Sanjay Poonen: Design thinking and dreaming big

“Software is just about the most boring topic in general,” admits Sanjay Poonen, Head of Technology Solutions & Mobile at SAP. “So you have to make it creative.”

The self-described citizen of the world describes his work as “bringing a very different design thinking to this boring idea called enterprise software. And it’s all of a sudden becoming very exciting again.”

Design thinking, he explains, is “a very simple principle: get yourself close to a customer, empathize with what they are really going through. Don’t design software just for the back of the labs.”

Poonen sees his company’s work as a force for social good. “The population of Bangladesh is 160 million, and about half of that population has never seen a bank, doesn’t know what an ATM card looks like, but many of them have phones now,” he says. “And through the phone, we can power a very simple way by which the farmer or the agricultural worker can get a microfinance loan to buy their agricultural purchases for the day. This is global banking for the unbanked. So these are uses of new technology that are really going to touch people’s lives and change their lives for the better.”

Looking forward, Poonen emphasizes the need for constant change and improvement. “If you’re not reinventing yourself, not just every 10 or 20 years, but every year, you will become extinct,” he warns. “I encourage every one of our leaders to be in that spirit of constant learning. You can’t teach if you’re not learning.”

“Technology is a grand equalizer across the entire world,” he continues. “So we really want to encourage every entrepreneur to dream the biggest dream they can. And then our job is to help them be successful, give them the resources we can, and then celebrate their success.”