The Customer Confidential Podcast

How a Software Giant Is Revolutionizing Customer Experience to Adapt to the New Frontier of Cloud Computing

SAP’s Andreas Heckmann discusses how the company is transforming its approach to customers, and what it means for SAP’s teams.


How a Software Giant Is Revolutionizing Customer Experience to Adapt to the New Frontier of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has been revolutionizing the way companies build their technology capabilities in profound and fundamental ways. The shift from legacy, on-premises enterprise resource planning and other systems to software as a service (SaaS) has required adaptations on multiple levels. Many of the traditional ways companies have managed their IT infrastructure are changing quickly.

Of course, traditional software companies have had to adapt, too. SaaS has demanded significant changes to their business models. SAP, a global software company that provides enterprise-level software to help businesses manage many aspects of their operations is among the larger software companies supporting this transition. And as a result, SAP’s approach to everything from product development to sales and service has been changing.

After more than two decades at SAP, Andreas Heckmann, executive vice president of product engineering and head of customer solution support and innovation, has been at the center of one aspect of this transformation. Andreas currently leads a team of roughly 10,000 employees who have had to adapt to the new world of cloud computing. Managing that change has been no small feat.

“The most challenging part of the organization is the continuous change that’s required.” Andreas says. “We’ve always pushed for innovation, following customer demand, customer requirements, and the adjustments that come along with technological changes.”

Andreas emphasizes that cloud migration will continue to be one of the most important trends SAP and many other companies in the industry must manage. SAP’s journey to a more cloud-centric or cloud-only business model means building out hybrid environments for nearly all its customers, which creates a huge challenge.

“The magnitude of transformation we have to manage now is bigger than anything we’ve ever done,” Andreas says. “Right now, with the way we operate and the way we serve our customers, we are turning it upside down and inside out.”

To help support the transition in its service model, SAP introduced artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms a few years ago. Andreas’s group often runs analytics in parallel with every customer interaction behind the scenes and without needing to involve the customers. This leaves his team better equipped to anticipate and address customer issues. More importantly, customers leave these service and support interactions with better, faster solutions.

 “We need to deliver a whole different customer experience in the cloud world. They require different things from us compared to what they required before," Andreas says. To remain competitive, understanding the customer experience and ensuring that mentality exists across the organization is critical.

“Always look at things through the eyes of the customer. That's an imperative that comes from the cloud world,” Andreas explains. “The things we knew, or thought we knew, are no longer our guiding stars. We totally have to reinvent what we're doing.”

In this episode, Andreas and I discuss how cloud innovation is changing customer experience in enterprise software—both for the software companies and for their customers. We also discuss the challenges and opportunities these large-scale transformations present.

In the following excerpt, Andreas shares why customer success must become a companywide mindset.

Rob: One of the things an organization like yours is often focused on is avoiding attrition or addressing customer pain points that are significant in terms of their impact on the customer relationship overall. How do you identify and prioritize those issues?

Andreas: This is really a team play. We have the customer-facing roles, our customer success managers, customer success partners, and so on.

So, this is a constant exchange to actually find out over multiple channels where are the pain points and where are the things we can influence.

Not all of these things can be resolved by my organization. Customer success is a companywide mindset you need to employ.


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