As executive-level leaders dealt with unforeseen disruption this year, they’ve had to learn to adapt to changing demands—from employees, customers, and business partners alike. Nothing about this year has been normal. Business leaders, however, have looked to rely on technology as a means to normalize business and keep it moving along, while also keeping customer experience at the forefront of decision-making.

During the recent Executive Exchange Virtual Summit, aptly titled, “Looking Forward,” C-level attendees heard about delivering on customer success and how to exceed expectations moving into the next year. This was discussed from the perspective of SAP, in terms of how the software company will deliver on success for its customers—and also from the perspective of SAP users delivering the ultimate experience for their own customers.

We’ve spent the better half of this year discussing the circumstances we’re in and what we’re doing to get out of them. In May of this year, the ASUG Executive Exchange members received an analysis of SAP and SAP customers during the pandemic, as well as more on how to apply SAP technology to navigate the current business landscape. This time, the focus was on solving real business challenges for the next 12 to 18 months.

Understanding the Role of Customer Success at SAP and Why It Matters

To get the day started, ASUG CEO Geoff Scott welcomed SAP Executive Board Member and Head of SAP Customer Success, Adaire Fox-Martin, to discuss what customer success means to SAP, and how it in turn will help customers in the coming months move their businesses forward. The SAP Customer Success board area includes all the company’s customer-facing organizations, including sales, services, customer engagement, as well as advising and supporting customers through their digital transformations.

“We are in a set of circumstances where we're navigating an environment that no one presented us with before this year,” Fox-Martin said. “And for me, it’s about listening to our customers and understanding what we can best do to support them as they navigate their own challenges.”

When asked how the Customer Success board area will affect SAP customers, without hesitation she said, “I hope in a positive way.” She went on to discuss how software as a service is driving how she and her team approach their strategy. “We are at the start of quite a significant journey. As all of us—SAP customers and SAP—navigate much more fully into the world of cloud, we're navigating into the world of software as a service. And I think the most important aspect of that are the words ‘as a service’ because they define the underpinning thinking that one needs to consider when you're delivering a service 24/7, 365 days a year.

Earlier this year, SAP announced a customer-focused restructure. “We made a considered decision around the organizational design that would be necessary to support our customers in a world that was different from the world that we had come from,” Fox-Martin said of the move. “It was extremely important to me the name of our board area and its mission were going to be one in the same thing. Our focus would be on our customers, their outcome, their value, and their ultimate success with SAP.”

Moving to the Cloud and Tapping Into Customer-Facing Resources at SAP

Asked to level-set and define customer success, Fox-Martin noted that it’s a combination of two things—value and experience. “It means the value SAP software provides to you, delivers to your business and ultimately to your customers, too. And experience comes in two forms. It comes in the form of the experience that that software delivers to the employees of your organization, but also the experience that it delivers for your customers.”

There have been a steady drumbeat of customers moving to the cloud over the past few years, but this year has certainly accelerated the move for many. So much so, that in its most recent earnings call, SAP announced it will target more than $26 billion in cloud revenue by 2025.

“All of the businesses we’re speaking to today are certainly on a migration journey to the cloud,” Fox-Martin said. "When we think about our SAP ECC install base, we need to acknowledge that there is a unique departure point for each customer, and that uniqueness has to be taken into consideration as we think about the migration to the cloud.” She added, “As SAP, we have always been predicated on choice, and that also is the case as customers begin their migration to cloud. Whether that migration takes place on hyperscaler A, B, or C, that choice is a customer choice based on a whole series of prerequisites and decisions that will be unique to each customer.”

Ultimately, Fox-Martin made clear that they recognize a move to the cloud as imperative. The role SAP wants to take is one that helps make that move easier for customers. “We are working to do that not just from a technical support and services perspective, but also from a commercial perspective in terms of taking into consideration that a unique departure isn’t just about our technology, but also about the longevity of the commercial relationship with SAP and how that might be represented contractually and simplifying that as we move into a cloud environment.”

How SAP Customers Can Exceed Expectations with Their Own Customers

As important as it is to understand how SAP is working with its customers to improve their experiences and ensure their success, it is equally important for businesses to think about their own customers’ experience. As we’ve learned this year, understanding and supporting customers and their needs regardless of where they’re at will ultimately determine a company’s success in the long run.

Scott had a conversation with Bob Stutz, president of the SAP Customer Experience organizational unit, to learn more about how the SAP Customer Experience portfolio can help organizations not only meet expectations, but actually exceed them as they move forward in the coming months. They discussed how intelligent technology will play a role in not only the back-office systems, but also the customer-facing systems as well. “In order to have a true connected, intelligent enterprise,” Stutz said, “you need both pieces.” He added that the goal for SAP is to build out the customer-facing systems (SAP CX portfolio) so that it they are truly powerful as well as integrated into the back-end system. By doing this, SAP can provide a seamless end-to-end process for any organization.

“The reality is customer data—whether it’s a business partner that sits in an ERP system or it’s a CRM record that sits in a CRM system—has traditionally been static. The new concept that we introduced with the SAP Customer Data Platform is to take that static data and bring it together with live data. That’s the new world of customer data. It’s really important that you understand your customers in a way you never did before," Stutz said.

Finding the Value in the SAP Customer Experience Portfolio: It’s Integration

During the SAP Customer Experience Live virtual event this fall, SAP CEO Christian Klein doubled down on the company’s road map for customer-centricity. He noted that SAP had listened to feedback from more than 15,000 customers and 1,000 partners to understand what an exceptional customer experience looks like. “We will increase the speed of innovation to deliver a beautiful experience to your customers and further accelerate your growth,” he added.

Stutz echoed that sentiment, noting that unlike other vendors who build customer experience solutions for one purpose, SAP has to think about how to connect that front-office solution to a back-office solution. “That’s the expectation that customers have for us. If we’re going to build a product then it needs to fully integrate with everything. And to be fair, the integration has not always been the best. But we have worked hard in the past year to not only integrate with an ERP, but to also integrate with other products we have within the CX portfolio.”

Building out that CX portfolio is a key focus area for SAP as the company moves into 2021. Another focus area is explaining the portfolio and the solutions within and how a customer can get a business outcome out of it. Stutz talked about needing to do a better job at showcasing the differentiators within the SAP CX portfolio. “We have the leading consent and identity management product in the industry, and it is now built into our SAP Customer Data Platform,” he said. “We also just acquired Emarsys, which is an intelligent engagement platform.”

As SAP continues to evolve its portfolio, customers should look to how integration plays a key role, as well as how each solution complements the other—ultimately providing that end-to-end process and experience. “It’s a new world around CX,” Stutz said. “If you’ve made an investment in SAP already, then it makes sense to give us an opportunity to show what we have. We have world-leading functionality. We’ve made strides in making implementation easier and quicker. And we’ve done a lot of work in usability. I think you’ll see that it’s very different than what was here before.”

Register for the next ASUG Executive Exchange Virtual Summit: SAP Private Equity Value Network on Dec. 9, from 12 p.m.–1:30 p.m. ET/11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. CT.

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