Soccer team in a huddle

Exclusive Interview with Cristina Palmaka, Managing Director for SAP Brazil

Feature Article | June 26, 2014 by Susan Galer

Cristina Palmaka, who rejoined SAP last fall, is super excited about bringing innovation to customers in Brazil. In this interview with SAP News, she talks about the emergence of Brazilian business as a powerhouse for accelerated growth, and SAP’s investments to help every local company run simpler.

palmakathumbPassions may run deep for the FIFA World Cup, but Palmaka says Brazil’s appetite for innovations like cloud, SAP HANA, and mobile is equally strong, offering this important country one of the biggest transformational opportunities ever.

SAP News: This year, Brazil hosted the FIFA Soccer World Cup. Are you a soccer fan?

I was there for the opening games along with our customers. It was a great experience to celebrate the game together, sharing the SAP experience in sports. I played soccer when I was younger, and of course, everyone here is very enthusiastic about the momentum for Brazil. We’re also using this momentum to accelerate growth for our Sports and Entertainment solutions. One of the teams in Sao Paulo, Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras, is using SAP Business One software, and we have customers in sports merchandising too. Showing how our technology can be used in a different scenario is the beauty we bring when we talk with customers. Even if they aren’t connected to sports, this brings passion to the discussion.

Why did you decide to join SAP, and what has excited you the most since you’ve come on board?

I’m very proud to come back to SAP seeing how big and bold we’re going to the cloud. The drive for innovation and worldwide momentum is fantastic. I’m just as excited about the accelerated growth in Brazil as we’re going deep and broad with customers using our comprehensive portfolio for greater business value. Leading 1,500 employees here and having the opportunity to bring SAP Brazil to the next level has been a very important and challenging responsibility for me.

What are your top three priorities?

As the third largest subsidiary of the company in 2013, SAP Brazil has experienced 40 percent growth year over year from 2012 to 2013. One of my highest priorities is sustaining this tremendous growth. Second is to bring to our Brazilian customers the knowledge and value that SAP’s innovations deliver worldwide. We want to have a positive impact on local business with everything from cloud to SAP HANA. Third and equally important is the transformation of our development team to deliver in this new reality.

Why is Brazil such as an important market for SAP?

While this country’s size alone makes it very relevant to our growth, the unique market mix is equally compelling. Brazil has a powerful combination of very strong multi-nationals, major local companies, plus a huge small and mid-size business base. Now these SMEs can have the same kind of innovation as larger companies, especially when you go to the cloud.

Many vendors are looking to Brazil as a major growth market. How is SAP differentiated?

SAP Labs sets us apart, making a valuable and unique contribution for Brazilian customers. We’re aligned not just globally, but with local needs including complex tax regulations. Having SAP Labs here working on localizing solutions to meet this country’s tax framework is a significant differentiator. We’re continuing to make other investments in Brazil including our Data Center, as well as expansion across the country. We have a clear strategy and specific team dedicated to manage this geographic expansion, bringing SAP even closer to customers and the entire ecosystem.

How much appetite in Brazil is there for SAP innovations like cloud, mobile, SAP HANA?

There’s a very strong appetite for innovations in Brazil. We have a huge opportunity as we still see large companies without modern, technology-driven processes. Additionally, cloud is opening doors for the ecosystems of these large companies including subsidiaries. We’re also seeing strong uptake of our cloud solutions among SMEs that lack IT departments and need affordable solutions. Overall, parts of Brazil have huge issues with uneven logistics and infrastructure, making anyplace, anytime mobile access very important. At the same time, more companies are adopting SAP HANA as they experience its business benefits.

As a global company, how does SAP meet the specific local demands of customers and partners in Brazil?

We offer customers the best of both worlds—the magnitude of SAP’s global R&D investments plus SAP Labs in Brazil. Together, these allow us to solve customers’ problems for the greatest business impact. We are constantly localization solutions across industries most important to Brazil including retail, agri-business, financial services, and core banking. These benefits are also attracting both long-time and new partners who are intent on moving to the cloud. Many want to support human resource capabilities and improve their business management using our tools.

What kind of an investment is SAP making in this region?

SAP is committed to having a positive impact on the community. We’re accelerating the development of young talent using worldwide programs with SAP Academy for Sales. They receive mentoring from strong account executives, helping these millennials become the next generation to make a valuable contribution to society. Our corporate social responsibility efforts include the Esperansap Institute, which promotes talent development through education for disadvantaged people and those at the beginning of their careers. Also, SAP’s Emerging Entrepreneurs Initiative, SAP Expoentes, supports start-ups with Business One software and mentoring, to propel economic growth for them and the country overall.

How important are local partners to SAP in Brazil? What does SAP offer them in terms of growth opportunities?

Partners are integral to our growth plans. One of our top priorities is having the right partners aligned with our innovations. We’re focused on attracting partners that are strong in the cloud, as well as those that might not have traditionally been part of our ecosystem. These new kinds of partners are realizing that the power of SAP’s solutions makes a lot of sense for them.

What can the Brazilian market expect from SAP for the rest of 2014?

As our CEO Bill McDermott has been saying, customers are going to see a much simpler company. This is evident in the way we do business, in the delivery of more user-friendly solution interfaces, and in how we talk about the benefits of our portfolio to impact our customer’s business. The market will see a lot more of SAP because we’re getting closer to more people across the country. Existing customers are already seeing this, while new ones who might never have considered having SAP in their company, are delighted with the amazing business value that they have quickly realized.

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