Effective digital transformation takes time, effort, and strategy. Attendees at the recent ASUG & SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) Summit last month at the SAP North American headquarters in Pennsylvania’s Newtown Square, discussed all three criteria as they assessed the challenges and opportunities of SAP BTP and tactics to implement the platform.

Amid networking, learning about BTP components, and considering the particulars of their own digital transformation journeys, summit participants heard from two NFL players on their journeys from professional sports to thriving business ecosystems. The two made clear the importance of alignment and performance improvement to successful transformation.

Former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Seth Joyner, now a football analyst and broadcaster, was joined by former Green Bay Packers linebacker Andy Mulumba, Director, SAP North American BTP Center-of-Excellence (CoE). In an ASUG interview, Joyner and Mulumba spoke about the importance of preparation and resilience in football and business.

This is an edited version of the interview.

Question: Your discussion at this year’s BTP Summit is titled “Greatness Requires Preparation.” What does that mean to you both?

Andy Mulumba: We picked that title because of the process that goes into the life of an NFL player or anyone that tries to make it to the big league. Before playing in the NFL, you don’t realize how much process you put into the game, into your own physical and mental preparation. That’s heightened when you get to the NFL; they put it into perspective for you. That’s when you realize, “I’m playing with some of the greatest players in this game, and they’ve been able to last for as long as they have because they’ve been able to prepare.” That preparation is taken to another level. Anyone who’s had a great career, if you ask them what their secret is, they'll tell you preparation is key.

Preparation Is Key

We thought it would be a great title to contrast what we went through as players – preparing for games; scouting; getting through the offseason, preseason, and season – to what customers are going through on their digital transformation journeys. What do they need to prepare for right now?

They need to prepare the data and the right processes. They need to prepare for the right technology to come in. And that’s an effort that must be undertaken by the entire company. It’s not easy. With today’s message, we are connecting the dots between what we went through as players and what customers are going through at their companies, especially with new technologies.

Seth Joyner: There’s an old acronym a lot of coaches use. Pardon my French, but it’s called the four Ps: Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. That’s just the truth of the matter. The thing about the NFL, and the thing about successful businesses, is that they're the best of the best. Look at yourself, and ask yourself, “What separates the 53rd guy that makes the roster from the 54th guy that doesn’t? What separates the guy who has a long career, if he stays healthy, from the guy that doesn’t?” There are only 1696 total players and 53 players on each roster, not including the practice squad, in the NFL. When you consider those numbers, it’s miniscule in comparison to the overall population. How many players make it to the National Football League – or any professional sports league, for that matter?

Be Ready So You Don’t Have to Get Ready

Everyone has the skills. If you’re on the roster, you can play. The difference is that only some guys prepare to play every single week. Are you being a professional? Are you studying? Are you taking care of your body? Are you resting properly? Are you doing all the things that can help you be successful? The guys who have longevity, who succeed, do the preparation that’s required. You can take business and sports and lay them right on top of each other, because they mirror each other in a myriad of ways: the owner of the business and the owner of the team, the CEO and the head coach, right on down to the last player on the roster and all the employees in the company. It starts at the top. It works its way down. And everyone has a job to do, for a team or a business to be successful.

At the same time, even when you’re playing for a team, it’s always been about preparation on an individual level, especially as a defensive player. The offense knows the snap count, the play, and what direction the players are going. As a defensive player, I’ve got two or three seconds to decipher where they’re going, and how they’re trying to get there. If I don’t prepare, I can’t anticipate, and there’s a big difference between anticipation and guessing. Sometimes, you see players guess. But if you’re prepared, there’s no guessing. You’re anticipating, which allows you to foresee, just by reading your key, what they’re doing. And if you can do that through preparation, then you’re going to have success.

The game is too fast for me to try to decipher what’s going on once the ball is snapped. It’s too late. Everything’s happening at lightning speed. For me, that’s always been the big key, because I was never the biggest, strongest, or fastest. What I can tell you that I was the one that prepared hardest. I was the one ready on Sunday. If a guy lined up and the wrong foot was forward, or if the wrong hand was down, or if his eyes was going someplace that they had no business going on, even if he scratched his right behind-cheek, I could tell you why he was doing it. That’s what preparation is all about, being able to be ready. Like I used to tell my youth team I used to coach, be ready so you don’t have to get ready.

The Right Platform to Succeed

Q: SAP BTP is designed for holistic business transformation, which extends beyond technology optimization. You’ve both spoken about the importance of staying agile and resilient in your own careers. What are the secrets to ingraining that mindset on an individual level, and what can we learn from the agile and resilient mindset in affecting business transformation?

AM: It must be team-driven, at first. Your team sets the right strategy, the right foundation, and makes sure that you have the right platform to succeed. If you feel that you have that support, you can easily develop that resilient mindset, knowing that your ecosystem is there to support you. Then, you can focus on your personal resiliency. How do I prepare for this game? How am I going to respond when I face certain type of difficulties, knowing that my teammates and the ecosystem are supporting me?

Resilience must be aligned with leadership strategy; I can be resilient, knowing that this team will address gaps when they appear and make the right adjustments to ensure that, when we face various situations, each of us is resilient enough to respond to them. We must always be ready to change our strategy when we face these situations. That’s part of resilience, and resilience is part of an overall process, which I think a lot of companies need to understand. For someone to develop their own resiliency, everything around them must be in place. Everything around them must make sense and be adjustable. People will give 100 percent, or more, if they know that resilience is in place.

SJ: Everyone has their own opinions and beliefs about resiliency. I think experiences make people resilient. When you’ve gone through things, there’s a level of resiliency that that goes along with going through it. That’s individual resiliency. When you’re stressed, how do you deal with getting through that stress on an individual basis?

When you’re talking about a business, or you’re talking about the team, you’re talking about a culture, about how we do business. That begins with the leadership, because anybody who has endeavored to do anything, whether it's sports or business, knows that every well-laid plan is always altered. It never goes according to how you envision it. Your ability to adjust on the fly, and your ability to adjust to the roadblock sand the pitfalls that come along, matters.

A lot of people will experience a roadblock and turn around. The resilient person looks at the roadblock and says, “Is there a way that I can go over it? Is there a way I can go around it? Is there a way that I can go under it, or is the roadblock so miniscule that I could go through it?” That must be the mindset. If you’re going to get there, it's not going to be easy. Nothing worth achieving is ever achieved easily. It’s going to cost you something.

Whether You’re Talking About Business or Sports, It’s A Mindset

How do you get your mindset in the right place? From a business perspective, the executives at the top set the table for how their company does business and solves problems. From an athlete’s perspective, I think a lot of that perspective comes from the things that you experienced along the way. When trouble hits, guys who’ve had everything handed to them don’t really know how to deal with the situations of life, business, or sports. The guys who must really work for it, they know what it is to be slighted. They know what it is to be looked at as a second fiddle. But then, suddenly, they’ve worked their tail off to get to a place where somebody sees something in them and gives them the opportunity. Because they had to go through so much, they built up resiliency through that process.

Say a coach is going to draft a guy to take my position. Not only am I going to teach him what I know, but I’m going to give him all the tools to beat me. Still, I know that he can’t beat me, because of what I’ve been through. There’s just no way. I’ve gone through too much to give up what I’ve accomplished. Whether you’re talking about business or sports, it’s a mindset. That’s part of what you go through. And in business, it’s the culture of where you are. I had a coach who once said, “What you see on the field is either being coached or being tolerated.” I find that interesting.

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