Wolfgang Faisst and Johann Freilinger, the creators and founders of SAP Exchange Media (XM), share their story about building a new product in a start-up-like manner within SAP.

Since 2013, Dr. Wolfgang Faisst and Johann Freilinger have been pursuing their novel business idea with diligence, dedication, and plenty of support from their colleagues and managers at SAP, not to mention their customers and partners. They recruited an 80-member team that has turned that idea into a novel product.

Meanwhile, the two founders of SAP XM concede that the path to realizing groundbreaking ideas at a large company isn’t without its stumbling blocks. It requires new processes and ways of thinking that challenge all those involved to broaden their horizons.

Company Within a Company

What began as a mere concept in late 2013 crystallized into a business plan. Faisst and Freilinger presented to their manager the following year. In the six months leading up to that point, the two had devoted time outside of their normal jobs to the project, which resulted in some long evenings and short weekends. It all turned out to be worth it.

“It’s not that we’re these geniuses,” Freilinger admits. “You just identify a challenge customers are facing that you can solve in a way that ultimately means new business for the company and its customers”, he continues.

SAP XM shows the great potential opened up by tapping into new business areas

While free-enterprise innovators with a solution like this typically set about searching for venture capital, those employed by companies go looking for budget resources. The mechanisms of each process, however, are the same: entrepreneurs need to convince investors and other supporters that their ideas are both promising and feasible. The financial risks individuals have to bear may be smaller for those at a company within a company, but Wolfgang and Johann still feel a particular obligation to their investors – especially their colleagues and supervisors, but also to their partners and customers. Luckily, they already have several milestones to celebrate: The two evaluated their idea along with customers back in 2015 and brought SAP XM to market just in time for SAPPHIRE NOW in 2016.

Bernd Leukert, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE and responsible for Products & Innovation, said that SAP needs to constantly renew its passion for new ideas: “SAP XM represents the innovative spirit that will make us successful in the long term.”

The Idea, The Resulting Product

Based on SAP HANA Cloud Platform, SAP XM brings together buyers and sellers of advertising space in digital media on an online platform. This enables customers to purchase digital ad space, assess the direct efficacy of ad campaigns, and optimize them in near-real time. In that sense, SAP XM is essentially a digital media business network in the cloud. Moreover, SAP XM is connected with other SAP systems such as SAP Hybris Marketing, ensuring seamless and integrated end-to-end processes for customers.

While today’s agencies buy ad space and then plan, implement, and evaluate ad campaigns for their customers, this network now makes it quick and easy for companies to plan their campaigns themselves, tailor them to their own clients, and monitor their success up to the second from start to finish.

The fully integrated digital media network SAP XM provides uses the insights offered by big data, learns from users’ preferences, and makes it possible to place suitable ads in locations that are relevant to the target audience in question. One of the network’s goals is to make advertising meaningful again in the face of rising spending on digital ad-blocking solutions. Ads that get back to offering relevant information to individuals present a great deal of potential for all of the parties involved. After all, wer are all consumers respond more favorably to content tailored to their needs than they do to catch-all advertising campaigns.

The Team

When Wolfgang and Johann began assembling their team, they knew they would need to recruit colleagues from a wide variety of areas to turn their idea into reality. A multidisciplinary team with enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility for their common goal would be essential to their success. This meant bringing together not just a range of skillsets, but also new members with in-depth knowledge of the advertising industry.

Today, the team embodies diversity in its combination of young and more experienced members as well as technology and marketing experts. Development, product design, and operations are based in Walldorf, while sales and marketing are headquartered in Hamburg and New York. They all share that same objective: making advertising relevant again.

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Christiane Kubach is internal communications lead for Products & Innovation in Global Corporate Affairs at SAP.