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SAP’s Maggie Fox: “Digital Transformation Really Comes Down to People”

By Sally Quigley, Interview with Maggie Fox: SAP's SVP of Global Marketing

As the market leader in enterprise application software, SAP applications and services enable approximately 300,000 customers in 190 countries to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. As the Senior Vice President of SAP Experience, Maggie Fox and her team are responsible for global content production as well as SAP’s digital experience and award-winning brand journalism program. The team is also in its third year of a highly successful company-wide digital transformation of their online customer experience, called One Digital Experience (1DX), Fox is proud of their achievements, but notes they will continue to transform as customer needs evolve.


Fox stresses that digital transformation is not uniform and every company must find the most appropriate definition and strategy for its own unique journey, and SAP’s, 1DX digital transformation program touches all facets of the organization and has the sole focus of making it easy for anyone to do business with SAP online.  

"Building the digital customer experience and making that experience seamless and easy is at the forefront of our minds when we talk about digital transformation. And in order to do that properly, we need to hone in on the 'new world' of the customer journey," she says. "The marketplace is a living thing. In order to succeed as an organization, we need to meet the pace of the market. And as marketers, we are the closest to the voice of the customer. We know before anyone else the temper and tone of the customer environment. Because of this, marketing is in a wonderful position to be a strategic player at the 'big' table inside corporations today. We can provide insights around emerging trends and how we might create new opportunities. If we can deliver that to the business, it is a huge opportunity."

Simplify consumer engagement and interaction at every digital touch point 

SAP customers are looking for a seamless, easy-to-use online experience to help them find what they are looking for, and digital marketing must constantly evolve to keep up with the pace of the market. One of the benefits of being a high tech company is that the team at SAP knows how to roll out technology. So for them, the transformation really comes down to people.

"For us, it is not only a technology story. Of course, having the right technology is important, and having the right technology partner is critical. But at the end of the day, your success comes down to people,” she explains. “Getting people to change and adopt new methods of doing things can be difficult." 

For others embarking on digital transformation, it’s important to develop a solid understanding of the principles of change management. The key to success is motivating teams to focus their efforts on driving new processes that will support digital transformation. Most people are motivated by emotional connection, not numbers or spreadsheets.

"To quote Peter Drucker, 'Culture eats strategy.' If you don't understand the human aspect of the change you are trying to drive, you will not be successful,” Fox says. "For any transformation to work, adoption is critical to success. And for people to adopt new technologies or methodologies, they need to believe in them and understand the vision. The more they understand this, the more likely they are to shift behaviors and stop doing what they were previously doing. I cannot emphasize enough the need to communicate why transformation is important."

At SAP, another part of the reason their digital transformation efforts have been so successful is because of a robust project management office that sets up specific work streams, and a core team that remains incredibly nimble. Periodic assessments allow the team to identify risks and weaknesses in scope and role requirements, and helps keep the project on track. Also, additional training and enablement was incorporated to help employees truly understand the need for change and how it would impact the customer.

Articulate the vision, foster passion, and drive execution

"A big transformation project can sink under its own weight because people try to do everything at once rather than a small number of important things,” Fox explains. “For us, the key was setting up and establishing priorities and then delegating individuals to be directly responsible for each of those key areas. We created a system of visibility and accountability. Within that, communication needs to be open, honest and frequent. Above all, there needs to be trust. Without it, people may be uncomfortable addressing critical issues until it is too late." 

While SAP's digital marketing team is 200 marketers out of a larger global marketing team of 1,400, they are a center of excellence in terms of digital marketing and content production. With the incredible pace of technology, the digital team has become not only a knowledge hub, but also consultants to other marketers within the organization. In fact, the team often trains other marketing teams on new processes or technologies.

"At SAP, we know that increasing digital skills and capabilities across the company is really important,” she says. “Modern marketers today need at least some level of digital capability, and we have become those subject matter experts in our organization."

If there is one point Maggie would drive home when it comes to transformation, it is that an investment in people—and culture—is crucial.

“To create a system of constant learning, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of the market by evaluating new technologies and customer needs and understanding what's going on,” she says. “This requires a learning culture. When it comes to transformation, technology is just a facilitator. In the end, you need to invest in people."


Maggie Fox is the Senior Vice President, SAP Global Marketing at SAP.  She is has global responsibility for SAP’s digital experience. Prior to joining SAP, Maggie was founder and CEO of Social Media Group, established in 2006 and one of the world's most highly respected independent agencies helping businesses navigate the socially engaged Web. She has been interviewed about social and digital trends by Inc. Magazine, The Washington Post, CBC Radio, The Globe and Mail, CBC News, CTV News and The Financial Post, among others. In 2011, The National Post named her one of Canada's Top Innovators. Fox also sits on the board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.