Interview with Bertram Schulte, Chief Digital Officer, SAP

Bertram Schulte SAP

“Customer Data Management will be the key driver – whoever gets customer data right, has a chance to get digital right (especially in an AI/ML world).”

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Tell us about your role and how you got here? What galvanized you to be a part of an enterprise tech company?

I serve as the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) at SAP, running the digital business and helping provide customers one seamless, digital experience. Since May 2017, I have been overseeing digital customer strategy for SAP across sales, customer success, support, and marketing. It’s a role that taps into my roots in marketing, multimedia, and e-commerce, developed during my long career with SAP; a career that began with companies including Apple Europe, Siemens-Nixorf, and Louis Vuitton. While at Siemens, I helped create their first e-commerce shop. I joined SAP in 2005, holding positions including Vice President of Strategy Management, Director of Business Operations and Director of Demand Planning & Marketing Analytics.

From July 2014 until April 2017, I served as SAP’s senior vice president and chief of staff, for the Products & Innovation Executive Board Office. In this role, I was part of the Global Leadership Team and helped define the technology, product and investment strategy for SAP, supporting bid deals and customer escalations.

What’s been a driving force during my entire career has been a desire to put the customer first. Just because SAP is a global company doesn’t mean we can’t simplify the buying process and provide top-notch service for every individual.

What would you say is the biggest driver for the change in the marketing and sales automation industry?

In my perception, it is scale – we do not engage with the top 2,000 CIOs globally anymore, but with more than 2,000,000 developers, plus other users and multipliers. All of them now demand their unique B2B buying journeys match the ease and simplicity of their B2C experiences. That’s why we expanded our scope to truly enable our customers to conduct business digitally with SAP across all business areas. Our organization is designed to scale our current capabilities and will allow us to digitally enable SAP sales processes. At the heart of our efforts lie SAP App Center, SAP Store, and integration with All of our digital channels are uniquely positioned to capitalize on SAP’s market position and are designed to scale.

How do you see digital experience platforms evolving with the maturity of AI/ML and voice? What challenges do you foresee marketers will face? How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?

AI/ML helps us to manage the challenge of scale. In the past, we could rely on individual salespeople to tailor information, guiding and interacting with every customer. Now that we increasingly interact directly with every user and developer, AI/ML will help us to democratize this kind of service to everyone. The best preparation for an effective AI/ML world is the (re)design of data flows, data structures, and access to data. Data is the new oil – the more that can be exposed, the more value can be generated.

How do you see the technology evolving around omnichannel analytics experience and customer data management in the coming years?

SAP Digital is ready to help bring digital transformation to the rest of SAP by giving customers what they want and expect: a direct, omnichannel experience to purchase SAP and partner offerings.

Take our “No-Touch” Direct Purchasing method. A customer that is looking for an analytics solution, for example, can check out, find a full product section with transparent pricing, purchase the product, and receive a purchase confirmation and provisioning information.

The “No-Touch” motion is powered by a new digital customer experience. Software product pages hold all relevant information and next steps in one place, so it is easy for customers to find the information, select the product and make a purchase decision. Clear calls-to-action lead into a fully integrated try-and-buy experience right on the product page. This allows for a seamless user journey leading to purchase.

Managing omnichannel requires the management of customer interactions consistently across all channels. This requires unified policies for things like pricing, discounts and terms and conditions to remove channel conflict, but also one view and understanding of the customer across all channels. Customer data management will be the key driver – whoever gets customer data right, has a chance to get digital right (especially in an AI/ML world).

Tell us about the new standards of B2B businesses and their idea of optimizing customer journeys?

It’s no secret the B2B market is changing, but it’s our job to respond appropriately and continue to deliver great products and service. According to a 2017 Forrester report, B2B e-commerce will reach $1.2 trillion and account for 13.1% of all B2B sales in the US by 2021.

And B2B buyers who research their purchases online will rise from 38% to 55% over the next four years, and 64% of B2B buyers research half or more of their work purchases online before buying. So, what does this mean? If B2B sales are growing, and the majority of the buyers are already online doing research, SAP will now enable the customers to buy what they want, when they want it.

Which was your best digital transformation campaign?

Some of the most successful digital transformation campaigns start internally. For example, with our SAP Cloud Platform, the increasing number of available services made pricing, packaging and purchasing rather complex for customers – specifically at the beginning of a project. The challenge was to make all of this much simpler while increasing flexibility, agility, control and transparency for our customers. To do so, we’ve transformed the SAP Cloud Platform offering along three dimensions:

  • Commercial model: from selling specific services to the “access to everything” (as the only material)
  • Pricing: from subscription to consumption based on a fully transparent price-list
  • Delivery: from a static multi-year provision to an elastic low-touch, self-service environment

We transformed the SAP innovation engine itself and are far from done.

At SAP, how do you help companies transform customer relationships through the digital landscape?

Take MR Search, for example. Founded in 2009, MR Search is a boutique recruitment agency, based in Paris, focused on hiring candidates in the technology field—primarily those with expertise in digital and ERP technology and sales. To match openings with the right candidates, they tackle the job via many channels, including social networks, hunting on the open web, operating their own network, writing ads and via social communication to target the best candidates. And, now … WorkConnect by SAP.

MR Search started working with the free-trial version of WorkConnect when it was introduced in 2017. After the trial period, MR Search upgraded to the standard paid edition, which allows the company to post 10 openings per month. WorkConnect helped transform MR Search and its customers.

How should B2B marketers leverage customer data and content marketing for better audience reach and targeting?

I think social media plays into this. By leveraging customer data and piloting specific targeting approaches, companies can zero in on their customers to raise campaign awareness. Whether it’s targeting @usernames to reach customers with similar interests (Follower Targeting), targeting users who follow similar handles (Lookalike Targeting) or Geotargeting, B2B marketers can leverage customer data for a superior reach and better connect with their audience.

What marketing and sales automation tools do you use?

We’ve built and run SAP’s digital business using our own marketing and commerce offerings from SAP Hybris. From the SAP Store and digital transaction capability on to powering the new consumption-based commercial model for SAP Cloud Platform, SAP Digital runs SAP Hybris.

In addition, we’re integrating SAP Digital with sales automation functionality. With the introduction of a new Pricing App, our AEs get online notifications if a deal can be transacted digitally. The Pricing App will save our AEs time and improve sales effectiveness on initial orders with standard payments.

How do you bring together people and technology at one place?

It’s natural that people will want to feel connected to the larger community. But that feeling doesn’t always have to be in person. A customer-centric design and empathetic buying journey in SAP App Center or SAP Store ensures that our users never feel alone.

For instance, our Customer Success Center team is striving for a simple and accurate digital experience for our customers that provides personalized online self-services. The team started development activities to enable online renewal of cloud subscriptions on the SAP Store, all embedded in the overall user experience. We use design thinking, focus groups and agile, iterative development cycles to make sure that customers enjoy the experience and our developers know exactly what to build.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

My health app, which is connected to sensors and other gadgets. They allow me to measure my blood pressure, activity level, sleep, and weight. I love to see the results. It makes me feel like I have a little control over my health.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

It’s not revolutionary, but I favor 90-minute periods of intense work and concentration, followed by a 20- or 30-minute break to recover. Long periods of work without a break is unproductive and can cause burnouts. A rested mind is a productive mind. And Haribo Gold-bears – they also do magic.

What are you currently reading? 

I’m currently reading Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by the Israeli author, Yuval Noah Harari. In true digital fashion, I do most of my reading on a Kindle (preferably in the combination of reading and audiobooks).

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t be afraid to take risks, especially in academics. I was always the responsible kid, but if I had to do again, I’d have been more daring and tried a variety of school subjects when I was younger. Taking risks is a good thing.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

William Ruh, Chief Digital Officer of GE or Dr. Helmuth Ludwig, Chief Digital Officer of Siemens.

Thank you Bertram! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Also Read:  Webinar World TechBytes with Fred Isbell, Senior Marketing Director, SAP

Experienced and passionate technology strategist with strong footprint in marketing/sales, analytics, performance optimization, finance and operations with a total of +22 years work experience in consultancy and in high-tech companies reaching from start-ups to Fortune 100s in global functions and international projects on all continents.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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