Driving an Information Culture at SAP

Only Way To Fight Business Misinformation Is With Accurate Analytics

For decades, SAP has been recognized as a metric driven organization with state of the art systems specifically designed track data and provide operational reporting.  However, SAP’s global sales organization was not a stellar example of an information culture. Of course, information was available to executives, but it was not readily available to all levels of the organization.  So, some employees did not have immediate access to relevant information in the course of daily decision making.

In 2010, SAP became one of the early corporate adopters of the iPad with its decision to roll out 1,000 iPads to executives in the field organization, providing those executives easy access to their email and business applications, including access to business intelligence, while they were traveling. This was a significant first step in SAP’s attempt to bolster its information culture by bringing relevant data and its people closer together.

The first 1,000 iPads were delivered to executives with the expectation that those executives would recognize the utility of the iPads and support efforts to use the iPads as tools in building an information culture. SAP was already using reports to drive and measure the success of the business. Previously, operations teams were primarily responsible for running the reports and providing information to the appropriate recipients. This step demonstrated to the executives that they could have the latest available business intelligence, in “real time”, the latest information at their fingertips.

This process often engendered a somewhat disturbing issue in business meetings.  No longer could a business manager artfully create a presentation that stressed just the good data while ignoring not so good information. Thus, during meetings executives began to parse the data and pose salient questions regarding what was currently happening in the business.

It is axiomatic that the best way to counter alleged “facts” is with more defensible facts. Well, the only way to fight misinformation is with accurate information. So, if an executive presents so-called “real time” information during your business review, you would be wise to have at your command better “real time” information that supports your position.

It is axiomatic that information is only valuable when it is accurate, presented in the right context and understandable. The SAP team responsible for the analytics program had to understand the business, know the data and ensure that it represented a single (and accurate) version of truth to the business. Ongoing command of the information is necessary in order to ensure that data is collected accurately and information spaces are updated to reflect business needs.  Employees must have adequate training and communication skills so that they will be aware of available information resources and learn them quickly. In the absence of this basis, SAP’s information culture could become riddled with misinformation.

Currently, SAP has distributed more than 23,000 iPads across the organization. Access to all relevant data is no longer restricted to the executive level. Rather, with the advent of iPads in the hands of every field employee, when employees ask questions, they can turn to that information in order to help them obtain answers. SAP created an information culture in its global sales organization by bringing information closer to all employees and building a strong foundation of information support.





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