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Outsource magazine: thought-leadership and outsourcing strategy | July 20, 2017

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Q&A: Tim Minahan, SAP Cloud

Q&A: Tim Minahan, SAP Cloud
Outsource Q&As

Tim Minahan is CMO, SAP Cloud, responsible for defining, overseeing, and executing global marketing and communications strategy for fast-growing SAP Cloud business, and championing SAP’s transformation to a high-performing cloud marketing and operating model. In advance of our webinar ‘Preparing for the Millennials: the Future of Finance and Procurement in association with Ariba, an SAP Company‘, we got together with Tim to take a look at the next generation of finance professionals and the impact their advent is having – and will continue to have – on business practice the world over…

Outsource: Tim, thanks for joining us today. In our forthcoming webinar, we’re looking at the impact of the Millennial generation on business. Can we start off with a look at why there is such a big impact – why do you think it is a critical issue? Is it really that substantial a change we’re talking about?

Tim Minahan: Yes it’s quite a dramatic change: Millennials will comprise nearly half the workforce by next year, and as you know by 2020, 75 per cent of the workforce. Now, sheer demographics don’t tell the whole story; the thing about Millennials is they that learn differently, they work differently, they have different values that are really going to shape and transform traditional thinking on how and what we share, how we view brands, how we buy and consume and of course how we work.

O: The Millennials we’re talking about are a young generation, but not necessarily one confined to the western world: it’s people all over the world, using the same sort of technology in the same way, isn’t it?

TM: Exactly, we will also see more demographic shifting and more diversity in the workplace. We will see the ethnicity of the workforce shift with the number of Caucasian workers declining by over 20 per cent over the next five years and the percentage of what have traditionally been viewed as minority workers like Latinos growing: the Latino workforce will nearly triple. The number of women in the workforce will continue to rise as women are actually exceeding the number of men that go to university. So you’re going to see a highly diverse workplace that will bring in new ideas and new thinking, and again require us to work and collaborate differently.

O: Looking at the finance and procurement sections of business specifically: what is it for finance for example that’s going to be changing, in terms of the way the finance function actually conducts itself?

TM: These are digital natives: they have grown up with the web and mobile, they live on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and they are certainly wired – or you might say unwired – differently than we have been traditionally. So what does that mean for the workplace? Well they shun traditional command and control environments, which were traditionally built because it was so hard to get at information: only the top executives had access to information. That’s no longer true. They believe information should be free and are eager to share and collaborate with their coworkers and peers and partners; they’re more comfortable with things like coopetition; and they are eager to crowdsource their answers (that’s an activity that many traditional companies are highly uncomfortable with).

They’re also socially conscious, and they rate working for a brand that gives them a sense of purpose and pride over traditional financial compensation. Forget work/life balance; probably the biggest thing is that work is a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be balanced.

So in the financial realm, what does that mean? Well you need to be able to construct a work environment that gives them access to new technologies, social technologies. These are hyperconnected individuals who are “always on,” and they want to live and work in the same way. They do their research and collaboration online, and converse, across multiple platforms and they want to do that for work too: they want to be able to engage work on their mobile phones or smartphones, maybe finish a project on their tablet and then publish it through their laptop.

That means companies in the finance function will need to figure out ways to deal with an increasing amount of digital content in the workplace; that requires them to balance both making it easy for workers to create and access digital content, while simultaneously ensuring security and appropriateness of content.

Just thinking about a stat I saw the other day: there are 2.4 billion brand-related conversations through social channels like Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn every day. Companies can’t ignore this. And those that try to, do so at their peril.

O: How can a corporation adapt to the needs of the new generation, whilst still catering for the older workforce’s ways of doing business? How can a corporation find that balance without jeorpardising its relationship with its older employees – and also whilst maintaining a good grip on costs, because obviously these things that you’re talking about do come with a cost…

TM: If you look at leading companies, they’re actually doing what we call reverse mentorships: they have newer, highly educated and certainly hyperconnected individuals that are entering the workforce, working with entrenched executives to help them understand this new environment and how not only to gain information but to collaborate.

So when you look at the kind of leadership model you’re going to have in order to manage this Millennial workforce, you need to have a collaborative mindset. You need to be inclusive in your decision-making and have a general desire to request feedback from others. Secondly, you need to constantly develop people through multiple channels. And you need to have coaching and mentorships with your employees and coworkers and constantly give real-time feedback. As the leader, you need to engage; you need to be digitally confident. I know within SAP, we use our own tools to share information, manage projects and collaborate through what some might call a social business channel.

You need to also create a highly diverse work environment. Think globally: you mentioned before the changing demographics in the workplace, and you’ve got five billion people in an emerging market creating a new middle class. These are knowledge workers, folks who are more educated than they have been in the past, in places like South Africa, Malaysia, India, China and Latin America that are now entering the workforce – and these folks themselves have skipped a generation in technology. They’ve never been wired: everything they do is mobile, so they want to be able to work and engage in that environment. Those are kind of the attributes that leaders are going to have to incorporate into the workforce; they’re going to have to almost retrain themselves on what it means to be a leader.

O: Looking at SAP specifically, how are you guys working to take on some of those challenges? It’s working with your customers in mind, and also working with your own organisation to deal with some of those issues that you’ve outlined there for yourself. What’s the approach?

TM: The approach is certainly to adopt some of the attributes that we mentioned. Number one: to provide access to the leading technologies and tools. Mobility is a key component of that: all of our systems are mobile, just like those of our customers we make accessible through our mobile platforms. So you can access and track, in my case, pipeline progression, sales against forecast, even individual marketing program results, all in a highly intuitive and beautiful reporting application anywhere, at any time, from any device. My iPad and iPhone are with me at all times.

Similarly, the workforce of today wants to crowdsource their ideas. So we provide access to and encourage the use of social channels so that they can do this not just within our own employee base but also within our customer base, through a collaboration environment.

The last part is social learning if you will, constantly creating an environment in which we have a sharing of knowledge, so utilising those tools that I mentioned, to allow peers to share their experience and train them on different aspects of their jobs and what we’re delivering to our customers – because in a company of 65,000 global employees, not everyone’s on the same page, but we’ve the ability to actually share insights and give folks a snippet into what we’re doing as a valued attribute across the company.

O: The whole sharing concept is something that’s been absolutely part of Ariba’s approach to networking, right from the word go. Do you feel you’re coming from an organisation that perhaps has a bit of a head start when it comes to adopting this kind of mentality – or adjusting to it?

TM: I think coming from a company that is a network company, that is focussed on enabling better business-to-business collaboration, does indeed help that the new mindset that you’re fostering. Discoveries of new potential partners, sharing of information, benchmarking, knowledge-sharing, crowdsourcing: all of these activities that are occurring on the Ariba Network today are emulated within the workplace. That mindset of the value we’re delivering to customers and bringing that into the workplace, it certainly helps in becoming an attractive place for this new workforce.

O: In terms of where this is going and what the impact is going to be over the next couple of business cycles, what do you think are going to be the next big challenges? Because of course the Millennials have their own say in terms of the way that they want things to work as well. Where do you think you’re going to be going with your philosophical approach to this over the next decade?

TM:  Well, I’m not the person who came up with these concepts! But we’re going to see almost the end of enterprise boundaries. We’re going to see virtual organisations, virtual value change, in which a host of different groups or companies will come together to solve problems,. You have companies that on one hand compete in certain areas but on the other hand are strategic partners in others, in delivering software or hardware or social search. You see the lines blurring between organisations and it becomes very difficult to determine where the end of one enterprise is and where the other begins. All of that is being enabled by technology, by the ability to have these new collaborative platforms – whether they’re social or business networks – and the ability to not only have transparency in sharing info but have new ways to collaborate around properties and new insights that come from the knowledge or crowd or network entities. That means you’re no longer just getting information from your own organisation but you’re getting the benefit and scale of a network of companies that are sharing information.

Want to know more? Register here for our webinar ‘Preparing for the Millennials: the Future of Finance and Procurement in association with Ariba’, Tue, Nov 5, 2013 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM GMT

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