How SAP Unlocks Marketing Budget Visibility in a Turbulent Market

marketing operations

At SAP, marketing isn’t just a department; it’s a strategic driver of success. 

As marketing teams continue to reduce budget in 2023, many are re-evaluating their marketing plans.  But getting accurate visibility into marketing spend can be a challenge, with the truth scattered across dozens of disconnected spreadsheets. SAP’s marketing organizations solved this challenge, moving to a new operating model that integrates plans, budgets and work streams in a connected system that ditches spreadsheets in favor of real-time visibility. The result is more granular control over marketing spend, and the ability to anticipate market changes and pivot fast.

We had the pleasure of talking with Eddie Rivas, Senior Director of Marketing Technology and Transformation at SAP, during Gartner’s Marketing Symposium. Keep reading for Eddie’s key learnings from SAP’s significant digital transformation with marketing business acceleration and Uptempo. 

The promise of marketing agility

Gartner’s 2023 CMO Spend and Strategy survey results show that 71% of CMOs struggle to align marketing budgets with strategic objectives. This pressure to do more with less requires a significant change to how marketing operates. “In 2023, CMOs need to become a new type of enterprise leader,” said Ewan McIntyre, Chief of Research and VP Analyst at Gartner. “This goes beyond serving at the helm of the brand but also assuming a more business-focused role.”

SAP’s marketing organization was ahead of the curve a few years ago when they realized a digital transformation needed to happen with how they managed go-to-market plans, engaged with customers, and responded to market shifts and opportunities. When thousands of global marketers need to align on plans and budget, there has to be a single source of truth. And Eddie and SAP’s marketing team knew that sticking to traditional annual planning processes wouldn’t cut it with today’s fast-paced, dynamic markets. 

They knew that they needed an active plan—something their teams could reference and be nimble with changes—rather than snapshots of marketing plans.

To overcome the limitations of traditional planning, SAP’s marketing team embraced a new operating model—marketing business acceleration. It allowed SAP’s marketing team to break free from frozen annual plans and embrace a more dynamic approach to managing marketing budgets. As a result, they streamlined workflows, established clear governance frameworks, and leveraged cutting-edge technologies to actively navigate through uncertainty like never before.

Putting marketing business acceleration into practice

But along with adopting marketing business acceleration, SAP needed the right vehicle to help support their digital transformation. Uptempo became the planning and investment source of truth for SAP’s marketing organization. It allowed SAP marketers to see how their actuals compared to planned investments. Now they can answer questions about how much had been invested and their flexibility to shift spend when new opportunities come up.

As SAP’s marketing team moves further from the traditional annual planning process, Eddie’s goal is to enable continuous planning. He shares that they have the processes and tools in place and have started seeing results. They no longer rely on disconnected spreadsheets and other static plans but embraced a dynamic approach, constantly reviewing, refining, and optimizing their marketing strategies based on real-time insights.

Their teams have more time to focus on strategic initiatives after implementing Uptempo, because there’s no need to waste time on manual budget planning and reporting. For example, before Uptempo it took three months to create the first view of SAP’s marketing plan. This year, that process was done in one-third of the time.  

This is particularly crucial because CMOs often face significant shifts in strategic direction at least once a year. When a new cloud initiative at SAP came up, the marketing team was able to move fast, pivot plans, and launch on an accelerated timeline. Thanks to marketing business acceleration and Uptempo, SAP’s marketers have the agility to evaluate the impact of strategy shifts, respond to market dynamics, and allocate budgets for maximum impact.

Key learnings

If you’re starting your own journey of marketing operations transformation, take a look at Eddie’s key learnings.

#1 Digital transformation starts with process and governance structures  

A global marketing organization can’t adopt continuous planning overnight. The transformation started when SAP realized that they way things had always been done wasn’t going to work. Looking to the future, they started to rethink processes and structures and found a new operating model that supported where they wanted to go.

#2 A staging ground for change is essential  

Implementing a well-defined testing environment empowers marketers to experiment, learn, and fine-tune strategies before full-scale implementation. This approach allows SAP to test new plans and ideas, iterate quickly, minimize risks associated with sudden changes in strategy, and ensure they make informed decisions before rolling out large-scale campaigns.  

#3 Don’t underestimate technology as a powerful driver of change

Processes and people are often the ones driving change in an organization, but technology can be a powerful driver too. If you’re using technology as the vehicle for change, Eddie recommends having full trust in that tool, choosing a best-in-breed product, and confirming the technology aligns to your organization’s needs.

The forward-thinking approach by SAP’s marketing organization to solve the problem of marketing budget visibility led to significant change for the better. By adopting marketing business acceleration and breaking free from the traditional annual planning process, SAP’s marketing organization established a trusted single source of truth for marketing budgets and plans.  


marketing business acceleration

A new operating model built for today’s fast-moving markets

Learn how marketing business acceleration helps CMOs cut through the chaos of managing plans, budgets, project workload, and performance data to get the visibility, velocity, and agility they need to run marketing like a business.
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