As the COVID-19 pandemic brought business-as-usual to a halt, Alicia Tillman, the CMO at SAP, knew that this was a new opportunity to deliver on SAP’s promise to its customers—to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. “The situation we find ourselves in allows us to bring our purpose to life in a unique manner,” reports Tillman, confirming yet again that purpose-driven companies have a special compass that guides actions in a time of uncertainty.
In the interview below, you can read about some of the actions SAP has taken since COVID-19 began. Tillman discusses event cancellations, virtual conference offerings, and some of the tools that SAP is currently offering to solve common issues resulting from the pandemic. You’ll also see how SAP’s brand purpose help shaped these decisions. It’s worth noting that SAP is not alone in embracing purpose as you can read about in Renegade LLC’s special report on B2B Brand Strategy here.
NOTE: Since answering these questions, SAP has officially launched the Concur Fusion Virtual Summit and Ariba Live Virtual Experience. Both online events have free registration and provide hours of on-demand content to include keynotes and breakout sessions.
What’s the toughest decision SAP has made thus far in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
With safety and well-being of our employees, customers, and partners being our top priority, on March 3, after closely monitoring COVID-19 developments, we made the decision to cancel all SAP in-person events for the month of March. We looked at a combination of quantitative travel data from SAP Concur and qualitative discussions with the leadership and product teams across the organization. For example, through SAP Concur we found that flight bookings on Monday, March 2, 2020, had decreased 20 percent compared to the same day in 2019.
Out of an abundance of caution, we cancelled SAP Concur Fusion, SAP Ariba Live, X4, SAP NOW events, as well as participation in all third-party events, including SXSW – before it was officially cancelled. SAP Concur Fusion and SAP Ariba Live will offer a number of free and open digital experiences on the original event dates, as well as on-demand session content afterward. The Qualtrics X4 Summit has been rescheduled to early Fall 2020 after nearly 85% of 1,800 surveyed attendees said they’d prefer to move it back to a later date.
What actions have you taken for your customers?
SAP operates the largest business network in the world, representing more than 4 million suppliers in over 190 countries and $3.21 trillion in commerce on Ariba Network. As such, for the next 90 days, we are opening access to SAP Ariba Discovery so any buyer can post their immediate sourcing needs and any supplier can respond to show they can deliver. Free to post. Free to respond. Access to SAP Ariba Discovery will help buyers and suppliers connect quickly and effectively, and minimize disruption caused by shipment delays, capacity issues and increased consumer demand in times of crisis.
The SAP Concur portfolio processes hundreds of thousands of travel itineraries for people around the globe, monitors their flights, and alerts them of any changes or delays. In response to increasing schedule changes and cancellations stemming from COVID-19, we want to do our part to help those who must travel. Between March 13 and April 14, any individual traveler can sign-up for TripIt — and download the app if they’re a first-time user — and receive TripIt Pro for six months. Existing TripIt users will also get the premium service complimentary for six months. By doing so, we hope to make things a little easier for anyone that must leave their home and family.
How should CMOs prepare for the coming months?
This is an unprecedented moment in time for all business. The need for a contingency plan, no matter the circumstance, is the utmost importance. When making the decision to cancel all events, our team quickly mobilized and created a task force to determine what’s next – whether it was negotiating with event suppliers or working with our tech team to transition to digital. It was a learning experience and a lesson in how we must prepare for the future.
Additionally, for conferences that go digital, if they go right, we could see a big change in the events landscape. While remote won’t replace the power of face to face communication, it may transform the way we conduct business moving forward and this is a great opportunity to strengthen our digital offerings.
To hear more of Alicia Tillman’s inspirational thinking, you can listen to my podcast interview with her on Renegade Thinkers Unite, here.