Tracy Bolton: The Bolt of SAP

Tracy Bolton | Chief Operating Officer | SAP Africa

I am a passionate, action-orientated and motivated person, who can drive high-performing diverse teams to achieve their short-term business goals while building long-term strategic initiatives.

With over 25 years’ of experience across the Middle East and Africa, I love the differences and the rhythm of Africa.

Having been with SAP for the last 9 years in different roles with a key focus on driving customer excellence and innovation, I enjoy the privilege of working with our customers daily to transform their businesses to run simply, enjoy a more profitable bottom line, and grow customer intimacy with their customers. Helping our customers understand the digital transformation journey based on the best in class by industry and the different steps to take on the journey is exciting as it is developing so fast.

The prior 15 years I spent in IT involved a wide range of roles including sales, marketing and business development, which resulted in significant experience in achieving challenging goals in emerging markets. The roles required consistent practical execution of strategic plans that delivered tangible outcomes.

I am happily married with 2 beautiful children and am going to Green one project at a time – this year I am focused on helping the African Honey Bees with my hive.

Read about Tracy Bolton, the Chief Operating Officer, SAP Africa.

Upgrade about the organization:

SAP was founded in 1972 in Germany. This year, it celebrates its 50th anniversary. SAP’s strategy is to help every business run as an intelligent, sustainable enterprise. As a market leader in enterprise application software, it helps companies of all sizes and in all industries run at their best. SAP customers generate 87% of total global commerce. Its machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics technologies help turn customers’   businesses into intelligent enterprises. SAP helps give people and organizations deep business and fosters collaboration that helps them stay ahead of their competition. It simplifies technology for companies so they can consume SAP software the way they want – without disruption.

Our end-to-end suite of applications and services enables business and public sector customers across 25 industries globally to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and make a difference. With a global network of customers, partners, employees, and thought leaders, SAP helps the world run better and improve people’s lives.

Tracy Bolton, the Chief Operating Officer, of SAP Africa

SAP is a market share leader in enterprise applications software across many areas of business processes from supply chain to procurement to HR and customer experience. It has the broadest portfolio of modular and suite solutions available on-premise, in the cloud and for hybrid environments.

Applications, Technology & Services

– Packaged solutions for 25 industries and 12 lines-of-business
– RISE with SAP: an end to end business transformation in the cloud
– SAP S/4HANA: Market-leading intelligent ERP, delivered with intelligent capabilities and best practices
– SAP Digital Supply Chain solutions help customers achieve a resilient and sustainable supply chain, increasing productivity, improving connectivity with network collaboration, running sustainable business practices
– SAP Success Factors solutions for employee experience management support 45 languages.
– SAP Customer Experience delivers intelligent customer engagement solutions for customer data with built-in identity and consent, commerce, marketing, service, and sales to enable end-to-end experiences. Almost 17,000 businesses use Qualtrics to manage customer loyalty and experience.

It also has several other cloud offerings – Commerce Cloud, Customer Data Cloud and Sales & Service Cloud.

According to Tracy,  SAP Intelligent Spend Management and Business Network is trusted by millions of companies across the world. The network handles $4.9tn per annum in commerce and over 730m BTB transactions.

SAP’s product range is broad and touches almost every aspect of business process management. Our products cater to customers in cloud environments as well as those looking for on-premise solutions and those who are working in hybrid environments. Our systems are integrated and we work across hyper-scalers and other partners to provide end-to-end solutions for our customers

-Tracy Bolton on what makes SAP’s products unique

About the Technology Leader:

Tracy has always been the one to swim upstream. During her schooling in South Africa, she fought for the right to take woodwork as a subject in Grade 10, breaking the gender stereotype. She was the first girl at the school to do so, paving the way for others.  She tried her hand in different industries for a few years until she landed in IT and knew that this was the place for her, ever-changing and challenging. She started with a small reseller building PCs, then distribution, before moving on to the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). 

She joined SAP in 2012 and has had the privilege of working in different roles within SAP Africa – from running the partner team, marketing, services Centre of Excellence (COE), sales and now COO.  Each role has been critical for her to connect the dots across the organisation, leverage the unique set of skills and mould the required change management as needed for the new way of work in my current role as COO.

The experiences at each stage of my career gave me a unique perspective on the life cycle of the evolving industry.

Tracy Bolton, the Chief Operating Officer, of SAP Africa


Tracy’s journey has not been a bed of roses. There have been many challenges along the way, and each challenge has been a learning experience.

The most difficult for me is learning to accept that I can’t do it all and need to lean on those around me for support when required and ask for help.

-Tracy Bolton

At one stage, she was travelling out of the country into Africa and the Middle East every second week. Her two sons were still very young at the time. But she had a supportive husband who stepped in and took care of everything at home when she was travelling and Tracy attributes her success to his support.

The role that challenged her the most and gave her the best personal development all round was when she moved into Services to run the local COE team.   She needed to manage deeply technical individuals who are exceptional at their job, but the opposite of her in most ways. She has an appetite for risk and consultants generally don’t. They each taught her so much about SAP technology and the amazing impact it has on their customers, as well as the true benefit of having a diverse team. She was impressed by the ingenious solutions one can find when brainstorming if you leverage diversity and ensure each personality gets a say. She learnt how change management impacts every part of a business and is underestimated in most cases.

When asked what has changed in the market personally and professionally, Tracy shares that when she first joined SAP ten years ago, it was predominantly male. She recalls her first EMEA conference in Barcelona, needing to go to the ladies’ room and finding, to her surprise, that there was no line. However, there was a wait for the men’s room. She is truly full of pride at the fact that this has dramatically changed in a short space of time and SAP Africa it is now at over 50% women in management positions. SAP globally has grown women in the workplace to 34.3%, with 28,3% in management positions.

Professionally she says that the solutions offered in the technology space have also changed as drastically – it is predominantly now a cloud world which allows customers to get value quickly and adapt as needed to the growing demands. It is no longer about lengthy projects, but quick wins in short sprints.

The world is truly global, and we are all competing across borders for talent and customers. The ability to work anytime, anywhere has an added dynamic that we are still experimenting with. Added to this, supply chain constraints, global volatility, and high demand for scarce resources are keeping us all on our toes.

Tracy Bolton, the Chief Operating Officer, of SAP Africa


“Innovation is taking two things that exist and putting them together in a new way.”

SAP is constantly innovating – it’s how the company has managed to stay relevant for over 50 years. Our R&D headcount worldwide is over 34,000 or 30% of the total headcount. We have 100 development locations worldwide made of development centres or labs, Co-Innovation Labs and Innovation Centre networks.

SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) is a unified cloud platform optimized for SAP applications. It enables organizations to accelerate innovation & unlock business potential. Elements include Application Development including low-code & no-code, digital experience capabilities, Robotic Process Automation, workflows and pre-built SAP automation and Artificial Intelligence, affirms Tracy.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is a success.”

According to Tracy: SAP has much strength. We are recognised as leaders by IDC in many critical areas such as enterprise applications software, enterprise resource management applications, and supply chain mgmt. applications, procurement applications software, travel and expense mgmt. software and enterprise resource planning software.  SAP customers generate 87% of total global commerce ($46 trillion), 99 of the 100 largest companies in the world are SAP customers, 97 of the 100 greenest companies in the world run SAP and 85 of the 100 largest companies in the world are SAP S/4HANA customers. The success of the brand comes from our deep industry understanding. We can partner with customers, understand their specific challenges and help them to implement technology solutions that add business value. SAP is also a truly global company. We have global expertise but a local presence across the world, bringing relevance to our customers. Another key element of our brand is our commitment to our purpose. The purpose is not something that is an add-on to our business. It is deeply embedded in the core of our business operations and the ethos of our people.

“The past is behind you, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it.”

Tracy concludes:  As we set ourselves up for 2023, we need to think through the changes happening around us, the challenging economic environment across Africa, the massive need for new skills and the need to balance profitability with sustainability. Enabling our people to tackle the many evolving aspects is the most important focus for me. The future is cloud-based. Organisations of all sizes will be turning to the cloud for agile solutions to help them streamline operations, reduce costs, identify new products and services, and manage hybrid work models. We also see the move to more automation and artificial intelligence which means employees will need to reskill to take advantage of new opportunities. We expect supply chain challenges to continue, and organisations will need to rethink their strategies on how to build robust, reliable and sustainable supply chains. Sustainability in all forms will be critical. Increased pressure on reducing carbon emissions will impact companies. SAP has many solutions to help our customers measure and report on their carbon footprint at every stage of their operations. We will continue to work with customers to help them transform, to use technology in a way that brings business value and consider all aspects of sustainability – environment, people and economic prosperity.

SAP is committed to enabling every enterprise to become intelligent, networked and sustainable – bringing together the solutions, technology and best practices needed to run integrated, digital business processes in the cloud.

Tracy Bolton, the Chief Operating Officer, of SAP Africa

“I feel that I am in a business that is a credit to the womanhood of our race”.  

Be brave and don’t fear failure.  Each step is a learning opportunity, and you don’t have to advance straight up the career ladder to achieve success. My best learnings came when I moved laterally within organisations to gain needed experience.  Take on extra projects to learn outside of your direct responsibilities and build your network, Tracy’s words of wisdom to women looking forward to making wonders in her industry.