SAP board member talks Middle East investment

In an interview with Computer Weekly, SAP’s chief financial officer, Luka Mucic, talks up the significance of the UAE and wider Middle East region in terms of IT transformation

Business software maker SAP recently announced plans to invest $200m over five years in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with plans to create economic diversity and jobs for the youth.

According to the German software giant, the investment is necessary given the phenomenal growth in Dubai and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region witnessed since the supplier set up an office in Dubai Internet City over a decade ago.

The supplier started operating in the Middle East in 2007, and in 2016 MENA became its fastest growing region globally, SAP executive board member Luka Mucic tells Computer Weekly.

“I was part of the company’s humble beginnings when we entered the MENA market,” he says. “We now have more than 700 employees in the region, and about 450 are based in the recently inaugurated regional MENA headquarters in Dubai.”

SAP’s Dubai HQ houses facilities such as demo rooms, use case study rooms, digital boardrooms and a customer experience centre that will be utilised to find answers to the challenges organisations are facing in the MENA market.

“Through the customer experience centre, SAP is working with several customers to develop solutions to business challenges for the region and adopt such solutions elsewhere around the globe,” he says. “We believe we can bring to this market important technology capabilities.”

With digital transformation happening in Dubai and across the UAE, Mucic says the country is at the forefront of embracing the digital transformation agenda with SAP’s digital capabilities.

“SAP is working with several customers to develop solutions to business challenges for the Middle East and North Africa”

Luka Mucic, SAP

The emirate will be handed the reins of the world’s biggest trade show in 2020 – an event that has never before taken place in the Middle East.

Expo 2020 Dubai, says Mucic, is about providing connectivity, connecting minds and creating opportunities. “Digitisation can get us there, and at SAP we believe that working together with all our customers, channel partners and all industry stakeholders, we can make this happen,” he says.

Held over a period of six months, the World Expo is expected to attract more than 25 million new visitors to Dubai and boost business across many industries in the UAE.

Leadership, drive and ambition

With Dubai accelerating innovation, digitisation and the economic growth and diversification agenda of the UAE, Mucic says it is obvious how the country’s dependence on oil has reduced over time and the diversification of the economy has worked out well.

“The nature of the strategic leadership that’s being exhibited in the UAE, coupled with the adventurous spirit and positive attitudes coming from the young population, is contributing to the leadership, drive and ambition that the UAE has taken in being an early adopter of transformative technologies,” he says.

SAP has educated more than 1,500 young professionals over the past few years, as part of its Training and Development Institute (TDI). “We have been teaching them about our solutions, technologies and our skills capabilities,” says Mucic. “Upon completion of the training, we immediately place them into jobs with our end user customers and channel partners.”

CFO digital transformation highlights

Mucic points out that chief financial officers (CFOs) in the region have a changing role as a result of rapid digital transformation. With CFOs getting more involved in technology purchasing decisions, he believes they have made their way out of the back office over the past 10 to 15 years and are becoming co-navigators with the CEO in a more and more digitally connected workplace.

“Data is becoming the fuel for important decisions and the CFO is in command of the data architecture when it comes to financial information about the company selecting the right business models and increasing its effectiveness and efficiencies,” he says.

To achieve this role, Mucic says the availability of smart ways to analyse data to predict and simulate the future are becoming paramount.

“That’s why a lot of the conversations that I am having with CFOs from across different industries are around how to convert a regular boardroom into a digital boardroom. We are showing a digital boardroom at our new head office and using this insight within SAP to help us drill down into our own business,” he says.

“In a client’s environment, they can run simulations and scenario analyses, and that’s the kind of solution that CFOs today are looking for because we are operating in a more and more volatile environment.”

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