Taking the helm at SAP ANZ

In July, Andrew Barkla took up the role of president and
managing director of SAP ANZ, left vacant by Tim Ebbeck earlier in the
year. Barkla joined SAP from senior regional roles at Unisys and
PeopleSoft. He spoke with Freya Purnell about what’s on his agenda for
the next 12 months, the challenges ahead for SAP, and the role of the
ecosystem in helping SAP ANZ double in size by 2015.

Freya Purnell: What attracted you to the role at SAP?

Andrew Barkla: I’ve been involved in the application
software business for much of my career. When I got the tap on the
shoulder, I was running Unisys Asia Pacific in Japan and was also on the
executive board globally. I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to
customers about some of the disruptive trends like big data,
consumerisation of IT, cloud, and mobility. I can see a big shift
happening in technology at the moment – a shift that I believe is bigger
than the shift we saw when the internet was deployed in the commercial
and government sector.
The fundamental reason [I decided to join] was you’ve got the largest
application software company in the world making huge bets on the
innovative technologies of tomorrow – cloud, mobility, SAP HANA. To be
quite frank, looking at the investments that SAP was making and the
assets the company has in its customer base, it was just too good an
opportunity to turn down.

FP: Since joining SAP eight weeks ago, what have your
immediate priorities been, and what is on your agenda over the next 12

AB: My immediate priorities have been getting out and
listening to our customers and our partners. In my first seven weeks I
met 77 customers and around 20 partners, so I’ve been doing a lot of
listening, understanding how we’ve been performing and whether we’re
delivering on the expectations they have of us, and getting an
understanding of where they are with SAP and what opportunities the
innovation portfolio is going to bring to the table. I’ve also been
spending a lot of time with our people, again gauging our focus on
customers and on making our partner and customer community successful.
Going forward, it really is about driving a growth agenda, and is very
much around bringing innovation to the table for our customers – whether
that’s a customer trying to save money because of some of the
challenges they face, or organisations that are looking to take
advantage of new business possibilities and solve new business problems
with a set of new market categories that we just didn’t have two years
BusinessObjects added analytics, Sybase added database and technology in
a mobility platform, we’ve added SAP HANA into the mix around database
and real-time in-memory computing, and then of course the cloud with the
acquisition of SuccessFactors and Ariba – all of those present a whole
new set of possibilities for customers and for the ecosystem. So that
will be my focus; just ensuring that we have the new innovative
technologies in front of our customers, not for technology’s sake, but
looking at industry and business problems and trying to solve them.

FP: From those initial discussions with customers and
partners, what is your sense about how they feel about what SAP has been
delivering up until now?

AB: Generally across the board I’ve been really
impressed. Most of the customers I’ve talked to have been extremely
complimentary, and many of them are in that consolidation phase from an
applications perspective – they have completed the ERP foundation, and
the exciting thing is that now they have this platform in place, they’re
looking at how they get the benefits of being more agile and more
responsive, and how they extend the platform, leveraging some of the new
technologies to deliver front-office benefits that are relevant for
their industry.

FP: With so many shifts taking place right now, and so many
different solutions that SAP is offering, how should customers be
trying to work out where to invest to yield the greatest value?

AB: We’re at a point where you don’t know what you
don’t know. I’ve met with some customers who know what they want, but
they’re not sure what they really need. From a pragmatic perspective, it
comes back to looking at the markets they are operating in, and looking
at their own business strategy and the challenges that they have in
executing that, and then engaging with us to help them identify how they
can best take advantage of some of these new innovations, on top of the
investment they’ve made, to deliver business benefits aligned to their
I think actually one of our big challenges in engaging as we go forward
is getting linked back into the business challenges. We were certainly
there, front and centre, through the shift into ERP. Those were
transformational decisions made by customers at the time. As I look at
the future challenges, we have to get back in front of the business to
really understand how it aligns to the strategy and the business
problems of today, and not just show up with a technology product
proposition. I think one of the big challenges we’ve got is working with
our ecosystem to get ourselves back in front of the business and having
business-relevant conversations.

FP: So what do you see as the role of the ecosystem in the future?

AB: It’s helping us understand, particularly from an
industry perspective and from a customer perspective, what are the
business problems we need to be engaging around. Of course we have many
ecosystem partners and channel partners who have very deep industry
knowledge, and in some cases, very deep departmental or functional
knowledge, and we need to leverage and take advantage of that knowledge.

We are setting out to double the size of the business by 2015. We can’t
do it alone, we just can’t grow that quickly without really enabling
both the channels and the ecosystem to help us grow and help us solve
those customer business problems.

FP: Which market segments do you expect to be strong contributors to that growth?

AB: All market segments. If you go to government at
the moment, there are significant budget challenges at the state and
federal level, and that presents a real opportunity to do things
differently. Getting better data and analysis on citizens and the
services that can be provided presents opportunities for SAP HANA. When
they’re looking at significantly reducing the cost of their shared
services operations, cloud becomes a significant proposition.
In the mining and resources sector, we’re looking at increasing our
investments in Western Australia and strengthening our alignment with
our partners and ecosystem to prepare ourselves for growth in those
markets. The retail sector is facing significant challenges, so we’re
working with them on both lowering costs and getting better engagement
with suppliers, through procurement solutions to improve supply chain
and giving them a stronger online presence.  
So there are things happening and challenging each of the industries,
and we serve over 24 industries that are presenting opportunities. SAP
is not just applications, and now we have the five market categories
that are giving us a chance to understand the problems that customers
have and bring these new solutions and innovations to the table. I’m
pretty bullish, as you can tell.

FP: How does the level of available SAP resources in the Australian and New Zealand market affect your thinking about growth?

AB: In Australia and New Zealand, if we’re setting
out to grow 30 per cent and double the size of the business, we will
need more skills and more talent. How do we go about doing that? One
dimension is growing the ecosystem, being more strategic with our
alignments and our transparency about our focus areas and how we grow
together, improving our enablement of the ecosystem and channels, that
will play a big part in it.
Our ecosystem equally sees the opportunity of the additional four market
categories to complement the core, and to grow new SAP customers. I’m
seeing in my conversations a reinvigoration of the ecosystem in
investing in SAP HANA, in mobility, and supporting implementations of
SuccessFactors and Business ByDesign. We are all looking at growing at
the same time, so that’s one way we have to fulfil the opportunities in
concert with our own channels and ecosystem, and then of course we are
looking at growing our own services business to support that.
This will be a challenge, and I don’t underestimate the challenge. In
this day and age, we leverage global delivery centres, and we’ve got
rapid deployment solutions in place for most of the portfolio. The cloud
is a different paradigm in terms of how quickly you can implement and
the amount of resource that’s required and the risk. I think that also
assists – you don’t necessarily need as much resource to set up and
support the cloud solutions as you would have three years ago for an
on-premise style solution.

FP: How do you see the maturity of the SAP Australia and New Zealand market compared to the Asia Pacific region?

AB: Australia and New Zealand is a mature market.
What we need to be careful about is it’s also a market that’s very
innovative and there is a lot of early adoption of technology here.
Let’s take the cloud for example – in the US, cloud is penetrating about
85 per cent of organisations, and in Australia it sits at around 65 per
cent. We’re not that far behind, and we’re catching up very quickly.
Because Australia and New Zealand is a mature market, it is looking to
innovation to better expand into adjacent markets in Asia, and to
compete more effectively. Businesses will either thrive or fail in a
mature market now with so much innovation going on in technology.
It’s very different to Asia. Markets like China, India and Indonesia are
still significant growth markets for the ERP platform in its own right,
and that’s different from Australia and New Zealand.

FP: For SAP ANZ as a company, what are the greatest challenges you’re facing here?

AB: That’s a tough question because I just feel so
positive about everything I’m seeing at the moment. The greatest
challenge I think will be leading our customers into and through the
innovation that’s available to them. We are going to need to spend more
time with the business leadership in our customers, helping them look at
some of the challenges they have in front of them, and think
differently about how they solve some of those problems – because a year
ago, we didn’t have some of the technologies that we have available to
us today.
Our customers can put down what they want on an RFP, but understanding
what they really need is going to be a much more collaborative process
with somebody like SAP and our ecosystem to really think through some of
the game-changes that can be delivered based on what is huge innovation
in our industry. So getting that business connection and that insight
with our customers into what’s possible is probably our biggest
challenge at the moment.
Imagine if we only began to think about mobility in a year’s time, and
the time that we would have lost competitively if we delay really
understanding how the technology and the opportunity around mobility is
applied to our business. I think what people don’t understand is how
quickly things are changing. With so many shifts going on at the same
time, businesses are going to change dramatically. 

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