By Avanti Kumar

One of the highlights from a recent exclusive Asia-Pacific (APAC) media roundtable attended by SME Magazine with enterprise applications provider SAP featured navigational paths for the region’s SME sector to close critical gaps arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Concerns about SMEs in general were raised as early as July last year. An OECD note focused on the key responses needed during the pandemic to engender greater SME resilience across 60 countries.

Surveys have noted SME issues such as liquidity gaps during various lockdown measures imposed by governments. Both the supply and demand side have been impacted as countries rollout measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

Challenges include heightened uncertainties, which directly impact spending and consumption. Already limited by the number of suppliers, SMEs need to tap suppliers from other regions.

As artificial intelligence (AI) and automation exacerbates cybersecurity challenges to all organisations, digitalisation and use of digital tools and expertise become even more critical.

Scott Russell (left) and Thomas Saueressig

During the session, held alongside the Asian leg of SAPPHIRE NOW, two SAP executive board members, Scott Russell and Thomas Saueressig, summarised several priorities for businesses including opening up fresh opportunities in the current scenario.

Asia leading the way

Having recently served as President of SAP Asia Pacific Japan (APJ), Scott is enthusiastic about the region’s potential in the digitalisation stakes, and says business leaders here often told him: “We want to move to the cloud, and we want to transform our business, and gain the benefits of being an intelligent enterprise.”

By running full cloud with SAP, organisations will be able to better modernise, standardise, and digitise – opening up new business models and revenue streams, said Scott.

He believes the company’s case offers some compelling attributes. “First among these is simplicity: what companies are looking for is a comprehensive way to transform their service into the cloud, and to adapt and move forward in a really seamless way – such as that offered by ‘RISE with SAP’.”

SAP Malaysia managing director Hong Kok Cheong had recently described ‘RISE with SAP’ to SME Asia as “our approach to pave your way to run as an intelligent enterprise with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, connectivity to SAP Business Network, access to the SAP Business Technology Platform, and a selection of industry cloud solutions for your core business – all wrapped up in a single package with services such as business process redesign and technical migration expertise.”

“The benefits you can expect include significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO), more innovation for your business, more speed and agility, and seamless collaboration with suppliers, customers, and service providers,” he said, citing Aspen Glove and Mah Sing as examples of Malaysian SMEs that have successfully transitioned into becoming ‘intelligent enterprises’.

Both Scott and Thomas also mentioned the second compelling feature rests on a modular cloud and solutions approach. “Every company – in different sectors such as retail, utility and the public sector – has a path to transformation that is a little different and needs a different balance of solutions that are bested suited to their needs.”

Additionally, Scott says SAP’s recent acquisition of the business process intelligence company Signavio. “We are continually looking to address the demand for flexibility, and intelligence to help companies better adapt to meet customer needs under a common architecture.”

Signavio will strengthen process mining and business process intelligence capabilities, which are a core part of SAP’s new Rise with SAP subscription services.

“We believe that Asia is leading the way,” he affirms. “We continue to be bullish, and have great feedback from the market from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and indeed the entire region.”

Flick of a switch

Scott also believes that another important aspect for SME resilience in the region is the ability to be able to do business in a wide network.

“If you’re an SME, and you’re trying to overcome short term, supply and customer disruptions in the current era as well as look for new ways to find customers, then the need to quickly connect at the flick of a switch is one of the benefits of a hyperconnected network.”

SAP CEO Christian Klein in his recent SAPPHIRE NOW keynote, detailed why the company is promulgating a hyperconnected global business community to address critical gaps in today’s highly challenging environment as well as tap fresh opportunities.

Thomas said the moves announced during SAPPHIRE NOW constitute the next phase of SAP’s strategy to create the world’s largest and most comprehensive business network, sustainability reporting standards and tools alongside RISE with SAP industry-specific transformation packages to help customers transform their business processes and become ‘intelligent enterprises’.

SAP’s secure business network comprises more than 5.5 million organisations, all of which have undergone verification using blockchain technology to check appropriate certifications and regulatory requirements, which helps to build a vast opportunity to generate business value sustainably, explained Thomas.

Scott also points to another differentiator for SMEs: “The potential to upscale commerce through an omnichannel platform removes the need for SMEs to navigate heavy and complex e-commerce platforms and also helps them better understand customer data.”

Bridging the digital divide

Much work remains on the road to recovery. For example, the World Bank’s 24th Malaysia Economic Monitor: Weathering the Surge on Malaysia’s firstly confirmed 98.5 percent of Malaysia’s 920,624 businesses are SMEs and also noted the sector’s considerable lag in digital adoption behind those of large firms.

To bridge this digital divide, Scott said that cloud “becomes a critical platform. No matter the size of the business or location, the ability to scale and to connect through the partner ecosystem are catalysts pointing to business value.”

Sustainability is another lead theme for SAP with especial relevance to network and supply chains and their connection to carbon emissions. Thomas urges customers to use technology in a smart way to help improve people’s lives. “Digital transformation is really about people transformation.”

Both Scott and Thomas referred to SAP’s ecosystem of trusted partners as a huge differentiator with Thomas concluding: “Sustainable business is simply good business – and Asia can lead the way more than anywhere else in the circular economy.”


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