Why Banks Need To Collaborate (Not Compete) With Fintech Startups

Deena Zaidi

With the advent of robo-advisors, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual assistants, the next wave of the financial technology revolution could arrive sooner than anticipated.

A report by EY, “Unleashing the Potential of Fintech in Banking,” highlights that collaborating, instead of competing, with startups can provide fresh tech solutions for banks. Shared services and knowledge will improve product offerings through data analytics tools like predictive analytics, offering deeper engagements with customers.

How are banks currently leveraging fintech?

Albeit independently, banks are building in-house technology in response to the growing fintech challenge.

In 2017, JP Morgan appointed a new team for the automation of legal work. In the past, agreements consumed over 360,000 hours of work each year by lawyers and loan officers. Using a program named Contract Intelligence (COIN), hours of reading would be automated, finished in seconds, and will have fewer errors.

Further, JP Morgan  invested over US$9.5 billion in technology in 2016, of which $3 billion is “dedicated toward new initiatives” and a $600 million fraction lined up for “emerging fintech solutions.”

In February 2017, Wells Fargo created its own AI team to provide more personalized services and strengthen digital offerings. Recently, four early-stage fintech startups, Edquity, Hurdlr, Redrock Biometrics, and SimSpace joined Wells Fargo Startups Accelerator, a program intended to create solutions for enterprise customers. Launched three years ago, the program aims to explore emerging technologies in analytics, cybersecurity, payments, AI, mixed reality, and other areas in pursuit of breakthroughs for financial services.

But the current level of engagement has done little to exploit the full potential of technology. In an analysis of 45 global banks, the EY report reveals that only 25% of the surveyed banks extensively engaged with fintech firms.

Through collaborations, fintech startups and banks can have access to broader markets, along with a number of other benefits. According to Matt Hatch, partner and Americas FinTech Leader at EY:

“Last year [2016], the average return on equity (ROE) for the largest 200 global banks was just over 7.1%. Banks can increase their ROE by collaborating with fintech [companies], which has the joint benefit of driving down cost while accelerating innovation,” he said.

“Taking the first step is often difficult because of a general reluctance to change – even when there is an appetite to be a part of an innovative, cutting-edge organization. Before embarking on this journey, make sure your ducks are in a row. First, look internally at current systems and offerings. Then ask – how can we use fintech partnerships to enhance what we currently have in place? Over time, integrate innovation as a central part of your growth strategy.”

Why collaborate?

1. Growing fintech innovation

Due to a plethora of data, fintech startups have gained significant traction. By introducing innovative ways, they are successfully offering products and distinctive solutions for consumer demand.

In the third quarter of 2017, global VC-backed fintech startups raised as much as $4 billion across 278 deals. In 2012, for the same quarter, fintech startups had attracted only $759 million across 105 deals. Their growing popularity is a big reason why banks need to enter sooner for a timely adoption of technology.

2. Increasing awareness in customers

Collaborations will provide the perfect opportunity to leverage the full potential of the technology and will allow them to meet the demand of digitally savvy users.

EY FinTech Adoption Index 2017 released in June 2017 indicates that the appetite of digitally active consumers has risen considerably, from just one in seven digitally active consumers in 2015 to one in three in 2017. The report also shows that in 2017, there are 84% consumers aware of the fintech facilities in comparison to just 62% in 2015. The same reports show that the fintech adoption rate is expected to reach an average of 52% globally from the current rate of 33% in 2017.

Source: EY Fintech Adoption Index 2017

The maximum usage of fintech is happening along the lines of payments and money transfers, with 50% of consumers choosing such services in 2017, in comparison to just 18% in 2015. Such growth in numbers could soon blur the boundaries between different financial services, laying down new standards for the industry during the process. To stay ahead of the curve, financial firms would benefit from the technical assistance from the fintech startups.

3. Win-win situation

For startups, partnerships with financial institutions will provide access to funds for future growth. With joint efforts, their businesses will more likely be scalable and sustainable in the long run.

For banks, such partnerships would mean a data-driven approach with lesser costs, low redundancy, solid technical know-how, and increased efficiency. Banks can significantly reduce structural costs, provide employees more time for value-added tasks, and enable enhanced regulatory compliance.

Unified efforts can create a solid financial system that works for all. Such engagements should work with the highest integrity, strong level of security, and greater transparency to reap the full benefits of the next wave of tech innovation.

For more on this topic, see Financial Services: The New Frontier Of Customer And Digital Experiences.


About Deena Zaidi

Deena Zaidi is a finance and tech writer and guest contributor to @VentureBeat, @TheStreet, @Truthout, @SeekingAlpha, and more. Follow her tech blogs at http://deenazaidi.com/

Four Trends That Will Define The Chemical Industry's Future

Stefan Guertzgen

The Chinese zodiac calendar says it’s the Year of the Dog, but in the chemicals industry, 2018 might be more appropriately dubbed the Year of the Tiger for the pace at which the business is changing its stripes.

This year we’ve seen a continued shift in supply centers due to the rise of shale gas in the United States and the move from coal to olefins in China, for example. Demand centers are shifting, too, due to a rapidly growing middle class in such places as the Asia Pacific region and Latin America. The accelerated globalization of the chemicals market is one of four major trends that we see shaping the chemical industry through the remainder of 2018 and beyond.

1. Rapid globalization

As part of this rapid globalization, new market entrants – from emerging countries and adjacent parts of the supply – are emerging with innovative business models, concepts, and processes. In turn, this drives shrinking lifecycles and rapid commoditization of products as innovators rapidly catch up with or even exceed incumbents in terms of the speed and responsiveness in which they are developing new products, formulations, and services.

Amid such a dynamic and pressurized global environment, the onus is on chemical companies to explore new ways to maintain a competitive edge. Many are doing so by reimagining fundamental business processes through a digital lens. They’re investing substantial amounts in new digital solutions and applying them in areas like sales and operations planning, demand planning, supply, and response, with the goal of making them real-time ready, more collaborative, and better integrated with the entire ecosystem – within and beyond company boundaries.

This move to integrated business planning and execution provides an agile decision-making framework for realigning strategy with execution plans across all business functions. It also goes a long way toward ensuring that business goals and targets are consistently aligned while minimizing business risks.

2. The circular economy

The rise of the circular economy is another trend worth watching in 2018 and beyond. Scarcity of raw materials is a reality that chemical companies must factor heavily into their strategic thinking. So, too, is regulation. Amid a drive to reduce material, energy, resource consumption and waste, and emissions, regulatory requirements are rapidly expanding their reach at the global, regional, and local levels.

To put themselves in the driver’s seat to respond to stricter regulation, chemical companies are extending their ecosystems to establish end-to-end, “cradle-to-cradle” approaches. As companies like SAFECHEM Europe GmbH demonstrate, these approaches are as much about competitiveness as they are about compliance. SAFECHEM Europe has developed a sustainable solution using chlorinated and non-chlorinated solvents for high-precision metal surface cleaning and dry cleaning applications, where high quality is a must. Here, the solvents are managed in a closed-loop process without any release to the environment.

Critical to innovations like these are digital platforms that allow the rapid, highly collaborative development of new products and services in a way that minimizes their impact on people and the environment along the entire lifecycle. It’s important that these platforms also embed safety and compliance requirements along those lifecycles and monitor the impact of changes in regulatory requirements on products and services in real time so chemical companies can respond accordingly.

3. Digitalization

The trend toward digitalization in the chemicals business goes hand-in-hand with globalization and the emergence of the circular economy. A massive wave of digital innovation shows no sign of cresting this year. Recent technological advancements such as in-memory processing power along with almost unlimited data storage capabilities at low cost offer unprecedented levels of connectivity, granularity, and speed in accessing, processing, and analyzing huge amounts of data.

The Internet of Things, machine learning, and blockchain are also fueling the digitalization movement within the chemical industry. Big players like BASF are using the IoT to improve efficiency in its engineering and maintenance processes throughout the asset lifecycle, while also increasing reliance on machine learning for invoice matching and on blockchain technology to more efficiently manage the supply chain with a “smart pallets” approach.

To capitalize on the potentially massive efficiency and competitive gains that accompany an embrace of digital solutions, chemical companies need an agile business process and IT foundation, one that combines a stable core system – a “system of record” for running day-to-day transactions, including real-time insight and decision support – with a “system of innovation” that allows an organization to leverage external data in order to rapidly develop new business processes and even entirely new business models. Tight integration between these two systems on a single platform provides the foundation to rapidly scale such innovations for maximizing business value across the entire enterprise.

4. New business models

Digitalization is indeed helping to feed the emergence of new business models, another key trend that figures to shape the chemical business for the foreseeable future. How companies fare in that future will depend largely on their strategic agility. They need the ability to rapidly transform product and service portfolios in response to dynamic market conditions and changing stakeholder needs. Döhler is among a wave of chemical companies that are demonstrating that kind of agility. One of the world’s most venerable food and beverage companies, Döhler also happens to be one of its most innovative.

The drive to explore new business models is prompting companies to look beyond their traditional value chains and start competing as entire ecosystems. Such ecosystems are presently built around hot chemical segments like precision farming and the aforementioned circular economy. As they become more customer-centric, expect to see more chemical companies positioning to sell business outcomes instead of products. So it’s less about delivering paints, coatings, or reactive resin components and more about delivering first-pass-quality products.

New business models also are emerging around operational excellence and business process automation. With the aforementioned digital technologies becoming scalable and commercially feasible, companies can now realize concepts like “lights-out manufacturing” and “touchless order fulfillment.”

For these innovative new business models to prosper, companies will need a solid foundation that includes a fourth-generation platform for business processes and IT infrastructure, as well as a skilled workforce. Machine learning, IoT, and blockchain won’t succeed in a vacuum. They need to be embedded into our thinking and into our processes. But they will go only as far as you and your people carry them – people such as the emerging data engineer with the specialized skills to perform vital data mining, data analysis, data orchestration, and data governance functions. Such data engineers need to be paired with business and process domain experts to ensure that innovative technologies tap their true potential.

A perfect storm

The convergence of these trends – globalization, digitalization, new business models, and the circular economy – is creating a perfect storm for the chemical industry, challenging strategies that companies have relied upon for a generation. In today’s chemical business, factors such as customer and feedstock proximity, intellectual property, and technology know-how no longer guarantee a sustainable competitive advantage.

Hard-to-anticipate geopolitical risks and an emerging protectionism movement in some countries may adversely impact free trade and the availability of critical raw materials, further clouding the competitive outlook. Still, the edge goes to early adopters of innovative business models, which have a unique opportunity to act as game-changers and digital disruptors, even amid so much uncertainty.

Visit the SAP Experience Area at SAPPHIRENOW to learn more about this topic and others from customers and experts in the chemical industry.


About Stefan Guertzgen

Dr. Stefan Guertzgen is the Global Director of Industry Solution Marketing for Chemicals at SAP. He is responsible for driving Industry Thought Leadership, Positioning & Messaging and strategic Portfolio Decisions for Chemicals.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

Darshini Dalal

About Darshini Dalal

Darshini Dalal, a technology strategist with Deloitte Consulting LLP, has deep implementation experience with complex large-scale technology transformations. She leads Deloitte's U.S. Blockchain Lab, and focuses on creating immersive experiences to help clients understand not only the applications but also implications of blockchain technology across a variety of business issues that plague today’s transaction fabrics. Darshini helps clients define their vision statement and translate this vision to reality by designing the next generation of systems and platforms.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

About Jennifer Scholze

Jennifer Scholze is the Global Lead for Industry Marketing for the Mill Products and Mining Industries at SAP. She has over 20 years of technology marketing, communications and venture capital experience and lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

Neil Patrick

About Neil Patrick

Dr. Neil Patrick is a Director of SAP Centre of Excellence for GRC & Security covering EMEA. He has over 12 years’ experience in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) & Security fields. During this time he has been a managing consultant, run professional services delivery teams in the UK and USA, conducted customer business requirements sessions around the world, and sales and business development initiatives. Neil has presented core GRC and Security thought leadership sessions in strategic customer-facing engagements, conferences and briefing sessions.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

Catherine Lynch

About Catherine Lynch

Catherine Lynch is a Senior Director of Industry Cloud Marketing at SAP. She is a content marketing specialist with a particular focus on the professional services and media industries globally. Catherine has a wide international experience of working with enterprise application vendors in global roles, creating thought leadership and is a social media practitioner.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

Ken Tsai

About Ken Tsai

Ken Tsai is the global VP and head of database and data management at SAP, and leads the global product marketing efforts for SAP’s flagship SAP HANA platform and the portfolio of SAP data management solutions. Ken has more than 20 years of experiences in the IT industry, responsible for application development, services, presales, business development, and marketing. Ken is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

Tina Gunn

About Tina Gunn

Tina Gunn is the content marketing manager for the Enterprise Americas team at SAP Concur. Tina earned her degree in Journalism from the University of Washington and brings her experience in content strategy and digital marketing to SAP Concur. When she’s not creating thought leadership and sales enablement content, Tina writes fiction and screenplays of the horror and sci-fi genres.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

Jim McHugh

About Jim McHugh

Jim McHugh is vice president and general manager at NVIDIA with over 25 years of experience as a marketing and business executive with startup, mid-sized, and high-profile companies. He currently leads NVIDIA Deep Learning Systems – NVIDIA DGX Systems and GPU Cloud. Jim focuses on building a vision of organizational success and executing strategies to deliver computing solutions that benefit from GPUs in the data center. He has a deep knowledge and understanding of business drivers, market/customer dynamics, technology-centered products, and accelerated solutions.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

About Bonnie D. Graham

Bonnie D. Graham is the creator, producer and host/moderator of 29 Game-Changers Radio series presented by SAP, bringing technology and business strategy thought leadership panel discussions to a global audience via the Business Channel on World Talk Radio. A broadcast journalist with nearly 20 years in media production and hosting, Bonnie has held marketing communications management roles in the business software, financial services, and real estate industries. She calls SAP Radio her "dream job". Listen to Coffee Break with Game-Changers.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

Derek Klobucher

About Derek Klobucher

Derek Klobucher is a Financial Services Writer and Editor for Sybase, an SAP Company. He has covered the exchanges in Chicago, European regulation in Dublin and banking legislation in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Northwestern University in Evanston.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Humble" Words of Wisdom from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott

Lindsey Nelson

Drexel President John Fry giving SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott a personalized Drexel Dragons basketball jersey

I am very lucky to work at a company where I feel inspired every day. I am inspired by my colleagues, who despite the pressures of life, continue to produce incredible results across the board. I am inspired by my manager, and his manager, and my friends managers who are nothing like the terrible bosses I pictured I would have. And last night, I was once again inspired by the co-CEO of my company Bill McDermott as he spoke to a full auditorium of students, SAP colleagues, and adults at the Drexel Bossone Research Center with university president John Fry.

The fireside chat, hosted by interim dean of the Drexel LeBow College of Business, Frank Linnehan, kicked off with the SAP “Run Like Never Before” commercial. This, if you’ve never seen it, is an incredible 60 second visual that really captures the vision of SAP.

After the spot ended, Frank shared with the audience a brief overview of Drexel’s “A View from the Top” series in which great organizational leaders, ones who embody the ambition, vision and other empowering qualities, come to share their insights and experiences.

I’ve attended events like this before, and typically I walk away without any “aha” moments; however, after leaving last night I couldn’t help but feel truly moved. The topics of small businesses, globalization, and leadership, all paired with a humorous story from Bill McDermott, each had a key takeaway for not only the students, but also for the SAP and community members alike.

Small Business

Not everyone coming out of college will go on to work for a 65,000 employee company like SAP. They may enter a startup, or even go out on a limb to open their own business. Small businesses are typically cited as the bulls of the market. These SMB’s (small to mid-size businesses) are often credited with being innovative, agile, and transformative to the traditional ways of doing business.

Back in his hay day, Bill had the opportunity to open his own small business, a delicatessen. A banker gave him 5,500 in notes and $7,000 in interest.  To which he said, “that meant, you’re broke, but someone was nice enough to loan you some money.”

He correlated his experience to SAP now, and how his deli had the same mantra, “It was all about the customer then, it’s all about the customer today.” He had an understanding of his customer and he was always looking for ideas to make money.

One day when he was at the mall he saw tons of kids putting tons of quarters into the video game machines. He knew if he wanted to not only grow his business, but appeal to his teenage customer base, he had to accommodate and give them what they wanted.

He called up the video game company, and the sales rep let him know it was $5,000 for a machine. At the time he didn’t have the $5,000, so he cut a deal – “I told him I’ll build a room off the side of the deli, and I’ll split the quarters with you.” In 60 days, the quarters he split paid for the business.

The takeaways, “It’s the customer, it’s segmenting your markets, it’s being authentic around who you are and what you can do to win and service your customer better than anyone else, and it’s an idea. Everything happens when you change the status quo. If you look at all the breakthroughs that happen on an idea; it was one idea, accidental, and we acted on it and bam. It’s the same today…I’ll take you forward to SAP we have one idea. To put all the data in corporations in memory…it’s creating an entirely new industry…innovation is everywhere, but you have to constantly be looking for it.”

Globalization

These small businesses are everywhere, not only in the United States, but especially all over the world. When president Fry asked how Drexel students can prepare themselves for this landscape, Bill touched on the importance of becoming a worldly thinker in this global business structure. Countries like Brazil, where 65% of the businesses run SAP and 90% of those businesses are considered small, SAP is still a startup. There is still so much opportunity for growth, not only in capital, but also for graduates to go and learn and work.

“The global economy is there for you, this is an international game and you need to think that way. I think the language aspect is important…if I was doing it all over again I would go for languages, I would definitely spend my time getting a language or two under my belt.”

Getting that first killer job is so important, Bill suggested. He advised that students should go with people who are doing things and going places; find the industries that are growing such healthcare and retail. Technology is changing these fields, and according to Bill, “the winners that know how to deal with the consumer and completely digitize the end to end process” will be the most successful. But, students do their research about the topics they’re most interested in and the companies within those spaces. Researching your customer and the industries where you can innovate through your passion, will make you successful.

Leadership

This was the topic I was most looking forward to. To hear Bill, someone whom I perceive to be an exemplar of true leadership, detailing the qualities of a great leaders, was incredible. He shared his experiences with the leaders he’s encountered and they’ve all got a few things in common:

  • They all have followers. These followers manage up; they’re phonies who manage up, bragging about themselves and what they’re doing. Ensure you are not just managing, but you’re with the people and you’re in the action.
  • “Do what you do well, and do it often”
  • Real leaders create an environment that encourages inspiration. They build talent diverse teams by hiring people who have skill sets that they don’t have.  A common mistake he sees is that leaders focus to much on the weaknesses of their team members and being in charge. As a leader you must find something great about every person, then find the greatness in others and put those people together to build a winning team. “We all have that magic…We tend to fight what we love. You’ve got to go with what you really believe in, what you really love, and it will all turn out okay. Leaders have to be in the zone where they find passion to lead.”

He warned, “Watch out for people who tell you can’t do something, or you’re not capable of something. Those are the very people you owe everything to, even your biggest bonus, because they’ve done you a huge favor by increasing the size of the chip on your shoulder.”

All in all

It was an unbelievable and inspirational night. After the fireside chat, I had the opportunity to network with not only my SAP colleagues, but students from all over the Philadelphia universities who traveled to hear Bill speak. A Drexel teaching assistant shared, “I come to these events all the time, and I am sorry to say I was ready to fall asleep, but I was blown away.  Not only was I not sleeping but I was on the edge of my seat, engaged the whole time!”

I myself felt similarly, as well as did Christine Donato, a member of SAP’s Services University for Learning, “It was engaging, motivating, and inspiring—the passion that Bill McDermott has for SAP filled the Drexel auditorium last night. He stressed the importance of young professionals to not only build their brand, but to live and breathe it every day. “What’s your vision?” he asked us, a question that will remain with me throughout my entire career.”

Quotable Moments and Key Takeaways:

  • “Stay hungry, and stay humble”
  • “In the end, it’s the customer and the customer alone that determines if we have a job”
  • “You need to constantly be innovating for the future, while you’re executing for the present…the best leaders understand that”
  •  “The true measure of a person is what they gave, not what they took. If you’re really interested in your own soul…you’ve got to be a giver and not a taker”
  • “You need to be at peace with who you are and what you do and how you do it”
  • “I’ve always believed the people who were nicest to the people who were least in a position to help them are the kind of people I want to be around, and that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s always something you’ve got to work at”
  • “You need to be in balance…the thing you really need to do with your life is find that groove where you’re staying healthy mentally and physically…cool out the mind…sometimes you don’t need to look busy, sometimes you need to put your feet on the desk and look out the window and think about new ideas. It’s not about being busy, it’s about what you get done”
  • “Never forget home base…time flies fast, you want to make sure you’re punching the right tickets along the way”
  • “You always need to be looking around the corner for new ideas”
  • “You all can make a difference, the young generation coming out of the universities and coming into the workforce. You see things we don’t see, your ideas are unique, you’re totally digital, you understand where the world is going, you understand social. You get all that, and I think that’s such an unbelievable opportunity to help the economy, create innovation, create jobs, and push things forward”
  • On the topic of time management (something we all need): “What I try to do is focus on things that matter. And I try to focus on not wasting time…I also want to be a great dad. I think the things that matter the most, and that’ll last the longest, is remembering to make those connection points at home”

About Andre Smith

Andre Smith is an Internet, marketing, and e-commerce specialist with several years of experience in the industry. He has watched as the world of online business has grown and adapted to new technologies, and he has made it his mission to help keep businesses informed and up to date.

The Human Angle

By Jenny Dearborn, David Judge, Tom Raftery, and Neal Ungerleider

In a future teeming with robots and artificial intelligence, humans seem to be on the verge of being crowded out. But in reality the opposite is true.

To be successful, organizations need to become more human than ever.

Organizations that focus only on automation will automate away their competitive edge. The most successful will focus instead on skills that set them apart and that can’t be duplicated by AI or machine learning. Those skills can be summed up in one word: humanness.

You can see it in the numbers. According to David J. Deming of the Harvard Kennedy School, demand for jobs that require social skills has risen nearly 12 percentage points since 1980, while less-social jobs, such as computer coding, have declined by a little over 3 percentage points.

AI is in its infancy, which means that it cannot yet come close to duplicating our most human skills. Stefan van Duin and Naser Bakhshi, consultants at professional services company Deloitte, break down artificial intelligence into two types: narrow and general. Narrow AI is good at specific tasks, such as playing chess or identifying facial expressions. General AI, which can learn and solve complex, multifaceted problems the way a human being does, exists today only in the minds of futurists.

The only thing narrow artificial intelligence can do is automate. It can’t empathize. It can’t collaborate. It can’t innovate. Those abilities, if they ever come, are still a long way off. In the meantime, AI’s biggest value is in augmentation. When human beings work with AI tools, the process results in a sort of augmented intelligence. This augmented intelligence outperforms the work of either human beings or AI software tools on their own.

AI-powered tools will be the partners that free employees and management to tackle higher-level challenges.

Those challenges will, by default, be more human and social in nature because many rote, repetitive tasks will be automated away. Companies will find that developing fundamental human skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, within the organization will take on a new importance. These skills can’t be automated and they won’t become process steps for algorithms anytime soon.

In a world where technology change is constant and unpredictable, those organizations that make the fullest use of uniquely human skills will win. These skills will be used in collaboration with both other humans and AI-fueled software and hardware tools. The degree of humanness an organization possesses will become a competitive advantage.

This means that today’s companies must think about hiring, training, and leading differently. Most of today’s corporate training programs focus on imparting specific knowledge that will likely become obsolete over time.

Instead of hiring for portfolios of specific subject knowledge, organizations should instead hire—and train—for more foundational skills, whose value can’t erode away as easily.

Recently, educational consulting firm Hanover Research looked at high-growth occupations identified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and determined the core skills required in each of them based on a database that it had developed. The most valuable skills were active listening, speaking, and critical thinking—giving lie to the dismissive term soft skills. They’re not soft; they’re human.


This doesn’t mean that STEM skills won’t be important in the future. But organizations will find that their most valuable employees are those with both math and social skills.

That’s because technical skills will become more perishable as AI shifts the pace of technology change from linear to exponential. Employees will require constant retraining over time. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is already outdated by the time students graduate, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The WEF’s report further notes that “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist.” By contrast, human skills such as interpersonal communication and project management will remain consistent over the years.

For example, organizations already report that they are having difficulty finding people equipped for the Big Data era’s hot job: data scientist. That’s because data scientists need a combination of hard and soft skills. Data scientists can’t just be good programmers and statisticians; they also need to be intuitive and inquisitive and have good communication skills. We don’t expect all these qualities from our engineering graduates, nor from most of our employees.

But we need to start.

From Self-Help to Self-Skills

Even if most schools and employers have yet to see it, employees are starting to understand that their future viability depends on improving their innately human qualities. One of the most popular courses on Coursera, an online learning platform, is called Learning How to Learn. Created by the University of California, San Diego, the course is essentially a master class in human skills: students learn everything from memory techniques to dealing with procrastination and communicating complicated ideas, according to an article in The New York Times.

Attempting to teach employees how to make behavioral changes has always seemed off-limits to organizations—the province of private therapists, not corporate trainers. But that outlook is changing.

Although there is a longstanding assumption that social skills are innate, nothing is further from the truth. As the popularity of Learning How to Learn attests, human skills—everything from learning skills to communication skills to empathy—can, and indeed must, be taught.

These human skills are integral for training workers for a workplace where artificial intelligence and automation are part of the daily routine. According to the WEF’s New Vision for Education report, the skills that employees will need in the future fall into three primary categories:

  • Foundational literacies: These core skills needed for the coming age of robotics and AI include understanding the basics of math, science, computing, finance, civics, and culture. While mastery of every topic isn’t required, workers who have a basic comprehension of many different areas will be richly rewarded in the coming economy.
  • Competencies: Developing competencies requires mastering very human skills, such as active listening, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration.
  • Character qualities: Over the next decade, employees will need to master the skills that will help them grasp changing job duties and responsibilities. This means learning the skills that help employees acquire curiosity, initiative, persistence, grit, adaptability, leadership, and social and cultural awareness.


The good news is that learning human skills is not completely divorced from how work is structured today. Yonatan Zunger, a Google engineer with a background working with AI, argues that there is a considerable need for human skills in the workplace already—especially in the tech world. Many employees are simply unaware that when they are working on complicated software or hardware projects, they are using empathy, strategic problem solving, intuition, and interpersonal communication.

The unconscious deployment of human skills takes place even more frequently when employees climb the corporate ladder into management. “This is closely tied to the deeper difference between junior and senior roles: a junior person’s job is to find answers to questions; a senior person’s job is to find the right questions to ask,” says Zunger.

Human skills will be crucial to navigating the AI-infused workplace. There will be no shortage of need for the right questions to ask.

One of the biggest changes narrow AI tools will bring to the workplace is an evolution in how work is performed. AI-based tools will automate repetitive tasks across a wide swath of industries, which means that the day-to-day work for many white-collar workers will become far more focused on tasks requiring problem solving and critical thinking. These tasks will present challenges centered on interpersonal collaboration, clear communication, and autonomous decision-making—all human skills.

Being More Human Is Hard

However, the human skills that are essential for tomorrow’s AI-ified workplace, such as interpersonal communication, project planning, and conflict management, require a different approach from traditional learning. Often, these skills don’t just require people to learn new facts and techniques; they also call for basic changes in the ways individuals behave on—and off—the job.

Attempting to teach employees how to make behavioral changes has always seemed off-limits to organizations—the province of private therapists, not corporate trainers. But that outlook is changing. As science gains a better understanding of how the human brain works, many behaviors that affect employees on the job are understood to be universal and natural rather than individual (see “Human Skills 101”).

Human Skills 101

As neuroscience has improved our understanding of the brain, human skills have become increasingly quantifiable—and teachable.

Though the term soft skills has managed to hang on in the popular lexicon, our understanding of these human skills has increased to the point where they aren’t soft at all: they are a clearly definable set of skills that are crucial for organizations in the AI era.

Active listening: Paying close attention when receiving information and drawing out more information than received in normal discourse

Critical thinking: Gathering, analyzing, and evaluating issues and information to come to an unbiased conclusion

Problem solving: Finding solutions to problems and understanding the steps used to solve the problem

Decision-making: Weighing the evidence and options at hand to determine a specific course of action

Monitoring: Paying close attention to an issue, topic, or interaction in order to retain information for the future

Coordination: Working with individuals and other groups to achieve common goals

Social perceptiveness: Inferring what others are thinking by observing them

Time management: Budgeting and allocating time for projects and goals and structuring schedules to minimize conflicts and maximize productivity

Creativity: Generating ideas, concepts, or inferences that can be used to create new things

Curiosity: Desiring to learn and understand new or unfamiliar concepts

Imagination: Conceiving and thinking about new ideas, concepts, or images

Storytelling: Building narratives and concepts out of both new and existing ideas

Experimentation: Trying out new ideas, theories, and activities

Ethics: Practicing rules and standards that guide conduct and guarantee rights and fairness

Empathy: Identifying and understanding the emotional states of others

Collaboration: Working with others, coordinating efforts, and sharing resources to accomplish a common project

Resiliency: Withstanding setbacks, avoiding discouragement, and persisting toward a larger goal

Resistance to change, for example, is now known to result from an involuntary chemical reaction in the brain known as the fight-or-flight response, not from a weakness of character. Scientists and psychologists have developed objective ways of identifying these kinds of behaviors and have come up with universally applicable ways for employees to learn how to deal with them.

Organizations that emphasize such individual behavioral traits as active listening, social perceptiveness, and experimentation will have both an easier transition to a workplace that uses AI tools and more success operating in it.

Framing behavioral training in ways that emphasize its practical application at work and in advancing career goals helps employees feel more comfortable confronting behavioral roadblocks without feeling bad about themselves or stigmatized by others. It also helps organizations see the potential ROI of investing in what has traditionally been dismissed as touchy-feely stuff.

In fact, offering objective means for examining inner behaviors and tools for modifying them is more beneficial than just leaving the job to employees. For example, according to research by psychologist Tasha Eurich, introspection, which is how most of us try to understand our behaviors, can actually be counterproductive.

Human beings are complex creatures. There is generally way too much going on inside our minds to be able to pinpoint the conscious and unconscious behaviors that drive us to act the way we do. We wind up inventing explanations—usually negative—for our behaviors, which can lead to anxiety and depression, according to Eurich’s research.

Structured, objective training can help employees improve their human skills without the negative side effects. At SAP, for example, we offer employees a course on conflict resolution that uses objective research techniques for determining what happens when people get into conflicts. Employees learn about the different conflict styles that researchers have identified and take an assessment to determine their own style of dealing with conflict. Then employees work in teams to discuss their different styles and work together to resolve a specific conflict that one of the group members is currently experiencing.

How Knowing One’s Self Helps the Organization

Courses like this are helpful not just for reducing conflicts between individuals and among teams (and improving organizational productivity); they also contribute to greater self-awareness, which is the basis for enabling people to take fullest advantage of their human skills.

Self-awareness is a powerful tool for improving performance at both the individual and organizational levels. Self-aware people are more confident and creative, make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. They are also less likely to lie, cheat, and steal, according to Eurich.

It naturally follows that such people make better employees and are more likely to be promoted. They also make more effective leaders with happier employees, which makes the organization more profitable, according to research by Atuma Okpara and Agwu M. Edwin.

There are two types of self-awareness, writes Eurich. One is having a clear view inside of one’s self: one’s own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses. The second type is understanding how others view us in terms of these same categories.

Interestingly, while we often assume that those who possess one type of awareness also possess the other, there is no direct correlation between the two. In fact, just 10% to 15% of people have both, according to a survey by Eurich. That means that the vast majority of us must learn one or the other—or both.

Gaining self-awareness is a process that can take many years. But training that gives employees the opportunity to examine their own behaviors against objective standards and gain feedback from expert instructors and peers can help speed up the journey. Just like the conflict management course, there are many ways to do this in a practical context that benefits employees and the organization alike.

For example, SAP also offers courses on building self-confidence, increasing trust with peers, creating connections with others, solving complex problems, and increasing resiliency in the face of difficult situations—all of which increase self-awareness in constructive ways. These human-skills courses are as popular with our employees as the hard-skill courses in new technologies or new programming techniques.

Depending on an organization’s size, budget, and goals, learning programs like these can include small group training, large lectures, online courses, licensing of third-party online content, reimbursement for students to attain certification, and many other models.

Human Skills Are the Constant

Automation and artificial intelligence will change the workplace in unpredictable ways. One thing we can predict, however, is that human skills will be needed more than ever.

The connection between conflict resolution skills, critical thinking courses, and the rise of AI-aided technology might not be immediately obvious. But these new AI tools are leading us down the path to a much more human workplace.

Employees will interact with their computers through voice conversations and image recognition. Machine learning will find unexpected correlations in massive amounts of data but empathy and creativity will be required for data scientists to figure out the right questions to ask. Interpersonal communication will become even more important as teams coordinate between offices, remote workplaces, and AI aides.

While the future might be filled with artificial intelligence, deep learning, and untold amounts of data, uniquely human capabilities will be the ones that matter. Machines can’t write a symphony, design a building, teach a college course, or manage a department. The future belongs to humans working with machines, and for that, you need human skills. D!


About the Authors

Jenny Dearborn is Chief Learning Officer at SAP.

David Judge is Vice President, SAP Leonardo, at SAP.

Tom Raftery is Global Vice President and Internet of Things Evangelist at SAP.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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Machine Learning In The Real World

Paul Taylor

Over the past few decades, machine learning has emerged as the real-world face of what is often mistakenly called “artificial intelligence.” It is establishing itself as a mainstream technology tool for companies, enabling them to improve productivity, planning, and ultimately, profits.

Michael Jordan, professor of Computer Science and Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, noted in a recent Medium post: “Most of what is being called ‘AI’ today, particularly in the public sphere, is what has been called ‘machine learning’ for the past several decades.”

Jordan argues that unlike much that is mislabeled “artificial intelligence,” ML is the real thing. He maintains that it was already clear in the early 1990s that ML would grow to have massive industrial relevance. He notes that by the turn of the century, forward-looking companies such as Amazon were already using ML throughout their business, solving mission-critical back-end problems in fraud detection and logistics-chain prediction and building innovative consumer-facing services such as recommendation systems.

“Although not visible to the general public, research and systems-building in areas such as document retrieval, text classification, fraud detection, recommendation systems, personalized search, social network analysis, planning, diagnostics, and A/B testing have been a major success — these are the advances that have powered companies such as Google, Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon,” Jordan says.

Amazon, which has been investing deeply in artificial intelligence for over 20 years, acknowledges, “ML algorithms drive many of our internal systems. It’s also core to the capabilities our customers’ experience – from the path optimization in our fulfillment centers and Amazon’s recommendations engine o Echo powered by Alexa, our drone initiative Prime Air, and our new retail experience, Amazon Go. “

The fact that tech industry leaders like Google, Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon have used ML to help fuel their growth is not news. For example, it has been widely reported that sites with recommendation engines, including Netflix, use ML algorithms to generate user-specific suggestions. Most dynamic map/routing apps, including Google Maps, also use ML to suggest route changes in real time based upon traffic speed and other data gleaned from multiple users’ smartphones.

In a recent article detailing real-world examples of ML in action, Kelly McNulty, a senior content writer at Salt Lake City-based Prowess Consulting, notes: “ML isn’t just something that will happen in the future. It’s happening now, and it will only get more advanced and pervasive in the future.”

However, the broader uptake of ML by enterprises – big and small – is less much less known. A recently published study prepared for SAP by the Economist Intelligence Unit and based on a survey of 360 organizations revealed that 68 percent of respondents are already using ML, at least to some extent, to enhance their business processes.

The report adds: “Some are aiming even higher: to use ML to change their business models and offer entirely new value propositions to customers…… ML is not just a technology.” The report’s authors continue, “It is core to the business strategies that have led to the surging value of organizations that incorporate it into their operating models – think Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb.”

McNulty notes that there are both internal and external uses for ML. Among the internal uses, she cites Thomson Reuters, the news and data services group, which, after its merger in 2008, used ML to prepare large quantities of data with Tamr, an enterprise data-unification company. She says the two partners used ML to unify more than three million data points with an accuracy of 95 percent, reducing the time needed to manually unify the data by several months and cutting the manual labor required by an estimated 40 percent.

In another example of enterprise use of ML, she notes that GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals group, used the technology to develop information aimed at allaying concerns about vaccines. The ML algorithms were used to sift through parents’ comments about vaccines in forums and messaging boards, enabling GSK to develop content specifically designed to address these concerns.

In the financial sector, ML has been widely used for some time to help detect fraudulent transactions and assess risk. PayPal uses the technology to “distinguish the good customers from the bad customers,” according to Vadim Kutsyy, a data scientist at the online payments company.

PayPal’s deep learning system is also able to filter out deceptive merchants and crack down on sales of illegal products. Additionally, the models are optimizing operations. Kutsyy explained the machines can identify “why transactions fail, monitoring businesses more efficiently,” avoiding the need to buy more hardware for problem-solving.

ML algorithms also underpin many of the corporate chatbots and virtual assistants being deployed by enterprise customers and others. For Example, Allstate partnered with technology consultancy Earley Information Science to develop a virtual assistant called ABIe (the Allstate Business Insurance Expert). ABIe was designed to assist Allstate’s 12,000 agents to understand and sell the company’s commercial insurance products, reportedly handling 25,000 inquires a month.

Other big U.S. insurance companies, including Progressive, are applying ML algorithms to interpret driver data and identify new business opportunities.

Meanwhile, four years ago, Royal Dutch Shell became the first company in the lubricants sector to use ML to help develop the Shell Virtual Assistant. The virtual assistant enables customers and distributors to ask common lubricant-related questions.

As the company noted at the time, “customers and distributors type in their question via an online message window, and avatars Emma and Ethan reply back with an appropriate answer within seconds.” The tool was initially launched in the U.S. and UK but has since expanded to other countries and reportedly can now understand and respond to queries in multiple languages, including Chinese and Russian.

In the retail sector, Walmart, which already uses ML to optimize home delivery routes, also uses it to help reduce theft and improve customer service. The retail giant has reportedly developed facial recognition software that automatically detects frustration in the faces of shoppers at checkout, prompting customer service representatives to intervene.

Among SAP’s own customers, a growing number are implementing ML tools, including those built into SAP’s own platforms and applications. As SAP notes, “Many different industries and lines of business are ripe for machine learning—particularly the ones that amass large volumes of data.”

The manufacturing, finance, and healthcare sectors are leading the way. For example, a large European chemicals company has improved the efficiency and effectiveness of its customer service process by using ML algorithms to automatically categorize and send responses to customer inquiries.

In the mining sector, Vale, the Brazilian mining group, is using ML to optimize maintenance processes and reduce the number of purchase requisitions that were being rejected causing maintenance and operational delays in its mines. Before implementation, between 25 percent and 40 percent of purchase requisitions were being rejected by procurement because of errors. Since implementation, 86 percent of these rejections have been eliminated.

Elsewhere a large consumer goods company, the Austrian-based consumer good company, is using ML and computer vision to identify images of broken products submitted by customers from the over 40,000 products in the company’s catalog. The application enables the company to speed up repairs and replacements, thereby improving customer service and the customer experience.

Similarly, a global automotive manufacturer is using image recognition to help consumers learn more about vehicles and direct them to local dealer showrooms, and a major French telecommunications firm reduced the length of customer service conversations by 50 percent using chatbots that now manage 20 percent of all calls.

But not every enterprise ML deployment has worked out so well. In a highly publicized case, Target hired a ML expert to analyze shopper data and create a model that could predict which female customers were most likely to be pregnant and when they were expected to give birth. (If a woman started buying a lot of supplements, for example, she was probably in her first 20 weeks of pregnancy, whereas buying a lot of unscented lotion indicated the start of the second trimester.)

Target used this information to provide pregnancy- and parenting-related coupons to women who matched the profile. But Target was forced to modify its strategy after some customers said they felt uncomfortable with this level of personalization. A New York Times story reported that a Minneapolis parent learned of their 16-year-old daughter’s unplanned pregnancy when the Target coupons arrived in the mail.

Target’s experience notwithstanding, most enterprise ML projects generate significant benefits for customers, employees, and investors while putting the huge volumes of data generated in our digital era to real use.

For more insight on the implications of machine learning technology, download the study Making the Most of Machine Learning: 5 Lessons from Fast Learners.