Empathy: The Link Between Organizational Change and Intelligent Evolution

Even the smallest update to a process, product feature, or policy can throw people off. But nowadays, the workforce is in a constant state of evolution fueled by technology and internal transformation. Leadership transitions, organizational restructurings, mergers and acquisitions, disruptive competitors, and steady streams of new regulations – all of these shifts have become everyday concerns of business operations.

However, after working with a broad variety of companies worldwide, I’ve come to realize change itself is not what’s important – it’s how it’s communicated to the workforce and how every employee embraces it. As SAP CEO Bill McDermott stated a couple of years ago, “Everything has to start with empathy for the end user and the experience they are getting from your company.”

Research on organizational change echoes McDermott’s observation. Across the board, business leaders acknowledge that successful transformation requires the ability to design and communicate change with empathy towards users and affected employees, partners, and suppliers, in addition to the customer. Once people understand the urgency behind the shift, the more likely they are to adopt it themselves in a way that puts the business on a path to intelligent business evolution.

SAP Advisory Services: Inspiring Adoption with a Compelling Awareness and Vision

The faster business practices evolve, the more critical empathic thinking, design, and communication become. Developing, prioritizing, and exhibiting empathy gives everyone involved and affected a voice in how innovations are created, delivered, and established. Furthermore, users become valuable experts who pinpoint areas for improvement, opportunity, and risk that are not visible to anyone else in the company.

As our customers began to understand this powerful nature of empathy, we designed the organizational change management service as part of the SAP Advisory Services portfolio. The service provides the level of coaching and operational support our customers needed to achieve five foundational aspects of user adoption success:

  • Lower employee resistance to change
  • Decrease operational workarounds while reducing setup and operating costs
  • Harmonize implementation and handover to lines of business with less support and effort
  • Accelerate the adoption of new solutions, leading to faster return on investment (ROI) and benefit realization
  • Apply proven expertise for handling changes and resistance to improve quality and cost-effectiveness

Take, for example, Sappi. The global pulp and paper company is known for unlocking the potential of renewable resources to meet future demand for its products. However, it was the empathetic leadership of Sappi’s IT group that led to the initiative to redefine its core finance processes for the future.

To transform its finance solution landscape for the digital age, Sappi implemented the SAP S/4HANA Finance solution with our expertise and premium engagement services to help achieve a successful migration and go-live. This experience improved the company’s understanding of data-migration issues, skills in accounting and asset management, and knowledge transfer on data corrections. Plus, employees and customers were empowered with streamlined, consistent, and accurate reporting; automated reconciliation; and mobile-enabled information access and sharing.

As Sappi’s story proves, the combination of empathy and organizational change management is a match made for intelligent evolution. This approach raises awareness of the impact and risk associated with incoming changes and helps fine-tune digital strategies. And most importantly, companies are well-positioned to foster company-wide commitment, readiness, and optimized adoption necessary to enable desired behaviors and effective outcomes for years to come.


Throughout this series, we will examine how the SAP Advisory Services portfolio blends established applications with emerging technologies, industry and functional expertise, and an ecosystem of innovators to further optimize operations and inspire history-shaping change. Bookmark our series landing page and check it each week. In the meantime, read our infographic, “Accelerate Business Optimization and Innovation with SAP Advisory Services,” or visit our website for an overview of SAP Advisory Services.


Marc-Alexander Winter is service offering manager of SAP Digital Business Services.