Inspirational Leaders SAP UKI Interview: Kirit Patel at Clarivos Discusses Cloud ERP in the Mid-Market

Kirit Patel is Executive Director at Clarivos, an SAP Gold Partner headquartered in London that predominantly focuses on Cloud ERP, EPM and Analytics for the mid-market.

In 2021, Clarivos won the SAP EMEA-North Excellence award for Innovation for creating the first SAP-Qualified Partner-Packaged Solution for the Intelligent Enterprise in the UK, INSIGHT for Wholesale Distribution. This was one of seven SAP awards that Clarivos won last year.

Kirit talked to us about his career, Clarivos’ ethos and values, the Office of the CFO,  and Cloud ERP trends in the SME market.

SAP UKI: Could you tell us about yourself, Kirit?

I live in the West Midlands with my wife, who left Accenture a few years ago and now is a full-time wedding planner. We have a daughter who’s studying physiotherapy and a son doing A-levels who wants to be an engineer.

I’ve always had an interest in design, as I like looking at cool things. I’d like to think I’m quite a good photographer and have a full-blown studio in our house, which my wife often says, “It’s gathering dust!”. But it’s something I always go back to when I have some spare time.

SAP UKI: How did you come to found Clarivos?

I started the business just four weeks after I got married, in 1996. We come from a foundation of supporting ‘The Office of the CFO’. Which is the centre of all things digital transformation. Everything flows through ‘The Office of the CFO’ — they dictate the pace and the direction.

I’d like to say I had a master plan, but when I was in my final week of Uni, I got an interview letter for a job at Comshare that I hadn’t applied for. Back in the day, they were one of the most known consolidation software players in the world.

It turns out that a friend of mine, who had graduated the year before me, had put my name forward for a graduate position as Financial Application Consultant. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t even have a suit to wear.’ The interview went well and I started work in London the following Monday. A big shout out to Neil Chandler, currently Managing Vice President – Business Analytics & Data Science at Gartner, for giving me my first proper job.

I did that job for about five years. During that time, I had a growing sense that we could do this better. I was still very young, so I didn’t have a five-year plan or anything. If I’m brutally honest, it was about working with some of my Comshare colleagues, having some fun, and creating something of our own. Mihir Patel, now Director of Finance and Quality at Clarivos, and I decided to outsource our services to Comshare and nurture new talent.

We set up Rinedata (now rebranded to Clarivos) in September 1996. I called an old Uni friend, Ketan Patel as we needed deeper technical expertise to complement our finance backgrounds. Ketan is now our Director of Innovation. How times have changed? Currently, we’re a bit older, greyer, life’s a little bit more complex and we’ve got around seventy-five employees now.

SAP UKI: How would you describe the culture and values at Clarivos?

Empower-Innovate-Transform is not just the approach we take with our clients and business partners, it also defines the way we engage with our employees. We try to unlock their potential through mentoring and investment in training. We’ve helped to shape a whole raft of thought leaders, specialists, and future business leaders. Many have risen to the Big Four and other prestigious firms. This is the kind of platform we provide for people at Clarivos and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of.

We’re a people business. Technology is the stuff that makes things possible, but it’s the people that make it happen. We feel it’s easier to do our jobs well when we’re enjoying them so, personality-wise, at Clarivos it’s about having fun.

There’s a famous quote by life coach, Dale Carnegie, “People rarely succeed in what they’re doing unless they’re having fun”. I subscribe to that because if you fundamentally hate something, or even just tolerate it, it will always show because your energy and enthusiasm won’t be there. We try to have a giggle at every opportunity. I think the key to our success is down to the people and customers we work with. We work hard, but then equally we play hard as well. That’s part and parcel of the culture we’ve developed.

When people ask about my job title, I just say I’m Employee Number One rather than a Director. Titles are important from an outward perspective so customers understand who to go to. Internally, we encourage our colleagues to feel they can approach anyone, no matter how senior their role. So, I’d say honesty and communication are also strong values for us.

Diversity is also really important to us for the richness of cultures this brings and the differing approaches to solving business problems.  All of which is critical in the ever-shrinking global environment we operate in. I’m proud to say that within Clarivos we have 16 nationalities that can converse across 37 different languages.

Also, we are all about innovation; doing things in a new, improved way, and making positive changes for our customers. Our innovation agenda is not led by the technology itself, as in, “We must embrace RPA, we must use Machine Learning”. For us, innovation translates into “How do we take you, Mr. or Ms. Customer, from where you are today to having smoother, more efficient core processes and systems with a technology platform to support your growth.

SAP UKI: How are you helping your customers to innovate?

Quite frankly, you can’t start with predictive analytics if you’ve got nothing to predict. So, it’s about starting slow and pragmatically outlining a plan that the customer can easily adopt. Some people are a little bit more forward-thinking and recognise that adopting machine learning and predictive analytics can help them to be ahead of the curve. For others, it’s just a step too far right now so it’s more about taking them on that transformation journey. For us, innovation is about looking at that stuff, but in an orderly fashion and always within the context of getting them from where they are today to be able to support future growth. And that’s the key.

We are innovating ourselves too. At Clarivos we create our IP (Intellectual Property) to serve our customers better. For example, we’ve created INSIGHT for Planning & Consolidation because SAP Cloud ERP solves all the operational stuff but senior executives also need budgeting, planning, and consolidation to drive the business. Essentially, we’ve built consolidation IP on top of SAP Analytics Cloud. It’s been validated by SAP as an SAP-Qualified Partner-Packaged Solution and pushed out globally to the SAP partner network.

SAP UKI: Is there a recent project you’re particularly proud of?

It’s so hard to choose! But Amalgam Collection stands out for me. It’s a great example of a small business with big ambitions that is embracing Cloud ERP. They make bespoke, detailed models of cars, from Formula 1 and classic through to modern cars. They’ve got their eye on huge growth. Huge is relative, right. They were a ten million turnover business and they want to hit twenty.

Fundamentally, they knew their underlying systems can’t support that growth. They were blinded by lack of information, lack of foresight, slow processes, all that kind of stuff. The senior finance people couldn’t add much value as they were just number crunching. They couldn’t look forward much as they were spending hours and hours just dealing with getting numbers.

Amalgam Collection chose the Cloud ERP system, SAP Business ByDesign, for its ability to scale alongside the business and to give them better control of the visibility of all operations. They’re saving loads of time and effort, have tripled efficiency in the VAT process, and made their traceability and returns processes far smoother.

So for me, this is a perfect example of the first step on that innovation journey that they’re now on. For a small business, they’re uber-complicated, because they’re building customized products with lots of parts and sending them across the globe. There are opportunities there to perhaps look at things like IOT so on and so forth because they are a hardcore manufacturing organization. But again, one step at a time.

We did everything, from the evaluation stage right through to implementation, all remotely last year.  Think about it for a second; global sites, complex business, during all the Covid complications. I think that’s a testament to the way we’ve engaged with the customer but ultimately it’s a testament to the technology.

SAP Business ByDesign is a very feature-rich system. There are eight modules from CRM to SCM to this, to that…so, of course, we didn’t implement the entire thing in Phase One. It’s again about putting the roadmap in place. So their vision is they want to actually embrace all elements and fully utilize all aspects of what’s in the box. But in a phased and pragmatic manner, at a pace that suits them.

SAP UKI: What’s your vision for the next few years?

Firstly, we want to continue to be that platform for nurturing the next generation of talent which is something I’m proud of and is important for me.  Secondly, to continue to be that trusted advisor for our customers, helping them to understand the importance of digital transformation.

I’m purposefully not saying we want to hit triple-digit growth and all the rest of it. I believe if we continue to do those two main things then growth will just be a natural by-product of those other elements.

SAP UKI: What cloud ERP trends are you seeing in the midmarket?

We used to have people coming to us saying, “my budgeting is broken”, or, “I’ve got issues in our supply chain so I just want a fix for them”. They wanted a bit of tech to do something specific and once that bit was done, they would come back and say, “well, this other bit’s also broken can you fix that next?”.

What we’re finding now is the conversation has shifted from looking for point solutions to discussing digital transformation. SME customers may not use that exact word, ‘transformation’, which can sound like a five-year roadmap and five million pounds. But they’re now saying, “We recognize the outside world is changing. We recognize we’ve got to solve 16 different things that aren’t working”.

Time-to-value is another big trend. Everybody I speak to is just running at a pace. SME businesses don’t have the resources and just need somebody to come in as a safe pair of hands and make it happen now. We’ve developed several SAP qualified partner packages to deliver this fast time-to-value for our customers. What we demonstrate is what they get. The packages are fixed scope, pricing, and timelines and designed to ensure predictable outcomes and minimise risk.

And finally, it’s not exactly a trend. More of a tendency that I’ve noticed. For many of the businesses we speak to within the SME market, there’s a widely held belief that SAP’s solutions are tailored for larger enterprises. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Around 80% of SAP customers are SME businesses. The majority of solutions we offer our customers, including SAP Business ByDesign, SAP Analytics Cloud, and SAP BPC, are highly suited to growing mid-market organizations across all sectors. Digital transformation is no longer a pipe dream for SMEs. Together with SAP, we’re making digital transformation a realistic goal for businesses of all sizes.

 

Are you a small or midsize business based in the UK or Ireland? Find out more about Cloud ERP for SMEs.