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Interview: SAP grows in the cloud

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Simon Kaluza, Managing director for the Central and Eastern European region at SAP since 2013, gave an interview to Budapest Business Journal on the challanges of the past two years, SAP's transformation and the HANA platform solution.

BBJ: What was your greatest challenge in the past two years?

Simon Kaluza: I’ve had a couple of challenges. The market unit is quite diverse and is spread around 14 different countries. My biggest concern was that we were, both internally and externally, an old-fashioned company in a changing world. If I could underline a challenge then it was the transformation of the firm into a cloud company powered by HANA. Internally the transformation needed a sort of enlightenment, while from an external perspective we needed positioning.

BBJ: When you were appointed to your position in 2013 you said that your main aim was to boost the acceptance of SAP’s innovation in the CEE region. How successful have you been with that?

Simon Kaluza: At this point I cannot disclose exact figures, however, I can hint at some figures in all our focus industries and we are achieving a triple digit growth, which is really significant. If I was to highlight some of the things we have done in the past years, I would emphasize the spread of our HANA platform solution, which is by the way becoming the foundation of all SAP products. Three years ago the whole region was skeptical about cloud technology, but these days businesses and companies are realizing the power and advantages of the cloud and for example one of the most important Hungarian SAP clients is currently running an HR project based on cloud technologies. The whole workforce is changing. With the emergence of the millennials, demands are changing. They take cloud technology for granted. Just think about social networking for example; it all uses cloud technologies.

BBJ: In your opinion what makes HANA so successful?

Simon Kaluza: I would dare to say that HANA is the most important innovation in the recent history of business software. It is an in-memory platform, which can help solve the challenge of handling big data – currently the hottest topic in the IT world. Just to give an example of it: according to a study, 4.4 million IT jobs will be created globally to support big data. HANA has created completely new business models, and I can say that with HANA the sky is the limit. With its help we can access big data and turn it into valuable information within the blink of an eye.

BBJ: How do you see SAP’s performance in the region?

Simon Kaluza: First of all, I am really happy to work for a company that reinvents the whole IT industry. We are expecting to reach double-digit growth in all of our most important segments in the region, with HANA being our flagship.

BBJ: How has SAP transformed from an ERP vendor?

Simon Kaluza: It’s been a long journey. The first step of our transformation was the acquisition of the Business Objects software company in 2007. More acquisitions followed in the business sector and we gradually expanded our portfolio and the dimensions of our business. I can proudly say that we are the number one cloud company in the world. I cannot think of any other company that went through such a major transformation as we experienced without deteriorating the company’s value. Although it has been a long journey, it is not over yet and we are not stopping here. There are new innovations to come in order to further help companies run better.

BBJ: In reference to millennials, how do you see companies’ demands changing?

Simon Kaluza: We need to understand that a digital revolution is happening with the emergence of millennials. Nowadays, more and more is stored in the cloud and is going social. This world is not only about leisure time and fun, but this is a digital democracy where people share ideas and make decisions. Millennials have smartphones and they are online 24/7 and the line distinguishing their private and business lives is becoming even thinner, and at the same time they are demanding more. They use these platforms for networking, for growing personally and advancing their careers. To address these people – your clients, employees and customers – you need to understand them and their behavior. Millennials will soon be managers, leaders, probably our bosses, and their expectations will grow even bigger as they were born into it. This is a massive transformation, and companies are currently experiencing the effect of “social impact”.

BBJ: Speaking of massive transformation and digital revolution, what is the latest business trend in your opinion?

Simon Kaluza: Segmentation and targeted offering are becoming more and more important. Companies understand that to increase value, they need to target their clients more and offer individualized services. We understand that for our clients, time is critical and the window of opportunity is becoming smaller. Having an excellent product is definitely important, but it alone is not enough. It needs to be more targeted and more segmented; you have to run a business in real time and address clients in different channels.

BBJ: What places SAP among the most important players in the IT market?

Simon Kaluza: A recent survey revealed that SAP is among the top three companies to have a large influence on the IT sector. We believe that we have become a role model. A couple of years ago some people were laughing at us, particularly at our HANA idea, and now it has become a leader and today everyone is following us and trying to develop “HANA-like solutions”. We are becoming a true business partner to our clients and I believe this is a winning recipe.

BBJ: What are SAP’s future plans for the region?

Simon Kaluza: We are going to continue with our transformation. Within the complex environment of the IT sector, we are going to offer more services with a simpler approach. IT is becoming a commodity and we need to set up this commodity in real time. Nobody should be thinking about IT, but instead about its content. Simplification is a number one priority and we are heading in that direction.

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