Back on Board

Feature Article | March 23, 2010 by Christoph Zeidler

Offen und ehrlich: Michael Kleinemeier, SAP-Chef Deutschland, Österreich, Schweiz

Michael Kleinemeier, head of SAP Germany, Austria and Switzerland (photo: Wolfram Scheible)

SAP.info: Mr. Kleinemeier, you don’t seem to be able to keep away from SAP. What motivated you to come back after a two-year absence?

Kleinemeier: What really persuaded me was the relationship with colleagues and with the many customers that SAP has worked with for 37 years now. I believe that SAP is one of the best companies I know. It has a product portfolio that can be expanded and it has a great future ahead of it. Those things – plus the desire to get things done and align the strategy with the needs of our customers – convinced me to come back to SAP.

SAP.info: SAP has just taken a step in that direction in terms of the maintenance options. What else can SAP do to reestablish confidence, particularly among customers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland?

Kleinemeier: The SAP Enterprise Support services are a very good offering for customers, because they help them optimize their processes. But I can understand that the lack of different support options did get on customers’ nerves to a certain extent. SAP has definitely now learnt a lesson. If we are convinced that we have good services with clear added value, we can sell those services – but we have to let customers make up their own minds.

Nevertheless, we have to reestablish the links with our customers. Because we need their trust. Unfortunately, it’s easily lost and difficult to win back. That’s why I believe we have to do the things we say we’re going to do, and do them honestly and sincerely. Only then can we help our customers.

SAP.info: Now you’re responsible for the three German-speaking countries in Europe again: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. From time to time, there are complaints that Germany dominates this triangle. How will you ensure that every customer gets the same service from SAP, regardless of where they come from?

Kleinemeier: There have never been any serious problems here. By bundling activities in my area, we even have more opportunities now, we can scale our activities better, and we can access and distribute knowledge more effectively. All markets have their idiosyncrasies in terms of customer relationships. That’s a truism. And these customer relationships will always remain local. However, within this structure, we can disseminate the knowledge and resources that can’t be reproduced at will to the benefit of local customers.

Next Page: The Chance of Success for SAP Business ByDesign

SAP.info: How do you rate the chance of success for the SAP Business ByDesign solution? How prepared is SAP – and your region – for volume business? Will the product be adopted by the market?

Kleinemeier: In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – and especially in Germany – SAP is the absolute leader in the midmarket. Above all, this is thanks to SAP Business All-in-One, which even meets the needs of small businesses and midsize companies with highly specific industry requirements. SAP Business ByDesign is a solution that caters to both a general change in demand and to smaller businesses that want to consume software with no great effort. They don’t want to maintain their own hardware, they don’t want to have to bother much about IT, they just want to work with applications using their Web browser. I truly believe that there is a demand for such products in the midmarket and that SAP Business ByDesign is exactly the right solution.

SAP.info: Apart from on-demand, what trends are you anticipating this year? What will the industry have to deal with?

Kleinemeier: On-demand is very important, because it lowers the entry barriers and simplifies software consumption. However, on-premises software also remains a significant option. Small packaged solutions – like our Best-Run Now packages – can bring fast results. Apart from that, the areas of analysis, business intelligence, and compliance look very promising. We’re excellently positioned for these areas with our SAP BusinessObjects portfolio. This year, we’ll also be busy with main memory database systems, also known as in-memory computing. This technology can analyze, format, and present millions of data records in a matter of seconds.

SAP.info: What can customers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland expect from you?

Kleinemeier: My vision for 2010 is to align our strategy 100% with customers’ needs again, to understand our customers, and work together to create good projects. Co-innovation is important to me. SAP always developed good products when it talked to customers at an early stage and developed software close to the market. The restructuring of our development department will help us get back on track here. That’s what I would like: satisfied employees and satisfied customers who can extract genuine value from our products.

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