Nelson Mandela once said:

Perhaps the most important inheritance of our new democratic South Africa has been the rebirth of the dignity of the individual – for without dignity, freedom has a bland taste.


sage health.jpgFor two sisters in Cape Town this message deeply resonated. After living through the iniquitousness of the Apartheid state in their country, in 2000, the women launched a start- up company, Sage Health Solutions. They built their business on the belief that hospice workers champion the right to dignity for the terminally ill, that people are infinitely precious, and that even at the end of their lives, the elderly matter most.

To maintain the dignity and comfort of bedridden and terminally-ill hospital and healthcare facility patients, Sage Health Solutions provides products including specially made mattresses and pillows covered in a skin soothing antimicrobial, antibacterial, waterproof fabric.  The company manufactures, sells, and distributes a broad range of medical and remedial equipment and supplies to both public and private sector customers.  But originally, Sage was only able to respond to requests for quotes (RFQs) manually, a time-consuming and labor-intensive method of conducting business.  With such a complex and archaic system in place, Sage couldn’t possibly grow globally or drive increased innovation.

However, in 2010, to do business electronically with the South African government, Sage Health Solutions joined the Ariba Network, and from there business boomed. Sage quickly began to experience the benefits of simplified and streamlined procurement via the network.

Using the Ariba Discovery service as a lead generation tool, Sage opened doors to new business opportunities with hospitals and private sector organizations both locally and globally. Ariba Discovery provides insight into over 730,000 sellers in 20,000 categories and 190 countries.  36% of sellers have a global reach and over 30,000 carry green or diversity certificates. With this service, Sage Health Solutions now has a competitive advantage over the market.  Sage has insight into the best prices and can benchmark and negotiate electronically through the network, ensuring that it can offer customers the best price and product.

Sage Health bed.jpgSage is also using Ariba Discovery to be matched with buyers looking for their products. Ariba automatically sends Sage Health Solutions high quality leads, making its bidding process more efficient and accelerating the sales cycle.  Most importantly, being a part of the Ariba Network means that Sage is boosting awareness among its target customers – and the numbers speak for themselves.  During its first five years on the Ariba Network, Sage Health Solutions grew from a modest idea to a multimillion-dollar business. Today, 80% of Sage’s business comes from Ariba’s automated platform.

With greater reach and increased innovation, Sage is providing more patients with more products for proper hygiene, protection, and freshness. One customer, Brenda Scholsz, explained how Sage Health products helped her mother in her last days with their family.  “On behalf of myself and my family we wish to convey our sincere gratitude for the purchase, and the good price of the bed, and other items for my mother.  This has enabled us to make our task easier and lighter, and made my mother’s last days with us as comfortable as possible.”

Similarly, customer Nazlie Dalwai explained that, “Without Sage Enterprises, we could not have cared for my mother-in-law quite as well as we did.”

The two women behind Sage Health Solutions are inspiring. With the help of the Ariba Network, the founders of Sage grew their small start-up from a dream to help preserve the dignity of the sick and elderly to a multimillion-dollar business reaching customers all over the world. As Nelson Mandela also said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” For the two women behind Sage Health Solutions, they’ve turned a dream into reality.

For more information on Sage Health Solutions and its engagement with Ariba, an SAP company, check out this business transformation slide.

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12 Comments

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  1. Ravindran Pather

    Wow what an inspiration

    goes to show , life is full of surpises and it up to you what you want the surpirse to be ..

    best wishes and may your grow from strenght to strenght

    Regards

    Ravi Pather

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  2. Fred Verheul

    Hi Christine,

    As I’ve promised Tim Clark I want to publicly give feedback on this blog post of yours. Keep in mind though that most of what I’m going to say here is not specific to this blog post.

    I’ve rated your post with 2 stars. At least 1,5 of them you’ve earned by writing good English, building up the blog post the right way, and all those other style related elements.

    However, you could easily have earned all 5 of them by letting Sage tell the story, making it an authentic customer success story instead of the marketing piece it is now (in my opinion of course).

    <rant>

    You may already have noticed I don’t particularly like marketing content on SCN. From my POV it just doesn’t belong on a community platform, even if that platform is supported, maintained (and sponsored) by ‘the vendor’, SAP in this case. As Steve Rumsby has pointed out here, marketing content is also against the Rules of Engagement.

    Now I understand (or it is my impression) that the SAP Business Trends space is different from the other spaces, as it seems to be used more as a playground for aspiring SAP journalists than as a serious platform for conversation between community members (including SAP employees who want to engage on SCN). Needless to say I strongly disagree with this approach. However, that’s different topic altogether.

    Still, if you post content to a community platform, available to everyone that’s interested, you can (and should) expect people to judge it from their own POV (as I’m doing right now).

    I would like you to try a different approach next time, and while it may be difficult to convince customers to write their own story here on SCN, it should be feasible to use an interview format. That would still allow for customers to tell their own story, and would no doubt have much more impact than the current piece.

    What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Impossible? I’m interested in your own opinion on this, though I understand you’re not getting paid to have one.

    </rant>

    BR, Fred

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    1. Christine Donato Post author

      Fred,

      Thank you for posting a comment and rating my blog post, Sage Health Solutions Grows from Start-Up to Huge Success

      I am a member of the Customer Storytelling team.  The goal of this team is to serve as the voice of the customer, sharing customer stories to help other SAP customers. We share customer stories on SAP Business Trends at a high, non-technical level for the education and edification of an all-encompassing diverse audience that makes up the SCN community. We work directly with customers to share their story, they are reviewed and approved by the customer before being published, and you’ll see that in many stories we include direct quotes from the customer as well as interview videos. It is always encouraged that customers tell their own stories, however customers have varying interests on blogging themselves.  As you can see from many posts on the community, many authors are customers. 

      It’s important to note that in the top ten spots on the SAP Business Trends leader-board, customer story bloggers are right behind Johnathon Becher, revealing that customer stories are beneficial to the community, based on SCN users’ own responses. 

      I appreciate you sharing your POV on marketing content, as the community encourages everyone’s POV to be heard and shared. There’s certainly a fine line between the one’s perceptions of marketing content verses our goal of customer storytelling. Hence we do not do any direct solicitation nor is that our intent.  Instead we are sharing the stories of customers that we engage with on a regular basis. 

      Since starting as an author on SAP Business Trends in February 2014, my 17 published blogs have accumulated over 56K views, 55 likes, and 18 comments, the majority of which are positive in nature. In addition, 8 of these 17 blogs have ranked as “Top 5 SAP Business Trends” content. This, as well as the member comments, displays the community’s interest in hearing and learning from other customer’s stories. Should you have feedback on any of my customer stories or topical posts, I encourage you to voice your opinion in a professional comment at any time, like anyone on the community is able to do, rather than alerting a moderator, as my posts do not violate any SCN Rules of Engagement.

      The rules state:

      Avoid solicitations. Avoid marketing your company’s products and services.  If you want people to know your affiliation with your company, put those details in your profile to make the information available to the community. Do not embed links to ads in your posts.  The same applies to email solicitations and advertising. If you want someone to trust you enough to buy what you offer, share your expertise and they will seek you out. If you want people to contact you, you can choose to make your email visible in your profile, but we ask you not to post it elsewhere on the site.


      My blogs do not embed links to ads nor do they solicit nor advertise.  My blogs tell the story of SAP’s customers and their customers, not violating any of the SCN Rules of Engagement or SCN Grounds for Rejection.  

      I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you directly, at any time, to share more about the customer storytelling role, the relationships we have with our customers and our objective to bring the voice of the customer to the masses.  

      Christine

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      1. Joao Sousa

        My blogs do not embed links to ads nor do they solicit nor advertise.

        I’m sorry Christine, but I don’t think that is true. You are “marketing your company’s products and services”, for example:

        Ariba Discovery provides insight into over 730,000 sellers in 20,000 categories and 190 countries.  36% of sellers have a global reach and over 30,000 carry green or diversity certificates

        Customer stories are marketing pieces, they never tell us what went wrong. Everything is amazing, the software is great, the customer is always happy, there are no downsides. We know, we are in the business, and have been for many years.


        SAP can tells us that SAP Business Trends is special, that it is marketing oriented, and that’s fine (if they would just give me the tools to filter them out….). Just don’t tell us that what you do here isn’t marketing.

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      2. Fred Verheul

        Hi Christine,

        Thanks for your detailed reply, explaining your own role and how it fits into the grander scheme of things (customer story telling). That’s much appreciated!

        Regarding the issue of violation of the Rules of Engagement by publishing marketing content (and whether it is marketing content or not), that one is tricky in my opinion.

        And because it’s tricky I won’t alert the moderators on your blog posts anymore, which I haven’t done in the past months either by the way (last time was for cross-posting, totally different issue, and it got sorted out quickly).

        So, why do I think it’s tricky?

        First of all, you say

        My blogs do not embed links to ads nor do they solicit nor advertise.

        If that’s all there is to the question whether something is marketing or not, then you’re absolutely right. I think however that in general there is more to it, and it’s pointed out below by Joao Sousa: telling only half the story (the good part), with the associated positive spin, is, also in my book, marketing.

        And, to quote selectively from the Rules of Engagement:

        The rules state:

        Avoid solicitations. Avoid marketing your company’s products and services.

        (I changed the bold, learned that trick from Joao below 🙂 ).

        The second ‘thing’ that makes it even more tricky is that there are no objective criteria that sufficiently and accurately determine whether something is marketing or not. As you say yourself:

        There’s certainly a fine line between the one’s perceptions of marketing content verses our goal of customer storytelling.

        Here is my main point: I want to argue that, as soon as ‘the audience’ perceives an article as marketing, you’ve already lost, because by that perception it becomes marketing. A Dennis Howlett quote is appropriate here: “Perception is reality”. I used to not understand what he meant by that, but I think I’m starting to get it.

        Now, this definition of marketing is not workable either of course (and that’s why I won’t alert these blog posts anymore), but it’s something to keep in mind. If ‘the vocal minority’ here on SCN thinks it is marketing, then it automatically kind of becomes marketing.

        Not of the kind we should report, but also not necessarily something we would like to see on the one SAP website that’s meant for the wider community.

        As opposed to for instance the site http://blogs.sap.com, which is used by your Dutch colleagues (and maybe others as well) to post exactly this kind of content: customer success stories, opinionated pieces which have a marketing spin, etc.

        But which channels SAP should use for this type of content is a discussion we should not have here on your blog post but somewhere else.

        Thanks again for your engagement, and yes, I’d certainly enjoy talking to you and the team directly. If we were to have that conversation this year, that would have to be in Berlin though (during SAPTechEd && d-code), as that’s the only place/event I’ll visit this fall 🙁 .

        BR, Fred

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    2. Marilyn Pratt

      What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Impossible? I’m interested in your own opinion on this, though I understand you’re not getting paid to have one.

      I think the last part of that statement (the part after “interested in your own opinion on this”) is crossing the line a bit and making this comment into a personal one that makes me quite uncomfortable. So I am going to intervene on that level (and not push the “alert moderator” but say this publicly). I’m hearing a nuance of attack and Christine Donato has been nothing but civil.  I would suggest we keep that tone of civility while we continue to discuss/disagree.  It’s also starting to feel that Christine is being singled out for this treatment and that is neither fair nor acceptable. I also work for marketing so I’m fairer game.

      I share your opinion, Fred Verheul that it is better to have the customer speak fully in their own voice, but I also believe that it is legitimate to have varied formats to showcase that voice. And I know from experience that there are folks (customers among them) willing to share experience but uncomfortable to blog in the first person and some in need and even requesting hand-holding when they first engage.  I actually have worked in the past with some very accomplished people who requested help and I’ve heard from them that I helped launch their blogging endeavors.  Without some assistance they never would have begun.  It’s very gratifying to be their helpmate.

      I read the comments by Chris Paine to my blog You Can’t Be Listening When You Are Talking when he asks for more “inclusion” in the types of content we are willing to host and it reminded me of how there are different communication styles and voices.

      We can chose (as Joao Sousa has voiced below ) to be “suspicious” of only what some might regard as the positive “happy talk” content and look critically at content that we feel only tells “one side” of a complex story.  Yet from the amount of views this kind of content is getting (especially in Business Trends) there seems to be an audience for that.  If there are those that want to know how others succeeded, should that be discounted? Should we encourage others to share more balanced feedback? Should there be more solicitation of mostly bad experiences?  Should employees be allowed to post here on SCN at all?  I don’t have the answers to those questions but I think our dialogue helps provide the direction.

      I too, would prefer to see balanced feedback and that is why (as long as it remains civil) I believe contents around authentic stories should be allowed to be posted and then where necessary, discussed, critiqued and debated or….(and what a concept) applauded when appropriate.

      I’d like to refer back to the The SCN Rules of Engagement as someone who not only helped crowd-source the original copy but worked to publish them.

      The idea of pushing back on solicitations began when folks tried to spam the network with links to services. It also stems from a genuine desire to hear the voice of the customer rather than the voice of the vendor. So I do understand why the pushback but beg to reconsider whether this is “spam” or “advocacy”. And also whether this is “moderation” or “censorship”.

      We have given guidance around things like posting an email address directly.. The premise is/was that if someone was interested enough in engaging with you further, or privately or outside of the comments, they could check your profile and if  you chose to share contact details, they could contact you by using your profile.

      Again, this was done to discourage lots of overt solicitations for documents, educational material and even copyright material.

      I hope we don’t take moderation to absurdity. And use our discretion to filter out noise we don’t wish to hear until a better mechanism is in place to help us segment appropriately.

      And even I, the reluctant ex-developer working now for marketing, thinks I need to revisit whether demonizing “marketing” is in our best interests.

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      1. Joao Sousa

        I too, would prefer to see balanced feedback and that is why (as long as it remains civil) I believe contents around authentic stories should be allowed to be posted and then where necessary, discussed, critiqued and debated or….(and what a concept) applauded when appropriate.

        I changed the bold, because for me what is now in bold* is the line that separates non-marketing from marketing. I know perfectly well what “customer stories” truly are, like I said I’ve been in this business for some time, I just think we should call something by it’s true name – Marketing.

        Why? Because admitting that there are two types of content and two types of target, would probably drive SCN to the conclusion that there should be two views of this site, or at the very least more customization options.

        Marketing to SAP consultants using this type of communication is an exercice in futility. I’m not saying SAP consultants aren’t a marketing target, they are, because the adoption of new tools is critical for both SAP and it’s ISV, but not with this.

        To conclude, if this isn’t meant for me, why does it have to sit on my home page?

        * focus on “authentic”, I’m not contesting they are true.

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        1. Tim Clark

          “I’m not saying SAP consultants aren’t a marketing target, they are, because the adoption of new tools is critical for both SAP and it’s ISV, but not with this.”


          Joao, appreciate your passion on this topic but you have to admit, the above statement doesn’t exactly strengthen your position. Also worth noting that the SAP community comprises much more than consultants. To speak so boldly on the behalf of the hundreds of thousands of different users who all have different needs than you do seems a bit misguided.


          In addition, there are literally hundreds of very authentic customer success stories that have been published on the community that thousands of people have found useful, shared or used to help build out a business case for their next upgrade or purchase. I’d hardly classify that as “fluff.”


          People can learn just as much (if not more) from a positive story as a negative (authentic?) one. The positive stories posted here rarely qualify as disingenuous marketing fluff.





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          1. Joao Sousa

            Joao, appreciate your passion on this topic but you have to admit, the above statement doesn’t exactly strengthen your position. Also worth noting that the SAP community comprises much more than consultants.

            I’ve never said that isn’t room for this content, I’ve asked for filters that keep the content that I’m not interested in from taking up more then 80% of my SCN homepage.

            As for speaking for thousands of people, my opinion is my own. I express them on multiple subjects everyday, most of them not related to SCN or SAP, and never do I assume that I speak for everyone. What you quoted is my opinion, which you may disagree with, it’s normal.

            In addition, there are literally hundreds of very authentic customer success stories that have been published on the community that thousands of people have found useful, shared or used to help build out a business case for their next upgrade or purchase. I’d hardly classify that as “fluff.”

            The word “marketing” before “fluff” is critical. Every company uses marketing to sell products and services, and it’s SAP right to do it. My company uses marketing too, it’s not something to be ashamed of. Yet, there seems to be some problem in calling these stories what they are.

            People can learn just as much (if not more) from a positive story as a negative (authentic?) one

            I’m not asking for negative stories. I’m asking for complete stories, instead of stories that tell us half the tale. And to be honest I’m a firm believer that we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.

            In fact I’m not even asking for complete stories. My point was that, if you want to say this isn’t marketing material, you should give the complete story. A story with a positive spin that omits all the negative stuff…. I’ll just keep calling that marketing (my opinion).

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      2. Fred Verheul

        Hi Marilyn (and Christine and others 🙂 ),

        I apologize for any misunderstanding my wording may have caused. Being a non native speaker I sometimes choose formulations that are not appropriate, without realising it. Thanks for pointing out to me that it nevertheless may have made people uncomfortable/annoyed/… (etc).

        Let me try to clarify what I meant with that statement by giving some more context (with the risk that I make people feel uncomfortable/angry/annoyed again, but hey, it’s worth the risk).

        What I wanted to say is that Christine is not (or at least not clearly) the prototypical engaged community member contributing on SCN, but a paid employee of SAP, and not only that, but paid for a very specific job: publishing customer success stories on SCN (and maybe some other bits and pieces, no offense Christine). Of course, next to and apart from that professional role, she still might have opinions as an engaged community member, but so far she hasn’t really shown them, however civil and polite she has been (and I totally agree on that).

        I mean, she is first and foremost (perceived as) someone whose job it is to write these pieces. And the goal of writing these pieces is determined not by her because she’s writing them (as would be the case for most of the community members when writing something here), but by someone (Tim?) who’s thought out this scheme of writing customer success stories in the SAP Business Trends Space. She is ‘just’ the one (or one of the team) who executes on that scheme. Again, I don’t mean this in any derogatory sense, but it’s true, right?

        And I’m attacking (well, I hope not, but to stay with that term) her not as the engaged community member she might be (or might not), but as the instrument (again, that sounds worse than I intend it to sound) of that scheme. And that’s finally why I said she isn’t getting paid to have an opinion, which should’ve meant: “if you (Christine) don’t have a (strong) opinion you want to share on these matters, I can understand it, since that is not part of your job”.

        OK, I hope things are more clear now and not perceived as an attack, because I never intended it that way.

        Fred

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  3. Fred Verheul

    Hi Christine,

    An (unintended?!) consequence of all the banter above was that it got me thinking about the success story itself (yeah, it happens 🙂 ).

    I was wondering about how Sage came to use Ariba Network and Ariba Discovery. Did they go through an extensive selection process, preferring Ariba above competitor products? And if so, which and why? Or did SAP reach out to them because they thought it would be a nice showcase? Or…? What happened? I mean, from where they were at the time probably any tool/product would’ve boosted their business. So why the choice for or move to Ariba?

    And maybe related to that: could they, being a comparatively small company, afford an expensive solution like Ariba? Or was it not that expensive, because they were comparatively small?

    I can imagine that this would be interesting to other (prospective) customers as well, so I would appreciate it if you could elaborate a bit more on that aspect. And yes, I realize that it might involve promoting Ariba as compared to other products, but hey, I’m asking for it this time, so feel free 😀 .

    Thanks!

    Fred

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  4. Christine Donato Post author

    Hi Fred,

    Sage Health Solutions joined the Ariba Network by request of the South African Government in order to do business electronically with the South African Government. This switch to the Ariba Network was the primary factor leading to the company’s business boom because Sage now had access to a new and much larger group of suppliers and buyers.  Also, the company was able to invoice electronically and get paid much quicker.  Prior to joining the Ariba Network, Sage performed all transactions manually via paper trail.  And being that the company is very small (27 employees), quicker and more direct business transactions opened the door to increased efficiency and more time available to grow their business.

    Here’s a link to the Business Transformation Study if you’d like more insight: Sage Health Solutions

    Please let me know if there is any additional information I can provide.

    Christine

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