Interview: Mika Yamamoto Chief Digital Marketing Officer, SAP
Several new initiatives and customised applications are indicative of SAP’s continued focus on the SME market.
You are the gatekeeper of SAP, as a brand, within the SME space. How do you see yourself positioned in this segment?
Much of our outreach programmes and what you see of our brand appears to be focused on larger corporations. So, it’s natural to assume that our solutions are too complex or expensive for the SME world. A lot of service providers tend to take the solutions they build for large corporations, strip them down of the expensive components and then offer them to SMEs. But, that’s not the case with SAP.
Of course, that’s not the approach we take; our solutions are built to cater to the specific needs of the SME market. We take every small detail into consideration while creating these solutions like affordability, functionality, capability of business processes, size of the IT team and so on. We are also mindful of the cost of implementation, not just the cost of ownership because it’s not just affordability to buy the solution, but also to run it. One of the most important aspects we consider is ‘time to value’; if you are going to make an investment, you sooner or later want to see its business value and how it’s going to impact on your cashflow. So, we are mindful of the implementation timeframes. Our solutions are built keeping in mind that we want to maximise the business owner’s time and free them up to concentrate on their core operations.
SAP is renowned for its network of partners. How does your partner-led approach add value to the SME offering?
We go to market with our partners because it gives us a footprint of service and support. Customers can be in Dubai or anywhere else in the world and our partners can converse with them in their local languages while understanding the local regulations and their micro-verticals. We understand that each vertical and geography has its own needs and requirements, so even though the base application remains the same, our partners customise our solutions for individual businesses.
To add, we are partner-led because our partners provide local support and enhance the true functionality of our solutions. These partners customise our applications to ensure that they fit your vertical, boost relevancy, improve efficiency and help drive the business results that you care about most.
We rely on our partners heavily to build SME relationships and to actively nurture them. Our partners know their markets best. We spend a lot of our efforts on enabling our partners by making available information that is critical to understanding SAP and its solutions.
What is SAP’s current imperative for the SME market?
We want to continue updating our customer base and focus on building an innovation roadmap to cater to the needs of that customer base. We bear in mind the trends of the segment while building our platforms and continue to innovate where the market is headed in terms of SME sector.
Of course, we also evaluate where SAP, as a company, is headed in terms of technology and its new developments – whether its analytics, machine learning or IoT. We understand that this kind of terminology can seem overwhelming to SMEs, that’s exactly why we focus on integrating these technologies into the applications we build for SMEs so that they can benefit from them without having to deal with the complexities of it all.
Another area that we’re looking at is supporting SMEs as they scale up. We know that an end-to-end solution can be quite daunting for any size of business for that matter. With our solutions, businesses can start with one application and grow into another solution as they scale up.
Based on your learnings from interacting with SMEs, what are some key challenges that these businesses still face?
One of the biggest challenges is customer acquisition, regardless of industry or geography. Business owners want to be able to reach out to potential customers in a proper way, then attract them to their offering and finally retain them as long-term clients. This is something we’ve noticed small businesses are finding difficult commonly across all verticals and geographies.
What are the essential checkpoints that any SME owner needs to consider before selecting a technology service provider such as SAP?
These are some questions I would suggest any business owner ask: Do they work with companies of my size; Do they work with companies that are growing at the same pace as me; and Do they work with companies within the same verticals as me. Most importantly, I would assess if they have a technology and business roadmap that is mindful of trends in the market and one that makes their solutions future-proof. I wouldn’t make an investment into a solution that isn’t safeguarded against the constantly evolving market dynamics. our reach and, ultimately, our success, exponentially.
How are your solutions helping SMEs scale up?
We know that an end-to-end solution can be quite daunting for any size of business for that matter. With our solutions, businesses can start with one application and grow into another solution as they scale up.
Finally, what excites you the most about working within the SME market?
Firstly, the SME market is dynamic and full of possibilities. Moreover, it’s exciting to be able to take SAP’s applications, supplement them with other solutions available in the market, and support the growth of burgeoning businesses. Our mission is to become obsessed with finding solutions to the needs of our customers and eventually develop long-term partnerships with them.