​Julia White is remaking SAP's image for the cloud.
Image: Protocol; Photos: SAP

Julia White is SAP's point person in the U.S. — and the cloud

Protocol Enterprise

Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This Monday: SAP's executive board goes international, how to do cybersecurity sprints, and the Treasury Department's cloud modernization plans.

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Also, don't miss our next Protocol | Enterprise event on Wednesday, April 14 at 1 p.m. PT: "Hybrid Cloud: Best of Both Worlds?" IBM President Jim Whitehurst, Puppet CEO Yvonne Wassenaar and Liberty Mutual Insurance Senior Architect Eric Drobisewski will join Protocol's Tom Krazit for a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges of the hybrid cloud. Register here.

The Big Story

SAP fills a gap in U.S. leadership

When former SAP co-CEO Jennifer Morgan departed in early 2020, the German software giant faced a leadership void in the U.S. at a particularly perilous time in the company's 49-year history.

The pandemic was creating uncertainty over future IT spending, and there was growing concern over SAP's future. But despite North America accounting for roughly 40% of the company's overall annual sales, all of its executive board members were based overseas. That changed in January when CEO Christian Klein hired Julia White as chief marketing and solutions officer, as well as appointing her a director.

  • Germany has a unique system of corporate governance. The executive board, which doesn't have a real analogy in American companies, is responsible for day-to-day management. White's appointment signals that she's in the top leadership ranks. Think of it as the CEO's inner circle.
  • "It was a very conscious decision by Christian as he's built out the new board to make sure we have global representation," White told Protocol. "He said it was important I don't move to Germany."
  • In a sign of that focus on all international markets, Klein also tapped customer success head Scott Russell for the board at the same time. Based in Singapore, Russell is a key representative for the APAC region.
  • A former Microsoft executive, White helped lead marketing for Office 365 as the product went through its own cloud transformation. At SAP, she's in charge of a broad portfolio, spanning sales, product management and government relations.

One of the key tasks for White is changing the perception of SAP. Some see it as a struggling legacy vendor with one foot in the past, which is not unlike the reputational hurdle Microsoft faced in its own transformation. For SAP, that rebranding is going to be particularly important as the company pushes more customers to the cloud.

  • ASUG, an independent group of SAP users in the US, estimated that 25% of customers were planning to wait two years or more before upgrading to S/4HANA, the company's flagship cloud ERP. Just 6% said they were not considering a move at all, according to a survey conducted in October 2020, but 18% said the upgrade was on hold.
  • To convince users of the benefit of moving quickly, White's marketing will focus on the important role SAP has long served within the enterprise. The company's products help manage the day-to-day operations like supply chain management and finance. It's why White and others often refer to it as "mission-critical" software.
  • "There's a gap between what is actually happening and what people see. It's not different from my experience at Microsoft," she said. "It can be very challenging to help our customers understand just how wide that breadth is."
  • White also plans to double down on industry-specific solutions. While it's a strategy that other tech giants are quickly adopting, SAP has the advantage of already having a deep footprint in key markets like manufacturing and life sciences.
  • "What I see going on in the technology space, and in my past life too, is a recognition that engaging with enterprise customers becomes more relevant when you do it in an industry way," said White. "What's underneath that is still generic tech, it's not industry-specific tech."

This is the first time SAP has had a marketing chief on the executive board. But White's skill set goes far beyond that.

  • White is experienced in helping lead successful business transformations. And given her background at Microsoft, she's big on the growth mindset.
  • "It's really a journey underway that I'm joining. The orientation around cloud, the fundamentals from an engineering perspective, those things are well underway," said White. "The fuel to the fire is focusing on growth."
  • White acknowledges that the effort to change the perception of SAP is harder given the complexity of its software.
  • "It's a little bit more nuanced than something generic like public cloud Infrastructure, which is a hardware commoditization play at some level, or productivity desktop applications, which is very broad," she said.

The appointment shows Klein's commitment to remaking SAP for the cloud era. The large breadth of White's responsibilities is the best evidence for that.

  • SAP is coming from behind. It has long-standing rivals like Oracle to contend with, and a growing number of upstarts looking to nibble away market share.
  • White learned from the best at Microsoft. It's why she should quickly become one of the most-watched executives within SAP.

— Joe Williams


Open-source computing is going gangbusters — and that's good news for those seeking better and stronger security in the enterprise. With the growth of hardware platforms, ISVs and CSPs using trusted execution environments to protect data in use, open source-licensed projects are a natural way to encourage experimentation, learning and adoption.

Learn more

This Week On Protocol

Disunion: Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama rejected a unionization proposal by a strong margin last week. Protocol's Anna Kramer and Megan Rose Dickey examined what could come next for both union advocates and Amazon management, because it's unlikely this will be the last vote of its kind.

All-out sprints: In this week's edition of Protocol Braintrust, our panelists were asked about the Department of Homeland Security's plan to conduct six 60-day "cybersecurity sprints" in hopes of improving the department's footing. That's a good start, according to the panel, but sprints alone won't work without feedback and follow-up.

Five Questions For...

Fuze CEO Brian Day

What is one book that changed your professional mindset?

"Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goodwin had a profound impact on how I lead. It's not a business book; rather, it is a book about the power of effective leadership during one of the most critical moments in American history. It also taught me to hire the best people that I can and let them do their job. One can't solve all of the problems by oneself.

What's the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting their first tech job?

One of my favorite quotes that has always inspired me is from Winston Churchill: "If you're going through hell, keep going." If things are tough, power through — they'll get better. Starting your first job, whether it's in technology or another field, is never easy, but it's incredibly rewarding when you persevere. The ability to power through is something that serves us well in all aspects of life, especially when getting started in the workforce.

What has changed the most at your company in 2020?

COVID-19 emphasized the need to lead with transparency. 2020 taught us the importance of being connected as a company when we are not together physically. One example is our monthly all-hands meetings where we walk the entire company through Fuze's full financial performance from the prior month. If something is not looking right or not trending in a positive direction, we need to all understand what it is and what we can do to fix it. But first, we need to talk about it. It's all about transparency and communication.

Will the pandemic usher in a new era of remote working, or will we all come back together when it is safe to do so?

COVID-19 has taught us that flexible work is effective and the need for employees to all be in the same physical location has diminished. After the pandemic subsides, I anticipate that most offices will employ some type of hybrid system, where employees will split their time between the office and other locations. Employees have grown accustomed to remote work over the past year and it is not a habit that most employees will be able to easily break. Some employees are working parents and need to remain remote for child care purposes. Some have moved to new locations during the pandemic, which will cause longer commute times when returning to the office. Regardless of each individual employee's situation, it's important that managers work with employees to develop a system that works for everyone.

Who is your mentor?

While I graduated from law school and was figuring out my next career move, Don Whitson, who ran Span Instruments in Dallas, Texas, reached out to me and offered me a position as CFO at his company. Over the next four years working with Don, I learned that in order to be a successful leader and CEO, you need to be truly passionate about your company and business. The other lesson I learned from Don was the importance of empowering people to do their jobs and take on responsibilities. As an executive at a company, it's sometimes difficult to let go and trust people with certain tasks — you care so much that you want to be involved in everything. But Don entrusted me with some big tasks and decisions early on that demonstrated to me the value of knowing when to step back and trust employees to do the best job they can.

Around the Enterprise


Open-source computing is going gangbusters — and that's good news for those seeking better and stronger security in the enterprise. With the growth of hardware platforms, ISVs and CSPs using trusted execution environments to protect data in use, open source-licensed projects are a natural way to encourage experimentation, learning and adoption.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you Thursday.

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