SAP's Enslin: While Some Businesses Are Paralyzed, Others Capitalize

While not on the magnitude of a Rolling Stones or U2 show, the first stop on this year’s SAP World Tour—today in Chicago—did have one rock star present—former VP and everyone’s favorite global citizen, Al Gore. Gore delivered a wonderful speech on green and sustainable business to the overflow crowd of SAP employees and clients. The bad news: I didn’t hear it, since media were prohibited from covering Gore’s talk.

Nonetheless, in the room next door a small group of journalists had the opportunity to sit across the table from SAP North America President Rob Enslin and discuss the changing IT world and, of course, how the economy impacts everything we do today.

Enslin had just come from delivering the event's keynote address. A few of the more interesting tidbits from the address:

On the economy: “We can spend hours debating whether we’ve seen the bottom of this financial market . . . but the thing that we can do is not to wait . . .. to look at how technology can be leveraged to move our business agenda forward. For those that were paralyzed . . . there were others that capitalized . . . In bad times, it’s a great opportunity to make your move . . . to redesign processes, to make new business models, to differentiate yourself . . . "

On the need for information transparency: In times of financial stress, change happens. . . .The antidote to business uncertainty is clarity . . . clarity is knowing what’s happening in every aspect of your business every minute of the day . . . it helps you to innovate for the long-term while driving short-term initiatives . . . clarity also enables businesses to anticipate risk . . ."

On taking a value focus: "You need to go from a cost focus to a value focus. A value focus means that you: Partner strategically. Spend wisely. Focus on collaborative relationships. Increase productivity. Get closer to your customers."

And a few items from our roundtable discussion with Enslin:

On sustainability: "Is sustainability just altruistic? Is it something that will go away? No. It’s here, it’s real, it’s happening everyday. People look to be sustainable and look at resources as being limited . . . it’s how to continue to drive value."

On today’s changing business paradigm: "Older, more conservative companies have a big issue to face, which is how do you transform people? Young companies . . . the speed at which they think and change is unbelievable. That’s a dynamic that’s relevant going forward. In the U.S., the companies that are innovative and smarter are going to leapfrog others. . . ."

About the role of IT in corporations: "The thing that IT needs to focus on is the relevance of speed. Because of the pressure today on business and manufacturing people . . . people that stand in their way will get pushed aside . . . IT people have to understand their relevance . . .how do we produce results with speed that’s far beyond what we’ve done in the past?"