We are all born from the sun. We reach beyond. Beyond the expected. Beyond the infinite. Beyond, beyond – Cirque du Soleil

ACT ONE: Setting the scene

Most companies would be upset if you said their transformation was a circus, or they had employed a lot of clowns. But most companies aren’t Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque du Soleil is the world’s biggest theatrical producer. For almost four decades, Cirque du Soleil has been entertaining and inspiring audiences the world over. There are as many as 47 different shows in markets around the globe.

And its impact cannot be underestimated. More than 400 million people have seen shows on six continents and 86 countries. The company now employs more than 4,000 employees, including 1,200 artists from 80 different nations.

Yet it is also a company emerging from a challenging period – and transforming to meet the challenges of the future.

That’s why we heard from Nickole Tara, Chief Growth Officer at Cirque du Soleil, at our recent SAP Now event in Sydney, discussing what the future of the world’s favourite circus holds.

ACT TWO: Intermission

But rewind to 2020 – and the world-shaking impact of the pandemic.

“This was a pivotal moment of change. Went from a company of 5,000 people to being shut down, operating a simple skeleton crew of 150” – Nickole Tara, Chief Growth Officer

The entertainment industry was affected more intensely than many. The impact of COVID-19 saw Cirque du Soleil close its doors and have to restructure organisationally and financially.

“Yet, SAP stood beside us during tumultuous times,” said Tara. “And we began the transformation process.”

In 2021 and 2022, Cirque du Soleil relaunched shows contemporaneously around the world – leading to its best financial year ever in 2022.

But the reset wasn’t just of the company’s people and shows, but its digital ecosystem too.

“Our digital infrastructure didn’t live up to the challenge,” continued Tara. “We didn’t think it was needed as a creative company – but it was integral.”

That realisation saw Cirque du Soleil make a commitment to undertake an exhaustive audit and digital transformation process, led by IT.

“It became the silver lining of the pandemic. It gave us the ability to learn about ourselves so that when we rebuild, we rebuild purposefully.”- Nickole Tara, Chief Growth Officer

ACT THREE: The big finale

The transformation saw Cirque du Soleil learn from its existing architecture, optimise that infrastructure alongside SAP, and introduce new cloud offerings to make the business more efficient.

“Moving to a cloud infrastructure and S/4 HANA made sense since we’re working in a lean, purposeful manner,” said Tara.

“I’m sure there were some hiccups, but it was not felt. And now it is having a significant operational impact on how we’re being more efficient as an organisation.”

The sheer logistics of rescaling and then operating a global production company has also been digitised.

“We had to rehire our entire company and manage dozens of businesses around the world. We had to reconcile hotels, food, and travel for a myriad of tours. We had to streamline a procurement process that supplies 600 containers of equipment around the world. And we had to rationalise costs in real-time, taking ever-changing cycles of inflation into account,” said Tara.

“Our infrastructure really is a microcosm of the world. Everything you see in Cirque du Soleil – – has been sourced or made by us.” – Nickole Tara, Chief Growth Officer

All this has been moved into the cloud and digitised after Cirque du Soleil chose SAP S/4 HANA, SAP Concur, and SAP Ariba.

Now Cirque du Soleil has the data to provide a significant impact on its business. The optimisation, automation, and organisational benefits have seen significant improvement from SAP solutions and support.

“We’re spending significant energy on both performance and logistics. It’s not just juggling balls but juggling a whole company.”- Nickole Tara, Chief Growth Officer

CURTAIN: Leave them wanting more

So what is next for Cirque du Soleil?

“During the pandemic we committed to diversifying our business beyond the stage,” said Tara. “We had to learn who we are.”

It turned out fans wanted Cirque du Soleil to be a leader and to take risks, and 80% of the audience wanted experiences they could take part in.

Similarly, the company uncovered that, while 67% of its audience had children under 18 in the home, they had no products for families to share together. So, just a few weeks ago, the company launched its first video game, called Cirque du Soleil Tycoon, on Roblox.

And that’s not all.

“It might sound counter-intuitive, since Cirque du Soleil is founded on human performance and creativity, but we have fully embraced AI.” – Nickole Tara, Chief Growth Officer

Cirque du Soleil is a creative engine at our core, and our creative team has embraced AI engines to fortify that creative process. Show creation is a magical, multi-year process. So creators can take an arduous process and simplify it to expedite and capture so much more,” concluded Tara.

“As we’ve seen already, we’re not waiting for the entrance of AI. It’s already here. Our philosophy is that it will increase the importance of human interaction, making in-person experiences more necessary and more special.”