Insights

Exclusive - SAP Big Data VP Byron Banks Talks Analytics and His Canadian Roots

Byron Banks is the VP of Product Marketing, Analytics & Big Data at SAP and has over 20 years of experience empowering organizations by providing trusted big data solutions and information assets to all levels of the enterprise. icrunchdata News talks to leaders in Big Data Analytics to learn more about their career in technology and explore who there are outside of the data.

We recently caught up to Byron to discuss his career at SAP, his must-have marketing analytics tools and what he likes most about living in northern California.

Byron, thanks for talking to us today and let’s get started…

You are the VP of Product Marketing, Analytics & Big Data at SAP where you have spent the last nine years of your career. What has been the biggest change at SAP in regards to how SAP markets to and communicates with their customers since you started with the company?

We are doing a much better job of conveying the value position of SAP to our customers and prospects.  When I started 9 years ago many people still felt SAP was that German ERP company that sold financial systems.  We do still sell financial solutions, but we are so much more. Through major investments in organic innovation as well as a number of acquisitions we are now #1 in applications, #1 in analytics, and a driver of technology transformation for more than 282,000 customers.  We have used digital marketing, sponsorships (including the SAP Center in San Jose) to highlight what we are all about and showcase many of our customers’ successes. The underlying message is that SAP can help any company of any size drive its own innovation journey and motivate employees, partners and customers.

People don’t call us “sap” anymore.  They say “Hey, I know S. A. P.”.

Can you point to one specific moment or event that you are the most proud of over the last nine years at SAP?

Not that long ago “Big Data” was just starting to come onto the scene, and at SAP we saw it as an opportunity to re-imagine our world. We could now track new signals that were once impossible and truly change the way we experience our communities, our places of work and our personal lives. A lot of other companies were just jumping on the ‘technology’ aspect of Big Data, but my marketing team at SAP took a different path.

We sought out customer stories and projects that would break through at a human level. Partnering with top sports franchises helped people see Big Data in a new light - engaging basketball fans with NBA Statistics, helping Germany win the 2014 World Cup with Big Data as the 12th player and winning Women’s Tennis with on-court coaching.

We also told the world about our work with leading cancer institutes, saving loved ones with personalized treatment using Big Data. Partnering with the international Barcode of Life project, we showed how everyone can help save our planet by building a Big Data-enabled solution that crowdsources the collection and analysis of earth’s species.

To share our story, we put together an aggressive media & digital plan but we also wanted to reach out and help individual customers translate Big Data into a unique opportunity for their company. So we launched the SAP Big Data Express in North America, a 40’ long bus gutted and rebuilt as a tradeshow on wheels travelling to customer sites. Streams of employees lined up to hear success stories and see demos, all of which were chosen specifically for that customer.  After the bus visit we would then follow-up the conversation with personalized assessments to benchmark their business and compare their needs and opportunities based on a portfolio of over 100 industry Big Data use cases   After many miles, 250 customer visits, and becoming an icon on the Big Data Wikipedia page, it was clear the Big Data Express was a major success, so we launched a truck in Europe and a bus in China that continue to meet customers on a daily basis.  It was just a great opportunity to pivot from the competition and try something very different, and take some risks – which fortunately paid off.  In fact, our Big Data program recently won the 2015 B2B Marketing award for large companies from the Bay Area consortium Marketers That Matters.

What marketing analytics tools do you use that you couldn’t live without?

SAP’s Lumira data visualization and hybris Marketing. I also use Sprinklr for digital and social media.

In one sentence, how would you define the term ‘Big Data’?

Big data now means all data – the relevant transactions, emails, documents, social media, sensor data mashed together with to get the complete understanding of an activity – be it the reservations, directions, on-line trip advice, or the Facebook pictures of your last vacation; or the data tracking everything that happens in your supply chain.

You received your Bachelor of Science from the University of New Brunswick in New Brunswick Canada and your MBA from Sauder School of Business in Vancouver. What is the biggest difference between living on the far eastern side of Canada in New Brunswick and the far western side in Vancouver?

The weather is much better out here!  Eastern Canada is very rural.  I spent my time hunting, fishing, cross country skiing in open fields and forests.  They have such beautiful country vistas - especially when the leaves turn colors in the fall.  Even after 20 years on the west coast I still miss those fall leaves. Whereas Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city with all that entails – wonderful diversity, the arts, commerce and unfortunately a lot of traffic.  But as different as the two coasts are, they still shared a common bond of one big Canadian country that should be known for its politeness, competence and humility – except when it comes to hockey.  Then it’s personal and the gloves come off.

Let’s say I land at the Vancouver airport, it is a Saturday afternoon in July and I have a six hour layover. What should I do for those six hours to check out Vancouver and where should I eat?

Skip the car and grab the Skytrain for a scenic ride to downtown Vancouver.  There you have two options – walk around the water’s edge of the 1000 acre Stanley Park; or rent a kayak and paddle around English Bay & False Creek which surround the city.  After all that exercise eat at L’Abattoir (named for the former meatpacking business) in the hipster-dominated Gastown district.

What do you like most about living in northern California?

I cherish the culture of innovation and creativity.  And that people realize that sometimes you or the project will fail but that is ok, provided you get back up, learn from it, and are victorious the next time.

What do you wish you had more time to do outside of the office?

Bike, hike, and embrace the outdoors that are all around the Bay Area. The Marin headlands, the Pacific coastal areas, down around San Luis Obispo are all wonderful places that remind me of my upbringing in rural Canada.

If you had to have an entirely different career outside of technology and analytics, what would you choose to do?

A farmer!  My father is a retired potato farmer.  It’s incredibly hard work and long hours but there is a tangible sense of accomplishment from working the land and holding the food you’ve grown.  Technology is more abstract than that.  My motivation comes from seeing how the solutions we build help make people’s lives better.

That is a perfect way to end our chat with “a tangible sense of accomplishment” and your personal motivation to use SAP’s solutions to make people’s lives better. Byron, thank you for your time today.

Article published by Todd Nevins
Want more? For Job Seekers | For Employers | For Influencers