Hyperconnecting a global business community: SAP CEO

SAP CEO Christian Klein

Probably the pandemic’s deepest impact on the way we live and work is the heightened importance of addressing gaps in a hyper connected world.

During a recent online media conference, business software company SAP CEO Christian Klein (pic above) detailed critical challenges faced by businesses attempting to overcome challenges arising from pandemic-related disrupted supply chains among others.

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To counter these challenges, SAP envisages building the world’s biggest business network involving more than 5.5 million organisations, Klein told media.

This move, which was first mentioned during Klein’s keynote to kick off SAP’s virtual SAPPHIRE NOW 2021 event, entails the opening up of its business network platform to help address critical needs, Klein says.

Main among these is to accelerate connectivity across supply chains and within the business community to enable connected economies across all industry sectors.

Echoing some of the messages in his keynote, Klein told media that new solutions to supply chain disruptions could be tapped through heightened connectivity offered by a community approach. Examples include solving logistics hurdles to move vaccines speedily from point A to B, he said.

Conversant with more than 20 industry sectors, SAP has found that connectivity has proved to be an attribute to other sectors such as the food supply chains, semiconductor and so on pivot towards more direct customer relations.

These examples validate the role played by technology especially in critical times, he said. 

Innovation on the move

Indeed, in the age of social distancing and other lockdown-related changes, the benefits of online communities has never been more apparent.

Some of the keys to building a functioning community lie in the level of interactivity, trust and security: which reflect attributes of a successful business.

From a regional perspective, SAP conducted a study in collaboration with Oxford Economics, Digital, resilient, and experience-driven: How enterprises in Southeast Asia can prepare for the new economy, which highlighted challenges connected to talent attraction and retention, cloud adoption and extrapolating insights from data.

Surveying 600 senior executives—including 400 from SMEs with less than $500 million in revenue—across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the study confirmed various priorities with more than a third (35%) saying service excellence is now their primary source of value and differentiation.

Positive customer experiences have also become the foremost strategic consideration for businesses in the region, with key factors being personalisation for the customer (59%), providing high-quality products and/or services (55%), ensuring data protection and privacy (53%) and offering competitive pricing (51%).

Verena Siow, president and managing director, SAP South East Asia commented at the time that “businesses in Southeast Asia are at crucial transformative point to achieve long-term competitive growth.”

The study further noted that ‘automation and digital technologies are most believed to support business goals by increasing process efficiency and reducing error, risk and cost (56%). This is followed by reducing overhead costs (45%), allowing employees to focus on higher-level business tasks (39%), and increasing productivity through transformation and intelligent process automation (37%)’.

Essentially, we are in the era of ‘Everything as a service’ , according to Klein. His comments about digital transformation include: “We listen to our customers: at the beginning of their journey, we share with best practices, the best models, and factors they need to consider in their particular transformation journey. And we then together with the customer arrive at the right solutions, consistent with their business models. It is a journey where ‘the How’ is a constant challenge.”

 The Q&A session included rising cybersecurity concerns exacerbated by current geopolitical tensions. “Cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges for the tech sector,” Klein admitted, citing recent breaches headlined in the media. “We take cybersecurity very seriously – especially as we protect mission critical data belonging to our customers including checks of the firewalls every hour.”

Looking ahead into transformational trends, he said, “RPA [robotic process automation] is one of the trends where we see the highest adoption rate – 60% of our customers already have RPAs embedded into their SAP workflows. Machine learning is of course the next level, which takes more effort involving the right algorithms and so forth.”

Regarding SAP’s cloud strategy status, Klein revealed that “everything [SAP systems and solutions] outside of ERP [enterprise resource planning] solutions is already in the cloud.”

Community-coloured enterprise

He detailed further instances of how the Covid pandemic has demonstrated the importance of collaboration and the power of community in driving recovery and growth.

Countering challenges brought on by Covid by people connected to and through technology as a community is tantamount to a potentially revolutionary move, he opined.

“In times like these, you cannot over-communicate. We need to interact constantly and with real time feedback, so that we can see immediately the sentiment of customers,” Klein said.

As businesses rely on a model that enhances customer and stakeholder relationships, Klein envisions connecting every company into a global community. SAP’s step with SAP Business Network platform brings together Ariba Network, SAP Logistics Business Network, and SAP Asset Intelligence Network, which connects together as a one business community, providing a cohesive experience.

Responding to a question about the reliability of businesses in the extensive network, he said that SAP’s onboarding procedures of a customer into its 5.5 million strong business network includes checking the legal and compliance aspects of each member of the network.

Klein’s concluding remarks included: “For me, I am also always looking at how we can help members better connect and tap opportunities through the network, of how we can help create win win situations. One of SAP’s strengths is that we connect people with the solutions. Over 5.5 million organisations will benefit from being members of this connected community, making every enterprise an intelligent one.”