Partnering in Panama

Photo: iStockphoto

The small nation of Panama is topping the lists lately of international trend spotters and forecasters. Occupying an enviable geographic position on the isthmus of the Americas, Panama is at once a global commerce gateway and an international hub for banking and business. In 2012, its GDP grew by 11%; expected to rise even further in 2013, according to regional news sources. The Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum ranks the quality of its port as fourth in the world and the quality of its airport infrastructure as sixth.

With building permits issued for projects in excess of US$1.2 billion in 2012 – up almost 35% from the preceding year – this nation of 3.5 million is abuzz with activity, much of it focused around the capital of Panama City. Driving this trend is a growth in public investment, like the construction of a new Metro and the expansion of the Panama Canal set to be finished by 2015.

Panama Canal and tourism boom

Miguel Angel Acero Uribe, support manager at SAP partner MQA Americas Corp in Panama, says, “Currently, Panama is the only country in the region growing at an annual average of 10%. The economy is based largely on the operation of the Panama Canal, its construction, and the recent tourism boom.”

All exports from around the world that come into the region must go through the Canal, leaving significant dollar value as they pass through the country on their way to a myriad of destinations. By enlarging the operational capacity of the canal, Panama stands to benefit tremendously. Acero Uribe notes, “This will represent a significant increase in future operating profits, especially for the big ships that could not travel on the Canal before. It will also decongest operations.”

Next page: “City of knowledge” attracts international investment

The expectation for increased earnings from the expansion of canal operations carries over into other economic sectors as well, including IT, where the government is making significant investments. “Panama’s economic growth depends on the business of the Panama Canal,” says Acero Uribe. “To support this growth, Panama is investing in the IT sector and starting initiatives that will make Panama a technology hub by 2018.”

City of Knowledge

Panama is the third leading country in ICT development in Latin America, according to the National Secretariat of Science and Research. Under the National ICT Strategy 2018, Panama plans to train more people in technology and service innovation to further the country’s socioeconomic development.

To attract international investment, Panama’s government has created the “Ciudad del Saber,” or City of Knowledge, an office complex housing academic organizations, technology firms, and non-governmental organizations. Among its intended purposes is to serve as a technology hub for development, investment, innovation, and ICT – all critical factors in the country’s plans to develop further based on innovation and technology.

SAP Partner on the Isthmus: MQA Americas Corp

With offices in the Ciudad del Saber, SAP Gold partner MQA Americas Corp is an active player in the local market, offering high-quality support to its customers as they drive growth and investment. Founded in Colombia in 2002, MQA is one of SAP’s biggest VAR (value added reseller) partners in Latin America, with operations in Panama, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and El Salvador. In 2012, it was awarded SAP’s “Best All-In-One Partner in Latin America.” In addition, it is SAP PCoE (Partner Center of Expertise) certified.

As Acero Uribe sees it, the creation of a technology hub in Panama will also bring more competition to the local market. This was one of the reasons, MQA Americas Corp joined SAP’s Partner Quality program in March 2012. As one of a range of services provided by SAP Partner Service Delivery, the program equips partners with tools and techniques to ensure that they are well positioned to deliver customer projects to specification, on time and on budget.

Next page: Noticeable uptick in customer satisfaction

By working closely with the SAP Partner Quality Hub (PQH), MQA Americas Corp successfully achieved accreditation from the Partner Quality program for demonstrating its commitment to quality management methods and principles in its customer projects.

Noting how the accreditation will benefit MQA Americas Corp, Acero Uribe says, “With Panama set to be a technology developer, the market is demanding us to be better and to offer better services, so our SAP accreditation will help us meet these new challenges. The arrival of multinationals also requires us to have the ability and talent to support the demand.”

Noticeable uptick in customer satisfaction

Even shortly after enrolling in the SAP Partner Quality program, the company noticed an uptick in customer satisfaction in its projects. Acero Uribe says, “I could see we had a significant improvement in customer satisfaction via our feedback surveys. We can attribute this increase to the application of lessons learned, which have enabled us to increase the methodology’s scope in following implementations.”

Acero Uribe attributed this improvement to several of the new SAP best practices that MQA Americas Corp had learned from the program, namely the adoption of the SAP Solution Manager for project documentation and control, as well as SAP Quality Gates, and advanced risk management procedures, among other lessons learned.

The SAP Solution Manager is now used by the project management team as the most important tool as single source of truth for project documentation storage and control. The implementation of SAP Quality Gates has proven invaluable in measuring project success and managing customer satisfaction by allowing MQA Americas Corp to control all deliverables, raise transparency, and reduce risks in projects. Acero Uribe says, “Using the forecast and risk definition has helped us to mitigate project risks in a timely manner and deliver the projects in the appropriated time.”

“MQA is one of the largest and more successful partners in Latin America,” says Bárbara Reis, MQA’s partner quality advisor at SAP. “It is always noticeably diligent about executing all the strategies to grow with SAP and to keep strengthening its quality procedures.”

And with SAP planning to open offices in Panama later this year, the prospects appear very positive indeed for continuing a strong IT partnership at the “Bridge of the World” – Puente del Mundo.