SAP: A Customer-Centric Journey to Digital Transformation

DJ Paoni, President, SAP
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DJ Paoni, President, SAP

DJ Paoni, President, SAP

The world of business has never been as complex and promising as it is today. Companies across all industries and sizes are challenged to keep up with the technology shifts meant to improve processes and drive value. To stay competitive, businesses need to transform the way they work by leveraging today’s technology and innovating with tomorrow’s ideas. But not all organizations are adequately equipped to make such quick changes to embrace the digital age SAP [NYSE:SAP], a global technology firm, has been helping its customers achieve greater efficiency through digital transformation for several years. The company was established in 1972, built on the backs of five entrepreneurs who knew the potential technology had in the business realm. With a single customer and an inspiring vision, SAP began its journey in Germany to empower the world of business through information technology and fundamentally change how organizations run. Within the last 45 years, SAP has grown to serve more than 365,000 customers and currently employs 87,000 employees across the globe, all with the same drive and spirit of innovation upon which the company was built.

The Fuel Beneath SAP’s Fire

When asking DJ Paoni, President of North America Sales at SAP, how the company has been able to grow into the highly successful, transformative organization it is today, the answer is clear: customers are at the center of SAP—fueling the company’s vision and direction. While the history of SAP is built on a strong foundation of enterprise resource planning, taking a customer-centric approach to improving business processes through advanced technology has meant adaptations to the company’s focus over the years. SAP is now a cloud-focused company with the broadest and most comprehensive cloud portfolio available on the market today, all for the purpose of enabling its customers to ‘run live’. Paoni explains: “Businesses need to be able to make real-time decisions with real-time information, and waiting a matter of days or even hours can mean it’s too late. SAP has a long track record of being a leader in enabling businesses to do just that, and currently, 98 percent of the 100 most valuable brands in the world are SAP customers.”

  The next three years in business are going to be more critical than the past 50, and SAP is there leading the way  

Both the leadership and employees at SAP understand how necessary it is to have the agility and flexibility to adapt to changes quickly. But, in a study conducted by SAP with Oxford Economics, 84 percent of the respondents say digital transformation is critical to their survival in the next five years, but only 3 percent have completed company-wide transformation efforts. SAP has made that transition itself, and as such, can empathize with their customers when helping them understand their needs and capabilities.

According to Paoni, “The single measure of success for SAP is the business value realized by our customers.” Indeed, it seems everything SAP does is motivated by a drive to help customers run their businesses better and innovate faster. This is why they’ve invested over $50 billion in acquisitions and R&D over the past several years, why they have expanded their offerings beyond ERP and into a soup-to-nuts portfolio for the digital business, with in-memory data platform SAP HANA as the backbone. And why they now have more cloud users than any other company and a breadth of offerings spanning mobile, machine learning, IoT and a host of other emerging technology areas.

In many instances, SAP has had the opportunity to work with companies that have a vast impact. The State of Indiana is utilizing the SAP HANA platform and predictive analytics to focus on the opioid epidemic. By quickly aggregating and analyzing data, the state can visualize the problem and influence change that will save lives; for example, identifying counties that don’t have enough nearby facilities to help with recovery.

"SAP’s vision is the foundation of the business, which is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives"

Similarly, SAP has worked with MOD Pizza, a fast, casual restaurant chain to improve its business processes with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, SAP’s cloud ERP suite. The company’s financials, product management, recruiting efforts, and employee data processing have all been transformed with the help of SAP, allowing for greater innovation in the way the restaurant delivers its end product to its customers.

A Culture of Innovation

Two aspects of SAP are paramount to its ongoing success in the business and information technology worlds. First, it’s about the people—more than 22,000 in North America.

Paoni explains: “People are the core DNA of the company, and we are always working to ensure our workforce is engaged and motivated. Employees are bought into the company’s strategy, vision, and mission, and they are all supported and empowered to be themselves.”

SAP offers a great deal of resources for professional development, health and wellness to its workforce, and has a clear culture of diversity, inclusion, and equality—leading to an all-time high of employee engagement in North America and retention rates that exceed the industry average. Says Paoni: “The culture at SAP is best described as inclusive and innovative. We believe you can’t have one without the other—that welcoming different thinking from people with varied backgrounds, perspectives and experiences leads to a much richer set of ideas, and those ideas are what allow us to continuously innovate for our customers.”

To that end, the company focuses on bringing in the next generation of talent, cultivating young students and graduates to work in technology. Each year, 250 early talent employees from 55 different countries fly to the Greater San Francisco Bay Area to take part in the ‘SAP Academy,’ a unique, immersive training experience for high potential young salespeople. There, they are able to learn the latest techniques and skills to best meet the needs of customers in the digital age.

The SAP Academy has helped move the needle from 2 percent representation of younger generation talent in its global sales workforce up to 12 percent in just three years, with the goal of reaching 50 percent by the year 2025. This approach comes back to the empathy SAP has for its customers, and having a keen understanding that to reach younger generations, businesses need support from next-generation talent.

A Thriving Partner Ecosystem

Another contributor to SAP’s success is the vast network of strategic partners that helps SAP implement solutions with their business customers. As Paoni puts it: “Our goal is to help clients get up and running with cloud services and core applications by providing a roadmap and transition pathway from start to finish. We are able to do this with an ecosystem of more than 1,200 partners working with the company to make migrations from on-premise to cloud simple and effective.”

Among SAP’s ever-growing partner network it now also counts the likes of Apple and Google, both of which are teaming with SAP to combine SAP’s deep enterprise expertise and technology with their own consumer technology solutions. “These companies see SAP as an on-ramp to the enterprise,” added Paoni. “We’re changing how people interact with data and technology, and as Apple innovates with augmented reality, Siri and other breakthroughs, SAP will be right there.”

SAP is fueled by its focus on innovation, which is apparent in SAP Leonardo, the company’s new digital innovation system. Through SAP Leonardo, blockchain, IoT, big data, and other new technologies and services are brought together to give businesses the power to complete their digital transformations.

“In speaking with CEOs, there is a common thread among them. The next three years in business are going to be more critical than the past 50, and SAP is there leading the way,” said Paoni.

As companies embrace the digital age to achieve higher revenue and more profitability, new systems and best of breed technologies are necessary to keep businesses competitive. SAP ensures each of its customers is enabled to take advantage of the rapid changes in technology and capitalize on the right strategies to create the most value for their customers.