Q&A with Adaire Fox-Martin: SAP’s Purpose Is Not A Tag Line, It’s Something We Live and Breathe

Adaire Fox-Martin, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations, recently sat down to talk about how the SAP One Billion Lives initiative brings the company’s purpose to life, and what happens when companies create an environment where people can do work that matches their passions. Hint: An India-specific cancer treatment database is just the beginning.

Q: What excites you most about the SAP One Billion Lives initiative?

Adaire Fox-Martin, Member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations
Adaire Fox-Martin, Member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations, explains SAP brings its corporate purpose to life.

A: Despite the challenges in today’s world, I believe humans are inherently good. This program gives SAP employees an opportunity to live large, and demonstrate that faith in humanity. We are bringing to life SAP’s purpose of improving people’s lives with a specific target ─ 1 billion lives.

Almost 10 years ago as a sales leader in our APJ region, I attended a workshop where we were asked to imagine SAP’s role in the world in 2050. While we all envisioned big ideas about countries, the climate, and space exploration, not one person wanted to change our fundamental vision. Now SAP One Billion Lives demonstrates how we’re making this bold vision real.

What conclusions have you drawn from the SAP employee response so far?

We first developed this program in APJ, and launched it in parallel with our business strategy. We realized that our employees were inspired by giving back to the communities we serve. They come to work every day as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and members of their communities, and there were things they were passionate about. I wanted to create a platform to bring these passions together with the best that SAP offers — our technology and our vast ecosystem — to deliver positive and significant impact.

The worldwide engagement of people has been phenomenal and heartwarming. We’ve received thousands of ideas for impact across the company, from the very first wave in APJ, to launching the program across the world this year. I’m very touched that people feel this is something they want to be involved in. It demonstrates the spirit of SAP. Our purpose is not a tag line, it’s something we live and breathe every day.

From an SAP customer perspective, why is this program important?

Doing business is not just about aligning our technologies and our industry know-how to help customers succeed. The alignment of business and cultural values between organizations plays a big role, and is often the tipping point in a customer’s decision to put their transformation journey in our hands. At the same time, many mature and large organizations today must compete against agile and hungry startups in an increasingly fast-paced environment.

SAP One Billion Lives operates beyond traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. It is an exercise of developing the entrepreneurial spirit within the organization or ‘intrapreneurship.’ The selection process is rigorous. The teams are coached by a network of entrepreneurs, VCs, and customers to help them set up self-sustaining ventures. It brings the best of both worlds to the business — the stability of the established business and the speed and innovative thinking of a startup.

Our customers see massive value in this, and I’ve had conversations with some who want to use our SAP One Billion Lives initiative as a framework for innovative thinking and intrapreneurship in their companies. Working together with many organizations will be a force-multiplier for worldwide impact.

Near term, what can the market expect from SAP One Billion Lives?

We’ve already learned a lot about sourcing and accelerating potential ventures. What’s been incredible is watching people work together across different lines of business in each market unit, aligning their personal passions and skills. We’re seeing significant impact from some of those first projects, which are driving an out-sized impact.

One of them is the optimization of cancer treatment protocols in India. The team is building an Indian-genome specific database of 900,000 patients using our solutions, including SAP HANA and the SAP Medical Research Insights solution. With the insight delivered from the platform, negative side effects, mortality rates, and treatment costs are tremendously reduced, changing the way cancer treatment is done in India.

How will SAP measure success?

We’d like to see at least one project submission from every SAP region make it through the entire process from ideation through validation of the business model, incubation, and pilot to a full-fledged solution with impact. This year’s submissions reflect the incredible passion of our employees whether they involve work, family, healthcare, and more. We’ll measure results based on how many lives we impact. I’ve always been a setter of audacious goals. One billion is very big number, but we’re looking ahead to exponential growth.

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