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Jim Hagemann Snabe was appointed co-CEO of SAP alongside Bill McDermott in February 2010. In this capacity, and as a member of the SAP Executive Board and Global Managing Board,[…]

SAP’s Jim Snabe on why digitization is key to education reform

Jim Hagemann Snabe: Digitization is my opinion one of the significant opportunities we have in our times.  We saw how digitization radically transformed the music industry.  And the result is pretty significant that you have more and easier consumption of music today at a fraction of the cost in terms of delivery.  This was just the first industry to go through a radical transformation due to digitization.  We have for the first time in history an opportunity to reach billions of people directly on their mobile devices.  We have an incredible opportunity to share knowledge and individualize offerings like never before.  Imagine healthcare where the DNA analysis of individual patients can allow for a very targeted individual therapy proposal and with that, of course, increase of productivity, efficiency and improve people's lives dramatically.  This will happen in all industries in my opinion.  And therefore this is now a moment when leaders need to embrace the opportunity, need to rethink their business models and basically need to become IT companies in every industry.

Digitization & Education Reform

In my opinion the digitization is the biggest opportunity we have to make sure that every person on this planet gets a relevant education.  First and foremost we have an incredible knowledge that has been collected through billions of people adding their knowledge to the Internet.  And secondly, for the first time in history we can reach people everywhere at basically zero cost.  We made some experiments at SAP where we have taken our learning platform and offered open classes, not just in a physical classroom but actually in a virtual classroom with the engagement that you will see in a physical classroom.  And the results are just amazing.  We are reaching more than 10,000 students in one training class.  More than 2,500 students are graduating from the class and that's based on one effort.  So, in that sense you could argue that the digitization is the biggest opportunity we have to make sure that everyone everywhere in the world gets a relevant education.

Leading Transformation: The Responsibility of the Private Sector

I strongly believe that it is our duty as leaders to transform and inspire, not based on a threat but an opportunity and we have enormous opportunity right now.  I believe the most difficult question is, "How can we initiate transformation, a radical transformation of companies that are successful?" A change in a company that's in trouble it's always easy because there is no other choice. 

So I think that is the key question that we need to ask ourselves and the difficult question is how can I change?  It's kind of if - it isn't broken consider fixing it.  And that's I think is very relevant in the moment we're in now where the digitization offers so many new opportunities, but we also lack the skills to get it done.  We need to take the lead.  I believe we are lucky to be leaders in a world of radical change. But we also have an obligation to be proactive in leading that change and creating the new opportunity.