Bussmann at the Steering Wheel

SAP-CIO Oliver Bussmann (photo: SAP)
CIO Oliver Bussmann (photo: SAP)

SAP.info: Mr. Bussmann, before you joined SAP, you were head of IT for North America at financial services provider Allianz. What attracted you to the job at SAP?

Bussmann: Well, there were two main factors. First, the topic of innovation and – especially – the innovative drive of SAP. In terms of software development, we are fantastic innovators and leaders in the market, which enables us to absorb new findings, new trends, and new opportunities internally – in other words, to be our first customer.

And this chance to break new technological ground again and again appealed to me immensely. That’s the first reason. The other reason is internationality, because SAP is a truly global company – and feels more global to me than Allianz. This means that the lines of business and functions really have a global structure, so IT plays a major global role, too. We operate around the clock, just like the other divisions, and we provide them with services whenever and wherever they need them.

SAP.info: What does breaking new ground and being the first customer actually mean in concrete terms?

Bussmann: It means that we – the IT department – get to be included in all new product developments and really are the first customer or at least a ramp-up customer, before a new solution becomes generally available.

We strive to test out new ideas internally and to see whether things work out as planned. And in the end, all SAP customers benefit from our climbing this learning curve and passing the findings back to the development departments and our colleagues in service and support. We call it SAP runs SAP.

Read on: The Role of CIOs has changed

SAP.info: Many of our readers will think that all this goes without saying…

Bussmann: Of course SAP has always used its own solutions. There’s no doubt about that. For example, our SAP NetWeaver Portal brilliantly demonstrates how you can offer 50,000 employees role-based access and information. But we’re doing it in a more structured way now, keeping pace with the speed of innovation, and ensuring that the IT department is at the forefront of developments.

It’s important to me that this information is then passed on rapidly to my counterparts – the CIOs of our customers – along with the experience we have gathered internally. What do they need to think about? Where do the challenges lie? Are there any tips and tricks?

I address these questions with other CIOs. After all, as operators of various SAP system landscapes, we all know what we’re talking about and what we work on every day. So really, I’m just one of many CIOs gathering experience. But unlike our customers, I have a direct line to the development departments.

SAP.info: So, this advisor aspect – both internally and externally – is a major part of your work. What else is important for a CIO?

Bussmann: The role of the CIO has changed from being a provider of technical infrastructure to being a companion and advisor. IT doesn’t just support business, it also helps shape certain things. What are the priorities? What do the road maps look like? What strategic goals are the lines of business pursuing?

All these things have to be mapped in the enterprise architecture, so business and IT have to be planned hand-in-hand. IT projects need to get away from thinking in technical silos and move toward business plans. They need to add value and make a contribution to achieving company goals.

As a result, the CIO plays a major strategic role. In this respect, it’s an immense help that we adopted our software’s best practices and innovations, so I can focus more on interaction with business matters than with technical issues in my work.

Read on: Future Investments of SAP

SAP.info: Talking of innovations: Now that the global financial crisis is over, many of our customers are investing more in IT, so that they can remain future-proof. What are you focusing on? What is the CIO of SAP investing in?

Bussmann: We’re concentrating our investments on customer relationship management. We’ve just finished upgrading to SAP Customer Relationship Management 7.0, which gives us a global overview of our customer and partner landscape across all sales channels and all touch points.

Furthermore, we’re investing greatly in the area of enterprise information management and we’re continuing to harmonize our data. We’re creating a standardized enterprise data management layer – a single source of truth – across all datasets, which we’ll then make available to the business users as self-services with tools from the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio.

We’re also still tapping the benefits of the SAP BusinessObjects applications internally. For instance, we’ve integrated 360° dashboards into our CRM environment. Our third focal point, which is a strong trend, is to transfer this information to mobile end devices in a format useful for analysis purposes.

As well as the 17,000 BlackBerrys used at SAP, we’re now introducing more iPhones and iPads and integrating them with our landscape. The rollout of 1,500 iPads makes us leaders in the enterprise environment – a fact that has been confirmed by analysts.

With SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iPhones or iPads, we have the first applications that make data and analysis functions available to mobile users. Mobile devices and the related applications are becoming an integral part of our IT landscape.

SAP.info: With the acquisition of Sybase, SAP gave a clear signal about the importance of mobility. What does such an acquisition mean from the perspective of SAP’s in-house IT department?

Bussmann: Initially, acquisitions create a great amount of work. New systems, new data centers, and new desktop landscapes are added, and employees join the company and need access to systems and resources. There’s a lot to do. When I joined SAP, the Business Objects transaction had been concluded and the first thing I did was to see what we learned in terms of IT and what we could improve upon.

Like the business departments, we take an organized and structured approach to acquisitions. We examine procedure models, look at the worlds that are to be united, and decide which transfer methods to use and what resources we need, but we also determine what is actually required at what point in time. And that’s what we’re doing in the case of Sybase, too.