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What kinds of changes are ahead for SAP Marketing?

Part 2 of a 2 part Series

Click here to read the first part of Carmen’s Q&A, visit


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In this second installment of a two-part interview, Carmen O’Shea continues the conversation about her new role leading the Marketing Engagement team at SAP. Here she discusses the power of mindfulness, her team’s priorities, how marketing has changed, and her own personal growth plan.

What are some of the more innovative approaches you’re taking to creating an engaged marketing culture?

Well one interesting development is that my team now includes the first director of mindfulness at SAP, Peter Bostelmann. He created a business rationale for mindfulness training, and Jonathan Becher said, “I believe in this.” It’s now being recognized as a secret ingredient not just in personal success but organizational success.

How so?

Mindfulness is all about focusing in on your strengths, feelings and connection to others. Out of that focus comes greater empathy. You’re more able to have productive working relationships, not take things personally and be open to cultural nuances. It’s just the simple ability to stop for a little bit to reflect and work that into your day-to-day interactions – being mindful of what’s driving you and pushing your buttons.

What are some other priorities for your team?

The first is conducting a comprehensive set of research analysis, both qualitative and quantitative. We need to understand our current state and challenges while at the same time look at this future state – what does it take to become a successful marketer moving forward? Then we can do a research gap analysis, which will inform our people strategy in marketing.

Our second major focus is executing on key initiatives like Development Day, People Week, our Run With Purpose campaign and diversity. It’s very important to approach all of this in a collaborative way with stakeholders in HR, communications and other areas. We’ve also created a People Advisory Board within marketing of about 30 people to get an unadulterated view of what’s happening.

Can you describe how marketing has changed in recent years?

Customers have a lot of information before we do – they’re online etc – and we have to understand their point of view and provide a consistent experience. That customer-driven approach is one of the biggest ways that marketing is still changing. How our customers are consuming information through digital and social media is shifting too. We talk a lot about reaching our customer’s customer. It’s not just this monolithic IT department.

We all know that the need for change is urgent, but it doesn’t necessarily come overnight. What’s the right balance?

I’m not sure how much of a balance we need right now. We need to err on the side of speed. We have all these things happening and we’ve got to change. The next five years are going to be pivotal and change is an imperative.

What do you think is one thing people may not realize about their role in SAP’s transformation?

That while they can’t affect everything, they can affect specific things or their leadership behaviors. We need to break things down to what we specifically can own and work on.

Can you describe a time when you experienced a great degree of change?

About two years ago my job was focused on innovations in marketing and I had a little team looking at interesting trends. When we constricted as a company, the team got disbanded. That was really hard. I managed to find jobs for pretty much everybody but I’m not used to failing and I really didn’t like it – and that’s what it felt like. However, focusing on making sure everybody had jobs gave me purpose. And the whole experience of going through so much change helped me become calmer, reach into myself and connect with what’s really important. Looking at the pearls of wisdom from something like that is really helpful. Sometimes getting kicked down a little is a good thing.

What skills do you hope to develop more in yourself?

Definitely looking at the end-to-end SAP experience and asking how we can tie our marketing people efforts to that experience and our overall strategy. I’m also very intrigued by this idea of creating one experience for customers – what does that really mean? And finally, I leverage the social media sphere more personally and am looking at using it more in a professional context.

What is most inspiring to you about SAP’s transformation? 

  Putting our stake in the ground and saying, “This is where we need to lead,” and aligning our resources behind that. To make changes that really ripple down to the people work we’re doing – that will be truly inspiring. We have the opportunity to really lead the new world.

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