An Interview with Tom Raftery

For Enterprise Africa Summit 2019 session 1.6 “Tom Raftery’s Guided Tour of the Digital Universe”, Tom provides clear-eyed and memorable guidance to business leaders seeking to understand the best ways to approach digital transformation that will set the stage for future success.

Anticipating this event, we asked Tom to answer some key leading questions in this regard.

Enterprise Alliance: Thank you for your time, Tom. You have been working in the realms of Cloud, Internet of Things, and Innovation for over 20 years and you most recently have been appointed SAP Global VP, SAP Futurist and Innovation Evangelist.

As you look forward to addressing an audience of business leaders in need of insight into how to get their arms around emerging and tempting technologies, what barriers to their understanding have you observed in recent years?

Tom Raftery: The biggest barrier comes from not knowing the capabilities afforded by new technologies. It is not so much their unfamiliarity with the technology than it is the need to realize the capabilities afforded by these new technologies and, how they can be applied to their particular industry. When clients see case studies from their own industries, realization and comprehension tend to follow.

Enterprise Alliance: What do you do best to help get past these barriers of understanding?

Tom Raftery: I am a storyteller and I like to come across stories or create stories that help people to identify with a digital capability. An example: predictive maintenance in the train industry. I tell the story of a sensor on a carriage door on a train moving from Milan to Bologna Italy. A sensor tells central command in Rome that the rear door of carriage twelve is loose and out of tolerance. While this poses a danger, central command in Rome can take that information, and contextualize it.

Because the data from the sensor is coming into their connected backend, they can use it to make better decisions. They know the schedule for that train for the next two months, they know from their HR system records, which engineers are trained regarding that particular door, and they know where the required replacement part(s) are stored. Consequently, because of all this connected data, a work order can be created such that when the train pulls into the station, Dani the trained service engineer is standing on the platform with an iPad and replacement part. The defective part is swapped out and the train pulls away, danger eliminated.

Telling that story works so much better than relating the qualities of digital-driven predictive maintenance technology. Again, the key to comprehension and appreciation of digital technology is personalization.

Enterprise Alliance: There is always a lot of vendor and analyst hype surrounding emerging technologies. What brief advice can you give to prospective attendees of our event that will help them set the hype aside and concentrate not on what they can do but how to approach their adoption and eventual deployment?

Tom Raftery: A good approach is to come to the event with a sense of what top three issues you or your organization are facing. You will be listening for solutions to those issues so that you come in with a purpose rather than just open curiosity. This will sharpen and contextualize your listening.

Enterprise Alliance: Specific to the African continent, are there aspects to the market that you consider to be beneficial to client organizations seeking technology evolution?

Tom Raftery: One African advantage is that it does not suffer from a lot of sunk cost for complex legacy systems that have hindered digital evolution in more mature markets. Africans thus have fewer impediments in their forward technological path and therefore have greater agility.

In similar fashion, Africa has also shown a capacity to ‘leapfrog’ over defunct technologies and straight into modern technologies. For example, Africans pretty much skipped the age of telephone landlines because of the enormous cost of landline infrastructure and moved straight to mobile. They are now ‘leapfrogging’ over carbon-based energy to low-carbon technologies, again because of a paucity of old energy legacy assets holding them back.

Enterprise Alliance: You are a leading light in the realm of Cloud, Internet of Things, and digital transformation. What one nugget of advice can you offer to prospective attendees of this event?

Tom Raftery: Take advantage of this international interactional forum. Talk to as many people as possible. Listen to as many people as possible.

Tom Raftery Bio

Tom is an internationally recognized and respected thought leader and evangelist in the realm of emerging digital technologies.

A man of many hats, Tom is a Global Vice President for SAP, a guest lecturer at the Instituto Internacional San Telmo, and a board advisor for a number of startups.

For a number of years, Tom has worked as an independent industry analyst focusing on the Internet of Things, Energy and CleanTech and as a Futurist for Gerd Leonhardt’s Futures Agency.

Tom has a very strong background in technology and social media having worked in the industry since 1991. He is the co-founder of an Irish software development company, a social media consultancy, and is co-founder of hyper energy-efficient data center Cork Internet exchange.

Tom has also worked as an Analyst for industry analyst firm RedMonk, leading their GreenMonk practice for over 7 years and he serves on the Advisory Boards of SmartCities World and

Tom Raftery

Global Vice President, SAP