SAP Technologies instigates new markets in Asia around experience management and enterprise software

With an experience of delivering technological solutions to over 27 industries. SAP focuses on inaugurating new market opportunities with regards to enterprise software and customer experience management.

Rachel Barger, COO, SAP (Asia Pacific and Japan) in an interview with BW Businessworld CIO discusses the opportunities that could evolve businesses and industries in the Asian continent. On her visit to India she spoke to the publication about the importance of understanding customer data along with focusing on trends that can open new markets in this space. She also spoke about the potential of the MSME and SME sector while hinting at some of the investment areas for SAP in India.

According to its 2018 corporate fact sheet SAP serves more than 400,000 customers in 180 countries, of which 80% are small and medium sized businesses. What does the road look like for the current financial year?

We have actually acquired 437,000 customers in 180 countries and it only gets better. When we talk about where we are heading with an intelligent enterprise, it is mainly towards helping our customers to a new level of insights and ability to take action on their businesses. Our recent acquisition of Qualtrics International Inc., aims towards taking experience management to different level. When we look at the landscape in the SME space and larger customers belonging to an older generation ERP, these are the ones we want to move to an intelligent enterprise with better support from their relationship with SAP.

80% of our customers in India as well as globally are SMEs. When people hear the name SAP they feel like we’re connected with the top corporates. But we actually have solutions for all breaths of organizations and we infuse business process and industry expertise in all of our solutions. That is where an SME can really benefit, backed by our learnings and data helping them become a larger enterprise tomorrow.

We have a program in India known as the Bharat ERP where we are acting our on belief that just giving technology to people is not going to solve their problems. Hence, we are constantly improving our training programs and distribute the right knowledge to MSMEs and SMEs to understand technology better.

Having an experience of 15 years in the software industry.  What technological trends can make an impact in the Indian and overseas markets? 

I’ve been lucky to have worked all over the world and I spent a lot of time in Asia as well. In today’s time organizations look towards pulling out insights and taking action and putting more people to deal with an issue won’t solve that requirement. You need technology to be intelligent and solutions to encourage you in the right direction and suggest ways for you to go. That is the technology trend that I am excited about and it is so critical for India today. The other trend is to understand a customer/consumer better. One of the top issues discussed by boards across various organizations is about understanding customers better so as to make better decisions on investments and business models. SAP is helping our customers understand their customers better as well as helping to improve the entire customer journey from initial interaction with a customer to ultimate delivery tied to a warehouse interaction. We focus around how do you get all these resources working together and truly convert into a successful enterprise.

What is the road ahead for business operations and customer relations with regards to enterprise software?

I am quite excited with the offerings being brought in by machine learning and artificial intelligence. An enterprise can’t take advantage of that unless they have their data set up the right way. That is where SAP is really excelling. If a machine is learning against half the data set or incorrect data, it will give you the wrong answer. Organizing data together and bringing in collective data sources together is the future of enterprise software. These measures eventually help improve AI and ML and allow organizations to focus on problems that the machine can’t resolve. The other road leads towards helping customers create their journeys which also tracks back towards customer experience. Every aspect of the business has to understand their customers and disjointed systems cannot pave a successful road map for enterprises.

Are there any expansion plans in store for your existing footprint in the Indian market?

When we look at SAP’s Asia Pacific and Japan market, India is the center of investments and growth. This is the reason we have changed the way we interact with our customers in terms of account management perspective and we’re trying to get more hyper local. In our SME markets we have decided to take a more local approach to emphasize the unique needs and relationships created through India’s geographical diversity.

The second piece is to work with our partners. While possessing several accounts we can’t run the entire process alone and so we are significantly investing in our partners in India so that they can take our message across SMEs and the Fortune 50 customers that we have here. We are making a tremendous amount of investment in enablement, education and support our partners to take the message forward which is a unique way of expanding into the Indian market.

Does SAP have any criteria before making a merger or an acquisition with companies or organizations? 

Mergers or acquisitions is a board judgement. Let me emphasis on building collaborative partnerships. At SAP, we focus on two types of partnerships....

1) Strategic partnerships and working with customers to help them co-innovate solutions and bring their innovation and knowledge across other subsidiaries. For example, in India when we worked with ICICI Bank together to build SAP technologies to bring a unique financing solution to market. 

2) With our value added resellers and our SI partners we are just looking for partners who care a lot about their customers because adoption is critical. It is not just about putting technology in but making sure they use it and derive value from it. In this kind of partnership, we make sure that they are enabled and care for their customers like we do. Automotive supply chain or customer experience in manufacturing are some of the key areas we partner on and outside of it in the due diligence we run through.

What makes SAP stand out from its competitors? Is the organization keen to enter new lines of expansion?

SAP acquired Qualtrics for $ 8billion which is a tremendously strategic acquisition to build a new space. We actually believe that there is no one out there providing experience management as a technology platform except us. Everyone at SAP is excited about creating this new market that didn’t exist before. I think the work we are doing related to Customer Experience is going to accelerate and we’ve made a number of strategic acquisitions to round out this portfolio around field service, Gigiya (customer data cloud) etc. Once we are done building this experience about information, that will allow us to tie in with customer experience and employee experience because eventually organizations want to understand the mind set of their employees and encourage them to work better. We were built on industry and business process and our technology is unique from where we come. We focus on 26 industries overlooking product management and we have industry specialists who derive the relevance of technology in all the industries.

Being listed in the top 50 stock market index in Euro Stoxx. Are there any technological trends to enable stock investments 10-15 years down the line at SAP?

Building technologies for experience management is a new category for us and is a very interesting space especially in because we feel we will be developing this new category. We have 77% of the world’s transactions in SAP systems. When you later think about taking that transactional operational data and match it with experience data, no one else is doing that. If you have the two data sources and infuse them together, then you can come up with new insights creating a new market segment. When people look at SAP as an organization and see this opportunity being provided I️ think our customers, prospects and investors will become more excited. Hence, we want to build on these areas helping our customers and shareholders move forward.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What is in store for the enterprise in the coming years?

I see myself contributing to the organization by understanding and working with the Asian markets. I’ve spent more of my career here than North America or Europe. Once you come out of here you get to see the growth opportunities in Asia are extremely exciting. I love to be customer facing and I’m never happier as I am listening our customersand helping them move forward on their transformations I hope having opportunities to take further leadership roles in our Global Customers Operation organisation in is definitely my future goal. I think there’s never been a more exciting time to be at SAP because we touch so many industries and that allows us to work with different customers evolving their journeys. We have some fantastic opportunities going forward at SAP in the years to come. 

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