CIO Strategy: To Improve Employee Engagement, Buy Cupcakes

Manik Narayan Saha

Research clearly shows that highly engaged employees are good for business. People who feel connected to their employer are more productive, generate more revenues, and help the company thrive.

But did you know that IT can contribute to this success? According to new research from IDC [1], companies that develop a strong relationship between IT and the lines of business can measurably increase corporate performance.

IDC compared two types of enterprises: those where IT proactively worked with the business and those that did not cultivate a close relationship. Over three years, the companies with the strong IT-business connection achieved:

  • 90% greater growth in revenue from new product lines [1]
  • 80% greater growth in revenue from established product lines [1]
  • 50% greater improvement in compliance-related activities [1]

Introducing IT Day

These are compelling results that any CIO would be pleased to deliver. Yet creating active engagement between IT and the business can be challenging. Many employees view IT as a mere service provider—one to be consulted only when there is a problem.

How can an innovative, forward-thinking CIO demonstrate to employees that IT is more than just a support function? And how can IT help the company grow, modernize, and create market advantage?

At the SAP office in Singapore, the IT services team recently organized an IT Day to showcase our capabilities. Our goals: to educate employees on how IT delivers value to SAP and to demo the IT services that help employees work more effectively and efficiently.

Around 200 employees from multiple lines of business attended IT Day, following three tracks:

  • Expert talks that focused on the areas where IT is driving user productivity, cybersecurity, and innovation
  • Expert booths, modeled after the Apple Genius Bar, where employees received immediate service and experienced cool new products
  • Vendor booths, which provided special product offers to employees

To sweeten the deal and attract even more on-site employees, we also offered an afternoon snack of cupcakes, tea, and coffee. All 200 cupcakes were devoured in less than an hour. Employees were also eligible to participate in prize drawings.

Enabling productivity through IT

On the IT team, our goal is to enable SAP to transform into a digital enterprise using the best-in-class solutions, products, and services available in the market. Especially in the current era, IT can have a tremendous positive impact across the entire company by enabling the right technology for the organization.

From a strategic perspective, this meant focusing on two key aspects of the enterprise:

  1. Digitalization of enterprise business processes for efficiency – simplifying, automating, and massively scaling out existing business processes to meet the new demands of the digital economy. This meant upgrading our existing processes to support new business models such as volume business and subscription- and consumption-based billing. At the same time, the IT team is constantly thinking about how new technology can make a difference – for instance, using machine learning to significantly increase automation levels at our shared services organization.
  1. Digitalization of personal workspaces for higher productivity: Another key goal of the IT organization is rapidly enabling the SAP workforce to be agile, efficient, and productive so that the value each employee brings to the company multiplies exponentially.

At the IT Day, attendance was higher than anticipated, and the feedback was very positive. We offered sessions where employees learned how collaboration tools can help them be more productive working in virtual teams, and demonstrated in action the machine learning technology I mentioned above.

By actively engaging with our customers proactively, I think the IT services organization took steps toward increasing employee understanding of how we support their efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction. As the research shows, a strong IT-business partnership with engaged employees is a competitive advantage—so those cupcakes were definitely a worthwhile investment.

A great resource for CIOs is available at the SAP Technology is Live hub where there is a rich library of research and insights into the most relevant topics in the world of IT and digital transformation.

[1] IDC Perspective, “Six Priorities and Behaviors of Successful IT Organizations,” doc #US42251116, January 2017.


Manik Narayan Saha

About Manik Narayan Saha

Manik Narayan Saha is the regional CIO for SAP Asia Pacific and Japan. Based in Singapore, Saha leads a global multinational and multicultural IT organization. As part of the SAP Senior Leadership team in APJ, he represents IT Services to more than 25,000+ employees in the region. As companies rapidly move to a digital agenda, Saha works closely with SAP’s leadership team in APJ to execute on enabling SAP as the digital enterprise. Saha is a member of the Insead Alumni Network and a Regional Ambassador of the Insead International Directors Network for Singapore. Saha received his degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and has a Masters in Applied Finance from the Singapore Management University.