See how the collective work of the last six years has turned SAP into the cloud company, with SAP HANA at its digital core.
Complexity in the modern company—especially the modern IT department—is astounding. Often, businesses are using so many different types of hardware, software, applications, and cloud services, each siloed off and not able to communicate with one another, that it's difficult to get the job done.
The San Francisco 49ers front office understood this all too well when the NFL team moved to its new home in Santa Clara, California. In just one offseason, the team saw its staff grow from 125 full- and part-time employees to more than 1,200.
What’s an IT department to do? First, reach out to SAP.
“When people think about disrupting instead of being disrupted, they turn to SAP for help,” said Steve Shute, SAP North America’s Chief Operating Officer.
The 49ers implemented several of SAP’s services, including the cloud-based SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting, SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central, and SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals solutions.
Almost overnight, HR operations simplified for applicants, managers, and employees through the use of centralized data, paperless self-service tools, and the ability to set, track, and adjust individual career goals. Now the staff can help keep its team at the top of its game.
This is just one example of the thousands of ways SAP, the world’s leading enterprise application software and cloud solutions company, helps companies define and pursue their digital ambitions.
“There are four common areas CEOs are looking to revamp when it comes to the digital journey: customer experience, workforce engagement, creating a real-time business network, and managing physical and digital data,” said Shute. “For true collaboration and success, businesses have to tie all of these different things together.”
Driving SAP’s domination in this space is, in part, a series of strategies started about five years ago, which are centered around customer needs and continuous improvement.
But, as Shute shared, the journey of continuous improvement is never about reaching an end goal; it’s always about moving towards something bigger and better.
Vision: It’s an Evolution
SAP did not set out to transform: rather, its continuous improvement-geared culture drove the leaders towards a strategy of evolution.
“Evolution requires continuous change,” said Shute. “It’s difficult in tech to predict more than a couple of years out, and our customers need to respond to the changing demands of their respective industries. It was necessary to evolve together with our customers.
“SAP needed to be a trusted partner in the journey to digitize.”
And it’s a journey, not a one-size-fits-all solution, that was necessary for SAP to gain the ground it has in the cloud marketplace.
“Six years ago, we set a vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, and we designed a strategy to transform SAP into the cloud company,” said Shute.
This vision starts and ends with SAP’s customers in mind. The impact the pace of digitization is having on businesses—and the opportunities it presents—proved to the team that SAP needed to provide more of the capabilities required for today’s digital economy.
“We were number one in analytics and ERP software, but we knew we could provide more value to our customers,” he said.
Through a series of organic investments—most notably its in-memory computing platform, SAP HANA, and SAP S/4HANA, its new business software—and inorganic investments—try $30 billion in acquisitions—SAP rounded out its portfolio and was able to realize its vision to ensure its customers could take advantage of the opportunities presented in the digital age.
“We’ve always been a customer-first kind of organization,” Shute said. “But there are so many different forces of tech that businesses need to stay on top of, from always-on connectivity and powerful supercomputers to cybersecurity and a smarter world of sensors, robotics, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence. We have to be able to provide guidance to our customers so that they can take advantage of these trends.”
To be customer-first, however, means having an understanding that the customer base is diverse, and having an organization with voices that consider and reflect that diversity.
SAP’s commitment to have female management occupy 25 percent of its force by the end of this year—and its support of women with professional leadership training and networking—is just the beginning. SAP’s Autism at Work program aims to have one percent of its total workforce composed of individuals on the Autism spectrum.
“These employees can add enormous value to our ability to innovate with their high attention to detail in development and data analysis,” said Jewell Parkinson, Head of Human Resources at SAP North America.
SAP has also made great strides in other areas such as the advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. The Global Pride@SAP employee network has grown to more than 5,000 members, sponsoring numerous activities and initiatives throughout the year.
“Our people strategy is to create a culture that is able to deal with the complexity, speed, and volume of a digital workplace—a culture that inspires innovation, leads change, and creates employee satisfaction,” said Parkinson.
“[But] SAP’s digital strategy depends on our ability to not just attract the right talent, but to develop all of our employees and, of course, retain them.”
Strategy: Culture Meets Digital
The company’s employee strategies—including the use of simple performance management processes, targeted training for specific groups, career support from Career Success Centers, and succession management—have increased retention to over 90 percent for the past few years.
And training isn’t just for the worker bees, either.
“Each leader is able to create a high-quality individual plan for how they will lead SAP’s [evolution],” Parkinson said. “We engage leaders and high-performing employees in summits to cascade messaging about SAP’s digital business framework. And we continuously assess our leaders and provide coaching and feedback to help them improve.”
As Parkinson shared earlier, both SAP’s people strategies and digital strategies are not mutually exclusive: one cannot be successful without the implementation of the other. And that’s one of the reasons Shute came to SAP.
He joined the company in January 2014, partly because its strategy for evolution was so well thought out.
“The strategy really resonated with me,” he said. “It wasn’t an ERP strategy: it was a holistic view of a customer’s journey to digitize.
“It was about creating new business models and processes to run the organization better, and serve our customers in new and better ways. It put the customers’ best interests at heart.”
But this wouldn’t be possible without a supportive culture.
“It isn’t just a winning culture, it’s a fun culture. I’ve been in tech a long time, and I’ve never seen an organization that has so many people who are happy to be here.”
TECH: SAP HANA or Bust
SAP HANA creates agility that companies have not seen before, and becomes a powerful tool to help the customer become a truly digital business. Available either on-premise or in the cloud, SAP HANA removes the burden of maintaining separate legacy systems and siloed data.
The in-memory computing platform is much faster than traditional databases, assisting companies with accelerating business processes, delivering more business intelligence, and simplifying IT environments.
SAP HANA is the backbone of SAP’s digital strategy that was enacted half a decade ago. When coupled with SAP S/4HANA, an entirely new generation of business software written for the HANA platform two years ago, the result is unparalleled speed, efficiency, and simplicity.
When a customer uses SAP HANA, all data—both analytical and transactional—goes through the platform. And with just one platform connecting everything from HR and finance to supply chain and countless other departments, leaders have a real-time predictive way to manage the business.
Shute shared an example to prove just how important it was to have every department of a company actively involved in a company’s digital core.
He met with the senior vice president of transformation of one of SAP’s largest customers. It was the first time the company was going to implement predictive maintenance, and the SVP was excited by the prospect.
“The company spent $100 million laying the foundation to be able to do this,” he said. “We began discussing the transition, and I asked if HR was involved in the discussion. He thought it was a curious question.”
“I told him it was one thing to know if a machine goes down, but it’s another to make sure you have the right person with the right set of skills lined up to show up at the right time to fix it. This shows the importance of integrating all of the moving parts.”
And what about data integration in real-time? Think Mission Impossible.
No, seriously. SAP partnered with a large customer to create a digital boardroom Mission Impossible style, with screens displaying real-time data everywhere to assist the c-suite in making real-time decisions.
An employee who was analyzing the data noticed a trend: there was a certain segment of the population in Australia that was underserved in foot apparel.
The c-suite executive was able to decide, on the spot, to create a shoe for that market.
A core differentiator of SAP HANA is the ability for third parties to build and extend applications.
“There’s an ecosystem building on top of the SAP HANA cloud platform. You’re no longer just relying on SAP’s R&D spend, but taking advantage of an unlimited amount of resources from hundreds of different places.”
And SAP’s R&D spend isn’t chump change: nearly 14 percent of its annual revenue is geared towards research and development. Shute and the rest of the team know it’s necessary for the level of continuous improvement and evolution expected of SAP.
Ernst and Young’s extension to its SAP HANA platform is just one example of how third parties are able to extend success factors of their digital cores.
Many companies hire military veterans. In doing so, they receive credits from the U.S. government. But it’s a laborious process to fill out the paperwork. EY created an application through SAP HANA that automated the entire process of the credit paperwork, making a cumbersome process easy and quick.
It’s About Society, Not Just the Bottom Line
Six years ago, SAP had five million cloud users. Today, 120 million. Just like the company’s ERP software offerings a decade ago, SAP is second to none in cloud offerings.
There are so many ways we could show you how the company is literally changing the tech landscape for businesses in every corner of the marketplace. Just like for the NHL—which by partnering with SAP saw 25 percent more website visits, 45 percent more time on the site by fans, and 30 percent higher fan engagement—SAP is providing incredible, measurable returns for these companies.
But for Shute and SAP, it’s not always about the bottom line: it’s about making the world a better place.
The State of Indiana had an issue with its infant mortality rate. For every 1,000 live births, there were an astounding 7.7 deaths—which was much higher than the national average.
Then Governor of Indiana, now Vice President Mike Pence, enlisted the help of SAP HANA to identify infant subpopulations with distinct underlying drivers for death.
“The use of SAP HANA allowed Indiana’s health board to research infant mortality risk and drive more positive birth outcomes. It even developed a mobile app to assist mothers,” Shute said.
“Now they are better able to understand the causes of infant mortality and improve lives. That’s SAP’s whole goal: improving people’s lives.”
SAP is the world's leading provider of business software, offering applications and services that enable companies of all sizes across more than 25 industries to run at their best.
With more than 335,000 customers in over 190 countries, the company is listed on several exchanges, including the Frankfurt stock exchange and NYSE, under the symbol "SAP."
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