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ACN reaches out to some of the most high-profile IT industry leaders for their insights on the state of the global IT market

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View from the top Tayfun Topkoc, Managing Director, SAP UAE and Iran
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By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  October 13, 2016

Tayfun Topkoc, Managing Director, SAP UAE and Iran

ACN: Can you share some details on your background and role with SAP?

Tayfun Topkoc: Since joining SAP in 2014, I’ve been responsible for the company’s in-country presence and growth strategy, including sales and marketing operations across the UAE.

I’ve solidified SAP’s position as an innovation business leader in the UAE, and have won prestigious back-to-back Public-Private Partnership of the Year awards at the ITP .GOV Awards for Dubai and the Northern Emirates in 2015 and 2016, recognising best practices for innovation in the digital transformational economy.

ACN: What are some of SAP’s most recent developments in terms of its products and services?

TT: MENA is posting strong customer demand for real-time cloud solutions running on the SAP HANA in-memory platform and the SAP S/4HANA real-time business suite. We are also seeing strong interest in the recently-launched BW/4HANA data warehouse application.

The SAP Business Network posted 20% growth in H1 2016 worldwide, across Mobility (SAP Fiori), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and SAP cloud offerings in Human Capital Management (Success Factors), Customer Relationship Management (Cloud for Customer), and Supplier Relationship Management (Ariba).

Driving cloud take-up in MENA, we recently partnered with du on launching private cloud services in the UAE, and a Co-Innovation Lab based in Dubai, whereby partners can develop market-relevant solutions on the SAP platform. Stay tuned for more exciting cloud and innovation announcements.

ACN: How has the company’s presence in the Middle East region expanded over the last year?

TT:  Globally, SAP serves 320,000 customers in 190 countries, with solutions localised to 25 industries and lines of business across on-premise, cloud, and hybrid models. MENA is posting strong growth, with more than 1,350 customers, 1,600 qualified SAP consultants, and 120 business partners in 16 countries.

We have significantly expanded our presence and support for digital transformation plans such as Saudi Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program 2020, Qatar National Vision 2030, and UAE Vision 2021 and Dubai Plan 2021.

The UAE is a key market for supporting government-backed digital transformation initiatives such as UAE Vision 2021, Dubai Plan 2021, and Abu Dhabi Vision 2030. Recent reports show that digital transformation can help the UAE government save nearly $5b, drive economic competitiveness, citizen happiness, and environmental sustainability. SAP co-innovates with a number of leading public sector UAE organisations in Smart Cities, including DEWA and FEWA on smart utilities and meters, and Ras Al Khaimah E-Government Authority on citizen services.

Additional key verticals that SAP is driving co-innovation include aviation with Etihad Airways; sports with Aspire Academy in Qatar; Transport and Logistics with Aramex, Gulftainer, and Nakilat; Telecommunications with du; Banking and Finance with Emirates NBD and UAE Exchange; and Retail with AAB in Qatar.

ACN: In what ways is SAP continuing to develop its partner network and programme here in the region?

TT: SAP MENA is one of EMEA’s fastest-growing channel markets, and a key part of the SAP Global Alliance Partner Program. Since September 2014, SAP MENA has grown its channel program and presence by double digits, including 100% growth in the channel program. Channel coverage — the number of partners — has increased by 25%, especially in oil and gas, utilities, manufacturing, finance, telecommunications, retail,
and government.

Signature deals include the largest HANA on Enterprise Cloud (HEC) deal in the region with Injazat Data Systems, and Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) has signed an MoU to offer SAP ERP solutions to SMEs in the country.

With partners serving about 80% of our customers, we continue to simplify and expand our PartnerEdge channel partner program. MENA is key for supporting our global partner ecosystem expansion from 2 million people in 2016 to 5 million in 2020.

ACN: How are you seeing demand from end-users changing in terms of enterprise technologies, and is there anything distinct with the demand in the Middle East when compared to other markets?

TT: The Middle East C-suite is demanding new ways to reduce complexity, as studies show that the largest businesses in the world lose 10% of their annual profits due to complexity.

Executives want to eliminate spreadsheets and presentations, and have the technology for real-time, contextual data to make decisions. As a result, we’re seeing strong demand for the SAP Digital Boardroom solution, which can monitor the full business in real-time, and simulate different scenarios.

There is also a major Middle East opportunity for localisation of our solutions, in order to meet local government regulations, and cultural support for the Arabic language and the Hijri calendar.

ACN: To what extent are organisations in the region implementing enterprise technologies and capitalising on IT trends such as big data and analytics?

TT: With the Internet of Things market set to reach $14t by 2030, this year is the tipping point Middle East organisations to embrace real-time Big Data analytics for long-term success. We recognised the leading innovators with the SAP MENA Quality Awards:

One of the UAE’s up-and-coming transport and logistics companies, Bion Group, formerly Tarwada Cargo Transport, with partner NTT Data deployed real-time truck analytics. The automated fleet management system provides robust tracking tools, secure on-time deliveries, and enhanced customer service.

Riyadh-based alfanar with partner Business On Demand deployed a cloud-based customer service system that increased customer satisfaction by 25%, and reduced service delivery by 40%.

One of Qatar’s main automotive distributors, Abdullah Abdulghani & Bros. Co. (AAB), along with Poland’s Hicron SP ZOO, implemented SAP ERP and SAP Dealer Business Management system to accelerate customer service operations by significantly reducing the customer waiting time.

ACN: Are there any notable challenges with the Middle East that differ when compared to some of your more established markets?

TT: The Middle East is an early adopters of technology. Organisations are largely not burdened by legacy infrastructure, have forward-thinking executives. There is a major opportunity in co-innovating with governments and large enterprises, especially in the fast-paced smart cities markets of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE.

We have partnered with the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government on Innovation Days talks and design thinking workshops, and are localising best practices from Smart Cities such as Barcelona, Hamburg, and New York.

The biggest challenge is to meet the needs of SMEs, which comprise about 90% of the MENA region’s companies and about 80% of our customers. SAP is committed to providing SMEs with the same digital resources as large enterprises.

Demonstrating the success of our strategy, in MENA, SME sales grew 45% year-on-year, thanks to a network of 50-plus dedicated SMB partners.

ACN: In terms of IT skill talent, how would you rate the availability of expertise in the Middle East, and what steps would you say are needed to help foster the next generation of IT professionals?

TT: Middle East youth are among the best and the brightest in the world, and have a strong hold on IT skills.

Our Training and Development Institute (TDI) continues to train students, graduates, and workers on SAP technology, having built skills and knowledge in the region worth an in-country value of $101m. TDI is currently sharing Middle East best practices by launching pilot programmes in Brazil and Spain.

Supporting entrepreneurs, TDI launched its second Startup Focus program in 2016, to incubate and accelerate big data startups, with a regional roadshow this fall. TDI counts more than 100 University Alliance Partners that train more than 13,000 students, along with initiatives for training students, recent graduates, and the unemployed.

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