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SAP C/4HANA leads discuss future of CX platform

New leaders of SAP's customer experience platform discuss its future direction, with a retrospective look at how CRM's past evolved into customer-centric CX technology.

The SAP C/4HANA team -- like the rest of SAP -- saw new leadership take the reins last year. Paula Hansen, formerly vice president of sales at Cisco, took over as senior vice president and chief revenue officer of SAP Customer Experience in February 2019. In October, former Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Bob Stutz became president of engineering and operations for SAP Customer Experience. We interviewed them both during SAP's Sapphire Now virtual user conference.

Paula, what's SAP's current definition of 'customer experience,' now that you have Qualtrics voice of the customer and customer analytics clouds under your roof?

Paula HansenPaula Hansen

Paula Hansen: I think customer experience is any interaction that a company or brand has with their customers in order to listen to customers, understand them and to engage with them. It spans multiple functions inside of most organizations, from marketing to sales to commerce to customer service.

I think it's holistic in nature, in terms of how that company or brand wants to foster a relationship built on trust, demonstrate they're understanding and listening to the customer's needs, engage with them in a meaningful and relevant way, and deliver on the promise that they've made to the market and to the individual customer.

Bob, your first stint at SAP was in the mid-2000s, on the CRM team. How does SAP CRM and CX look different now?

Bob StutzBob Stutz

Bob Stutz: It's evolved, with the acquisition of Hybris and then also the acquisition of CallidusCloud. So the portfolio has gotten much bigger -- everything from sales performance management as well as e-commerce, which wasn't there before. Nowadays, especially with the corona[virus] crisis, I think companies realized that cloud is probably the most important thing. Those customers that were still stuck on premises had a very hard time communicating with their customers. It's taken quite a long time, but I think cloud is now becoming the standard, even in SAP.

Speaking of the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders remaking business workflows and customer experience, what's going on with SAP C/4HANA users?

Hansen: We see companies looking to build more flexible business models to adapt to the changing market conditions, changes that seemingly happened overnight. They're looking at ways to engage with their customers through more digital channels to service their customers, to collaborate and provide information to them and support their business with commerce. And they also need to support their newly virtualized workforce.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, [e-commerce] order volume is up roughly 60% from where it was this time last year.
Paula Hansen SVP and chief revenue officer, SAP Customer Experience

The two biggest areas of seismic change are in the areas of commerce and training. Commerce is going through tremendous change. Since the beginning of the pandemic, order volume is up roughly 60% from where it was this time last year. And then the GMV [gross merchandise value] they're processing is up 148% year over year. Within the delivery of that digital commerce, we see people evolving their business models -- B2B companies now going direct-to-consumer, such as Brakes Group. They launched a site in seven days and took all the food and beverages that they would normally sell to schools and catering businesses direct to the consumer.

We have people working now more remotely, and so the need for distance learning and continuity of training is also really significant. So we've seen a big uptick in the need for that. We've turned on a free capability through SAP Litmos [learning management platform] we call the Remote Readiness & Productivity Academy, to provide companies with access to distance learning and distance learning content, so that their sales and service reps can stay productive.

How has the pandemic shifted priorities as far as the product development roadmap?

Stutz: For the most part, we stayed with our roadmap, [but we moved up some development] around commerce. It's been like Black Friday every day. There were some improvements around performance and things that we accelerated that we had planned [in time for the upcoming November's] Black Friday, but Black Friday came very early this year.

Are you factoring a continued e-commerce surge into your product roadmap? How much of the bump do you think will be permanent?

Stutz: I don't think it will slow down. If anything, companies have realized that e-commerce is a valuable channel whether you're a B2B or B2C company. Going forward, what we'll see is a continued increase in e-commerce.

SAP has undergone a lot of leadership change in the last year, including you two. How is that influencing SAP C/4HANA moving forward? What new perspectives are you bringing to the table?

Hansen: I think both Bob and I feel really good about the collection of assets that we have, across the customer experience portfolio. We also feel really proud of SAP's strong heritage in the back office. The pandemic [proves] there's great value when you bring the data, insights and analytics of the back office closer to the customer.

As we look forward, one of the things that Bob and I are both hearing from our customers is the need to shift more power into the hands of customers and consumers. In a CRM-based customer experience, for years, there's been a lot of focus on the customer journey. A lot of times, that really is tailored for the company or the brand -- focusing on collection of data and measuring their business KPIs. What we see and hear from our users is that their customers want the control of the experience. They're looking for business partners that can help build a trusted relationship with their customer, and give the customer the real power in terms of the experience.

Bob, you just came from Salesforce. On the outside, SAP and Salesforce look as different as night and day. Is it like that on the inside?

Stutz: I think all software companies are the same in a lot of aspects. I think the differentiation really between Salesforce and SAP is really around the fact that SAP has been in the industry a long time, especially in the ERP side of the house. Every company pretty much runs their business on SAP. The set of products, whether it's supply chain ERP, finance, procurement, are pretty powerful, right? You couple it with the front-end stuff that we have around commerce, marketing, sales and service as well as sales performance management. I think that is one of the big differences between Salesforce and SAP: SAP is the true end-to-end [technology stack].

Bob, you've worked for all the main CRM players starting with Siebel, then Oracle, Microsoft and Salesforce -- and now you're with SAP a second time. At what point on that continuum did CRM morph into CX? What was the driving trend or technology that got us here?

Stutz: Even if you go back to the early days of Siebel, the bulk of people's business was actually in customer experience. It was running all the major call centers in the world for sales service, order management. So I I'm not sure if it actually ever morphed. I think it was always there.

What changed along the way was the cloud, and how people look at customer experience. In the early days, CRM had sort of a bad reputation. A lot of unfulfilled promises and a lot of implementations that never really fulfilled the expectations of customers. The technology has gotten so much better. And I think the ability to communicate across all the different channels with consumers and customers has become so powerful. We truly are living in a world of customer engagement, customer experience.

Editor's note: This Q&A was edited for brevity and clarity.

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