Fresh from time with ASUG members/SAP customers at last month’s ASUG Best Practices: SAP for Utilities conference, Lloyd Adams, SAP North America President, sat down with ASUG to discuss the still-new role, customer challenges, and North America’s market growth opportunities, among other topics.

Adams, who joined SAP in 1998 and previously was Managing Director, U.S. East Region for SAP, took over strategy, operations, people, sales, services and profitability across the United States and Canada as of Sept. 1. In making the announcement his boss, Scott Russell, Executive Board Member, Customer Success, SAP, called Adams a champion of high-performance culture, an advocate for inclusivity across our workforce, and a catalyst for innovation in support of our customers’ success,” adding, “We are confident his appointment will be pivotal to the continued growth and acceleration of SAP’s long-term success.”

What follows is an edited version of the complete ASUG interview.

Question: Can you share insights on your new set of responsibilities, roles, and key goals?

Answer: In this new role, I'm responsible for everything from strategy, day-to-day operations, and in general, the overall customer success here in the United States and Canada. I've been here for 24 years and over the arc of that career, I've been dedicated to helping our customers become best-run businesses. With my personal philosophy, I've really tried to help SAP become the best trusted advisor for our clients, because they place such a great amount of trust in us. We've put a very, very high priority on their success. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of working alongside many of our sub-community members, most recently as Managing Director in the East Market Unit and prior to that as the Regional Vice President of our National Utilities Practice. I'm eager and excited in this new role, with the opportunity to expand that reach and work with many, many more customers.

Q: Are there a set of key targets or initial goals for your work?

A: You know, I’m only 30 days in. Right now we're dually focused on making sure that we close out this calendar year strong, but at the same time make sure we set ourselves up for longer-term success. This position is a great responsibility, covering and leading the North America market is so integral to SAP's overarching strategy and plans, right? We often say, where North America goes, so, too, goes the rest of SAP. Most of our goals are squarely in the cloud. It should come as no surprise that cloud's going to continue to dominate our growth here in North America and beyond.

And as I think about it, as a region, we're very much leading the charge and establishing the path that's going to help get SAP there as an organization. We're in a [pre-earning report] quiet period right now, so I can't really speak to specific results. But I can tell you that we continue to see solid cloud bookings. Growth performance and our current cloud backlog for the region remain strong quarter-after-quarter. That makes me really happy because it underscores the fact that cloud adoption absolutely is happening here in North America.

That said, when I think about your question, what comes to mind is that we're still very much in the midst of our own transformation. Transformations can be tough. It's not just what our clients are going through (big, sweeping transformations and change), but SAP is, as well. It's progressing the way that we needed it to, but we're in the midst of it. We still have a way to go. Clearly, we're pivoting, from our on-premise legacy business.

I like to remind the teams that the way we work with our customers–to solution and deliver and help our clients adopt and consume what's coming into their organizations from SAP–needs to be as optimized as possible. To me, that's one of the biggest things that's different in a cloud paradigm. One of the major things I'm trying to amplify here with the North American team in this new position is that we continue to do things more cloud-centric.

Scott Russell, my boss, has a great line that I love to remind people of: we always have to start with consumption in mind. It's not enough to just demonstrate what the art of the possible is. For my SAP colleagues and me, we need to go beyond and clearly articulate the impact on the business of whatever an organization may bring in from SAP, even if it means the new way in which business may be conducted, or how things at the task level may be different. That's a lot of change to grapple with.

Q: What is the importance of the North American market, the U.S. market, to SAP?

A: Without question, it is the largest market that we serve, with the largest targets, and the densest, from a customer perspective. We're present in every single industry. The ecosystem is incredibly vast.

But at the same time the competitive landscape is arguably the most acute, more so than other regional theaters. Not to say that it's not competitive there, but it's probably at a different plane here in North America.

With so much opportunity, it's a privilege to serve this market. It's incumbent on all of us at SAP to be our best and our sharpest and we really can't take anything for granted. You know the cases for change that our clients are carrying forward. You know their executive teams and their boards are significant. You take it as a badge of honor to be in the conversation.

We also recognize that we are proud of our heritage and who we are, we're not the only game in town. That necessitates that we be on our A-game and hungry and never complacent. That's what we're trying to do. Like I said, where SAP goes in North America, results-wise, is where we're going to go performance-wise across the globe.

Q: You said in North America SAP is present in every industry. Are there select industries that you are stronger in and others that you want to grow?

A: It's an interesting year for us in 2022. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary. So, to be in this position now, it's incredible to have the opportunity to look back and reflect on how much SAP has evolved and what that has meant across verticals.

In many respects, our legacy is our strength. It's the foundation on which we built this business, and it's why we could continue to be the partner of choice for 99 of the 100 largest companies in the world. I don't want to say we're going back to our roots, but we're going to double down on the fact that industry has always been an intense laser focus for us. Industry Cloud, right now, stands as a differentiator for SAP. That's because we have intimate knowledge of the unique challenges that each of those verticals face in their transformations. We're always trying to be many steps ahead in that process.

On the tech front, the ecosystem that we've been able to build in the past 50 years is unmatched and allows us to dive into verticals in a way that is unique to SAP. It helps us at every phase of the customer's journey. We're in an enviable position. We really are resonant in every vertical, and they're all critically important to us. That means we need to be precise in how we choreograph everything across our portfolio of solutions and the way in which we help customers deploy, adopt, and consume them.

In the past, I ran our utilities practice for North America for several years. That was a great learning ground for me: a vertically integrated model that works as best as it can from development all the way through to support and back around again. That's one of the hallmarks of SAP. That’s one of the things we try to make pervasive in each of the verticals that we pursue and serve.

In certain spaces you'll see us make investments so that we can fortify our offerings. For instance, in financial services you saw a tie up with SAP Fioneer (financial and insurance industry solutions) to help them complement our portfolio with additional industry-centric capabilities. Over time you might see us do more things like that. At the end of the day, there really isn't a certain vertical or set of verticals that we're prioritizing.

Q: ASUG focuses on several industries with events, communities, and content. Are there industries or markets that we should put more focus on?

A: One that springs to mind—it's always been a real strength and powerhouse for SAP—but looking back over the last couple of years during the pandemic, one that I'd call out is Life Sciences. The pandemic really tested the limits on things like production and the distribution of vaccines. But we were able to really work in concert side by side with some of our tried-and-true customers as well as some more recent upstarts in the space to help them be resilient and be responsive to the unique set of conditions in the market.

You know each vertical has some overlapping and then some very distinct set of challenges. If you think about it, supply chain challenges, developing, and engaging a more remote workforce are just a few cross-industry struggles that SAP has really been helping customers address over the last few years during the pandemic.

Q: Speaking of what you've been hearing from customers on their challenges, what are they telling you that they need and want from SAP?

A: The push to digitize or digitally transform has migrated from a nice-to-do to absolutely must-do. The pandemic really accelerated deployment of so many technologies, from cloud to AI to machine learning and analytics. And businesses have really shown how resilient they can be across all verticals. Now, they're adamant about not going backwards. The reality is, no matter what's going on right now, customers are seeking to adapt to market conditions in different ways. Some of them are looking to go into new market spaces. Some are exploring new ways to reach customers. Some are rethinking their supply chains to lower costs. Across the board there is a fundamental acknowledgement that technology is foundational to achieving those objectives.

In enterprise tech spend in the market, given the last couple months, we are seeing the case for change and the business case behind needing to be crisp and the layers of governance and reviews scrutinized at a heightened level. Customers continue to double down on these strategies. I think that's because it's become clear and that the pandemic really emboldened that technology is essential to drive positive business outcomes and it's an organization's ability to do that, very adroitly and with agility, setting the best companies apart.

Q: In conversations of the last couple of months, have leaders among your customers talked about a potential recession and the fluctuating markets having an impact or that they have contingencies in place?

A: Because there's been so much uncertainty, they're cozying up to us even more closely. They want help in overcoming the challenges they face. It’s a myriad of things, really, everything from sustainability to supply-chain resilience, business model transformation, and so forth.

One example is to look at supply chain issues resulting from China's slower-than-expected reopening from COVID lockdowns. We've seen a variety of instances where that's caused certain companies to really increase their interest to help them track logistics, manufacturing, and human resources, just to name a few. We are increasingly supporting customers as they reorganize their supply chains so they can be less dependent on any one source.

We talked about the Utilities conference before. For me, that was a homecoming because I hadn’t been at that conference with so many ASUG members for about five years. At that time the notion of many utilities moving to the cloud was somewhat taboo. At the time, everything was CapEx heavy. Organizations wanted to know how much to pay up front, and they wanted to own the asset and keep their operational expenses at a minimum. Lo and behold, flash forward five years, in the fall of 2022. I was at the conference for one day, but I met with over 15 clients, and to an organization, all of them had already pivoted or are surging in the cloud and getting creative in terms of how they handle this from a capitalization and an accounting perspective. [Cloud is] de rigueur primarily because of the agility they needed, and they saw so many other organizations and other industries achieve that, so they had no choice but to figure out a way to cross that chasm.

Driving our customers ongoing success remains the absolute top priority for our team here in North America, and now just with SAP and our vast partner ecosystem across both the U.S. and Canada.

Q: You’ve talked about cloud with a view to 2023. Are there other technologies or solution sets that you’ll talk more about with customers, in 2023 and beyond?

A: A couple thoughts spring to mind. First, at the very top of mind, for us is that we’re all in on public cloud. We’re hearing our customers loud and clear on their increasing needs for even more agility and resilience. Additionally, our public cloud offering in certain spaces is going to become de facto for new or existing clients to take SAP capability into other parts of the organization. You're always going to see us approach the world by industry with a capital ‘I,’ because we have that internal expertise, and it really changes the outcome. That will always be an intense focus for us.

The other area where you'll see even more from SAP is our focus on business transformation at an organization's pace. In any vertical, you have some early adopters and fast movers, and then you have some fast followers, and I don't want to call them laggards, but more risk-averse organizations. Regardless of where a company may fit on the continuum, we're committed to their success.

Most of our go-forward investment is going to be in the cloud. But we still have an inordinate number of organizations that want to remain In an on-premise paradigm, either because that's what they know and that's where they've been or that's just where they continue to want to go. Elements of their business force them into a certain move. One of the beauties of SAP is the level of choice we afford our customers. We are always going to be in the business of helping our clients transform. We are always going to try and lead them down a path of that, particularly if they're going cloud fit-to-standard and built-for-purpose, because that's what cloud is all about.

We want to do it in a way where it's not merely a lift-and-shift right and or a technical upgrade. We want to make sure there is tangible business value woven into the proposition, which means the work we do up front, in terms of how we create solutions and help our clients build the case for change, is absolutely rock solid, especially now in light of the added layers of governance, inspection, vetting. and approval of these types of spends. These are big projects.

Making a commitment like this with SAP–it's a big step. We like to use terms like ‘customer for life.’ Sometimes I joke, tongue in cheek, this is like a marriage that can never end in divorce. This is a big commitment that these organizations make with us. It's not lost on us. With that in mind, we have to be really, really crisp in terms of how we do this, how we guide them through their deployment and then perhaps even more importantly, how we stay with them.

Post go-live, we make sure they are truly optimized and how they adopt and consume those capabilities to ensure a higher yield, in terms of what it is they're bringing in. That will ensure that their renewal rates go higher, but it will also earn our right to be back at the table for other transformations in their organization. It's not a fate accomplishment that we will be at that table. We must earn that. It's a virtuous cycle.

Q: The ASUG mission is to help our members and customers get the most value from their investment in SAP technology. How, in this new role, will you help them do that?

A: I think one of the things that our clients, if we do this right, should be pleased with is the pivot we're going to make to be very balanced: not just how we show up during the solutioning phase of things, but even more so on the delivery, adoption, and consumption phase of things. Our unique opportunity right now is to be that trusted advisor for our clients. Of course we do that in concert with our vast ecosystem.

One of the things you’ll see from SAP in an amplified way Is for us to be a mission-critical third or fourth leg of that stool, where you've got the client, you’ve got the systems integrator, in some cases you might have the hyperscaler, but that third or fourth leg absolutely needs to be SAP. I think if we do that and do that well, it's a virtuous cycle and it means good things for our customers.

Q: Is there anything that you wanted to touch on in this interview?

A: We're amid a really critical transformation, with a lot left to do and an immense opportunity in front of us in the market, both in terms of customers we currently serve as well as new ones we're trying to bring to the family. We thank ASUG for the role it plays in helping us do that.

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