SAP - Improving Lives

SAP has supported DCU’s Access Programme since 2006. In this piece, Liam Ryan, Managing Director – SAP Labs Ireland, describes how the company came to support DCU’s Access Programme and how business leaders have a responsibility to support and enable communities to continue as normal through the Covid-19 crisis.

SAP has supported DCU’s Access Programme for the past fourteen years– what has inspired this longstanding commitment to DCU’s Access students?

We worked with DCU prior to 2006 through internship and graduate programmes, but when I heard about the impact DCU’s Access Programme had on students from disadvantaged areas, it really resonated with me and motivated my decision to support the programme. Not all talented young people get the opportunity to attend third level education, but the Access Programme provides students with this opportunity and gives them the bandwidth to succeed by allowing them to focus their time on studying and assignments, without having to worry about financial pressures.

I have had the opportunity to meet Access students throughout the years at different DCU events, and you can see these students are highly motivated to succeed in life and understand what it takes to succeed as well.


SAP’s mission is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, so it’s an obvious fit for us to support a programme that shares these same core values.

In 2017, former SAP CEO, Bill McDermott, was presented with an award recognising a Decade of Support for DCU’s Access Programme. Can you tell us more about this?

Bill was visiting our Irish offices for our 20-year anniversary of SAP in Ireland, so we wanted him to meet with one of our partner universities while on his visit. As part of the “Distinguished Speaker Series” organised by DCU’s Leadership and Talent Institute, Bill gave an address at DCU on the topic of Leadership in the Digital Age, and also met with some Access students while on the DCU campus. Bill was a key driver behind creating a culture of diversity and inclusion while at SAP, which is evident through the development of SAP’s Autism at Work programme, so we wanted to show him a programme we were supporting here in Ireland that also focused on creating a diverse and inclusive culture in society.

SAP also supports DCU’s School of Computing Final Year Showcase. Why is this partnership important for SAP?

The Final Year Showcase is a multi-faceted learning experience for both SAP and DCU students every year. For us, we get an insight into the new technology trends students are investing in, and also have an input into their learning at DCU. For students, they get to understand what we do at SAP and how we can help them to pursue a successful career. We have hired DCU graduates for the past number of years due to the high calibre of talent we see at the Final Year Showcase, so we’re delighted to continue sponsoring this event.

Now more than ever, students from disadvantaged backgrounds need the extra support from initiatives such as the Access Programme to prosper in third level education. In your opinion, why should businesses continue to support philanthropy during the Covid-19 crisis?

We have all witnessed the toll Covid-19 has taken on people’s lives globally, so as business leaders we have a responsibility to stand by the most vulnerable members of our community. At SAP, we’ve created a €3 million Covid-19 emergency fund which we’ve donated to the World Health Organisation, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and smaller non-profits including the Community Foundation for Ireland. In addition to this financial contribution, we must also ensure society can continue to thrive through mobilising and sharing our skills and knowledge with those who need them. To do this, we’ve also created written apps and solutions in procurement – such as Ariba Discovery – free of charge for our customers and partner organisations to enable communities and businesses to continue as normal.

How has SAP adapted to working conditions created by the Covid-19 crisis?  What advice would you give to business leaders during this challenging time?

Due to severe weather warnings throughout the years, we were well prepared to work from home in the case of a national emergency as we invested heavily in our infrastructure which really paid off. When the Irish Government announced the closure of schools and universities in March, SAP also announced its employees globally would work from home. Everything is business as normal and there is no degradation in product quality, so we’re in a good place at the moment.

As we are nearing two months of the national restrictions, my advice to business leaders is to focus on communications and empathy. It’s easy to let team meetings or one-on-ones slip as the weeks go on, but it’s important to maintain communications and connections with your employees and to listen and value their opinions. Being empathetic to others and their situations at the moment is also vital, as this can help improve the nature of your relationships with employees, and even change the services you provide for clients to meet their changing needs. We will recover from this pandemic and as we do, we will have learned to create more sustainable bonds uniting our businesses and communities.