Andrew Ritchie, manager of IT services at Officeworks, has stepped into the role of chair of the SAP Australian User Group (SAUG). Freya Purnell spoke to him about his SAP career, how SAUG is evolving to meet the needs of more SAP customers, and what he sees as the key trends for 2015.
There’s no question that retail is one industry that is caught up in a whirlwind of change – with retailers at the epicentre trying to leverage developing digital technology to match rapidly shifting consumer behaviours and expectations.
In the SAP world, the acquisition of hybris software, with its omni-channel e-commerce enablement capabilities, has also brought new focus to how retailers can create a better end-to-end experience for customers.
Andrew Ritchie has his feet firmly planted in this environment, having spent most of his career in retail, beginning with Woolworths and Millers Retail, in a combination of IT and retail operations roles.
He joined Coles Myer back in 2003, initially in a business engagement role, acting as a liaison between the IT function and various other departments. It was also his entrée to the SAP world.
Ritchie then moved to Officeworks in 2008, around the time the company was making a $20 million-plus investment in SAP.
“Officeworks had already been an SAP customer, but they moved an acquired business off a legacy environment onto SAP, and introduced CRM, internet sales and a few other SAP solutions into the mix at that time,” Ritchie says.
Since then, the SAP portfolio at Officeworks has grown, and Ritchie has moved through a number of roles, including IT application manager and IT program manager to his current role.
One of the aspects of the SAP space Ritchie enjoys most is its flexibility, and the opportunity to network with others across industries.
“SAP covers such a diverse group of industries and organisations, and sometimes the solution that is great for me from a retail point of view might have come out of manufacturing, and vice versa. It’s the flexibility that SAP gives you as an enterprise platform to really grow your business and leverage the investments you’re making,” Ritchie says.
Interface with other industries
Membership of the SAUG certainly enables this type of cross-sector information sharing, and as a major SAP customer, Officeworks has had strong involvement with the user group for some time, with representation in both the retail Special Interest Groups and the SAUG Committee. When Officeworks CIO Brett Proposch stepped down Ritchie joined the Committee, taking responsibility initially for the Executive Council, and later becoming vice chair. When Alan Hesketh departed the role of chair earlier this year, Ritchie was elected as his successor.
He has come into the role at an interesting time for the SAUG, which has been working over the last year to broaden its appeal and keep pace with the changes in the SAP landscape.
One such move was transforming the former CIO Council to become the SAUG Executive Council, opening up involvement to other C-level executives who have a stake in their organisation’s SAP investment.
“Depending on the organisation and its size, you see the IT function moving into different areas – sometimes it’s a direct report to the managing director, sometimes it sits under the CFO. We have now seen a move towards the Chief Marketing Officer having more of an IT focus,” Ritchie says.
“There are different people within organisations now that are relying on IT and in particular SAP to really drive their business as a whole, or their individual functional area. For us, it was really about expanding past the CIOs and getting full engagement of executives from within those organisations and giving them the voice to provide that feedback, because the reality is they are all engaged in some way, shape or form, whether it’s directly or indirectly in the SAP investment in their organisations.”
Another recent change has been to bring the organisation’s Constitution up to date with the new SAP landscape. Previously, only SAP customers who held perpetual licences were able to be members of the SAUG – which effectively excluded any customers of the newer cloud-based solutions. This has now been amended.
“Our focus now is to try and engage with all of those companies that are using Ariba and SuccessFactors to really show that we can add value for them,” Ritchie says.
Another focus is of course continuing to assist existing member organisations, on several fronts – “giving them the ability to network with other SAP users and leverage the knowledge and experience that is out there in our community, but also giving them a voice through the user group and with SUGEN, the global forum, back into SAP around what our members are looking for and changes they would like”, Ritchie says.
“The change of direction from SAP in relation to Fiori has been a good example of where the individual user groups and then SUGEN have been able to influence SAP to change their approach on different aspects.”
The year ahead
While most organisations have moved past the initial shock and awe of big data and cloud computing, what is still common is a need to be faster and more responsive to end-user needs.
“Things are moving at such a rapid pace now, it’s a challenge for all the organisations to keep up, either with the technology or the requirements. People don’t want to wait two, three or four years for a project. Now they want to see really quick changes in their business that actually drive value, and more of an agile, lean type of environment. That’s typically not where most SAP teams have come from – they have usually come from massive projects, and the challenge now is being more progressive and faster,” Ritchie says.
For Officeworks’ part, Ritchie says constant engagement with customers and the business is critical to ensure IT can continue to drive improvement and meet their needs.
“We are out there in stores, with our customer experience teams, talking to customers and the people that serve those customers, finding out what they are looking for and what’s out in the market, and trying to be ahead of the curve in that respect. But to be honest, it’s a constant challenge to make sure that we are adding value.”
The online space is certainly an area where the bar is continually moving higher, and Ritchie admits that here Officeworks has struggled with the pace of change. He believes the addition of hybris to the SAP ‘family’ will offer considerable opportunity for other customers.
“Originally, we had SAP’s internet sales engine and we had bought so many third-party applications in as the needs and wants of the customer changed, SAP was really struggling with the technology that it based itself on to assist with that,” he says.
“hybris gives SAP a great platform to really grow their business, both from the perspective of a pure online capability in the multi-channel environment, but also some of the other functionality that the product has around order management and order fulfilment. Most people think of hybris as just an online platform, but it’s got a lot more than that.”
As for 2015, Ritchie believes it is the ongoing development of capabilities around HANA that holds the most promise for SAP customers.
“It will be the continued use of HANA and in-memory computing, more of a move towards cloud services or software-as-a-service, and really continuing to leverage the purchases that SAP makes and the partnerships that are developed moving forward.”
This article originally appeared in the Inside SAP Yearbook 2015.