SAP Hungary: Leveraging the Future Today
For years, artificial intelligence has been a staple of the sci-fi world, albeit one placed firmly in the future. But as SAP Hungary’s managing director Szabolcs Pintér tells the Budapest Business Journal, it is now very much part of the present.
“AI first appeared in the 1950s and ’60s. Indeed, when I was studying in university we had some lessons in the field. In the past 60 years it has developed quite fast, but if you are talking about analyzing data from pictures or voice recognition, for example, there was not the technology behind it to do that analysis. The technology has now appeared; it is now down to us how we leverage it.”
More of AI later. Pintér, who was appointed to his current role in January of this year, having joined SAP Hungary Kft. in 2007 as a presales expert. He qualified in engineering from the Budapest University of Technology’s faculty of informatics, and a couple of years later added a degree in economics from Corvinus University of Budapest.
He has clearly risen through the management ranks since that first role through different positions (for the past five years he was responsible for leading the transportation industry), but does his background help?
“I think the credibility is better than for someone who is not qualified in IT, so, from this perspective, for sure,” the 35-year-old says. “I can easily talk to CIOs and other C-level executives because at the management level we understand each other from a strategic point of view. Overall, I would say it is more beneficial than not.”
He came in with a desire to build on areas where SAP Hungary was already successful, but also to bring in new developments. “I wanted to change the environment of the company here a little bit and try to add some innovations. For example, if we have good ideas coming from our employees, our ecosystem, it may be worth trying them. I also changed some of the structures as for the past ten years they have been the same.”
One new market area has been so-called experience management solutions. This was made possible by SAP’s USD 8 bln acquisition, completed in January, of Qualtrics, a global pioneer in experience management software. Combining experience data with operational data offers businesses the means to deliver exceptional customer, employee, product and brand experiences.
Pintér sees huge potential in the market. He cites a recent survey in which 80% of CEOs rated the customer experience of their customers with their products as “excellent”. When those same customers were asked about their customer experience, only 8% ranked it excellent. The Qualtrics software, added to SAP’s own, provides the type of holistic view that can bridge that gap.
The MD gives the example of a passenger sitting in seat 6C on a long distance flight, whose air vent does not work. That passenger complains about it in a post on social media. Many other passengers might sit in that same seat, and receive the same poor customer experience before the air vent is fixed. But if social media is monitored, and the complaint spotted early, it can be fixed before real harm is done. The system could even be used to offer the passenger who complained a discount on their next flight.
“This [customer] feedback, if it can be analyzed together with operational data, can produce real results,” Pintér believes.
Qualtrics has closed its first deal since the acquisition in the Hungarian market, which the MD sees as having “enormous significance” for the future. “It usually takes more time to get the first sale; that we have made it [already] this year means for me that this is going to be a popular solution for customers.”
SAP’s own enterprise resource planning solution is entering the next phase of its life with the totally new generation of S/4HANA, offering AI capabilities. With support for the legacy ERP solutions due to be discontinued in 2025, and with many companies in any case upgrading their IT systems, Pintér expects the Hungarian operation to grow robustly this year.
Revenue to Triple
Familiarity with cloud-based systems clearly helps. In the five year period from 2018 to 2023, SAP is expecting global revenue from the cloud to triple. In Hungary, the market for domestic cloud services grew by 38% in 2018 to HUF 77 billion, according to market researcher IDC, with double-digit growth forecast this year.
“We expect above the market growth. But in the public sector we need to evangelize the benefits of the cloud more to get over security fears. There is big growth potential in publicly-owned companies, but also sectors like retail and banking,” he says.
Magyar Posta, the Hungarian postal service, has been using SAP’s Ariba e-procurement solution software. The MD hopes this will make it a cloud-based reference point for other public sector entities, and encourage greater take up.
Which brings us back to artificial intelligence. SAP Hungary recently joined the AI Coalition, which now numbers more than 190 companies and organizations aiming to help the technology to spread and develop. “We are working to increase the competitive advantage of Hungary in terms of AI,” he explains. Whether talking about machine learning, image or shape recognition software, or robotic process automation, all can help Hungary overcome its labor shortage.
“One pilot project SAP is working on uses the HANA software and image recognition to examine railway powerlines and look for possible signs of wear or damage, meaning predictive maintenance can be carried out, rather than waiting for an actual power outage. Similarly, vehicle mounted cameras are being tested to look for road surface damage or other hazards. This is just another example of what could potentially be new territory for us, where we can add value with HANA together with AI to offer real results for customers to look at,” Pintér says.
SAP Hungary Kft.
The business software provider says it generated revenues of HUF 36.6 billion last year, nearly HUF 2 bln more than the year before. Recently, it has close large-scale projects in the financial, commercial, and higher education sectors: 15 Hungarian higher education institutions already have an integrated IT system based on SAP technology for dealing with institution management, financial management, controlling and HR processes, it says. More than 2,000 domestic customers uses SAP solutions on a daily basis, with the number of new orders growing fastest in the SME sector. SAP Hungary employs nearly 1,200 people, many of whom perform international tasks, and is currently looking to fill 20 new posit
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