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Flexibility and Localized Knowledge key for SAP Business One

Retail

Hungarian SMEs have traditionally been regarded as very much grounded in the present, not really prepared to invest in the future. The mentality has been survive today, rather than thrive tomorrow. But one of SAPs leading global marketing experts says a generational change, coupled with new ways of using technology and working with partners, can overcome that.

Paulo Almeida, the global head of SAP Business One marketing.

Paulo Almeida, the global head of SAP Business One marketing, was in Hungary in October to meet face-to-face with local partners. “It strikes me that Hungary is not that different,” he told the Budapest Business Journal in an exclusive interview. “OK, maybe it is different from Dubai, but it is not that different from Latin America, South East Asia or Southern Europe.”

SAP Business One is business management software (ERP) specifically designed for SMEs. Originally designed by an Israeli company and first launched in 1995, SAP acquired it in 2002. Sold through SAP’s global partner network, it aims to automate key business functions in, for instance, financials, operations, sales and customer management, working either onsite or in the cloud, operating as a digital hub.

And it has proved a huge success. According to Almeida, there are 800 partners worldwide, with 500 plus industry specific solutions, supporting more than 60,000 customers and one million users. The ability for partners to develop their own applications from SAP Business One is key to the success, for it enables the software to becomes much more nuanced: retail fashion companies in Brazil will have very specific and different needs to retail fashion companies in Milan, but both can be addressed through localized Business One apps, the head of marketing says.

Almeida is Portuguese, and still lives in the country. He believes that gives him an insight into how smaller markets work that he might not have were he an American living in Texas. Localization is important, he says. That is why SAP offers country-specific versions, he says. But he also sees change in the way small- and medium-sized businesses look at the future.

“SMEs are usually family held, and in many cases are now managed by the second generation, and the second generation is usually a little more open to technology, because they have grown up with it,” he reasons.

The advantage of a market the size of Hungary is that it is almost impossible not to know your customers. But more important than just knowing them is understanding their needs and challenges. “What pain points does a customer have, and how can you evolve a solution to make life easier?” Almeida asks.

Using Technology Differently

Sometimes solving that pain point simply means using existing technology differently. Almeida tells the story of a partner who had a client who had to take an inventory of his stock every morning, requiring the manual scanning of bar codes. Almeida wondered if it could not be done faster and easier by something like a drone. The partner undertook the relatively cheap adaptation of a drone using SAP software, and Almeida did the marketing for him.  

“Drones were originally introduced as a toy, but now they can be adapted to improve business practices. This is the modern world. Everything needs to be fast, simple and cheap, because if it is expensive, nobody is going to do it.” Applications for SMEs also have to reflect this if they are to take off, and that is as true for development as it is for selling the end product.

The technology needs to be digestible, the marketing head says. “In North America, for big projects we will still be asked to organize everything at once. In this part of the world, our experience is that a decision starts with something small. If you can make that work, show that it delivers added value, then you can move forward. SMEs need to see results, so you deal with phased implementation.”

Timing also matters, he insists. “The number of days required to go live is really not too crucial in bigger markets, but here if they want to go live in four weeks and you take five, you lose respect. You must respect the deadline, you must make it happen.”

SAP Business One has built a reputation for flexibility and adaptability over the past more than 20 years. So what is next? “Alexa [Amazon’s virtual assistant]. You’ll actually be able to speak with SAP Business One,” says Almeida.  

“Alexa, how is my business doing?”

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