SAP’s big pitch

SAP took the first meeting of its regional user group as an opportunity to set out its stall for its regional strategy following the buyout of SAP Arabia last year. ACN was at the event to gauge the reaction.

  • E-Mail
By  Eliot Beer Published  April 5, 2008

SAP took the first meeting of its regional user group as an opportunity to set out its stall for its regional strategy following the buyout of SAP Arabia last year. ACN was at the event to gauge the reaction.

The SAP Users Group Middle East and North Africa (SUG-MENA), formerly known as the SAP Users Group Arabia (Sugar), has long had an uneasy relationship with erstwhile exclusive SAP partner SAP Arabia - the group's name change in 2006 was even rumoured to be an attempt to disassociate itself from the much maligned distributor.

Last month's SUG-MENA conference in Dubai - the first since SAP AG bought out SAP Arabia - was always going to be a landmark affair, and the bumper attendance seemed to confirm the air of expectation at the event.

In the past, we always tried to get co-operation from SAP Arabia; it was trying to do its best, but it wasn’t in the right way, it wasn’t at the right time

This was SAP's first major opportunity to sell its new vision for its Middle East operations to its customers, which includes Saudi Arabian megalith Saudi Aramco, as well as other major enterprises across the region.

While SUG-MENA is not directly affiliated with SAP, the vendor has regularly been involved in the group's activities as a sponsor, as was the case with the 2008 event.

From the start it became clear SAP was intending to grasp the opportunity fully, and it used its keynote speeches, presentations, dinners and partner exhibition to sell its message: SAP is committed to this region.

"We are thanking the effort by our partner before, which started in the market and took the first steps - but it's not enough any more. Customers are requesting a direct presence, and want to know how we intend to develop the market - the user group meeting gave this message the strongest," says Sergio Maccotta, managing director of SAP MENA, speaking after the event.

"SAP is now here with a different attitude, investing directly and guaranteeing that. The choices made by our customers in investing in SAP are supported by our presence, and our investment in the future.

I think it's worth mentioning that if you check in our record, SAP never backed off a country - if we decide to invest and bring our direct presence, that's for the long-term, not just a short period," he adds.

There is no doubting SAP's sincerity, demonstrated not only in words, but also in hard currency. The vendor has doubled its headcount in the region since November 2007, and intends to double its new headcount by the end of 2008, according to Maccotta.

Its investment in the region is significant, especially considering the reported US$280 million it spent buying out SAP Arabia's exclusive licences.

The opportunity in the market is certainly there for SAP to seize, according to Salem Al-Angari, vice president and treasurer of SUG-MENA: "People are waiting to see the impact of the change - as always, when you are dealing directly with the company that provides you with the software, provides you with support, it's much better than dealing with a middleman.

People are expecting a lot from SAP, and in the keynote speech from Sergio Maccotta, he reassured the audience that SAP is committed to this region.

"What people are saying now is that what they hear is good, but they want to see concrete evidence - they want to see tangible measures coming from SAP to the Middle East.

The biggest question that was raised by some of the executives I spoke to at the event was the support structure in this region. In the past, it was really hard to get top-notch experts from SAP to come to this region, and cater to the specific requirements coming from certain companies," he adds.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code