Simply Human

With its recent acquisition by SAP, SuccessFactors relies on Nita White-Ivy to ensure growth is tempered with a focus on the culture that made it viable in the first place

Nita White-Ivy Chief People Officer, SuccessFactors
Nita White-Ivy
Chief People Officer, SuccessFactors

When SAP AG, a German software company with $21 billion in annual revenue, announced its purchase of SuccessFactors in December 2011, the company knew it would need an HR expert to help facilitate change management and manage integration between the companies. That expert is Nita White-Ivy, who came to SAP a year prior when the company purchased Sybase Inc. White-Ivy, who serves as chief people officer for SuccessFactors and SAP Cloud, shares how she has stayed focused through the transition and her plans for new support programs that preserve the best of both cultures.

How were you able to successfully bring SAP and SuccessFactors together?

Nita White-Ivy: Within SAP, there are thousands of people, programs, processes, and acronyms. I asked a few people to help me quickly understand their language and culture. Then I worked on integrating SuccessFactors, which as a maturing start-up, has a very energized, team-oriented culture. I want to preserve both cultures, showcasing the fun elements of SuccessFactors and leveraging the very best from the parent company.

What best practices have helped you with this company integration?

White-Ivy: I always say two things: let’s keep it simple, and let’s not forget the “H” in HR. You need to always consider the people factor, that’s what really holds a team together. It’s important to get to know your people well and understand their skills, developing areas, and weaknesses.

How have you been able to simplify? 

White-Ivy: I was able to automate the HR function’s tools, processes, and transactions, making them more simple and intuitive. This has enabled managers, employees, and HR to do their work with more ease and efficiency.

What do you think prepared you most for your leadership at SAP? 

White-Ivy: Studying both business and psychology has been very helpful. I pride myself in being analytical and being able to be a businessperson, which is very important as a company officer. But I’m also able to use my heart at the same time. This really helps me connect with very different people.

What do you think is the foundation of HR? 

White-Ivy: A manager needs to quickly understand a complicated situation, gather information, make decisions, and find a balance. When I joined Sybase in 1998, we had such a quick and focused turnaround team, and we made the company so profitable and successful that SAP bought it in July, 2010. You’ll always be pulled in different directions, so you have to have good people to rely on and delegate to, and be organized enough to prioritize in every moment.

What’s the value of a good team?

White-Ivy: A good team will help you survive setbacks and difficult cycles together. Being together in challenging times really helps to get things done. But a team is also there to win together.

How does SuccessFactors recognize the hard work of its teams? 

White-Ivy: We have a rewards program that can be initiated by a peer or manager for one person or a whole team. Globoforce Limited helped us develop an employee engagement and appreciation program that fits with the culture of SuccessFactors called D3: Dream, Dare, Do. It’s so important to give credit when it’s due.

What are your goals as a manager?  

White-Ivy: I hope to help both companies through a smooth integration following the acquisition. And I want to be known as a manager who provides opportunities for talented high achievers to develop, grow, and excel to their full potential.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job? 

White-Ivy: I feel like a scientist in a laboratory. I’m challenged by the things I see around me, and I actually get to try things out and get my hands dirty to get results.