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Testimonial - BSFP - Martijn Ras
Testimonial - BSFP - Martijn Ras
Business Strategy and Financial Performance

Martijn Ras - Business Strategy and Financial Performance & the INSEAD Online experience

Martijn Ras

Vice President, SAP Global Technology Partnerships

When you have a very busy job and one that can involve travelling, having online access to faculty and to your cohort gives you the flexibility and the possibility to really commit to your learning while you continue to service your professional obligations. And having that flexibility is key because you really do want to give as much as possible to the learning experience, and build on what you’ve done week over week. Because this is the way that the benefits stick. When you do it well, the impact really starts at the end of the programme.

When you are in the weeds of day-to-day working life, it can be hard to maintain perspective. The daily demands and challenges of your role and executing strategy create a forward momentum that can make it almost impossible to stop, to reflect and to experiment with new approaches, new frameworks and new ideas. That’s where executive programmes at INSEAD come in, says Martijn Ras. They give you that unique chance to hit the pause button, rethink your style, your go-to processes and the things that got you here, but may not take you where you want to go next.

“INSEAD gives you that opportunity to take a step back from daily operations and recalibrate your thinking, your models and your conversations,” says Ras. “It is the value that taking a programme gives you in terms of meeting new people and exchanging new ideas. Maybe above all, INSEAD brings expert analysis of the latest trends and innovations while giving you the tools to leverage new thinking back in your own projects and your own organisation.”

Ras is VP for SAP Global Technology Partners. In 2022, he took the Business Strategy and Financial Performance programme at INSEAD, having completed the Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption two years previously. Accelerating his strategic thinking and gaining actionable insights from INSEAD faculty was a key imperative, not only for his own work within SAP but also in terms of empowering key partners.

“Part of my remit is to build upon and translate strategy from the SAP perspective,” says Ras. “But just as important is the ability to really understand the growth ambitions of our key partners whose technology undergirds the SAP portfolio. So a key priority for me is forging high-performance partnerships that leverage the right strategic combination of technologies for all of us – for them and for SAP in terms of serving our clients.”

One of the critical takeaways from the Business Strategy and Financial Performance (BSFP) programme, he says, is an enhanced ability to articulate complex strategic ideas crisply and clearly, as well as what those ideas mean financially in terms of return.

“The programme has really empowered me to pinpoint and communicate the competitive advantage of different strategies, the value they bring and how they impact the financial performance of our partners’ businesses.”

Delivering this kind of concrete impact is very much a function of how Ras approached the BSFP programme from the start. Right from the get-go, he was keen to bring his learning into sharp focus around the real-world challenges and goals of his clients, he says.

“Going into the programme I worked with an INSEAD learning coach, who challenged me to articulate ideas and concepts more clearly and to then craft stories – more compelling business cases—for my client partners. To do this we used an actual business case – a real-life business problem that I had in front of me.”

This business case became the focus of Ras’ Action Learning Project (ALP) which became a roadmap. Through his work on the ALP, he was able to diagnose the challenge facing the SAP partner and go on to propose a solution to the company’s executive board, demonstrating what the strategic and performance impact would be. The proposal was accepted, he says.

“The BSFP isn’t just another training programme. In my experience, this was a transformative learning experience that underpinned a real-world business shift. INSEAD gave me the tools to build the kinds of strategy narratives that show leaders how to solve problems, that reveal things they don’t know and that lay bare the returns on investment capital – and that do this quickly and effectively, using the right language, both internally and externally with partners.”

This capacity to articulate impact has elevated the quality of the executive discussions that Ras is able to lead, he says.

“Thanks to INSEAD, I am so much better able to convey ways to control costs, to safeguard the right margins for our clients, and pinpoint the ways that they can build revenue.”

Getting to these outcomes nonetheless took a good deal of commitment, Ras notes. To get the most from the programme, you have to be prepared to put plenty of work in. In this sense, he says, the online format of the learning was a distinct advantage.

“When you have a very busy job and one that can involve travelling, having online access to faculty and to your cohort gives you the flexibility and the possibility to really commit to your learning while you continue to service your professional obligations. And having that flexibility is key because you really do want to give as much as possible to the learning experience, and build on what you’ve done week over week. Because this is the way that the benefits stick,” says Ras. “When you do it well, the impact really starts at the end of the programme.”