Jessica Sharman, SAP

Jessica Sharman

the Effectiveness
of the CEO

Editors’ Note

Prior to her current role, Jessica Sharman led SAP’s post-merger integration team. Earlier in her SAP career, she ran various strategic projects for SAP’s Corporate Strategy Group, including the renewal of the SAP Portfolio Process in 2011. Sharman joined SAP in 2005 and started her career in a field role, working directly with customers and SAP account teams in the Value Engineering team. Before she joined SAP, she worked for Peoplesoft in sales value management and for McKinsey and Baan Company in consulting roles. Sharman holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University, and an M.B.A. from Wharton.

Company Brief

As market leader in enterprise application software, SAP (sap.com) helps companies of all sizes and industries run better. From back office to boardroom, warehouse to storefront, and desktop to mobile device, SAP empowers people and organizations to work together more efficiently and use business insight more effectively to stay ahead of competition. SAP applications and services enable nearly 300,000 customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. SAP is listed on several exchanges, including the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and NYSE.

How do you define your role at SAP?

I think of Vanessa (Bill’s other Co-Chief of Staff) and myself as multipliers for Bill, as people trying to make him as effective as he can be. It’s essential to make sure logistics are running smoothly and that he’s briefed as he goes into meetings with customers or internal meetings, so he has the latest and greatest information.

Vanessa is based in the U.S. and I am based in Germany. We work in different time zones and provide coverage almost around the clock to make Bill more effective.

How hard is it to keep everybody happy and can it sometimes be frustrating when that isn’t possible?

We do our best but it’s a challenge. There are a lot of competing requests for his time. Bill has an amazing amount of energy and capability to process things, so he accomplishes an incredible amount with the support infrastructure he has and manages to stay ahead of the curve. It’s always a juggling act but we manage to balance the demands on his time reasonably well.

How important is it to be open and honest when there are good and bad things to tell Bill?

It is important and takes some time. Being open and frank with Bill is getting easier as we develop a deeper relationship with him. Also, Vanessa and I talk about things jointly, giving each other a broad perspective that comes from being surrounded by different sets of people on each continent.

This helps us to adequately decide when something is worth pointing out to Bill, even if it’s something bad. Sometimes, one of us might have a feeling that the sky is falling and the other person may have a different perspective on the situation at hand.

How important is it that SAP’s culture provides opportunities for women and values diversity?

As a mother of two children, I don’t think I could do my job if SAP did not offer flexible working hours.

Vanessa is also a mother of young children and I know she echoes my view. SAP gives its employees a lot of freedom in terms of working schedules, which is really critical and game-changing.•