Living Up to Customers’ Expectations

Tim Noble, Managing Director of SAP United Kingdom and Ireland, im Gespräch mit der (Foto: Christoph Zeidler)
Tim Noble, Managing Director of SAP United Kingdom and Ireland. (photo: SAP) The U.K. and Ireland have been hit hard by the economic crisis. What’s your take on the market situation there?

Tim Noble: Actually, I believe we’re past the crisis in the U.K. and elsewhere. What I mean by that is not that all is well, but that we can’t panic anymore. The world has been in this position for over a year, and we’re learning to deal with it. This is not a crisis any longer. You see many companies coming out again with strong earnings, companies that have managed to adapt. And it’s exactly that – either you’ll change and adapt to the new reality or you’ll go out of business. And what do you hear from customers?

Tim Noble: They’re talking about ways of innovating their businesses, ways of changing their go-to-market strategy. They’re looking at new products, new technology. We want to help them, and so we sit together and discuss all those things. And it’s only by truly looking at all of the data in your company and by understanding what it really means that you can steer your company out of this economic downturn into growth mode. Business intelligence is a great means to gain the necessary insight. How did the integration of the business intelligence software company Business Objects go? Is the new SAP UKI all set and ready to help?

Tim Noble: Yes, we are, definitely. We completed the integration a while ago and still continue to invest heavily, for example, in our Ireland operations. We’ve joined forces and brought some great products like SAP BusinessObjects Explorer to the market.

Yet, internally, we still have some work to do. We are working hard on educating our account executives in our joint salesforce on all of the products and services from both SAP and the former Business Objects. And I’m happy to see that we’re making excellent progress. Let’s go back to the market situation. You said we’re past the crisis. Why are you so optimistic? Where do you see growth coming from?

Tim Noble: Sure, it’s no longer a crisis – but that doesn’t mean there’s going to be any fast economic recovery, either. The U.K. relies on the services industry and the financial sector, which were clearly two of the hardest hit industries. So it will take the country some time to get back on its feet again. The second thing is the political situation. We’re having general elections in the U.K. this year, and there’s a certain insecurity in the market as to what that’s going to mean in terms of legislation and regulations.

So, I don’t think there’s going to be a fast recovery, but I say that with a smile because there are still opportunities out there, for example, in the SME space. The midmarket, I believe, will grow and recover the fastest, both in the U.K. and in Ireland. And since it’s a market we haven’t really tapped into too much, I see huge potential. The situation is tough, but that’s not an excuse for us not to perform and not to live up to our customers’ expectations. Talking about customers’ expectations, the introduction of SAP Enterprise Support last year as the new standard support scheme wasn’t exactly what they had expected…

Tim Noble: That’s certainly true. I joined SAP only after the announcement, so I can’t really comment on what was going on at the time, but I do have two things to say. The good news is, I hear less and less about the topic. Both customers and analysts are increasingly seeing the benefits and understanding the value of Enterprise Support. And, with our recent decision for a two-tier maintenance model, we show that we take customers’ expectations seriously. The bad news is, though, that we did break their trust, and it will take some time to rebuild it. What are your plans to win back that trust? And even to grow it?

Tim Noble: By providing strong customer centricity. Actually, that’s one of the pillars of my vision for this company. So how do we do that? By maintaining our existing customer relationships. Frankly, in the U.K. we haven’t always done the best job of keeping relationships in shape. We seemed to move account executives around, and customers weren’t happy about that. So customer centricity is vital. Another important aspect of customer centricity is the ecosystem. We can learn and do so much if we work more closely with the SAP U.K. & Ireland User Group, for example. I was happy to attend their annual conference in Manchester last November to get to know them and to hear what they had to say. And we can also learn and do so much if we work closely with our system integrators and channel partners, as well. I believe there is a lot to gain for everybody. What are the other pillars of your vision for SAP UKI?

Tim Noble: The second pillar is value and value-based selling. SAP is a multi-channel, multi-product company, and we have to know our stuff. We need to continue to explain our products and services to the market, and we need to provide real value to our customers. One good thing about the tough market situation is that you can’t succeed right now if you aren’t strong. And we are strong. We have excellent products that deliver great return on investment. We need to keep training our account executives so they help our customers realize this value.

The third pillar is people. We have some very good people in the U.K. and Ireland, and one of my core strengths is that I want to make sure they have an environment where they feel successful, feel valued, feel trusted. Where they feel that SAP is a place they want to be. My job is to make sure we have the right people and to take care of the right people. Only then can they properly take care of their people, our customers.

Tim Noble, Managing Director of SAP UKI

Tim Noble, Managing Director of SAP United Kingdom and Ireland, joined the company on June 15, 2009. His primary focus is to drive the company’s business strategy and execute growth plans that will enable SAP to expand its leadership position in the business software arena. A key goal for Tim is to carry forward the company’s Clear strategy, which enables customers to exploit SAP’s integrated solutions for improved performance, efficiency, and flexibility. Prior to beginning his role at SAP, Tim was Senior Vice President and Executive Officer at Gartner. In this role, Tim had responsibility for the development and execution of the company’s global sales strategy. During his 15 years working with Gartner, he served in a number of sales and leadership positions. Prior to this, Tim worked for organisations including New Science Associates, and Yourdon International, a subsidiary of Kodak. Tim holds a Law Degree from the University of Buckingham.