Vanessa Smith, SAP

Vanessa Smith

A Well-Oiled

Editors’ Note

Vanessa Smith has held her current post since June 2014. Prior to this, she was Executive Director, Global Value Management; Senior Principal, Office of the CEO; and Senior Principal, Value Engineering. She was also a Solutions Marketing Manager for GE; Solution Marketing Manager for GXS; and Associate at A.T. Kearney. She graduated with an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland and a B.S. from the University of Virginia.

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 focus your efforts within your role?

When I look at the Chief of Staff role for Bill (McDermott, Chief Executive Officer), I help determine his priorities, how he spends his time, and what his message is going to be, and make sure we get a return on the investment on his valuable time.

There is a strategic element in terms of identifying what our platform is for this year or this timeframe; there is the operational piece on how to align his time, be it internal or external with that platform and what we want to drive; and there is an administrative piece as well.

We have to be a well-oiled machine from strategy to operations and execution to ensure we’re driving those key messages, the SAP brand, and Bill’s brand.

From the inside, what makes SAP so special?

One is culture and two is our bold strategy. From a culture perspective, ours is one of inclusiveness, innovation, and putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. We drive an environment where coming up with new ideas and quick cycles of trial and error help us arrive at the most innovative results, be it product initiatives or human resources initiatives. Bill came up through the ranks in our sales and our field organizations, and has implemented a culture that has helped significantly.

On the strategy front, five years ago we set out a bold ambition that has been tweaked over time to become a cloud company covered by HANA. We knew it would be hard but we are dedicated to becoming an amazing growth company. We could not be here without having a leader like Bill willing to take the risks.

What opportunities have you seen for women at SAP?

I’m female but also African-American. I’ve been with the company for so long because they value my thoughts, my strategy, my opinions, and my leadership capabilities. In an industry that is often dominated by men, they were willing to give me visibility and opportunity in my career, and an extra chance to make a difference within SAP.

In addition, we put the numbers behind the talk so it’s something we track and measure. We always ask if we have enough women and other diverse populations in the pipeline. When the pipeline isn’t strong enough, we benchmark other companies to improve our talent pipeline.

Each of our business units is in the process of hiring a diversity officer to tweak their overall charter to the needs of each part of the organization.•