SAP Through the Eyes of a Managing Director

When it comes to leadership, resources are key, and a CEO must know how to manage them. However, when your biggest resources are people, you need to keep them happy because in this age where the customer is king, happy employees make happy customers.

If you won the lottery right now, would you quit your job? For Pedro Guerreiro, the Managing Director East, West & Lusophone Africa at SAP, the answer is “absolutely not!” He adds, “Honestly, I like the kind of work that I do.” He has been with SAP for 23 years, steadily progressing and rising through the ranks. His favourite role was as Managing Director. A title he has held in Luanda, Angola; Lagos, Nigeria; and now, Nairobi. Pedro is a big advocate for work/life balance stating it is the key to success. “I think we need to acknowledge that people have lives.” That and keeping people on their toes while holding them to a higher standard. “I’m very demanding myself, so sometimes for me it is a challenge. I am not the kind of person who expects someone to be late.” Who keeps him on his toes? “My team. Or else they are
doing the wrong job!” As a CEO, his philosophy is “I work for you. You don’t work for me.”

Founded in Germany in 1972 by five former IBM employees, SAP was always destined for greatness. From accounting and payroll to their legendary ERP, the listed multinational has over 100,000 employees dotting the planet from Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, North America, and South America. One of these employees is Pedro and I assure you he is no cog on the wheel. He stands out. A surfer who marvels at the Ngong Hills and enjoys being with his wife and daughter, he was in Zanzibar not long ago, surfing waves on the outer parts of the reef. He maintains the best surfs were in Angola. Small wonder that when he was growing up, he wanted to be a surfer.

Below is our interview, condensed and edited for this publication.

What is an intelligent enterprise and why is that so important?

Intelligent enterprise is a fully integrated company in itself and outside of its boundaries. You have business processes from procurement, finance to maintenance, which is a normal thing in terms of what SAP does every day on an ERP site. But it is actually way beyond that. You have an intelligent entreprise end-to-end with your suppliers and customers. Everything becomes so smooth, transparent and organised such that your business flows. The whole process is automated. It is all about process.
That is what SAP is about.

You mentioned in our introduction that SAP is in several African countries. Are their needs similar across the continent or do you find differences based on geography and the people?

I would say the needs are very similar, but the cultures are different. I find some markets easy to work with on an entrepreneurial basis. Let’s say a country like Angola. They have a very entrepreneurial spirit. It is almost easier to have a conversation on digital transformation. The willingness is there.

In Kenya, they want more business value and push a bit more for innovation than in a market like Angola.

Is intelligent enterprise only limited to larger organisations? Do you work with SMEs?

We are committed to all customers.

SMEs are the backbone of many countries in Africa. We have large customers and many of them are our clients. But 80 per cent of our business is actually SMEs in Africa. It is definitely a key space for us. We have different products within our SMEs portfolio.

What are some of the examples you have of customers embracing digital transformation in Africa?

We have worked with Dangote Cement. As they find opportunities to launch in different industries and ventures – they are a very entrepreneurial customer – they wanted S/4HANA which is more aligned to intelligent enterprise’s endto-end integration with suppliers and both internal and external customers. They implemented this last year. They are building the largest refinery in Africa, creating over 250,000 jobs. This entrepreneurial perspective was already built into SAP.

When it comes to agriculture especially in Central Africa, we are doing quite innovative projects in the form of a Rural Sourcing Platform (RSM) which integrates every single micro-producer into the value chain. They register on the platform which is then aggregated and taken to the market. With intelligent enterprise you have very open sources.

We also use this platform for our CSR projects. For example, in Ghana, we use it to collect plastics across the country for recycling.

You shrink when working with an SME and expand when working with conglomerates. How do you do this?

The implementation of software is mainly done through a partner ecosystem. When you have the conglomerates, they become partners for a very complex project. Smaller customers start with a smaller scope, or they can adopt some of our solutions such as SAP Business ByDesign and SAP Business One. The latter is a small solution that is very easy to implement. It covers the main process of the corporate side allowing SMEs to scale.

Talk to me about the Rise with SAP initiative. What is it about?

We launched it early this year with our global CEO, Christian Klein. He had two things in mind:
• Reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) for our customers
• Accelerate innovation and business transformation

The Rise Initiative is about these two aspects. Either it gives value to the customer, or not. We do it on a case-by-case basis and we understand what makes sense for that specific customer. It transforms all SAP contracts into a cloud subscription product, which is not owned software, but it incorporates infrastructure. It is part of our strategy to move into cloud as well as reduce TCO with the customers, as well as accelerating business transformation.

What role does cloud play in your strategy for Africa?

It plays a big role. In five years, all our contracts will be pretty much cloud based. Cloud in Africa definitely has the capacity for businesses to grow. It is where we focus our customers.

Our strategy is cloud focused. It makes sense for us to build cloud in Africa. Businesses can really focus on the their core business, but they don’t have to focus on the pain which is to support IT infrastructure. That allows them to run the core business. More importantly, we are restructuring contracts with the customers to help them move into the cloud. You want the best engineer on your platform. One who is constantly trained. The scale of savings is also something we want to bring to African customers. Cloud for Africa is definitely front and centre and absolutely core to our strategy.

What is the one accomplishment that made your career?

I’ve been with SAP for 23 years. I have been able to transform all the territories I led within Africa. We impact our customers, we impact on people growth and P&L, plus the CSR initiatives. There are many rewarding aspects that have shaped my career as I progressed. It also helped me build my own brand and move to the next challenge.

Do you ever get impatient with Millennials who want it now!

When I started working for SAP I thought I would work for two years. Back then there was this trend – do two years on the job then freelance. The freelancers were making a lot of money consulting. I thought that would be my path, but it turned out very differently.

We happen to have quite a few Millennials because of our Academy. Candidates are selected very strictly, and we get very smart, bright young
people. Ideally, we send them to California for about six months and they would be trained wall-to-wall on the business, and they would be
incorporated into the company. There is always new stuff to do, working within SAP.

What do you think makes a good leader?

I think it is one who gives direction, and understand how to integrate everything. You need to manage downwards but also upwards. One
who creates a structure that is growing underneath them. They also need to be very direct, competent, have a lot of common sense. If possible, they need to have experience and be good at execution because that is how it is in our industry. If you don’t execute, the business does not flow, everything comes apart, you’ll come apart. Driving the key agenda is a good thing for this type of business.

What have been the best parts of being a CEO, and what are the worst parts?

The best thing is owning all aspects of the business, impacting growth of your team, customers and business. It is that wall-to-wall thing that I like. Looking at the overall business and trying to pull people together, relentlessly. That is what really drives me. To be honest, the worst part – I don’t see any. If you manage to do it, and still manage your work/life balance, there is no worst part.

What has working with SAP taught you about yourself over the last 23 years?

It gave me many rewarding experiences. I love the African culture and spending my time on the continent.