December 14, 2010, 2:06 PM — Before Oliver Bussmann took the job of CIO of SAP in September 2009, he Googled the terms "SAP" and "CIO" in hopes of finding out about the top tech role as it existed then.
What he found-or, rather, didn't find-surprised him. "There was nothing visible," he says. "Zero."
Inside the German ERP software giant, few SAP employees outside of the IT department knew the CIO, or more disconcertingly, knew whether SAP even had a CIO.
More than a year later Bussmann has performed his own surprising feat with SAP's in-house technology efforts: He's not only made the CIO role more visible inside the company (collaborating with SAP's CTO, developers and support managers), but also made himself available to the world outside SAP's Walldorf, Germany, headquarters. He's meeting with SAP customers, speaking at conferences, being quoted in The Wall Street Journal, blogging, tweeting, basically doing anything to help fellow IT leaders better understand and utilize SAP's portfolio of complex enterprise products.
That is, in fact, one of his most important duties, Bussmann says: He's an "alpha" customer who runs SAP enterprisewide and also serves as a powerful, accessible reference for SAP's thousands of customers.
He claims a single-instance SAP environment that is the envy of many other Fortune 500 companies running SAP: 71,000 global users on SAP ERP, Supplier Relationship Management and Human Capital Management packages (with 53 different country payrolls).
"Customers always ask: How did you get there? What did you do?" Bussmann says. It's not an insignificant question for those companies who struggle with SAP's demanding business software.
During Bussmann's 2009 interview with then SAP CEO Léo Apotheker, the now current CEO of HP made it clear what was expected of him. "He said, 'Oliver, it's important we increase the adoption of own software and share learnings with the [SAP] development organization and also with partners and customers,'" Bussmann recalls. "SAP had never shared this experience in any organized way in the past." The Vendor CIO Paradox
It's not quite the "shoemaker's children" scenario, but the conventional wisdom on high-tech vendor CIOs hasn't always been of the highest order.