Cloud Wars Logo with text, Tech's Response to COVID-19: Microsoft and SAP CEOs speak
Cloud Wars Logo with text, Tech's Response to COVID-19: Microsoft and SAP CEOs speak

As COVID-19 Rages, Microsoft & SAP CEOs Share Messages of Gratitude, Empathy, Hope

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(This is the latest in a series on how leading tech companies are supporting and encouraging employees, customers and extended communities in the time of Coronavirus.)


As COVID-19 continued wreaking havoc on billions of people across the globe late last week, the CEOs of SAP and Microsoft shared powerful messages of commitment, hope, thanks and courage to their employees and extended communities.

In a letter called Together We Will Persevere, SAP co-CEOs Christian Klein and Jennifer Morgan opened by saying, “Moments of extraordinary challenge test our collective will, but also bring out the best of our collective humanity.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sounded a similar tone early in his letter to the Microsoft team, Coming together to combat COVID-19, by saying, “It is in times of great disruption and uncertainty that our ability to stay grounded in our sense of purpose and remain true to our identity is of the utmost importance.”

Shifting the focus of Cloud Wars in the time of COVID-19

As I have shifted the primary focus of Cloud Wars from customer-driven capabilities and competitive positioning to how the superb Cloud Wars Top 10 companies are responding rapidly and forcefully to the COVID-19 crisis, it is illuminating to observe how the leaders of those companies communicate. What they say and how they say it, and where they focus and how they focus all reveal a great deal about not just those companies but their cultures and leaders as well.

From my perspective, Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff was the first tech-company CEO to speak up visibly and forcefully about the crisis. I outlined much of that in a recent piece called Tech’s Coronavirus Response: What Salesforce, ServiceNow and Workday Are Doing.

More recently, two of the world’s oldest enterprise-software companies (SAP was founded in 1972, Microsoft in 1975) shared extensive public statements from their CEOs within the same 24-hour period. So let’s look at what SAP’s Klein and Morgan and Microsoft’s Nadella chose to focus on in their messages to employees and extended communities.

SAP co-CEOs Klein and Morgan: “Together we will persevere”

Morgan and Klein took up SAP’s co-CEO positions just 4 months ago. The duo already had an extremely full agenda in establishing their own priorities and strategies for their company, whose software runs the operations for huge portions of the global economy.

Barely 3 months into their tenure, Coronavirus moved from a somewhat obscure and regional rumor to a full-blown global pandemic. And Morgan and Klein addressed that global sweep at the top of their letter to the extended SAP family.

“At SAP, we have colleagues and customers in every corner of the world. Our thoughts are with all those affected and the many communities that continue to face extreme measures as we work to slow down and contain the spread of the virus,” they wrote. “We also want to express our deepest thanks and appreciation to all the healthcare workers, first responders, police officers, emergency workers, and all others in essential functions and on the front lines caring for the sick and keeping us safe.”

And while they reassured customers that SAP’s business continuity plans will keep its operations up and running for its 440,000 customers around the globe, Klein and Morgan also focused intently on the deeply human and emotional element of the COVID-19 crisis.

“As we have seen, every day brings more information, but at times, more uncertainty,” they said in their letter.

Taking new steps to acknowledge and understand people’s feelings

“The more change we confront, the more important it is to understand how our people are feeling and adjusting to what may seem like a new normal on a daily basis. While we are all adapting to different work and collaboration models, the newness and the experiences are all unique to each of us depending on our job or industry. Understanding, acknowledging, and acting on the challenges and questions our employees have will help us equip them to navigate this new normal.

“All of us want employees who feel safe and productive, but it starts with understanding how they feel and what they need. To that end, Qualtrics has helped us get to the heart of every employee and we have opened up the same listening platform for any who need it.”

Combatting uncertainty with education and learning

Klein and Morgan shared SAP’s plans for opening up some of its vast array of educational material to the public.

As a company we have always believed in our responsibility to support the next generation of professionals and users with our best-in-class digital learning. Now students and subject-matter experts need safe and healthy learning environments to continue their education virtually. Therefore, we are broadening access to some of our offerings to facilitate the continuity of innovation and enablement. This includes free access to select learning journeys for students at one of the 3,800 member universities of the SAP University Alliances program, online courses allowing young learners to explore technology, as well as the massive open online courses (MOOCs) available on the openSAP platform. All offerings are free – please find more information here.

And they closed with a recommitment to SAP’s core mission and priorities. During these troubling times, those priorities are perhaps more relevant than ever before.

“For all of us at SAP, our vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives has never been more important than in this current moment. We remain focused on our people, our customers, and our communities. Together, we will persevere.”

Microsoft CEO Nadella: Sharing home office with 2 teenage daughters

Nadella is a superb and eloquent communicator. And while many people regard him as one of the top CEOs in the world—and perhaps the top CEO in any industry—he ensured his primary tone was one of shared experiences and empathy. Describing his own adventures in the current WFH revolution, Nadella wrote,

There’s no doubt that the workflow of our jobs is changing fast, with many of you doing so much of your work remotely for the first time, some while also caring for children at home. I myself am learning, as I’m sharing a home office with my two teenage daughters and juggling between their eLearning schedules and my Teams meetings. There is no playbook for this and having that deep empathy and understanding for each other’s situations is needed now more than ever. I’ve seen countless examples of colleagues across the company stepping up to meet this challenge – both the challenge of their own circumstances and that of their customers.

“At times it has felt overwhelming and all-encompassing”

Nadella also described quite bluntly the sense of helplessness that the COVID-19 crisis can trigger, and the need to fight through that mindset.

“We are in uncharted territory,” he wrote. “Much is unknown, and I know how unsettling and uncertain this feels. Like many of you, there have been times over the past weeks where it has felt overwhelming and all-encompassing for me. I worry about the health and safety of my family, my co-workers, and friends. My wife and I worry for her aging parents, who are far away from us in India. I see the struggle in our local community, and around the world, the empty streets and restaurants, and I wonder when our social fabric will be restored.”

But Nadella also emphasized that even when so many disturbing things are taking place totally outside of our control, each of us has full control over the choices we make.

“The best way I’ve found to get past this anxiety”

“One truth that brings me comfort is just as this virus has no borders, its cure will have no borders. We are all in this together as a global community.

“For me, the best way I’ve found to get past this anxiety is to focus on what I can do each day to make a small difference. Each of us, wherever we are, has the opportunity to do the same – take an action driven by hope, a small step that makes things a bit better. And if everyone does something that makes the world a bit better, our collective work will in fact make the world a lot better, for the people we love, for our communities, for society.”

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