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Interview: Staying ahead through innovation

T.C. Seow | Sept. 27, 2012
One-on-one with the global CIO of software giant, SAP AG.

Oliver Bussmann, SAP
Photo: Oliver Bussmann

Oliver Bussmann, EVP and CIO of SAP AG, was recently conferred the Europe CIO Award of the Year for having realigned SAP's Global IT organisation with SAP's strategic objectives, thereby transforming it into an agile operation to meet SAP's growing business demands. For Bussmann, being able to achieve that level of agility is no mere feat, especially for a globally successful software giant that has a 40-year history aiming to be innovative and relevant to today's markets. CIO Asia catches up with the man recently to learn about his success story, and what lessons Asian CIOs can glean from him.

Q: You won the Europe CIO Award of the Year recently, and in the citation, you were quoted as having "realigned the Global IT organisation with SAP's strategic objectives, transforming it into an agile operation to meet SAP's growing business demands." How did you meet these objectives? If not, what areas do you think you could improve on?

Bussmann: First of all, SAP is a global organisation. As such, we have global infrastructure and application services. Back in 2009, we aligned our IT strategy and for that, we got an award for best IT strategy in Germany. In 2009 we tried to understand [what we needed to do], by first of all reaching out to the business organisation [within SAP] to understand how they viewed IT, and learn where the problem areas were. Next, we spent time to try to understand what's our corporate strategy, where the business was going in the following three years, and came up with eight different levers to control how we drove our strategy. [Along the way] IT became the entrusted advisor and enabler to the business. That was the biggest achievement, among others. One of them was good governance structure -- we implemented business information on top of product lines. We have business information officers in the lines of business, reporting to the business heads, and also reporting to me. They are part of my management team. So we work closely together to make joint decisions on the portfolio, security, architecture, etc., including [performing] the enterprise architecture function. So, we know not only what is in the next 12 months but we know what's coming in the next three years.

Q: So you know quite well where you're heading?

The company has four objectives every year: how we're going to work with the business, how to increase customer satisfaction, how to improve employee morale, and fourth, how to improve our margin. These are proper objectives. Then we map our IT objectives to get there to support them. Plus, each of my managers, and their managers, define their objectives so that we have a cascade -- from the company, IT and then the teams. We document those objectives and corresponding KPIs, and measure this every quarter, and we go to quarterly meetings and publish [the results] to the entire organisation [so that] everybody gets a copy of what we called the "result book". So at the end, an employee knows what she has contributed in her team, how that is linked [back] into IT and the overall business.


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