Q&A with Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP

In a fast-changing world, growth means being ready and able to change with every turn. Are you rethinking structures and ways of working within your marketing function to meet consumer needs? 

Marketing plays a significant role in business strategy development, which in turn plays a significant role in the company’s success. We have invested and will continue to in our marketing function to ensure we are supporting the development of a consistent, connected and delightful customer experience.

Companies will often suffer from a lot of silo based operating across functions. Every CEO wants a highly collaborative, interdependent boardroom structure. We have built a value proposition that connects the boardroom, with digital applications at its core, enabling a CEO to run a truly intelligent enterprise. SAP creates connections that transformational decision makers are demanding in their business portfolios today.

Through organic growth or acquisition we have invested a lot in our portfolio to allow us to deliver solutions across the boardroom table. We’ve invested in companies such as SAP Ariba, which focuses on procurement management, SAP Concur, whose buyer is the Chief Financial Officer, SAP SuccessFactors, where the main buyer is the Chief Human Resources Officer, and others. These solution offerings help our customers lead transformation in their respective organizations, and together they collectively push their companies towards higher growth.

What aspect of your brand has provided you with the greatest growth drivers and what aspect has been central to navigating some of the challenges your brand has faced?

We are focused on growing, articulating, and positioning the brand to essentially create customers for life. Brand is often perceived as a marketing thing: I hear it described as colors and logos, as your latest advertising campaign, or your greatest sales asset. I truly believe that brand is the articulation of your purpose, your promise, and your differentiated value. I feel that most companies fail to consistently tell that very clear, value driven, differentiated story. SAP has an incredible story to tell, with a value proposition that touches every buying group within an organization.

We are using the technologies that these buyers are taking onboard to solve their everyday business problems. But we are also using these same technologies to impact environmental, economic and society issues. You need to architect your brand story from the bottom up in today’s environment. Our story actually comes from our engineers who are incubating and developing our product, our sales leaders who are selling and positioning, and our customer managers who are there to help our customers be the most successful with our technology portfolio. It comes from all of the folks who are there to help support the customer journey. Our culture is built on a purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. This purpose driven culture means that we are using our technology to help those who help the world.

How are you leveraging emergent or disruptive technology within your organization to strengthen internally while also growing your brand throughout the world? 

We use a lot of our own technology, which is a beautiful thing to practice within an organization. Our CRM platform, marketing automation platform, and human resources platform are all SAP technologies that we use as employees of the company and that serves as the connective tissue internally.

From our practice within, our technology shows us how we can impact the world at a higher level. The first example that comes to mind is from SAP SuccessFactors. Our industry leading innovations in machine learning enable organizations to measure, detect, and prevent bias from the recruiting process by scanning job postings for bias-centric language.

Another example comes from SAP Ariba, which has created technology that brings transparency into the supply chain so that companies know where risk and forced labor conditions exist. This is the same technology that allows companies to manage cost and achieve savings—the kind of typical everyday business challenges you are trying to solve for, while actually solving issues at a much higher level in the world.

What keeps the people inside your organization engaged, inspired, and eager to grow?

At the end of the day, an organization comes down to the culture and mindset of your people. SAP culture recognizes that your mind must continuously grow. There are incredibly intelligent, highly innovative, and highly collaborative people here who really understand the power of “&.” As we have brought on all of these products and lines of business to enhance the value proposition, we have developed a strong culture where we recognize the power of working together.

What shifts within technology are you anticipating and how are you proactively preparing for those changes?

Disruptive technologies all have a place, in one way or another, in each of the product portfolios. Everything from machine learning to AI to IoT are technologies that are soon going to become a way of life, in terms of how we map what the future of our organization looks like from a digital standpoint.

We want to ensure we have a standard SAP way of thinking in terms of how we are going to deploy machine learning across every product, whether you are in the procurement space or in the human capital management space.

You have to make sure that at your core, you are staying true to your belief in terms of how you run. We want to weave a thread of consistency around how we innovate and across every product and every line of business, because technology is at our core. It has a home in every product we innovate across SAP. And that’s the beautiful way we do it.