The buzz was all about the increasing importance, functionality and relevance of business analytics (BA) in organisations around the world and in the region, at the annual SAP User Group MENA (SUGMENA) conference.
“Unstructured and structured data is coming together in our worlds today and the main challenge in this is managment. It is also true that companies must sense and react to change fast in order to keep ahead of the game – change not just within the organisation, but outside across its entire value chain from customers to partners. SAP’s set of solutions can help enterprises achieve such fast response and achieve competitive advantage,” said Nils Herzberg, COO for industry solutions at SAP during the keynote of the first day of the SUGMENA conference in Dubai today.
Salem Al Angari, president of the SUGMENA group agreed with Herzberg. During an interview with CNME on the sidelines of the conference he stated that more end-users from the region are looking to mine data and obtain intelligent information to improve business processes and gain insight into the market across the region.
Sam Alkharrat, MD of SAP in the region agreed, “We are witnessing a rapid uptake of companies in the MENA region investing in innovative technologies – in the first quarter of 2011 we saw 44% of our revenue derived from BA. We usually note around 30% of revenues from BA. This spike in the first quarter was due to the new education deals that came through in KSA during this period. We are witnessing a healthy uptake of BA across education, finance and other sectors in the region, and we hope that when financial year 2011 ends, BA would have contributed more than 30% of our revenues.”
He pointed out that globally BA contributes much more to the revenue. However, in the region, SAP remains a largely ERP-vendor due to the higher interest in basic ERP implementations in the Middle East. This though is set to change, according to Alkharrat, who hopes to see the revenue between BA and ERP in the region reflect the global mix in another three to five years time.
Alkharrat also spoke at length to CNME on how inputs from SUGMENA are used to improve SAP offerings and services in the region.
“Over the last 12 months we have become increasingly engaged with the customer community through SUGMENA. We use their feedback to assess our on-ground strategy and make decisions on everything from resource allocation to identifying the sectors that need our help the most. We have also taken their feedback to initiate and develop more training sessions keeping in mind the needs of the end-users in the region,” stated Alkharrat.
According to Al Angari, SUGMENA has grown from year-on-year and now is involved in the highest level in the global SUGEN (SAP User Group Executive Network). This enables SUGMENA’s voice to be better heard at the corporate level in SAP.
“We are also working on expanding our presence here. For one, this year we have increased our Executive Exchange meetings from one to two. These are the meetings in which end-users meet SAP management in the region to share their views, issues and make suggestions to the vendor on the improvements they would like to see. Tomorrow, during the second day of the SUGMENA conference, there will be such a meeting. Around 26 end-users are gathering to share their thoughts with the SAP management,” says Al Angari.
SUGMENA will also be setting up two special interest groups – one concentrating on BA and the other on energy – to highlight issues specific to those particular areas and the path forward. According to Al Angari, the group will also be working on its own CIO forum to address higher vision and strategy initiatives with SAP.
During his keynote, Herzberg also stressed upon the different initiatives that SAP follows globally to collect feedback from end-users – Customer Connection, Customer Engagement Initiative and Customer Advisory Councils. While the first focuses on improvements to existing products, the second aims at innovation for major solutions and the third purely on long-term vision and strategy. He encouraged end-users to pick the right engagement pattern, and get involved with SAP such that their voice is heard in the firm and in its solutions.
“SAP in the region has established itself as more of a partner for its end-users than just a service provider or a vendor. We are glad to be working with SAP in such close partnership and hope to achieve much more in the near future,” concluded Al Angari.
The SUGMENA conference will take place for three days in Dubai. The third day’s agenda includes SAP’s annual BA Forum event.
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