Part of the “Purpose-Driven CFO” series
What is the key to success and well-being in today’s complicated world? For both businesses and individuals, I think it’s the ability to live and work according to a broader purpose rather than a relentless pursuit of profits and productivity.
Throughout my 18-year history at SAP, I’ve always been passionate about maintaining focus on a larger purpose, and now, as a regional CFO, I believe it’s more important than ever. My experience has taught me that while we’re all becoming accustomed to perpetual change and constant flux, purpose remains steady, independent of technological or management dynamics. But in an age defined by productivity, where people obsessively try to do more with less, we can easily forget why we work so hard, and purpose can get buried under other priorities.
Unleashing power by encouraging personal motivations
In today’s world, a sense of purpose plays an important role in people’s lives as they identify their own and seek to work at companies whose purpose they support. One of my favorite parts of working at SAP has been helping people find their own passion. As a manager, I have seen that enabling people to focus on their own personal motivations unleashes a lot of power. We have a lot of “philosophical” discussions about this on my team. In business, we have to be careful not to overdo it. But as strategic CFOs as well as people managers, we have to spark interest and passion in our employees and let them drive the initiatives that result from those sparks. We can (and should) encourage people to volunteer to work on extracurricular projects that are meaningful to them.
Personally, SAP has also allowed me to help support customers in their purpose-driven initiatives as a part of my job. At SAP, we’re particularly devoted to realizing the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals, which were established with the intent to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. At every opportunity, we support and partner with our customers toward that end.
One of our most recent initiatives is a combination of partnership collaboration and customer support called Moving Rwanda. This project, part of Germany’s larger Marshall Plan for Africa, connects production of Volkswagen cars in Kigali, Rwanda, with a shared-car usage concept and app development (similar to Uber). In addition, the project encompasses a training initiative for local residents on modern professions. Along with Volkswagen and SAP, Siemens and Inros Lackner are working together with the Rwandan government and the German Development Ministry to implement the concept. In the short term, we hope to implement environmentally friendly car-sharing models, while in the long term we have plans for utilizing electric cars.
In Rwanda, which is still recovering from a tragic civil war, people do not own much in the way of material goods, and very few own cars. This initiative is intended to help them with their transportation needs within the context of an environmentally responsible ride-sharing model. As a result, this initiative benefits both the people living in Rwanda directly, but also indirectly benefits the entire world by reducing the environmental impact of carbon emissions that typically come from developing nations.
While SAP has been independently involved in the Moving Rwanda initiative, we have also worked with Volkswagen and Siemens to ensure that their systems running SAP ERP go beyond their needs relative to their day-to-day operations. We are committed to supporting our customers in running our software – not only to help them evolve towards intelligent finance, but also to support their purpose and propel their strategies and initiatives to enact positive change.
Brainstorming new ideas
As a result of this project, new ideas are developing. For one, the project will (we hope) serve as a blueprint for other countries. And more immediately, SAP has started discussions with young, dynamic African startup companies with new ideas about optimizing transportation and supply chains – for example, from the farmer to the local markets. The intent is to considerably reduce the spoiling of fruit due to inefficient transportation and help people improve their individual well-being.
Learn more about SAP’s commitment to the UN’s Global Goals.