SAP: Birthdays, Growth and a Welcome Return

Interview

Szabolcs Pintér, managing director of SAP Hungary

SAP Hungary managing director Szabolcs Pintér talks to the Budapest Business Journal about the long-awaited return of its annual conference, significant anniversaries, cloud developments and the ticking deadline for the end of Business Suite 7 support.

BBJ: After a two-year, COVID-enforced gap, the annual fall SAP NOW Hungary conference returns on September 11-13. How does it feel to be back?

Szabolcs Pintér: Without boasting, I can say that the annual SAP end-of-summer conference was an essential event both for the IT and general business sectors in the years before the enforced shutdown. The fact that it is back fills me with excitement and satisfaction. On the one hand, it signifies some return to normality. On the other hand, naturally, it is crucial for us from a business point of view. The fact that we can host our clients, partners and suppliers, and even our competitors’ representatives once a year impacts the speed, volume and quality of cooperation on the other days of the year.

BBJ: This year also marks two significant milestones: the 50th anniversary of SAP and the 25th anniversary of SAP Hungary. How do you plan to celebrate these events?

SzP: We are celebrating both the international and the Hungarian anniversaries throughout the year. For example, we held a family day for our colleagues at Budapest Zoo in mid-July. In addition, there will be surprises at this year’s SAP NOW conference, and we will recall those key milestones that marked the development of the brand and the business environment. If we just consider how some concepts have shifted into mainstream usage, for example, digitalization, the cloud, data security, and the consumer/user experience, we immediately realize that the world has changed together with SAP.

BBJ: Given the anniversaries and the two-year gap, how many people are you expecting at this year’s event? Will it be more than usual?

SzP: In earlier years, we welcomed approximately 1,000 guests over the three days of the conference, typically consisting of informal networking on the first day and two days of professional programs. We reckon on roughly the same attendance this year because it is evident that, besides the “regulars,” an enormous number of younger managers see in it an opportunity to meet the biggest names in the domestic IT sector in one place and to see presentations that will assist them in their work.

BBJ: The Hungarian event has grown into the largest SAP program in Central and Eastern Europe. Why do you think that is? What has been the secret of its success?

SzP: These days, there are weekly conferences featuring inspirational, headset-wearing speakers in the pattern of TED Talks, but this was far from common 10 or 20 years ago. Back then, the SAP annual events in Tihany, and later Siófok, included lectures, roundtable discussions and debates that we chewed over for weeks afterward. In two days, we had 100 speakers, with a professor of economics following on from a top trainer, a mathematician-scientist following a minister, a biologist following a bourse president, offering broad horizons extending far beyond the fields of business and economics. It will be great to experience this once again. Looking back, at the beginning of the 21st century, we talked about going green and the drawbacks of globalization. These have now become essential elements of any professional discourse.

BBJ: What have been the major milestones for SAP Hungary over the past 25 years?

SzP: The first and most important was the foundation of a local office. Multinationals that arrived after 1990 and domestic corporations already ran SAP software. The fact that they could now turn to a locally-based affiliate with their operational and development needs proved to be an enormous advantage. From here, growth was exponential; we had an ever-expanding client base and delivered digital solutions for increasing numbers of corporate functionalities. A new important milestone was reached when the Budapest office received a commission not only to serve outside clients but also to supply SAP in-house, global tasks. That is how development tasks arrived in Hungary with SAP Labs, and later on cloud operations for several major software products, such as SuccessFactors Cloud Service. These not only raised the profile of the Hungarian office within SAP but were also a credit to the country in that the local workforce and business culture instantly jumped several rungs up the maturity ladder. The significance of SAP Hungary is similarly indicated by the fact that the second largest SAP community in the region operates in Hungary with more than 1,500 employees.

BBJ: Digitalization and the cloud are the big trends in the industry today. How will they be presented? What is the latest news concerning them that non-corporate IT CEOs should be aware of?

SzP: We try to demonstrate with realistic examples, through real-world corporate case studies, what sorts of changes the introduction of cloud computing and state-of-the-art software bring to a company’s operation. We also aim to show how much more freely companies can think in shaping their business strategy. When we talk of “disruption,” the background is that a company can dare to think with an innovative approach and in terms of a new business model thanks to the returns from digital transformation. All SAP-using IT professionals need to be aware that the deadline for official support on our SAP Business Suite 7 package is the end of 2027. The date refers to all applications of the package (ERP 6.0, CRM 7.0, Supply Chain Management 7.0, Supplier Relationship Management 7.0); support will only be available at an additional charge from January 2028 to December 2030. That is why we emphasize on all channels that clients should not leave their migration to the latest S/4HANA system until the last minute. It can be done most effectively using our cloud-based RISE package. Currently, this position affects several hundred companies in Hungary, for whom the launch of the process will become increasingly pressing given the time necessary for the switch and the capacities available on the market.

BBJ: What other trends should we look for in the future, and how is SAP involved with them?

SzP: Today, companies can see, in real time and with a 360° perspective, all data impacting the price, quantity, demand, and inventory of their products and services, not only for them but also for their suppliers and stakeholders. Over the past few years, the trend has been that enterprises should receive a similarly solidly-based picture of their consumers’ behavior to pave the way for better decision-making. Although handling the satisfaction of customers and the consumer experience that precedes this, along with the related employee experience management, are not new areas, they will remain hot topics for years to come. As such, interest in Emarsys, developed for consumer experience management, and SuccessFactors, designed to measure and improve the employee experience, is constantly increasing. I believe that automation and AI will contribute most to the bottom line of companies in these areas.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of September 9, 2022.

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