In 1972, five former IBM engineers in Germany set up a different kind of business software company. Around the same time, China’s modern economy was also just getting off the ground, tallying a mere U.S.$259 billion in GDP. Forty years on, SAP is the world’s largest business applications software company and the most highly valued corporation in all of Germany. China, meanwhile, posted GDP of U.S.$7.2 trillion last year and become the world’s second largest economy. Tremendous growth in parallel.
As Rob Enslin, president of Global Customer Operations and SAP Managing Board member, explained in his keynote on day two of China SAPPHIRE in Beijing, that growth has recently become more intertwined. Just as SAP’s vision has evolved since 1972 – expanding beyond applications to include technologies in cloud, database and technology, analytics, and mobile – China is changing, too. Its growth focus is shifting from quantity to quality in new knowledge-based, service-oriented industries. SAP sees its solutions as a perfect match with China’s aspirations toward more sustainable growth.
The digital transition
In China and the rest of the world, a great digital transition is taking place. Billions of devices are creating nearly incomprehensible amounts of data. “Done right, this presents a huge opportunity for business. How will you embrace this digital transition?” asked Enslin. At the same time, he noted the issue of constrained resources. Echoing the previous day’s statements (“SAP Drives Growth in China – and Vice Versa”), Enslin held up technology as a key factor in helping companies get the most out of resources. The result is more sustainable growth and more profitable operations.
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Business applications can help companies meet the challenges of massive data volumes and resource utilization, continued Enslin, but they will have to keep evolving. They need to incorporate engaging user experiences and integrate with SAP’s other technology in the areas of analytics, mobile, cloud, and database and technology.
In the analytics space, new predictive analytics capabilities from SAP are helping businesses predict and act as opposed to sense and respond. With SAP Visual Intelligence, for example, users can connect to data sources and start discovery, analysis, and sharing in an interactive experience.
Applications in this area are also undergoing rapid transformation to meet new business needs. SAP’s recent acquisition of Syclo is boosting the company’s portfolio of mobile apps and solutions, while Sybase Afaria helps businesses manage the increasing number of devices. In addition, Enslin announced SAP’s closer partnership with China Telecom, which aims to promote platforms for mobile development and device management. The partnership also extends to cloud-based, enterprise-class products and services.
SAP’s offerings in the cloud, particularly from SuccessFactors, are changing the way employees interact with their employers. With these and other cloud solutions, SAP is one of the fastest growing cloud vendors in the industry.
Database and Technology
A video appearance by executives from China Foods illustrated how customers in China are harnessing the power of SAP’s database & technology offerings to derive clear business value. In combination with Sybase ASE and Sybase IQ, SAP HANA could well develop into the answer to China’s big data interests.
Latecomers finish first
Enslin concluded, “Starting late doesn’t mean finishing last.” The compressed innovation in the last several years can work to customers’ advantage, allowing them to leapfrog technological eras and their competition. As for SAP, Enslin said, “Like many of you here, we are just getting started.”
Paper and gunpowder are as just two of the innovations attributed to China. As Xiaoqun Clever, president of SAP Labs China, put it, the country isn’t new to invention. Now, China is the first country to pass the one billion mark in mobile subscribers and easily has the largest “Internet society,” with 538 million Internet users, 388 million mobile Internet users, and 180 million bloggers.
Serving the Internet society
“Innovation is about deep understanding of customer needs,” Clever said. “We know that we need to understand China, its people and its culture.” For this, SAP has built up a strong base of local engineers and professionals to develop solutions that delight local customers. A new partnership with Huawei will give these customers more, local choice in their technology provider. For the numerous organizations in China looking to go global, SAP offers years of experience working across borders.
“SAP is the best partner to accompany you on the journey in a new era,” Clever concluded. “Let’s start together.”
Guest Speaker: Ex-Head of Google China
Former head of Google for greater China and current Chairman and CEO of Innovation works Dr. Kai-fu Lee was the guest speaker on day two of China SAPPHIRE. His current company focuses on creating the next wave of Chinese high-tech companies and entrepreneurs. Lee argued that the essence of innovation is value-creation for end users. “Any innovation is useless if it does not meet users’ needs,” he said. “That’s why we ask our entrepreneurs to put customer needs first.”
Lee spent much of his keynote on the market for mobile, China’s market being one of the largest. Enterprise mobility applications are up and coming in the nation. In industries such as e-commerce and retail, big data coupled with solutions in mobile will transform the way business is done in China. Lee argued that the imperatives for businesses in China are to optimize processes, improve existing products, and develop new, innovative products if they are to unlock the potential of this mobile technology trend.