As a global software company with offices in more than 140 countries, SAP has quite a few executives working toward the organization’s goals, each in their own unique way.
ASUG News is interviewing SAP leaders for our new series, Meet an SAP Executive, where we’ll share what these individuals contribute to the company and what this means for customers. In this first installment, we interviewed Bertram Schulte, chief digital officer for SAP.
Leading the Charge to a New Digital World
SAP tasked Schulte with leading the business through a digital transformation to make it easier for customers and partners to do business with the company. “A CDO is like a king or queen without a land, but charged with a simple mission,” Schulte wrote in a LinkedIn post. “The mission is to make the company digital.”
After working in various roles at SAP since 2005, he stepped into his current role to oversee the digital customer strategy for SAP across sales, customer success, support, and marketing nearly two years ago. “It’s a role that taps into my roots in marketing, multimedia,and e-commerce,” Schulte said. “It allows me to put the customer first. Just because SAP is a global company doesn’t mean we can’t simplify the buying process and provide top-notch service for every individual.”
Putting the Customer First
Schulte described himself as the first advocate of customers in the digital world. “I’m working to bring together support, products, and consulting services on a global level so that the overall SAP offering makes sense to customers,” he said.
The first part of his strategy includes a direct, omnichannel experience for commercial customers to purchase SAP and partner offerings via SAP.com. The second part is to provide that same experience for partners. “Currently, all SAP Business One orders are being done by one of our digital stores so that the partners can purchase the licenses that they resell via the SAP store,” Schulte noted. “We’re looking into doing this with other products as well.”
The third part of Schulte’s strategy began almost a year ago. “This was the transformation of the SAP Cloud Platform to offer a consumption-based model,” he said. “It puts the customer in the driver’s seat to provision their services and only get billed for what they actually consumed.” This year, Schulte and his team are looking to enhance the portfolio of available products, and to remove the upfront commitment from customers that’s currently in place.
No Room for Myths
Schulte recently wrote an article on three myths about digital transformation. The first myth he discussed was that better technology does not automatically equal a digital transformation. “Although the technology piece is important,” Schulte said, “your digital transformation should start with your process and your customer in mind. And from there, think about what technology you need to achieve your goals.”
The second myth he addressed was that digital transformation only matters to technology and software companies. Wrong again. “It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in,” Schulte insisted. “With any business, if you can connect the customer experience with the supply chain, then you enhance that customer experience.”
The third myth he addressed is that digital transformations can wait. “Waiting is the worst thing you can do,” Schulte said. “There is a learning curve for every business to understand what is and isn’t bringing value to its customers and how to then build a strategy. You cannot start building unless you get all the pieces in place.”
Data Is the Real King
Making it simpler for SAP customers to find a solution is a great first step. But Schulte cautioned that even with all the other pieces in place, it won’t mean much if your data is not in order.
“The one thing that creates delays or the biggest headache for companies working on a digital transformation is their data foundation.” Traditionally, companies are organized in silos. That’s because in the past, things like production, finance, and sales didn’t have to come together in real time to make the right offer to customers. That’s not the case anymore.
Schulte noted that even he had to think about bringing together customer data, sales data, and support data for SAP in an effective way so that he could support a business process that SAP needed to optimize. “You need to address how you manage your data in the company and how it’s structured,” he added. “The overall data model across corporate functions is the most critical component to drive a digital transformation.”
Expanding the Ecosystem
We know SAP’s strategy for its own digital transformation, and Schulte shared his three myths that should be left behind in 2018. But what’s ahead for this new year and beyond?
“The one thing that I believe will become more and more predominant for every company is having to fit into an ecosystem,” Schulte said. Business leaders shouldn’t limit their business plan to selling or providing one thing, but rather a complete experience. “I believe that more and more companies will discover what their actual business platform is and the digital means by which they are now able to bring that together in real time for their customer.”
This will be the driver in 2019. “It always starts with the customer experience, and then it trickles through the whole supply chain. And that actually fits in very nicely with SAP’s strategy for building an intelligent enterprise.”
Join us at our national or one of our regional ASUG Executive Exchange events in 2019 to network with other executives looking to get more value from their SAP systems.