Leading with Impact with Tifenn Dano Kwan

Posted: 02/21/2019 - 10:48

Are you ready for the next wave of disruption in procurement? Join Sourcing Industry Group CEO and President, Dawn Tiura, for conversations on The Sourcing Industry Landscape with innovators who embrace technology to improve, influence and inspire procurement professionals. 

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In this episode of the Sourcing Industry Landscape, Dawn Tiura interviews Tifenn Dano Kwan. Tifenn Dano Kwan is the Chief Marketing Officer for SAP Ariba. Recently back from the Davos Conference, Tifenn discusses the key takeaways, including the role of technology and humans, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and the role of corporations in making a positive impact.

Dawn Tiura: Hello folks. Welcome back to the podcast series, and I am so excited to introduce you to Tifenn Dano Kwan. Tifenn is the Chief Marketing Officer for SAP Ariba, and she is the Global CMO, so she is a person who really knows what's going on in this industry. She's originally from France, and she's working out of Palo Alto, California. And I've had the pleasure of getting to know Tifenn over this past year and I tell you, if you don't know her, you need her in your network. She's an amazing woman. So welcome to the podcast Tifenn.

Tifenn Dano Kwan: It's such a pleasure to be here with you today.

Dawn Tiura: Well, I'm excited. Normally, I want to go through your history and how you got to where you are, but since we're limited in time, I want to jump into, you were just at Davos and I was so excited to hear that you were there. Can you share with me some learnings that you took away; or messages; or what would be valuable to the SIG community?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Yeah, it would be a such a pleasure to give some insights about this incredible conference. So, it is not only the place for the world economic forum, but what we've seen is an increased participation from all technology companies who are literally occupying Davos for the whole week. And the key topics that I had really the pleasure to hear and be part of were very much around change, trust, equality, but also the role of technology versus humans. So incredible, absolutely incredible topics where we had an opportunity to really exchange about the future of workforce, about sustainability and the role of women, diversity and inclusion also, about the role of corporations and how they can build trust in a digital world. And last but not least, how to make an impact, how to deal with change. And change was really, absolutely everywhere. But how we make change or reality, how we turn purpose into action. So that was absolutely prevalent throughout the whole week. And we had a lot of fascinating conversations about it.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, I can bet. So, these weren't just people in the sourcing space. You were working with all kinds of technology firms.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Everybody was there. That's really the place to be when it comes to rallying, I would say, a concentration of executives, leaders. And for sure a lot of technology companies were there.
Dawn Tiura: So, what about the concept of ethics with AI? Did that come up in any of your conversations?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Oh, absolutely. It was very much there. AI, blockchain, machine learning, and I would say the increase of robotics, right? And human, how to not displace humans; how to put humans first; and how to balance the role of technology with a human workforce.
Dawn Tiura: So, at SAP Ariba, you're doing a lot to digitize the supply chain and the sourcing initiatives. And obviously, the good part is that people that are in our space don't want to do boring, repetitive work. So, the digitization of the boring stuff is fantastic. But do you see it really reshaping the entire industry of sourcing?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: I think it's going to be part of the natural evolution of the industry of sourcing. When you look at what customers demand, and I would always look at what they look for, we've identified, I would say, five or six areas where technology can play a very strong role. Number one, they always want to maximize their investments, always, always, and the outcomes leading out of investments. So, if technology can help them do that, simplify the process, that's what they want. They want a future ready workforce, and this one, my opinion, is absolutely critical. They want happier procurement; they want also the stakeholders to be focused on strategic task rather than boring tasks. So, if they can automate the simpler task and make it no-touch or low-touch, that's what they're going to go with. And they look for collaborations. So that one is important.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: They also absolutely look for process efficiency. So how do they, how do we lean on processes that really improve user experience and make it easier, faster, more cost effective. They also look for compliance, as we know that's a big topic, that's a very big focus for all of us in this industry. Reducing risk, improving spam through, I would say, better managed policies. So, this one is really important. They look to optimize their cash, and that is absolutely vital for the future and the growth of any company. And last but not least, they really need to increase revenue, and a lot of Japanese cloud companies as we know, and they depend on cloud technology and it is all about revenue. So, we need to make sure that we continue to support this, and procurement is definitely a profit center. So that's what we've seen. And the role of technology in all of it is absolutely critical. Simplifying, making processes frictionless is absolutely top of mind.
Dawn Tiura: I think that's great. So, as we move into this digital workforce of the future and we have more people doing strategic work, what recommendations do you have for companies to up skill their existing labor force? Where should they focus?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: I really think, and there was a great topic, we talked a lot about leadership. So, it starts, before you start with technology, you need to make very important leadership choices in the company. If you want a best workforce, you need to really ask yourself what attracts the workforce in the first place? Is it going to be always, and we had a lot of topics like that at SAP, is it giving people a great payout, great bonus? Yes, of course. It's important we all are performance driven people. It matters. But what matters most is to give people a purpose. And that's why everybody's talking about it. It's to give people a purpose. It's also to fundamentally understand what the new generations care about.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: We have to have in the workforce, we have to make the millennials enter the workforce, we have to take care of the Gen Z. They all care deeply about the planet, the economy, they care, they're extremely well informed. And I would say it becomes almost a psychology workforce. We need to be deep into understanding the profiles of the people that we hire, what they care about, and transcend that and bring these, give them some vision, some leadership, and be extremely purpose driven. So, before we make any choice about technology, we need to really understand what the workforce wants, and what the workforce now wants is not always necessarily the same thing that what the workforce wanted 10, 15 years ago. So, we absolutely understand the profiles, the psychology of the workforce.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: I fundamentally believe that they need very strong leadership that is rooted and existing in purpose. And then we need to make sure that the technology that we offer, I would say, aligns with those business goals, absolutely aligned with those business goals. And to me, this is absolutely something that I believe in, that no company should choose a technology unless that technology absolutely supports the honorable goals of a company. And right now, it's very obvious, everybody talked about in Davos, this is why you see a very significant shift of companies really turning purpose into action and thinking about the technology, the workforce, the digitization of their workforce, of their processes and systems with the end goal in mind.
Dawn Tiura: I love that. So obviously you mentioned risk as being something that's a hot topic, and obviously with all the cybersecurity issues that we're facing today, it seems like the sourcing folks are more and more responsible for third-party risk management. Do you see something, that's something that you have, probably, the responsibility to address from SAP Ariba?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Absolutely. It is very core to our proposition. Actually, the goal to improve spam compliance and reduce risk is absolutely paramount. When you think about it and what users want, we've identified that a correlation between user satisfaction and reducing risk and improving spam compliance through connected systems, less expense categories, greater user experience, and supplier engagements. So absolutely. I think, in fact, we've played a very significant role in that area for quite a few years. We make it an integral part of our value proposition, and we continue our investments to ensure that we lead with this risk management and compliance vision, and that we equip our customers with very powerful insights.
Dawn Tiura: I love it. So, I think it was maybe three years ago when Center Stage, you brought Made in a Free World, maybe it was four years ago. And that blew me away, I have to be honest with you. I wasn't expecting such a feel-good purpose to come out of SAP Ariba at Ariba Live, and that, you guys put that on the map and people were not talking about slavery and supply chain or the risk of having human trafficking in their supply chain. And you were the first ones to really put it forward and say it needs to be part of our platform. So, I just have to tell you, ever since I attended that Ariba Live, I was blown away. And I've seen every year where you talk more and more about purpose, and it doesn't sound like a feel good. It sounds like this is really your commitment. So, it was really exciting to watch you make this journey.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: This is amazing indeed. And when you join us at Ariba Live the three things frankly we want to really send as a message to our audience is that we continue to drive the innovation roadmap and continue to imagine the future. To us it's really important. We want to think, imagine with our audience, with our customers, with our community. So, this one is really important, and we'll touch in big topics, right? Cybersecurity, changing workforce, market volatility, disruption of technology, all those topics are really top of mind for us.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: The second one is to your point on, we want to continue to lead with impact. For us, it's a strategic value. For us it means that we drive through the lenses of sustainability, purpose, transparency, and ethical and diverse supply chains. We absolutely believe that this is the way to go. This is the way to really drive the market and make an impact. The third one is we want to thrive as an ecosystem and as a community. So, what you will see this year is a big focus on our network. It's a big focus on our community: a large community of partners, influencers, and a caste system that really respects and wants to expand its partners, its third-party vendors, its evangelist, and its providers… And continue to really offer a platform that scales, a platform that gives an ability to embrace all of it. Embracing innovation, embracing impact, and embracing in the ever-growing ecosystem.
Dawn Tiura: Your upcoming Ariba Live is in Austin, Texas. So, do you mind spending a few minutes and just talking about what that's going to be because I'm so excited. You have Simon Sinek that's going to be presenting there, you have Forester presenting. It's just shaping up to be an amazing agenda. So, can you share a little bit about what's going to happen at Ariba Live in Austin?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: We are very excited, Dawn, because this year we are going to be bigger than ever. This is going to be really the industry conference for procurement and supply chain, and what we called spam, spam management. That's not a new, a new topic, but it's becoming extremely prevalent for us. What's new this year is to really balance what is at the core of our technology. We want to position Ariba as a platform, as a digital platform. For us it's very critical. It's a platform that is open, that is simple, that is smart, that is global, and really continue to expand on the concept of offering that digital platform. Every year our network, I would say, helps buyers and suppliers transact over $3 trillion dollars of transactions on the network. And that cannot happen unless we have a very strong technology platform. So, we'll talk about that and we'll talk about the innovations and the roadmap that we have here, and how to continue to invest and work with our customers for that.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: So, this one's going to be really, really critical. Then we'll talk of course about our processes. The processes are always what we look for. Improving processes, making it more frictionless, talking about the experience of our users, our customers, our suppliers when they actually really use the technology and make sure that we continue to simplify those processes, make those processes more compliance proof, more security proof, more data proof. All those topics are absolutely critical for us. How we connect also those processes with others. Think ERP, think data and how we connect.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: We are fortunate to be part of SAP. SAP is a very, very big organization that is also very purpose driven and we want to continue to ensure that our customers, the community, can also take advantage of many other technologies… Integrates extremely well with the core data of their companies and have ability really to connect those processes, integrate those processes. So those are absolutely critical. And then of course talking about our ecosystem. So, these are the main topics that we have.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: But let's not forget, Austin is also an incredible city. We want to entertain; we want to inspire our audience. We want to really have a good time, and it's three days dedicated to having our community there. Great music. Don't forget your cowboy boots. This is a super fun time all being in Texas to really have a good time, eat well, and enjoy the Austin experience. So, we want to make sure that this is what this community is going to get out of the three days. Not just listening for technology only, but meeting, networking with people, meeting incredible influencers, like you Dawn, and making the best out of it. People should leave the event to just feel that they've connected well, they had a great time, they are proud to be part of that community, they're proud to work in the procurement space, and that they can really make an impact.
Dawn Tiura: I know I'll be there with dozens and dozens of SIG members. So, I'm really excited to be joining you in Austin this year. Thank you for the invitation to Live. So Tifenn, I don't want to cheat our listeners by not talking about you because you've had an amazing career. Do you mind if we spend a few minutes just about you and where you came from, and how did you get into this space and what inspired you?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Bring it on, Dawn.
Dawn Tiura: So, I'm sure 10 years ago, 15 years ago, you didn't see yourself sitting in Palo Alto as the CMO of a global organization in sourcing. So, tell me about your journey.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Well, thank you. I come from a small town in France, actually west coast of France, and for those who know, it's called Brittany. It's literally, I would say, a few hours by flight from England. But it's still very, very French, and it's the home of cider and crepes, and it's a beautiful part of the world. So, I came from this place and my dream, believe it or not Dawn, was always to be in America. I had this good old American dream, and I wanted to travel and see world. I was a very curious. And I entered the business school and out of this business school I was given an opportunity to travel. And then my first job, was for MicroStrategy, which at the time was, and still exists as a business intelligence company. And that shaped my entire career because I absolutely loved it. I loved the pace; I loved the energy; I loved the passion and decided that would be my field—marketing for technology companies.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: And then the rest is very much a matter of meeting the right people, making the right decisions at the right time, and never losing sight of my dream. So, I went to work in Australia, in Sydney for three years, and out of Sydney I found an opportunity that brought me to Singapore for four years, and out of Singapore I was given an opportunity to move to the US. And here you go. I've been here and if everything goes well in a year from now, I will be a citizen. So, I'm very excited.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, that's great. Oh, I'd love that. So, when you moved over to the United States and you started working for a company, at that time it was still Ariba, or was it already SAP Ariba?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: No, I'm a long-term SAP employee. I have been working for SAP for 13 years. I was very fortunate to have been given so many opportunities with this incredible company. I actually started with BusinessObjects back in Australia, then in '06 BusinessObjects then became SAP. And since then I have reinvented myself many, many times over with the company, and more recently as the CMO of SAP Ariba.
Dawn Tiura: So, coming through the years of SAP, you are used to being with a parent German company. But obviously Ariba got its start in Silicon Valley. How do you see the marriage of a culture that's more stayed and its reputation and a culture that's very, I would say, dynamic coming from Silicon Valley? How do you see the marriage of those two companies, and did they bring strengths from both sides?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Oh, absolutely. I think this marriage is absolutely critical. Let me tell you why. When you look at the cloud businesses of SAP right now, whether it's SuccessFactors, T.X., Ariba, Fieldglass, Concur, we bring so much value when it comes to the cloud business part of SAP. And then if you think about the story of SAP: SAP is historically an on-premise company, a company focused on the RP. And now over the past couple of years through the acquisitions of cloud businesses like SAP Ariba, they are really turning the corner on becoming a true cloud business. And that's what there is. This is why bringing new cultures, companies with deep cloud culture background is so critical to SAP. And I would say, for instance, so critical to any company who really wants to assert their cloud business or transform their own company into a cloud business. So, I think that culture shift that move is absolutely critical. Number one. So, it's not questioned, we have to do it.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: What it brought to the table was renewed energy, renewed passion. The cloud businesses are very dynamic in essence. That's the business model that they have. They have to constantly focus on customer experience, focus on improving their processes because this is all about renewals. This is all about ensuring that we drive adoption, loyalty, and the metric for most of the companies, it really is driving renewals, if I speak in business terms. To do that, in order to do that you have to be laser focused on customer, laser focused on customer, and the sales process is a continuous process. So, you have to have this culture of always embracing the value of the customer in everything that you do. And the cloud business is doing extremely well.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: What they do also is that they are very energetic, punchy. They have this incredible culture that attracts the new workforce. And that's what you want. So, in a pure business sense, whether you're a CMO, you're a CFO, you're a CIO, President, the Head of Sales, you've got to drive that workforce. You've got to make sure that you bring this energy, this passion, and there's no better place than the cloud business to do that. So very proud to be, now, as one of the leading cloud entities of SAP. And SAP absolutely understands the value and the need to do so.
Dawn Tiura: That's great to hear. I love to hear that story. So, what next, what can we expect from you Tifenn? Are you going to reimagine yourself again or do you see, do you have another vision that you want to fulfill for yourself?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: That's a great question. I always ask myself like, what's going to happen next? I will tell you this. As a CMO of SAP Ariba, I am given an incredible opportunity to place marketing at the center of the company more than ever. We are an incredible marketing team. I'm very proud of the team that I have the honor to lead and support. And the real value for us is to continue to contribute, to work very closely with our colleagues, to work very closely with sales especially, and become really a very strong actor in the digital transformation. If you see what marketing does… We are absolutely at the corner of, I would say, or the transition between the science and the data and the art. And I always talk about both. You need both to actually really bring the full power of marketing together.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: You need the arts, the storytelling, the branding. This is absolutely critical, but you also need to be able to handle data leverage and use technology to really make sure that you make your marketing organization as nimble, as digital as possible. So, you need both. And when you do both in concert with sales, it actually brings the value of marketing a level up, which is absolutely critical for any cloud organizations in the world. So, I'm right where I need to be, Dawn. I am excited about what I'm doing, and let's see what we can continue to do and achieve for SAP Ariba.
Dawn Tiura: I like that. Well you do have an amazing team. I've enjoyed working with each and every one of them. They're dedicated to you, they're dedicated to SAP Ariba, and they're dedicated to the industry. So, you've done a really good job shaping up your team.
Dawn Tiura: So, I always like to ask this question because I think it's very insightful. If you could go back 20 years ago and talk to your younger self, what have you learned along the way that you wish you knew then?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: That's a great question. I will say a golden rule for me that is helping me a lot in everything that I do is to never take things too personally. And I mean it because I really believe that when, especially when we're young we're very susceptible to feedback, very susceptible to what others do. And if you live in the US, especially, it's an incredibly competitive space. And of course, we look up to what people think of us. I would just say, don't listen too much to the noise. Just make sure that you listen to what you really, really want and don't take things so personally. It's never personal. And just keep tracing your own path. I would say that one would be the best advice I would give to myself.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, and that's a great advice for everybody, let alone giving it to yourself. I give it to my kids; I give it to people all the time. So, I think that's something that we don't know when we're younger, do we?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: We are absorbing experiences. It's all about trying to find your own way and enjoying the process, and being as, I would say, open to experiences as you can. And we are sponges when we're young. We're sponges. But I would say, and that's what I admire the most today, people who are very strong in their convictions. That's actually one of the traits that I respect the most right now in leadership is people really have a vision, have a passion, and they stick to it and they make it a reality. No matter what people say, when they believe in something they just keep going. And for this to happen, we should not just take things too personally in my opinion. We have to just keep believing in what we're out to do and keep going.
Dawn Tiura: I like that. So, we shared a little vision about where we might see you in the future. Is there anything you can share about SAP Ariba or do we have to wait for Ariba Live?
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Great question, Dawn. SAP Ariba is a very solid business right now. We have a very strong recognized brand. This is a business that continues to, I would say, evolve. We've had a lot of transformation over the past year for sure. But transformation is something that SAP does really well and keep doing. And I will tell you, SAP Ariba is stronger than ever. We have stabilized a lot of our processes, a lot of our operations, a lot of our leadership in the past 12 months. I believe it to be a very healthy, very strong investment for our customers. If customers come to us, they will see a very strong leadership team. They will see a renewed energy that is very much focused on delivering the innovations and solutions that we have and continue the journey.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: When you bring close to 4,000 people in one place for an event, and that you repeat it three months later in Europe, and you repeat it four months later in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, believe me, we're here, Dawn. We're here and we're growing, and we're very excited, especially, working with Fieldglass. That's one of the angles. I would say our strategy right now is to be absolutely in lock steps with our colleagues from Fieldglass, better together under the leadership of Barry Padgett, and we keep going.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah, I love that. So, I'm looking forward to seeing you in Austin, very soon. And Tifenn, I would love to invite you back in a while and just talk about the next steps and what else you see because I think you bring such a great perspective to other SIG members, and so I'd love to invite you back for a follow-up if you're okay with that.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: I would absolutely love to. It would be my honor to address the SIG users and the community, for sure, in the future.
Dawn Tiura: Well, good. Thank you so much today. So, folks, that was Tifenn Dano Kwan, she's the global CMO for SAP Ariba, originally from France and operating now, as her dream, is working in America. She's out of Palo Alto, California. And Tifenn, I just want to thank you for your time today and thank you to your whole team for getting us, our calendars connected, and I look forward to seeing you very shortly.
Tifenn Dano Kwan: Thank you so much, Dawn.
Dawn Tiura: Thank you. And folks, make sure to tune into our podcast series. Every week, every couple of days we have new a series coming out. Thank you.

About The Author

Tifenn Dano Kwan is chief marketing officer for SAP Ariba and is responsible for leading and defining the global marketing vision for the business.

Previously, Tifenn served as vice president of SAP Ariba’s Integrated Marketing organization. In this role, she created and led a unified audience, go-to-market, and solution teams to deploy end-to-end strategies to impact the awareness and adoption for IT, finance, procurement, and supply chain customers. Prior to that, she was the head of go-to-market launches and brand platform at SAP Ariba, responsible for delivering a consistent and compelling brand experience strategy for all customers and the successful execution for innovation launches.

Tifenn joined SAP in 2006 and has since held various leadership roles across the marketing organization including those in channel and partner marketing. She holds a master's in management from the Audencia Business School as well as a Law Degree from the Institut Catholique d'etudes Supérieures.