Talking with Ram Jambunathan, SVP and Managing Director of SAP.io

June 12, 2020
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Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and Experience podcast from CloudApp, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey everyone. I am so excited today to have Ram with me, Ram is an SVP and a managing director, SAP IO, a SAP IO invested in cloud app last summer and, uh, has been great to work with a really fun group and really helpful, and also does a lot of investing in, uh, an accelerating and startups. So I'm excited to dig in a little bit with Ram on the modern workplace and how he's been kind of leading a team during all of this craziness. And I would love to start off Ram if you could just kind of give us a little background on yourself, how you kind of, uh, got rolling at SAP and what you've been doing with SAP IO.


Ram: (01:20)
Yeah, sure. So first of all, thank you, Joe, for, for having me, it's exciting to be here today and to share a few perspectives on, you know, as we think about the modern workplace, your remote work, and some of the interesting tools like cloud app that are enabling the, kind of the, the future of work to happen now. Right? So agile, as you mentioned, um, I'm managing director of SAP IO, that's SAP strategic business unit focused on accelerating innovation and exploring new business models. On behalf of, uh, of SAP. I've been in this role now for a few years, uh, where we both make investments into early stage startups through the SAP IO fund, as we did with cloud app, really looking at companies who are, we think are more path finding, um, or maybe, you know, one of a kind or we've got to invest, uh, in as a signal to the ecosystem that we think there's significant value creation that can happen in this area. And we'd like to see more activity there as well as the SAP IO foundries, which are our global network of top tier programs for startups, uh, such as accelerator programs that are now active in eight locations and are really focused on building a micro app ecosystem around SAP core apps, whether they're in ERP or supply chain or HR or customer experience or, or spend management and procurement. Um, so I've been at SAP now for about 10 years and had a variety of roles even prior to SAP or with SAP IO. I've had various roles in, in maybe a little bit more field facing customer facing where I worked with SAP. So as fees more, um, uh, it was strategic customers to help them identify quantify areas and prioritize areas of opportunity where an investment in SAP solution could yield them tremendous value. And then from there took on different roles from a strategic point of view, leading say, go to market initiatives in different areas or go to market strategy for regions or for global organizations had other roles like bleeding cloud and platform strategy. And then you, and then overall leading corporate strategy for the company. So I've kind of a varied career. And then before that, you know, how I came to SAP is I started my career as an entrepreneur, but in a different area in semiconductors were co-founded backed by like, uh, some VCs like Greylock and Sequoia focused on building, um, high speed transmitters receivers, um, for a future for the future generation of optical transport in early two thousands. You know, we talk about how companies rent scale. Now at that time you went to Vince build scale, you know, um, we had to build our own semiconductor fab, right, to actually make our own devices that would then be deployed in systems. So it's a really, really purely a soup to nuts design manufacturing, you know, productized package, sell type of thing end to end on your one roof. And then from thereafter, we required, the company is now part of Broadcom. Um, and we, uh, said, I should learn something about how business works at a different scale. And, um, uh, I w I ended up going to McKinsey for a few years where I was part of her led a number of initiatives or engagements with companies in different areas in tech and telco primarily. Um, but even in other areas like specialty chemicals to kind of got a rounding of business entrepreneurs side from the big business side, but really got deeper understanding of software there as well. Um, in areas like virtualization, um, in, in services and so on, um, and data center, uh, uh, operations, and then move that, and then joined SAP, who was the leader in enterprise software applications to be able to start putting that all together and applied manner. So, and that's, um, you know, kind of a backwards forward, backwards and forwards approach chip, why I'm talking to you today, you know, because as in, in 2015, you know, when the company was thinking about how, um, we need to, you know, re keep our eye consistently, or our finger on the pulse of innovation, we look at different trends that were happening. The, you know, for emergence of the, the growth of the API economy, the, you know, the, um, the, kind of the rise of open source software, the platformization of development, of course, the, the, the introduction of, you know, the, the barriers to innovation being reduced through the being able to rent scale, or, you know, with the rise of AWS or Google cloud. And then finally the rise of machine learning, being able to really take data to the next level, all of these kinds of came together. And, you know, as SAP, we said, you know, we really need a different way to engage where the, this type of innovation be able to tap into it for the benefit of our customers, given that all of this, the leading edge of this area is that happening in the world of startups, we decided we needed a different way to engage, you know, really leading players in different areas, whether it came to technology or whether it came to applications, whether it came to, you know, new business models and we set up SAP IO, did you just that, which is how we ended up to meeting you, so

Joe: (06:47)
Super fascinating. Yeah. Your, your background is really interesting. Um, you know, starting where you started and then, uh, yeah, I think, you know, I, I felt a similar, like, uh, move from Adobe to, to cloud app and like learning how to scale and, you know, having less resources, less, less brand awareness. Um, it's definitely different challenges. Uh, I love the, the move that SAP made, you know, back in 2015, they're kind of, it's really like keeping investing where you guys see the future going and making sure that those companies are directed and, uh, you know, that ends up benefiting you in multiple ways, um, for, uh, learning and being on the pulse, like you said, of innovation and, uh, having acquisition targets and just kind of understanding where things are moving.

Ram: (07:42)
Yeah. I mean, we set up everything really at the end of the day with our eye on the customer and what would benefit the customer long term and really IO being kind of a bridge to that most relevant innovation for our customers, especially as we think about their needs in the context of what SAP offers and what their customers need. Um, and being able to provide that in a curated fashion, uh, I think has served, I would say both the, um, has provided the level of simplicity and that our customers can now tap into the most relevant ag, uh, innovation in a more in a, in a, in a more straightforward way in, and helps the ecosystem that we engage with connect to customers in a more straightforward way, and on both sides, being able to reduce that complexity has provided value more quickly, and that's what we're trying to provide. Right. And at the same time, being able to get insights and learn about that innovation and bring those insights back into the business. So we call it kind of the win, win, win, but SAP IO, how we deliver value to customers, benefit to startups and then strategic impact to SAP. Yeah,

Joe: (08:56)
That makes a lot of sense. You know, we we've touched on the modern workplace and how SAP is IO is really kind of investing in that, uh, the trend was already moving to remote. Anyway, we did a survey of a thousand office workers last fall for a cloud app, and we found that 57% of gen Z was already working remotely. The majority of the time, more than 50% of millennials were working remotely, uh, you know, San Francisco's expensive, uh, new York's expensive people are having to live further away. Um, so how do you, uh, see the kind of current conditions that we're under right now? Um, helping accelerate that, um, the latest I saw was Qualtrics, which is a part of SAP now, uh, Ryan announced yesterday, I believe that they're going to let people work from home the rest of the year. So how do you think, you know, all of this since March has really accelerated that remote movement?

Ram: (09:53)
Well, I mean, I think generally, you know, I think companies, if they can, are letting people work from home, um, to the, you know, um, or how they prefer, if they can manage to work from home, if they need to work from home, they can work from home. Right. And I think SAP is, um, in some cases been at the forefront of that, as you know, I've heard Ryan's, uh, announcement, definitely other parts of SAP have taken a similar approach, right. We, first of all, want to make sure our employees are safe, um, and can continue to deliver value to our customers, um, in both in an efficient and effective manner. And employee safety is, is a key consideration in both of those right, and health and wellness. I think when it comes to, of course then the longer term considerations, I think it's both, depending on the nature of the work, um, as well as the, um, say the organizational function or the line of business that work is done within, right. So if you think there, there are some, some, um, areas of, of work, for example, that perhaps you're more decoupled or can be more decoupled, what can be done in a transactional fashion. And we're, you know, if familiar here with some of those today, perhaps there's some analysis that can be done on an individual basis, code is often developed in a decoupled fashion, right. Um, customer service is, uh, is, you know, many, you know, hundreds of thousands of customer service agents now probably millions who are all working from home, right. And the web over, over time, right. Many, you know, customer services shifted to remote or to compartmentalize work overtime as well. So, um, or call centers, for example. So it depends on the nature of the work, as you know, so you can think about the, so what has to be done in maybe the finance arena is maybe different than supply chain are different, different areas of customer service or customer experience, whether it's sales or marketing or customer service, um, um, or even transaction or, or commerce, and then even procurement.

Joe: (12:05)
Right. So all of those different functions have different, different aspects of which can be metered out or, you know, or part parceled out based on the nature of work. And that can be done in a more consistent manner. And then sometimes the nature of work requires more collaboration. Right. And, um, and, and so I think the, look, the TA the, the, the, I would say the, when we were at a hundred percent remote work today, for example, or nearly that, of course, it depends on the industry as well, software, you know, you know, or, or high tech is one extreme course alive, a lot of front facing customer facing. We have a lot of essential workers, you know, whether you're in hospitals or retail who have to be on site, at least for now the, you know, when we think about long terms, if we think about kind of office work, for example, let's zero in on that, it depends on, I think how much of that of each individual's work is done in, in kind of those modes of whether it's transactional versus collaborative and how productively or effectively those types of work can be done in a remote manner versus coming into an office primarily to meet with other people or in a sales role, um, um, or a service role to, to meet with your customer.

Ram: (13:33)
Right. Um, that's kind of a, and, and what are the conditions that are required? One can imagine, you know, still there might be seven figure deals, which a customer wants to be able to see you in person or the one step. Some in person means to really dive down because insights come out from that, right. At this same time, there may be, um, you know, there are other pieces of work which are, um, you know, just, you know, are, can be always done independent. And so it depends on, it depends on that, and we shouldn't lose sight as well. And so there's, you know, roughly speaking, there's those different categories at the same time, how do we, you know, often the Genesis of insights that you will have stemmed from a water cooler conversation that you ran into somebody in the hallway, you know, like say three months prior, and you wouldn't, that was kind of the, the, the spark or the missing piece that filled in a hole that of a puzzle that eventually came together over a period of time.

Joe: (14:39)
And you remember that conversation that plugged in, and now you have the complete picture. Right. And so how do you keep those kind of those classic instances that can actually lead to know breakthroughs would that in a manner where if you're working in a primarily distributed or remote world, so those are kind of the questions that you think about, right. And so, you know, we see obviously many tools today that have been deployed, of course, zoom being the one that has on top of everybody's mind, which is, you know, enabling some feeling of face to face, um, or personal communication, but, and which is of course in a very, um, real time manner. Right. But often work as you're, you know, we like to think is done asynchronously as well. And are there ways to enable that? Or how do you enable some of these by chance collaborations that can, or conversations that happen?

Ram: (15:40)
I've heard of people just keeping zoom windows open on a separate screen, just in case people want to drop, you know, drop by and chat for a few minutes or something, you know, but then there's probably some sense of a loss of privacy there as well. Right. So, um, so I think it spans, um, abroad as a spectrum or continuum of what type of work you're doing, what role in the organization it is and what the industry is. Right. But, you know, we think, they think, for example, you and I are both in a world of high tech of software, you know, I think there's, and that's something that we think about all the time. What is, you know, what is the nature of work look like? How much can be, and what we're hearing, right. PE companies like Facebook have announced by 2030, they expect almost half of their work, or is to be, to be working, you know, in a remote fashion full time. But that also means that half of the workforce isn't right. One reason or another,

Joe: (16:46)
There's still very much a, uh, reason for an HQ. Um, Sean Nuna, Ryan at CEO at Adobe always called it serendipitous interactions. They always have these big open spaces and all the HQ places where people could just meet up. And I know, you know, I being at such a big company, I would frequently take VPs or directors to lunch if they were open to it and just ask them questions and just be really active, um, in networking with people. And, you know, that was something that I feel like would be a little harder that we need to figure out a, to do in this environment. But I think what it has done to your, a lot of your points is really created, um, confidence that, Hey, we like completely developed this policy in like a week. We don't, we didn't need six months of HR review and legal review and all this other stuff like SAP, uh, company employs a massive amount of people came together and was like, Hey, we're closing our offices. People are gonna work from home. We're gonna figure this out. And you figured it out now. So I think for big companies, especially, it's like, Hey, we can, like, we can be nimble, uh, when we need to be. Um, so I think there's some interesting confidence that we'll we'll we built, um, during this time.

Ram: (18:15)
Yeah. Certainly when you're, you know, when you, when you realize, Hey, we, we, uh, the number one thing is we need to keep our employees safe. Let's do that. Let's keep them at home and then start to empower them with the, with the tools they need. Um, the things become, obviously this is a very, this is a, um, one of those more easier things to rally around as a, as a, or how you affect it's, but how you effectively move forward then after you've made the decision, okay, we're all gonna work from home. That's obviously where and how are you going to work productively? Right. So we even talk about, you know, there's a lot of processes that need to be adapted into, uh, when you think about the virtual environment, right? And, and it's not just in, in tech, for example, it's also in areas like education, your curriculum has really been all for in-person environments in person interaction. Now you're trying to provide that, um, an online and a distributed, perhaps in an asynchronous manner. You know, there are certain, there are changes that need to be made. So similarly in the, in the business environment as well, it gives you a chance to rethink through your processes of how you, how you create and how you manage and how you distribute information. And, and, and, but, and, but then that leads to subsequent opportunities to say, to reprioritize, and may perhaps say we actually, that 20% of work we don't need to do it's that important, um, and allows you to probably, um, free up time and thinking for new, um, for new opportunities, right. I, I certainly in the Bay area and in other parts of the world, I think we see people finding that their, their overall output at the end of the day, or at the end of the week has not actually dropped because now they've gotten free. They've free being able to free up time that was perhaps used in commute, right. Houston and other activities that are now can be put forward to work, uh, in, in, or, or the effort is this, or the time has been redistributed to other perhaps more value creating activities. Yeah.

Joe: (20:37)
Yeah. We, we did this analysis of CloudApp usage. Um, my, my past life was an analyst at Adobe, so I love digging into the data coming up with insights. Um, so we looked at cloud app usage and we found that usage during the morning commute time was up about three X, uh, and after hours also was up almost three X, um, and executive usage was up over three X. So you have people communicating more frequently creating videos, hopefully skipping the meeting and sending a cloud video instead. Um, and then it's like, for me, I wake up, I do a little bit of work and then I help my kids with school. And then I, you know, do some more work and then I eat lunch with them. And then, so it's this, it's not this nine to five anymore. It's like this, um, you know, weird ma weird different schedule that fits in with what you said, still getting the same productivity done. Cause you don't have those other, um, things taken away.

Ram: (21:40)
And what I'm hearing as well from, from companies, including many startups that we work with is that they actually have an opportunity now, more opportunities to engage with decision makers than they did before things that would have required a plane flight before, or some kind of travel to some decision makers, time is now all of a sudden, you know, they have more time because they're not traveling. Um, and there's more flexibility on both sides since it's a, since it's just a, a video call or a phone call versus having to meet in person and lot less coordination. So the opportunities to, and so to actually be able to engage stakeholders have gone up. Right. And, and so I'm not surprised that, you know, you're seeing three X more activity during these, the, these times of to say commute because you're not commuting. Right. And I'm, I'm certain during the day as well, even outside of commute, there's probably usage has gone up also. Right. So, yup.

Joe: (22:52)
Yeah. Cause there's, uh, even just like, if I think of my Adobe behavior or even like your SAP behavior, I don't know, like walking between meetings, you know, it was like 10 minutes. Like I'd have to leave my desk. And if I was in San Jose, I'd have to like go up the elevator, I'd have to go across the bridge. I'd have to go down the other elevator and get to my room. And now even that, that little bit of time walking between meetings or whatever is freed up. So with, with all of this, uh, kind of going on, um, you know, cloud app has to, to your point, like has seen a big spike in EDU. Uh, we provide our pro product free to EDU students and, and teachers, and have seen a lot of people embrace that. We provide it to a lot of, uh, accelerators, um, for a free trial as well. Um, where do you see the future of work leading, uh, with kind of this all accelerating that, uh, how's cloud app fit into that and, you know, the async and sync communication, um, is a piece of that modern workplace.

Ram: (24:04)
Yeah. So as we, it's a great question. And so, as we were saying before, right, the, I think there's a piece around having the right tools and then there's a piece around having the right processes that best enable folks to leverage those tools. Right. So if we think about what the now with the future of say sales engagement looks like given that the process may look a little different in how you given your stakeholder of availability, what that will look like as well as different decision making is going to look like as well, because obviously we're in a different business environment than we were in three or six months ago. That's going to then, um, perhaps de change how you manage your stakeholders or your sponsors within a business, right? And so, uh, and that might require the need for a higher level of interaction, greater transparency, but then that also drives the need for a tool like cloud app, where you can do things you can present and share information in a cleaner, more informative way than you could before and in a manner which has becomes more easy to consume in a, at a time when I, as the receiver can consume it or, and ask questions and interact asynchronously as well.

Joe: (25:32)
So we will see, we will see processing, you know, right now we, first thing is okay, let's, let's get everybody a whole bunch of tools and then people will kind of figure it out. Now you think over time, they'll figure out, okay, how am I going to work and what the optimal way to manage this, whether it's a sales process or procurement process or development process. And then this is how I leverage tools best to be able to, to drive that, to drive that type of outcome. Right. And so the one thing that I think is clear as we think about remote work, independent of kind of where you sit in an organization or how you operate across organization or across companies, um, is the need for higher levels of proactive communication, right? So if you're a manager managing a distributed and now distributed team, you know, you kind of re you really set aside more time to communicate individually with team members.

Ram: (26:34)
And as a group, similarly, I'm seeing people now begin to not overinvest, but invest appropriately given the current environment, um, managing external stakeholders like your buyers or your sponsors or your vendors to make sure that they have what they need, or you get what you need. And so, um, and to be able to, um, we talked about zoom, they need, of course, again, they're there for synchronous communications, but when you have, um, a solution like cloud app, which enables community information sharing, but in an asynchronous manner, but yet allows this almost like a virtual synchronicity. Um, it's incredibly valuable

Joe: (27:21)
When I, when I think about it from a big company perspective, you know, I was a big user of cloud app at Adobe. And, um, I had this VP who would want, um, like a weekly update, right? Uh, we didn't necessarily meet weekly because that was insane to try and do that many one-on-ones for a VP, but I would send her a cloud app video, um, because she got a million emails and sometimes would probably not even read my update, uh, not because of lack of want to read it, but I started seeing her those videos. And I was like, Hey, let me know if this medium is easier for you. And she would listen to it. She wouldn't watch it, but listen to it on the way walking into the office. Um, and that was a way where she didn't have to like, consume, consume it, reading. It was auditory and it was significantly easier for communication. So that was like an aha moment for me of like, Hey, I can like cut out these massively long emails and just send this, you know, one line with the video. Um, so I think we'll definitely see a lot more of that as people develop those skills.

Ram: (28:26)
You know, I have not myself tried that as a, as an update approach, but I think I might suggest it to my team to say, Hey, let's start using, you know, if it's easier for you to be able to hear the information and just like, um, you know, via, via a cloud app video, let's do that. Right. Versus just sending me an email to a link, to an Excel sheet, we through it and then probably even better. Right?

Joe: (28:55)
Yeah. Yeah. It's a nice way to consume. And then hopefully everyone is getting less scared of recording video. Um, all of our videos that you see like publicly are like one take Oz, like all of our marketing is ums and AHS and like normalizing video, uh, because, you know, we want people to know that it's okay, like we're human, it doesn't have to look professional. Uh, it's most important about the content so Ram it was a really great having you a lot of fun to finally connect and have you on, I'm excited about SAP IO and all the, um, you know, help that you guys provided with us. And we, we love working with you. So thanks for, thanks for joining us today. And I'm looking forward to, you know, uh, seeing how cloud app can help, you know, our, you know, the, the, the teams we work with internally and externally, um, uh, take, you know, really drive engagement across all functions to the next level, because I think this is not only pertinent in today's environment, but going forward. So thank you Ram, have a great weekend.

Ram: (30:10)
Yep. Thank you so much.

Joe: (30:15)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool used to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect. For both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.