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Two Sides of the Same Coin

August 12, 2015 by Charlotte Otter 3

Helen Arnold says her twin roles at SAP accelerate innovation in the company.

In May this year Helen Arnold, chief information officer and member of the Global Managing Board of SAP SE, took on the additional role of chief process officer. In the digital economy, with the transformation challenges that SAP and all other companies face, Arnold believes the two roles are a natural fit.

“The digital agenda comes with a completely new set of digital processes, as well as classical processes that need to be adapted to be able to deliver based on your business models. We now have to look at what we need on the process side of the house and, at the same time, what this translates into for the solutions that we need to operate and to enable,” she says.

According to Arnold, placing responsibility for SAP’s process and IT agendas under the same leader also means speed to innovation, because this brings processes and technology closer together.

“When you look at end-to-end business innovation, it always starts with process design. You rethink your process, you innovate your process, and when you have that thinking together with the enablement part in one organization, that’s when you really accelerate.”

The digital economy is bringing pressure to bear on the role of the CIO. Having been SAP CIO for over a year now, she is well aware of those pressures, from integration and complexity to optimization and agility.

Managing IT a Key Differentiator

However, Arnold sees these challenges as opportunities.

“Managing information technology in times of digital transformation is a key differentiator for any business. But I am very proud of SAP and of our strategy and our product portfolio, because, when you look at it, we are the only company that really allows customers to build their processes on our solutions end-to-end with the platforms, the applications and the networks that we offer. This is what we do internally as well, with SAP Runs SAP, so we are our own best reference.”

IT is no longer just about keeping the lights on and ensuring stability. IT now plays a transformational role in helping companies to innovate.

“The ‘I’ in CIO stands for innovation,” she says. “Today, it’s about the business innovation, the value, you are enabling for the new business models on the horizon.”

One of those new business models that Arnold talks about is the Boardroom Redefined, a revolutionary new way to manage meetings based on current data. This was developed by IT – in collaboration with development and the business – in time for SAPPHIRE NOW, and will be live at SAP by the end of September.

She believes that this kind of innovation agility is all about teamwork.

“These cross-functional topics are not easy, and it is often very hard work, but when you see what we are able to achieve with the one SAP spirit, I find that so exciting and thrilling. These are my best moments.”

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