There is one application area within SAP that can serve as a microcosm of how SAP can execute well in the market.  That area is corporate Sustainability.

At last year’s Sapphire conference, I was invited to attend SAP’s first ever executive roundtable discussion on the topic of sustainability.  The audience was diverse and knowledgeable on the topic of sustainability initiatives. Peter Graf, Executive Vice President of Sustainability Solutions outlined SAP’s commitment to mobilize the company to internally measure carbon consumption and corresponding carbon mitigation processes.  He helped champion SAP’s membership in the Sustainability Consortium and pledged to make SAP’s ongoing carbon consumption publically available for all to review.  SAP further announced the acquisition of Clear Standards, a carbon tracking application that SAP planned to utilize for both internal and external needs in carbon tracking, including the various tiers of the supply chain. For the past three years, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index has named SAP as the leader in the software sector.

One year later, the briefing at this year’s Sapphire conference was even more impressive.  SAP’s internal tracking processes have not only matured, but have also provided some interesting concepts in how to make data visual and interactive.  SAP utilizes its Business Objects Explorer tool as the engine for this interactive reporting, along with some other slick web-based visualization tools.  The just released 2009 Sustainability Report includes interactive tools that combine video, information and interaction that transformed a former publishing exercise into a two-way dialogue experience.  As you glance at the report you can note that while progress has been made in some areas, others have slipped.  SAP has not hidden this data and described the tracking process as providing some rather interesting learning. To assist external customers, SAP also provides a Sustainability Map, similar to other well-known SAP solution maps, that provides guidance on areas of sustainability process management support.  The supply chain management category includes Sourcing and Procurement, Traceability and Recall, Green Logistics, Supply Chain Design and Planning.  In April, SAP announced another acquisition in the Sustainability area, the intent to acquire TechniData AG, a long-time sustainability partner that helps SAP customers to track and manage compliance initiatives.

For sure, SAP is fulfilling roles for both leadership and evangelizing corporate responsibility for proactive sustainability strategy.  In adopting a strategy of dialogue and two-way interaction, SAP is gathering market and customer input on customer and employee needs for a proactive sustainability strategy, and perhaps comprehensive tracking and reporting tools.

The most important aspect of this impressive progress in Sustainability is that if the rest of SAP’s line-of-business and solution areas were to execute in this same manner of Define, Measure, Analyze,  Improve and Control, SAP would be a far more agile technology provider.

 Bob Ferrari