13.12.2022 IT Farvest decrypt Interview IT

Bertrand Brackman: "We want to support every organization in their digital transformation journey"

Writer Samira Joineau
bertrand brackman SAP

On the occasion of the 25-year SAP BeLux anniversary, Bertrand Brackman – SAP Luxembourg Country Sales Manager – accepted to throw back on SAP BeLux evolution over the years, as well as the current challenges – notably the digital and sustainability ones.

SAP has been present in Luxembourg since 1997 and its activity has constantly grown in the past 25 years, notably in terms of customer service. Could you tell us more about your evolution, and the industry sectors you work with?

As you know, SAP BeLux is celebrating its 25-year anniversary this year, and lots of exciting happenings have occurred during this period of time. Back in 1997, we had 50 customers relying on our ERP solution, named SAP R/2. Our big challenge then was to move from R/2 to R/3, on top of selling add-ons. Between 2007 and 2014, SAP also made relevant acquisitions, leading to increased activities and opportunities: BusinessObjects (2007); Sybase (2010); SuccessFactors (2011), Ariba (2012) and Concur (2014) to name a few. These have been acquisitions in line with our vision of the Intelligent Enterprise. In this respect, it is worth mentioning as well that in March 2021, SAP acquired Signavio, a leader in the enterprise business process intelligence and process management space.

In 2014, Patrick Van Deven – previous SAP BeLux Managing Director – and Alain Georgy – previous Sales Director General Business – had decided to increase our focus locally in Luxembourg, as there was – and still is – much potential there. It was also the time when SAP brought a great innovation on the market with the HANA database, a new platform to fuel and support our strategy. The latter enables our customers to move further towards intelligent businesses. While ERP was evolving, we had then with our global portfolio all solutions needed  to plug around our core ERP so as to address their end-to-end business processes.

This was followed with a new wave – which started about 5 years ago: the cloud. And it is rising exponentially today, being in the world or here in Luxembourg. Not to mention that Luxembourg is moving faster to the cloud compared to other European countries. This explains why we have seen many prospective customers adopting the cloud, and adopting our cloud strategy – being a top  cloud solution provider with a Cloud user base: >250m users in the world today; SAP BeLux had hence the opportunity and the pleasure to be a strategic partner for many customers here in  Luxembourg, helping them with their digital transformation.

Our vision and capabilities to address key end-to-end business processes powered by one business technology platform – delivering best practices and innovations constantly for 25 different industries – are what makes SAP a relevant and reliable partner. Now more than ever, it’s time to accelerate the sustainability transformation.

On this specific subject, SAP is chasing zeros: 0 waste, 0 carbon footprint, and 0 inequality. These are important highlights in our business strategy, so as to be responsible to make the world run better. Besides, one of SAP’s priorities is to always listen to their customers so as to be able to address their challenges and to be relevant on any subjects bringing innovation.

Therefore, we have not only extended the original customer footprint – with new customers every year – but we have also increased the adoption of our vision and SAP portfolio within these customers. We have then achieved both a vertical and horizontal growth, notably thanks to our customers’ trust. As a result, we have 120 active customers in Luxembourg today – and this number is constantly changing as new customers join the SAP family each year.

Those customers are spanning across all industries, such as utilities, professional and financial services, the public sector, as well as manufacturing. These are our main customers’ sectors in Luxembourg. It is to note that our customers are as much larger companies as small-sized companies.

On top of offering its own services, SAP Luxembourg made it a point of honor to partner with the local ecosystem. Could you further develop on the nature of these partnerships, and how is it evolving?

SAP has a vibrant partner ecosystem in Luxembourg, that implicitly participates in delivering SAP vision to our customers. SAP has around 20 partners whom we collaborate with every single day. They range from specific local value added IT consulting companies to global system integrators. SAP seeks to enlarge this partner landscape, depending on the new solutions present on the market.

Two years ago, SAP launched the Talent Partner Initiative, in collaboration with its partners to address the digital skill gap on the market – which is a considerable challenge for the future, and this in every sector. There is indeed a clear lack of talents, and it is even more striking in the IT industry. The programme was designed to deliver trained consultants to partners as we work to address the #digitalskillsgap and respond to the changing needs of our customers. Launched in June 2022, the SAP Partner Talent Initiative initially received 1500 applications. The first two cohorts will graduate 40 consultants. An additional schedule of cohorts is running now, and others are planned for the remainder of 2022 and into Q1/Q2 of 2023.

When it comes to digital transition, performance tends to be favored at the expense of sustainability. At the local level, is sustainability a thematic enough considered, and extolled?

Sustainability is nowadays an essential subject, and has been a top priority for SAP for years. As I mentioned, it is all about chasing the zero – which is a real business differentiator and is most importantly mandatory. I do believe that awareness is present and valuable in Luxembourg. Having said that, the sustainability transition might be slow, in terms of adoption and execution, as it varies according to the type of industry. This transition remains nevertheless valid for everybody. So companies have no choice but to put in place what it takes to align with sustainability requirements.

The most immediate challenge for many of them is to achieve data transparency around ESG. There are already upcoming mandatory reporting obligations for next year. Some other challenges are to:

  • record, which regard the gathering of ESG data, as it cannot be found in one single system
  • report, as there are more than 600 ESG frameworks and standards – which are constantly evolving. The requirements for companies are then constantly changing, and the effort is to report along the regulatory frameworks.
  • act upon it. Sustainability actions are already occurring in many companies, but are often disjointed as they do not cover all business processes.

And this is where SAP intervenes, as we are bringing to the market an extensive range of sustainability solutions under a single solution portfolio: the SAP Cloud for Sustainable Enterprises. This helps companies choose the best options that are relevant to their business function and transformation.

Concretely, what are the upcoming challenges for societies in terms of digitization? And, how do you see the evolution of the Luxembourgish market on this aspect over the years?

The great challenge of Luxembourg is no different from the rest of the world; we are all together facing the same challenges and they strongly regard skills. And it is clear that digital transformation is still high on companies’ agendas, but their perspectives and expectations have changed over time. The current geopolitical situation has of course an impact on the world. So instead of simply improving customer experiences, strengthening brand recognition, boosting sales, companies go deeper in their plans to drive structural changes – which includes sustainability, products and services.

On top, companies also expect an environment that is connected, flexible, integrated and future-proof. This can enable them to pivot their digital capabilities and processes responsively, to change their operating quickly, and to grow faster than the industry average.

The outcome may differ from company to company (and department to department) but, in essence, they all want to manage their topline (which regards the financial aspect), bottom line (which regards the operational aspect), and their green line (which regards sustainability). When talking about expectations, companies are seeking more process-driven, value-driven and data-driven solutions; which means less functions and features, and easier reporting and data analytics. Not to mention that cybersecurity is the side part of these evolutions and changes.

At SAP, we want to accompany companies in their digital transformation journey; this, with the objective to become an intelligent sustainable enterprise, which conveys business and societal outcomes. And every solution SAP delivers has a contribution which lies on 3 pillars: topline, bottom line, and green line.

Any last words?

Although organizations understand the importance of digital transformation, they face multiple challenges – notably in terms of both business and IT aspects when they embark on this journey. How to innovate without disruption, how to ensure business continuity & resilience, how to face cyber threats, the high cost of maintaining the current landscape, how to succeed creating the Experience expected by Customers and Employees being sustainable are for instance hot topics.