Describing the role of his team as “helping SAP’s customers adopt our business technology platform in a very specific environment,” Naeve is able to offer a very informed opinion on the topic of change.
A trained physicist, he joined SAP over 25 years ago as a Developer and steadily gained experience from a range of projects, such as those relating to HR, “understanding how you can help run a business with programmes and digitalisation.” Eventually, Naeve began to learn more about the “other side”, namely how people actually interact with technologies themselves (user experience and user interface or UX and UI). “In my current role, we actually connect business platform services with all these technical services and create business value out of that. In physics you learn how the world runs. With SAP you help the world run better,” he states.
The amount of change that SAP itself has undergone in the time since Naeve joined in 1995 seems almost emblematic of broader sector trends. For one thing, the company’s staff has increased from around 6,000 employees to over 100,000 worldwide. For another, its digital transformation has unfolded before his eyes: from large ‘classical’ PCs with tube monitors that took up entire desks to smartphones and most recently the cloud. “The topic of UX has become absolutely key. One of the things I’m most proud of is that SAP has been working out this business user experience strategy in collaboration with our customers. We got access to the end users and really understood what it is that they need, and there’s often a big difference between what people ‘want’ and what they need.” As innovation cycles get shorter and shorter, having the expertise to discern novelties from genuine essentials will be imperative.
In terms of his leadership style, Naeve is an adamant supporter of collaboration throughout and across his team: “I think the key thing to understand is that leadership on its own cannot achieve anything. In good leadership the key goal is to enable your people, your team, to do the best it can and a very good team can probably even do major steps without a leader if enabled in the right way. From my point of view, that's probably the highest level your team can achieve and they can reach it if you give them freedom, trust and an open environment.” Naeve also stresses the importance of a common goal to rally around, “It doesn't help if something’s just your goal, it needs to be everyone’s.”
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