A Conversation with SAP’s Barry Padgett and Rob Enslin: Leading SAP Ariba is Like Getting the Keys to a Racecar

Like many audience members streaming out of the emotionally-charged day one keynote presentations at SAP Ariba Live, I wondered where we’d go from there.

Filled with a renewed sense of purpose, I headed to an exclusive roundtable to hear what SAP Ariba President Barry Padgett and Rob Enslin, member of the Executive Board and president of the Cloud Business Group at SAP, had to say about what’s next for their customers.

10 Months Into Transformation

Enslin kicked off the conversation in his typical down-to-earth way, talking matter of factly about his role in the biggest transformation in SAP history. Formerly president of Global Customer Operations, he now leads SAP’s cloud portfolio, including SAP Concur, SAP Fieldglass, SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer, and SAP SuccessFactors solutions.

“The succession planning at SAP was well organized, and we’d been planning it for quite some time,” he said. “I particularly had a passion for helping SAP transform into a true cloud company. I had a real passion for turning the CRM business into a true massive business for SAP, and wanted to take on the network piece and reinvigorate that as well. The last 10 months have been fascinating.”

L to R: Karen Master, Vice President of Communications at SAP Ariba, Barry Padgett, President at SAP Ariba, Rob Enslin, Member of the Executive Board of SAP and President of the Cloud Business Group. Image via SAP.
Left to right: Karen Master, Barry Padgett, Rob Enslin. Image via SAP.

Characterizing people as both the biggest opportunity and challenge, Enslin acknowledged changing mindsets wasn’t easy.

“You need to figure out when to take some things from the old world and make it relevant in the new world,” he said. “With 90,000 employees operating in 180 countries, it’s a challenge. I’m very proud of how far we’ve come and I always see the glass completely full at the end of the day.”

From Acquisition Paranoia to Wonderful Marriage

Padgett saw his appointment to president of SAP Ariba as a logical progression from leadership positions initially at Concur followed by the SAP SMB group.

“When I worked at Concur, I always woke up with an intense paranoia that we’d get acquired by someone,” he said. “When it did happen with SAP, I found kindred souls who wanted to push the market forward, innovating in the cloud together. It’s been a wonderful marriage.”

“Ariba and Concur have gone through the same kind of journey from on-premise [software applications] to cloud,” he said. “I love the fact that the company is really firing on all cylinders. We’ve seen a ton of innovation and enablement coming out on both the buy and supply sides, including reaching the mid-market with SAP Ariba Snap. It’s like getting the keys to a racecar, not a family sedan.”

A philosophical mindset shift is happening across all of @SAP for building extensible technologies so people can do inspiring things with it

What’s Next

Enslin is already looking ahead to tremendous opportunities for SAP in the cloud. He viewed CRM as a “greenfield” opportunity, and predicted massively simplified processes, especially when SAP closes on the acquisition of Callidus Software, which is already being used by the company’s field sales organization.

“Our bookings are growing up to 40 percent, and if we invest more, we can get growth to over 40 percent in a number of businesses,” he said. “When Callidus becomes part of the family, you’ll see vibrant CRM connecting the front office to the back in a way that no one else has done, including adding a ton of AI.”

It may be easy to talk about corporate purpose, but Enslin pointed out that SAP has numerous examples of how its ERP software improves people’s lives. He mentioned the partnership with Step Up For Students, so movingly captured by stay-at-home-mom Katie Swingle on stage during the keynote, as well as SAP’s sports industry strategy. “We never have partnership with sports teams unless they are using our technology.”

Services at the Forefront

With technology receding to the background as enabler, Padgett described a sea change at SAP: “We want to make sure our innovation is extensible so it can live beyond its specific initial purpose. Then you start to imagine and dream, and see these ecosystems pop up with people who are doing amazing things with your services. A philosophical mindset shift is happening across all of SAP for building extensible technologies so people can do inspiring things with it.”

As for all those emotions I mentioned earlier, read this exclusive interview with Kate Swingler, the Florida mom who made everyone’s eyes fill with tears and all of us at SAP feel just a little more proud.

Follow me: @smgaler