like as well.
DAVID TERRAR [00:25:33] It’s very important what you say. I mean, we’re very hot here on on the LGBTQ issues. And it’s great that you mentioned the neuro diversity topic, which doesn’t get enough attention. So that’s really cool. Tell me. Can you give us some ideas about what you think that’s going to happen next in the next year or two? What was what? Where are we headed? Mr. Futurist.
TOM RAFTERY [00:25:59] You know, in late February. Early March. I got hugely I once I got depressed, but I got incredibly, incredibly anxious and worried because I saw what was coming. And I had several conversations with people said, Tom, nah, you’re your you know. And I’m normally an optimist. I’m a real glass half full glass person. I couldn’t not muster optimism. And today I’ve bounce back, I’m fine now. Thanks. But asking about what’s gonna happen in the next 18, 24 months is tough because we don’t know. There’s no roadmap.
DAVID TERRAR [00:26:51] We’re at a time of complexity where the slightest thing can have a huge effect.
TOM RAFTERY [00:26:57] Exactly, exactly. So we are going to see over the next 12, 18, 24 months, we’re going to see rolling waves of the pandemic. It’s going to come back in waves. We’re seeing a rising wave now in Asia and Central and South America. If you look at the numbers, the numbers in India are going up. The numbers in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, they’re all going up and going up big time. It’s that the numbers are scary. The US is roller coastering. The numbers in Texas are going back up again, after Memorial Day weekend. Numbers in Europe are dropping, which is great numbers and train are staying pretty static as well. So and we’re going to see that regionalisation up and down and up and down and up and down. So this is gonna to mean that supply chains are going to be massively impacted. We’re gonna see people not being able to predict, you know, when their suppliers are going to be able to deliver quite often. So hence the need for more resilient supply chains, hence the need for greater transparency and supply chains, hence the need for digitisation, because we’re in very, very uncertain times.
DAVID TERRAR [00:28:23] Well, Tom, it’s been absolutely fantastic talking to you today. Thanks for coming on the show. Really great to talk to you.
TOM RAFTERY [00:28:30] Likewise. Thanks. David “to run me” on show. Really appreciate it.
DAVID TERRAR [00:28:35] So that’s Tom from SAP with some great stories there. If you check back at my Twitter handle @DT and @DisruptiveLIVE and at impossiblethings.fyi you’ll find more content like this. Not sure who’s gonna be on Episode 9 next week yet, but it’s been great fun. See you again soon.