Adapting to Unprecedented Times: A Conversation with Shane Paladin

Shane Paladin, president of Services at SAP, reveals how his team is working to support customer needs during this time of uncertainty.

Paladin also shares his perspective on how his team is adapting to the new business landscape.

Q: You took the helm of SAP Services at the start of a global pandemic. What were your first thoughts? Is there anything that prepared you for this?

A: We’re clearly facing an unprecedented challenge at the moment. Around the world, people have been hit in some personal and professional capacity. While everyone is trying to navigate between working remotely, caring for young children or elderly family members and just staying safe and healthy, it has also provided many of us with time to reflect.

Professionally, this has been a good time to truly understand the resilience of an organization and the people within it. I’ve been extremely impressed with how our organization has been able to adapt and address the needs of our customers remotely, from design to ideation and project go-lives. I’m equally impressed with how our customers were quick and agile to explore new modes of operation and alter some of their business processes to address the changes within their own industries.

I don’t know that anyone was fully prepared to deal with this, but I’ve learned that adaptability is key. I’ve seen it both in people and in business. At SAP, with the broad range of services available within our portfolio, we were able to quickly address changing customer needs. We also released essential business services from SAP, designed to support customers in managing risk and driving continuity by enhancing off-site working environments and remote collaboration.

You are currently leading an organization of people that are largely working remotely. How do you maintain a culture of success and collaboration?

It really all comes down to transparency. It’s important to be open and honest with your team, and to let them know that you may not have all the answers. The uncertainty of this situation is leading to people being undoubtedly stressed, both at home and at work. We’ve all experienced changes to our day-to-day environments, so I’ve encouraged my team to raise their hands and ask for help when they need it. I’m in continuous communication with members across the SAP Executive Board and have spent a lot of time checking in with people across our organization. While we’re all apart at the moment, I believe this situation has brought us closer together.

The nature of our work has allowed us to build collaboration tools for our customers, so there’s no lack of communications tools that we can take advantage of internally to help us work efficiently and successfully. We’re learning how to use these tools to best replicate an optimum working environment – both internally and with our customers.

What are some of the most common concerns you are currently hearing from customers related to their digital transformation projects? How is your organization helping to address those – from the off-site service delivery framework offerings and beyond? 

First and foremost, the situation we’re currently facing has really tested the partnerships between SAP and its customers. The impact is being felt across all industries, and organizations are being directly or indirectly impacted across their regular operations – whether that be their people, products, and services, or financial liquidity.

The global supply chain has basically been shut down. Disruption to the supply chain and interruptions to transportation have put some vendors in a total standstill. Many have been quick to adapt, and we’ve been working with customers to allow them to maximize the features within our products and services to address changes to their operations.

While it’s important to focus on what’s critical now, our customers are also looking toward the future. They’re looking to optimize their front-office functions to address the shift in consumer demand and sentiment. Taking advantage of analytics and insights, we’re helping them make the best possible decisions today that will set them up for a successful future.

Our customers have been heavily relying on us for support and guidance to help them navigate this changing business environment. While the landscape is continuously changing, and we may not have all the answers in front of us, we do have the right services and tools to ensure business continuity. In the past, we could rely on face-to-face interaction. Today we must ensure that we are able to deliver continuity and quality in this remote working environment.

What immediate successes have you seen for customers that have had to quickly adapt their business models and processes to address this new remote environment we’re working and living in?

It’s been impressive to see how adaptable businesses have been. Of course, there are some industries that were able to weather the storm a bit better than others because they had already followed a digitized model, like the financial services industry. But even those that have had their supply chains severely hit, like manufacturing, are looking at their product pipeline and adjusting to meet new demands. There is a growing adoption of automation, and we’re seeing the digital economy pick up faster than ever now. A lot of organizations are turning to digital to optimize their businesses.

We’re even seeing many projects accelerate in the remote format. We’ve integrated an off-site services delivery framework into our essential business services offering, which enables us to deliver projects 100 percent remotely. We’ve been doing this successfully for years, with ready-to-run processes already available and prescriptive step-by-step guidance to ensure our customers are supported every step of the way.

How do you think digital transformation projects will be impacted during these challenging times? What kind of technologies do you anticipate companies will be prioritizing as we come out of the pandemic?

Many of our legacy customers have already gone through two catastrophic events before COVID-19: the dot-com bust in 2000 and the financial crisis in 2008. While those had severe economic impacts due to systematic failures, what we’re facing today is a health issue that is constraining the global population and forcing both consumers and businesses alike to completely change their day-to-day lives and operations.

Organizations are even more aware of the importance of digital and its role in allowing them to stay competitive. While some organizations may be slowing down their projects or stretching them over longer periods of time, most understand the need to continue to move forward – albeit a little differently.

Our customers are not only adapting for the current situation, but also looking toward the future, post-COVID-19, to determine how they will fit in the value chain. Technology is going to be the driving force that will allow organizations to thrive. My hope is that the services we provide will allow our customers to reach their customers in new ways as we move on the path of recovery.


Read the related announcement: Essential Business Services from SAP Enhance Remote Working and Risk Management to Drive Business Continuity


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