Business Interview: SAP’s Steve Tzikakis on adapting to local needs

by  — 14 July 2016

In Qatar for the SAP Forum held in Doha recently, Steve Tzikakis, vice president and general manager, South Europe, Middle East, Africa (SEMEA), SAP speaks to The Edge about its key business deals in Qatar and how the company has adapted its business model to suit local needs.

 Steve Tzikakis, vice president and general manager, South Europe, Middle East, Africa (SEMEA) tells The Edge, “When I think of our customers in Qatar, we help them leapfrog their competition from other parts of the world especially given the multiplicity of technology platforms that are in use here, for any given company that has been using a particular set of technology for many years, the process of migration to a new solution, is always a challenge.” 

Tell us about the purpose of the SAP Qatar Forum and the main industry participants. Is the structure of the event reflective of the industries that participate?

The SAP forum is probably the most prominent annual IT conference that takes place in Doha, and has been happening for 10 years now. We have more than 500 customers and partners attending, C-suite executives and business owners from diverse industries seeking to understand how their business can move into the digital era, how SAP can help them innovate and redesign and reimagine their business. 

SAP addresses businesses in 25 different verticals, among the major technology vendors, which is our key strength and, in addition to the way we differentiate between those 25 verticals, we also differentiate between large and complex and local businesses. We don’t segregate them as small or medium or large but our nomenclature is global businesses or local businesses. The differentiator is the complexity between the two segments of businesses.

How does SAP operate here in Qatar? Do you deal directly with customers or is it through your local partners?

We have a direct operation, complete with an office and adequate staffing. But our business could either be direct or indirect and we give our customers the choice of opting to tie up directly with us or through their preferred vendor which could be a local business or could be a global systems integrator,  such as Accenture or IBM.

Talk us through some of the key topics that the forum has looked at. How do you foresee that the forum discussion points might impact the day-to-day realities of Qatar’s businesses?

The SAP Qatar forum is focusing on how megatrends such as hyper connectivity, cloud, smart world and block chain which are transforming the way people live and work. While the rest are more or less part of everyday vocabulary, block chain is kind of a digital currency such as bitcoin.

These trends exist in the global market and by extension in Qatar. When I think of our customers in Qatar, we help them leapfrog their competition from other parts of the world especially given the multiplicity of technology platforms that are in use here, for any given company that has been using a particular set of technology for many years, the process of migrate to a new solution, is always a challenge.

But the very composition of the workforce here makes solutions providers such as SAP optimistic. There is a growing proportion of millennials who are entering the workforce in this country. There is also a chain of global events such as the 2019 World Athletics Forum and the 2022 World Cup to be held here. All of these factors should combine to make the country a hub of technology and innovation adopters across both the public and the private sectors, and across several sectors and industry verticals, which, in turn, will lead to the fruition of the diversification plan for the Qatar National Vision 2030.

Industry leaders at the Qatar SAP forum have agreed that digital transformation can double Qatar’s commercial output to over USD4 billion (QAR14.6 billion) by 2019. What role do you foresee SAP playing in this transformation?

Both the Qatar Digital Government Strategy 2020 and the Qatar National Vision 2030 have placed digital transformation at a premium place. There is no option for Qatar but to walk down the road to digitisation. Within the overall business ecosystem, if one looks at B2B and B2C markets, they have the ability to double in size by 2019 which will likely yield a turnover of USD2.5 billion (QAR9.1 billion). The other USD1.5 billion (QAR5.5 billion) will come from the government and large enterprises.

What are some of the major business deals that SAP has signed in Qatar in the recent past?

There is Abdullah Abdulghani and Bros (AAB), the Al Faisal Holding and the Jaidah Holding deals that are worth mentioning. The AAB deal won the bronze award at the SAP EMEA quality awards for one of the world’s fastest implementation of dealer business management, which led to 36 percent higher business satisfaction. The AAB deal was based on the usage of Clariba,  BPC and BI analytics for mobile-friendly dashboards.

AAB streamlined their processes, improved customer service with our solutions. Their business diversification process received a fillip with the SAP products and they now have a comprehensive 360-degree view of their customers’ requirements.

The Al Faisal deal was an interesting budgeting and analytics business project using taskforces and mobile phones to support their business in Qatar, Egypt, Algeria, Germany, Italy and the United States.

Jaidah Holding started with the S/4HANA cloud mobility and analytics from SAP to support their global expansion.

Why do you think that SAP has won the trust from diverse business groups in Qatar?

First, if you look at industry analysts such as IDC, Forrester and Gartner, they are unanimous on SAP’s ability to implement that is backed by a better vision of the strategy for our customers. Second, all of our products have a distinct industry flavour and we will not sell to a retailer the same programme that we sell to a hydrocarbon player. Third, is end-to-end-support. We don’t just sell. We partner to go live successfully in time and in budget and that is a major differentiator in favour of SAP.

From a business point of view, while acquiring a new client, do you make it mandatory that the company/group has to buy the complete package or can they implement a SAP package in one of their businesses and continue with their legacy solution in others?

We respect customers’ choices and we respect the fact that for years they might have been investing in in-house or off-the-shelf solutions with other industry peers. We have open architecture for most of our products. We invite partners to develop on our platforms and we want our customers to choose whether they want it to be SAP or a solution they may have developed from the past. We believe in offering a symbiotic solution.

In an economy such as Qatar, which is in the throes of transition to a more globalised and diversified economy, what are the prospects for SAP? How suited is SAP to offering solutions based on local client needs?

The prospective sectors here in Qatar are industry, financial services, construction, energy, retail, transportation, logistics, hospitality, sports and entertainment. These are just some of the booming sectors and we have landmark customers who know that with SAP they will have a solution that is going to help them beat their competitors and are guaranteed a trouble-free implementation by either SAP or one of our partners. We encourage the growth of our partners, which is also one of the reasons we are growing our local operations. We’ve grown our local office and have invested in our local consulting practice. 

We understand that business in Qatar is done in an intimate and personalised way. We have adapted to this many years ago and continue growing.

SAP understands that with the primarily family-held nature of businesses in Qatar and the local market being highly dependent on expatriate manpower, customers might run into a situation of not having the requisite resources for implementation. We have thus kept our offerings flexible and can tailor make the solutions, based on the client’s requirements.

If the client insists on local manpower, we can bring that in. In the Middle East, there are 1735 consultants, of whom 650 are SAP employees. In addition, there are centres in India, Portugal and in Eastern Europe that feed projects in the Middle East, added to which, there are global experts. We have created a structure whereby for the global and large clients who want global expertise, SAP brings consultants from all around the world to service them. In total, there approximately are 3000 to 4000 available resources for our Middle Eastern clients, added to the system integrators and the local partners who also pitch in with their dedicated resources that can help customers decide whether they want to do projects with people onsite, or whether they want to do projects in the cloud. 



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