Why SAP Hybris’ new president thinks the company can take on Salesforce

In this exclusive Australian interview with CMO, the enterprise vendor's global president talks about winning the CX technology war, the blurring marketing, sales and service lines, and the acquisitions of Gigya and CallidusCloud

Alex Atzberger
Alex Atzberger

There’s no doubt marketing and digital departments are spoilt for choice when it comes to enterprise-grade technology solutions as software vendors, large and small, look to grab a slice of their growing budgets.

But for SAP Hybris’ recently installed president, Alex Atzberger, what’s less certain is how many vendors can address the holistic customer experience management needs of the modern enterprise, from digital portal to operational back-end. And that’s where he’s hoping SAP Hybris can step in.

“When you think about CX, a lot of times the connections to back office and supply chain is missing,” he says. “There might be a marketing message or good experience online. But if your supply chain isn’t delivering a good experience in offline channels, for instance, then all the other stuff you do to describe and market your business falls flat.

“That’s where we can put the difficult stuff into the CX, rather than just the nice and shiny work. SAP always gets the difficult stuff done.”

It’s two months since Alex Atzberger became global president of SAP Hybris, the commerce, marketing, sales and service software division of SAP. The enterprise juggernaut acquired hybris from its German founders in 2013, then launched SAP Hybris in 2016 as its dedicated division for customer engagement and commerce solutions.

Atzberger, a 12-year SAP veteran who has spent the past three years in charge of the vendor’s acquired and now integrated Ariba networking business, replaces hybris co-founder and previous SAP Hybris president, Carsten Thoma. And Atzberger’s remit is clear: Make SAP Hybris the platform of choice for organisations looking to tackle consumer transformation.

“The reason I’m excited about this role is because this is the future of SAP,” he says in an exclusive interview with CMO.

“It’s a core priority to extend Hybris from what it means today into a platform for how customers manage their customers’ experiences – from how they market, to how they sell and engage with customers across all channels and that entire customer journey.”

SAP is certainly spending up big in this area. Last year, the vendor purchased customer identity management firm, Gigya, for approximately US$350 million, and in January announced plans to acquire HR, sales performance and quote-to-cash systems player, Callidus Software, in a deal worth US$2.4 billion.

Atzerberger is bullish about the vendor’s prospects, pointing out the tremendous growth of its rival, Salesforce, which is firmly in his and his global CEO’s sights. In fact, SAP chief, Bill McDermott, has made several statements to the press expressing his belief SAP can take marketshare from Salesforce.

“We want to be very competitive. Hybris was one of the fastest growing areas of the business in 2017 and in APJ that growth was in the triple digits, so it’s fast growing,” Atzberger says. “We see tremendous opportunity to do a lot more for our customers than we’re providing today.”

So what’s stopping SAP Hybris from embracing and harnessing this wider CX opportunity?

Arguably, the biggest challenge is redefining the brand from its ecommerce roots, to a broader platform for managing end-to-end customer experience, from marketing and commerce, to sales and service, and customer data itself. Atzberger points out that a few years ago when SAP bought hybris, the burgeoning opportunity was perceived to be an omni-channel retailing one. Today, it’s very much a CX play.

“Ultimately, today’s decision makers in companies are the CMOs, chief digital officers, and heads of sales. It’s not just the CIO,” he says. “It’s important a CMO wakes up and thinks of SAP as a potential solutions provider. So our first challenge is to share and get the message out that we are providing solutions in this space.” 

In addition, Atzberger is tasked with further integrating these new capabilities with SAP’s well-established offerings in ERP and the enterprise, in order to better address consumer-led transformation.

“Most digital transformations today in our clients start with their consumer,” he comments. “Looking across the breadth of the portfolio, I think we have all the parts in place. What we are doing is to ensure these parts are provided in an integrated fashion to our customers, and are tightly integrated with our core systems at SAP.”

Consumer trust and the sales cycle

According to Atzberger, SAP’s latest two acquisitions deliver the necessary touches SAP Hybris needs to make this a reality. Gigya, for example, provides solutions around trusted consumer data and manages 1.6 billion online identities worldwide.

“If you take a company like Nestle, which was 320 different online websites, brands and identities, you can really start to know who these people are on sites, and have one persona, one identified customers to follow through the customer journey. That’s extremely powerful,” he says.  

“But the most powerful aspect of it, which has further implications, is the notion of trusted and content–driven profile information. For example, if I’m a marketer, and start sending messages out to people who haven’t given consent to be marketed to, because the VIP records told me to go to them, that’s very different to those people that gave consent to be engaged with. It’s for marketing, but it also impacts how we target someone through a commerce experience, versus sales.”

Having a unified customer record that’s consent-driven is not only important because of the rise of regulatory laws such as Europe’s GDPR, Atzberger says. It’s also what builds consumer trust and advocacy.

“We need to accelerate what SAP Hybris is doing to ensure this customer data record becomes the standard record across the entire CX – from marketing to service and support. All these pieces come out of Gigya,” he continues. “This data challenge is so real for companies. When we look at the most valuable companies globally, like Amazon, it’s all about data – and what data you can collect and leverage.

“SAP already has HANA, the best database in the world. We can bring in that technology to manage and analyse data. So with our marketing solution, we’re absolutely focused on data and analytics aspects of it, which drive effectiveness of marketing campaigns rather than just efficiency. It’s not about how many emails can I send; if they’re all the wrong emails, why send them out?”

Callidus, meanwhile, gives SAP a range of next-generation capabilities to tackle sales performance and specifically, the shift from conversion to account management.

“What’s changing is not the way people manage opportunities or keep customer records,” Atzberger says, alluding to the ongoing relevance of CRM platforms. “It’s about how to incentivise, manage the performance of the organisation, and how to ensure that if a sales person engages with a customer, the way they price and put a proposal together is aligned to the incentives you give.

“Customers are so well informed now by the time they talk to you. Sales is becoming more about account management, and is much closer to managing customers for life. So how does CRM evolve to support that? That was a key reason behind why we decided to make the Callidus acquisition.

“We believe we’re going where the market is going, not necessarily where the old technology is.”

Customers end-to-end

SAP Hybris also reflects a shift in customer base for SAP, which has its historic roots in large, enterprise client bases through ERP and database management. SAP Hybris’ customer base falls into two camps: Core large enterprise customers such as Samsung, Whirlpool and Fortune 500 companies; and smaller companies in their respective markets, such as Fantastic Furniture in Australia.

Clearly, this smaller-sized customer base is a target for SAP Hybris moving forward. And given enterprise marketing and CX cloud players, such as Adobe and Salesforce, have been shoring up strong positions across larger Australian corporates, winning marketshare in that space is arguably a tough task. Atzberger is more optimistic, however.

“When you look at the large enterprises, the journey is by far not completed,” he claims. “We did our Digital Experience Report in Australia last year to find out how satisfied people are with their digital experience and there was a split of 30/30/30 across satisfied, neutral and dissatisfied. If you applied the NPS [Net Promoter Score] model to that, it gets you to a negative score.

“This tells us many customers are still frustrated with the experiences they’re having with brands and companies.”

In addition, as the lines between marketing, sales and service disappear, there will be more demand for a connection through to the back office, Atzberger says.  

“What we want to do is help customers work through the technology so they can get to their customer vision, and focus on the business outcome,” he says. “It’s about having that one customer view, rather than the internal view of marketing versus service, and looking at the customer as one identity on a connected customer journey. 

“I think SAP will be one of only a few providers – along with Salesforce – to have a full suite of capabilities for that customer journey from how to engage for the first time, to how you service and support the customer,” he concludes.   

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

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