Crown jewel

SAP’s Sapphire conference hits Vienna as the business solutions provider outlines its plans and champions the virtues of a healthy rivalry.

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By  Sherief Younis Published  June 3, 2007

|~|200-L-R--Henning-Kagermann-.jpg|~|SAP remains unconcerned by Oracle's bullish acquisitions in the Middle East. |~|The Danube winds its murky path through the heart of the city, trams idly amble along leafy suburbs flanked by public parks and museums adorned in elaborate stone.

Contrasting, grey graffiti scrabbled cinder block apartments cast an uncompromising backdrop, as masochistic cyclists display nothing but the utmost contempt for trespassing pedestrians on the footpaths.

Yes, Vienna displays many of the cafe-cultured nuances you’d expect of a European capital: old meets new, progression and depression walk hand in hand. And opposite the wonderfully kitsch fairground and Ferris wheel stands the Messe exhibition centre – the venue for SAP Sapphire 07.

The event marked the Vienna City Administration’s decision to use SAP ERP and SAP Netweaver technology to manage the city’s electronic billing system. With 30,000 employees and 1.7 million residents to serve, the project provided the ideal platform for SAP to launch its ‘business at the speed of change’ initiative.

SAP’s international customer conference marked a busy three days for the business software giant as it announced the launch of its latest risk management solution, service oriented architecture (SOA) banking solution, and a strategic partnership with Sungard, a US-based software solutions company. According to SAP, over 22,000 partners, C-level executives and customers attended its flagship conference.

Centred on the concept of innovation, SAP took the opportunity to address some of its partners and customers and promote the SAP All-in-one-solution for midsize companies and announce the enhancement of its Netweaver identity management software.

“Security ranks at the top of CIO agendas as they look to further improve security and control access, while lowering the administrative costs associated with managing identities,” says Klaus Kreplin, corporate officer and head of SAP Netweaver technology.

The company also unveiled its GRC risk management application to equip CFOs and chief risk officers (CROs) with the tools to improve risk analysis and business performance.

“The future is an open innovation. The more quality products we have on our platform, the better we can serve our customers,” says Henning Kagerman, CEO of SAP.

It was a sentiment reiterated by Leo Apotheker, deputy CEO and president of global customer solutions for SAP, as the company looked to address the multitude of business, as well as technological, challenges CIOs have to face.

“CIOs have to maintain maximum uptime of all mission critical applications. We believe it’s our job to deliver innovation to our customers, and the technology was right to provide a much better platform and we took that opportunity to improve it,” says Apotheker.

SAP also announced a strategic partnership to run Sungard’s Bancware solution on an SAP platform in the banking sector and encourage customers in the EMEA region to utilise SOA to lower costs.

“The decision to execute this strategy in the banking space was easy. Banking is a strategic industry for SAP and, through the work with our partners and banks, SAP is demonstrating a high level of commitment to co-innovate with industry leaders to deliver banking solutions that help banks be next generation performers,” says Apotheker.

While Sungard’s reputation in the Middle East has predominantly focused on the education sector – the company has been involved in recent projects with a number of colleges and universities across the region – it is confident the new partnership represents a win for both companies' shared customers.

“We don’t see SAP as a competitor, much like they don’t see us as a competitor. We see them as a valuable partner. We will have very tight integration with SAP and we have a number of shared customers already. This is a very good announcement for our customers,” says Cris Conde, CEO of Sungard.

Positive words were also said regarding the strong growth across various EMEA countries with SAP looking to target specific markets in an effort to capitalise and expand company growth.

“I still see more growth in the EMEA region. Here, there are three main axes of growth we are pursuing: large enterprises, industries and markets,” says Erwin Gunst, president of customer solutions and operations EMEA at SAP.

Targeting public services and retail in the industry sector, Gunst also highlighted healthy growth in the South East and Middle East regions as the company’s main focus along with the UK, Ireland and France.

“For industry, we will be looking to focus on public services and retail, and in markets. The markets are where we service our customers and we have seen particularly strong growth in the UK and Ireland and the South East and Middle East (SEME),” says Gunst.

Bullish about its prospects in the Middle East, SAP revealed that despite Oracle’s continuing acquisitions, the company remains confident it will retain its place as market leader.

“I’m afraid I have disappointing news for you, the competition with Oracle has always been aggressive and it will continue to be aggressive. We have two and a half to three times more market share, so we can live with an aggressive competitor,” says a pragmatic Apotheker.

“It’s a battle against Oracle all the time but it’s a battle we are winning. We are innovative when it comes to acquisition and partnerships so we can deliver a full standard solution to all our customers,” concludes Gunst.||**||

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