Case Study: SAP

As the world’s largest inter-enterprise software company, SAP knows about dispersed project teams. Headquartered in Walldorf, Germany, with nearly 30,000 employees in 60 countries, team collaboration and synergy are critical to the company’s success.

SAP: The Challenge

When Steve Spencer assumed the lead role for the company’s Global Compensation and Benefits function, he knew that significant deliverables within his department were being delayed because of a lack of team collaboration. Steve realized that his biggest single challenge was to align his team of professionals, help them work more effectively and be committed to a common goal – to actually feel part of a global team.

With a relatively young team, including many junior- to mid-level professionals in their 20’s and 30’s, Steve was faced with an international group that for the most part had never worked outside their own country. Language was also an issue, along with a lack of technical knowledge outside of their own geography.

The Solution

Steve contacted Global Integration on the recommendation of SAP colleagues who had previously engaged the company for training programs focused on developing remote and virtual teams throughout SAP.

With a series of global projects and crucial deliverables to complete, Steve asked Global Integration’s Tony Poots for expert help on making a group of Global Compensation and Benefits people in 20 countries begin to operate and feel more like a team.

“The work we do is focused on how to reward SAP employees – obviously a high profile function,” said Steve. “Until recently our work was all done locally. There was little or no interaction across countries or between various functions around the world. We had a completely different way of doing it in every country.”

Senior management wanted more global consistency and best practices in Steve’s area. So the challenge was laid out: assemble a group of 50 people scattered in 20 countries – many of whom had never spoken to each other – for three days in Germany to understand strategy, build teams and define team goals.

The Solution

Consultant Tony Poots immediately began developing a framework for the teamwork training. Setting a strategy for moving forward in a team matrix was the primary goal, as well as working with individual teams on designing project plans. The three-day session would be the launching point of an ongoing initiative aimed at achieving team excellence throughout the year.

“The way Tony approached this training was an absolute model of how I like a consultant to operate,” said Steve. “Tony was not only an obvious expert in his field but he also added great value in helping participants figure out how to work for themselves.”

Tony worked with individuals, small teams and large groups and helped each team reflect on what they wanted to achieve and how to achieve those goals more easily and more effectively.

Tony’s focus was on building the confidence of team leaders, enabling them to build an effective “community” with their own team members.

“During our sessions we shared key practical tools on building real shared purpose, trust, clear roles and responsibilities and a lively communication heart beat,” said Tony. Activating team members was crucial, along with the adopted motto: “No Passengers.”

An integral part of this long term team building process would be a blend of e-learning modules, conference calls involving Tony, breakfast briefings, and coaching sessions to build team knowledge of how virtual teams work, exactly what pitfalls they were likely to encounter and how to avoid them.

In fact, live coaching was an established key component of the overall program. For example, after the training sessions Tony offered to take part in team leaders’ conference calls to help them fine tune the virtual teams they were developing. Feedback on this aspect of the team building process was extremely well received.

At the beginning of the three-day session, Steve talked to the entire group and outlined the top 12-15 goals for the department. Some of the goals had become urgent and needed the full effort of each team throughout the global network.

“We literally forced our teams to work together,” said Steve. The sense of urgency built around the training not only gave participants a clear indication of why the three days were important, but also set expectations going forward.

Team members learned to work in an unconventional way, using paradigms and scenarios that were very unfamiliar to them. This was accomplished within the limitation of knowing that many of the teams had only three days to complete all of their face-to-face communications. They wouldn’t see each other for the next nine to 12 months.

The final component of the program involved Global Integration working with team leaders to design controls and processes for giving feedback to team members on their contribution to the process. Team members were also asked to give feedback to team leaders on their leadership skills – an exercise that is now in wide use.


“The change in work habits and attitudes of people from these sessions has been revolutionary,” Steve commented. “Personally and professionally, this has been one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever been involved in. These groups of people have really come together and started to deliver some extremely valuable and exciting work – it’s very inspiring to everyone throughout the company.”

The sessions achieved tremendous visible progress and success, along with a high degree of enthusiasm. Participants quickly saw the value in the program’s exercises as they learned how to apply the training framework to their own deliverables.

Today there is an overall anticipation for team conference calls.

“Now we have the enthusiasm and drive we lacked before,” said Steve. “My teams are full of enthusiasm, and they’re delivering. They support each other, they’re committed to their individual team goals and they’re committed to the overall global function.”

Since the three-day session, Global Integration professionals have made themselves available to specific teams for coaching. Participants have asked Tony and other Global Integration consultants to join on conference calls and give feedback on their progress and help work through issues.

“Tony is wonderful working with groups of people. He’s extremely focused, in a very digestible, user-friendly way,” noted Steve.

The ultimate measure of success for the teams will be achieving ongoing target goals. Once the program has gone through a complete one-year cycle Steve expects to repeat the process, but using project work results and tangible progress as success gauges.

Individuals will give feedback on progress they’ve made and how they believe they’ve individually and collectively progressed throughout the year.

This will also include input on what goals need to be refined and brought to the top of the priority list.

Bringing deliverables to the business is key for Steve and his teams. Identifying strategic goals during the three-day program resulted in 40-50 key deliverables within a six-nine month period, no small task. But Steve is confident that with the new team building skills participants gained, achieving those deliverables will be attainable.

Steve’s teams have received unanimous feedback from senior management that they are a more effective and efficient group of individuals now – and, with this feedback, team members have felt even more committed.

Steve recently asked senior members of his team to begin a consultation strategy with some of their internal customers. This required team leaders to talk with heads of business in various countries about the work that Global Compensation and Benefits was doing as a global community.

“These team leaders are demonstrating powerful enthusiasm and Global Integration has been there from the beginning – helping us build team strategies,” Steve commented. “Where we’re at today has been materially and significantly helped by Global Integration. We couldn’t have done it without their help.”

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