SAP is committed to ushering in a new world economic order where society’s biggest problems become opportunities, companies have better ways to trade, workers have the new skills they need to contribute, and young people have greater chances to succeed. This was the message SAP CEO Bill McDermott shared with a rapt audience at SAP Ariba Live 2017 held this week in Las Vegas.

“What SAP Ariba does to completely reinvent procurement is reinventing the economy around the world, changing industries in vastly new, innovative and compelling ways,” said McDermott. “You are the heroes of the new economy, and our job is to unleash that innovation.”

In a candid conversation that included his personal transformation journey and a hint of what’s to come at SAPPHIRE NOW, McDermott shared his values around customer empathy, reflected in SAP’s user experience and renewed strategic direction.

“If it doesn’t impact the environment positively, if it doesn’t impact economies positively or move societies in a new direction, we’ll choose not to do something.  We’re going for brand new innovations that matter,” he said.

This Is What Empathy Looks Like

Every member of the audience walked away with a copy of McDermott’s book, “Winners Dream: Lessons from Corner Store to Corner Office,” which describes his amazing story from owning a deli as a teenager to being an equipment salesman, and becoming the CEO of the world’s largest ERP software company. His adventures included installing video games that attracted neighborhood kids to hang out at his deli, making friends with a prospect’s attack cat (and winning the deal), and taking a market from last place to No. 1 by yearend. The thread running through all his stories was empathy.

“If you can connect with people through the human element, you might not need the pitch. You can throw away the slides. People want a vision of where you want them to go and the motivation to get there,” said McDermott. “Yes, it’s ultimately important to be the best in the world at whatever you do. But that’s because we do it with other people. We create memories. We create dynasties in our own minds and our own relationships. It always starts with a dream, and that’s where Winner’s Dream came from.”

McDermott explained how SAP’s accelerated pace of innovation with major investments including machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, SAP Leonardo, SAP Cloud Platform, and the open SAP API Business Hub supported customers. “You have to look at the world through the eyes of your customers. Customers need you to care about their customers,” he said.

Fueling Fundamental Transformation

Recapping SAP’s growth under his tenure since 2010, McDermott said the company’s odyssey has resulted today in 17,000 SAP HANA customers operating at scale worldwide, and with SAP having more cloud users in the enterprise than any other organization. He explained how SAP Ariba is fundamental to strategic market change.

“We said that great companies improving the GDP of the world will not only happen with individual companies, it will happen between companies. This notion of inter-enterprise computing with trading partners in viable networks that are seamlessly integrated where activities can be done in unique, dynamic, real-time ways, will fundamentally change the economic paradigm as we know it,” said McDermott.

SAP Ariba connects the supply and demand chains seamlessly integrating a network of buyers and sellers up to and including creating net new business models. “I look at SAP Ariba as a front-end CRM system as much as a trading network,” said McDermott. “Companies are going indirect or direct, and we’re doing nice things with (RED) to move goodness through the world. I couldn’t be prouder of this network.”

Improving the World

Having a real-time trading platform like SAP Ariba impacts both companies and the economy at-large, and it’s aligned with SAP’s higher purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. “This is a new world order connected to a digital core so we can truly digitize business processes and execution,” said McDermott. “The value by which we can derive goodness that enables you to hire people, sell core products, expand into new markets – to do things you’ve never been able to do before because you needed a digital platform to run fast and run live, then you’re doing something special. Some of society’s challenges are also the world’s biggest opportunities.”

Comeback from a Personal Tragedy

McDermott viewed his accident as a major life lesson. “There’s a constant battle that goes on between your mind and your will,” he said. “I was badly hurt. Your rational mind tells you lay down, rest, go to sleep. If you get up, life gets harder. Your will looks at it differently. This isn’t end of my story. Think of your family, friends, colleagues, and you have to get up and get on with it. My accident didn’t give me more character, it revealed all the character I had. Everyone will have their own moment, and If you have that passion burning inside you, there’s nothing you can’t do.”

McDermott concluded with a hint at what to expect at SAPPHIRE NOW, SAP’s premier customer event in Orlando, Florida. “We want to build the intelligence enterprise, and hope you’ll be at SAPPHIRE NOW when we’ll tell you more.”

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