In the E-3 exclusive interview, Area Director Bernd Martin talks about the opportunities that emerge with the new SolMan and about which further challenges face SAP established customers.
As you see it, which element of SAP expertise is most in demand among the established customers?
Bernd Martin: Firstly, for years there has been a sustained, strong desire for more standardisation and harmonisation, with the aim of boosting efficiency. Also, new topics such as the cloud are coming up. On the other hand though, for most application-users budgets have not increased.
This results in increasing demand for expertise at a cost people can live with. Increasingly, the SAP application users know that this balancing act can only be achieved by offshore resources. Yet they also demand that the solution is clearly oriented towards their specific market’s requirements.
Above all, they expect clearly-demarcated projects that are approached step by step. Usually customers do not want the great big step, involving a long-term tie-in; they just want the specific implementation of the project in hand.
Among which SAP product offerings does Larsen & Toubro Infotech have comprehensive expertise?
Martin: With 3,500 SAP experts, we cover the whole spectrum of requirements, from transformation and via innovation and service, through to execution. As a subsidiary company, we belong to Larsen & Toubro Group, India’s largest SAP application user.
Thus our expertise, for instance in oil, gas, engineering and construction, among other sectors, is significantly above the market average, because we are not solely solution-providers and consultants but also application users.
Why has Larsen & Toubro Infotech now come to Germany for example?
Martin: The business is increasingly globalised. Challenges associated with this offer the prospect of a major demand for expertise of the kind provided by Larsen & Toubro Infotech. Even big markets like Germany – not alone, but among others – lack competent IT experts who are also affordable.
Due to our strong presence in India, we can offer these specialists flexibly and at a favourable price.
What relevance do S/4 and Hana have for SAP established customers up to the year 2020?
Martin: SAP application users take an interest in S/4 and Hana for the most diverse range of reasons. Frequently it is not about individual performance characteristics but rather the desire for standardisation and harmonisation, as well as a kind of laying of foundations for the future. Yet occasionally wholly prosaic reasons play a role, such as the aim to optimise maintenance contracts.
It is only rarely that we discern great urgency, not least because each switchover also entails risks. That is precisely why we often recommend a step-by-step master-plan, in which initially the measures yielding the greatest benefit and the least risk are implemented, before all further steps are taken subsequent to this.
So what Hana expertise is to be found at Larsen & Toubro Infotech?
Martin: Our Hana expertise is very extensive. Our spectrum ranges from Hana adaptation, via upgrades and integration, through to Enterprise Hana Platform Services with certified Industry Solutions.
We have more than 300 consultants working in our own ‘Analytics Hana’ department alone.
Does Larsen & Toubro Infotech also sell SAP licences – and if it does, how do you advise the SAP established customers with regard to NetWeaver Foundation for Third Party?
Martin: We do not sell software licences and are accepted as a neutral consultant precisely for that reason. SAP came onto the market relatively late with NetWeaver; by that point in time many application-users were already working with another provider’s solution.
Against this background, we do not in all instances recommend a switch-over. It is rather a matter of deciding based on the individual case.
We only advise switching over if this generates a specific benefit for the customer. The fact that we do not earn our money by selling software licences helps us and our customers to maintain this neutrality strictly.
What is your evaluation of the degree of maturity, the roadmap and the upcoming tasks, with regard to SAP SolMan?
Martin: Here – one can justly say “at last” – SAP has set out onto the right path. SolMan 7.2 substantially increases the user-friendliness and the standardisation. Because internally we have already been working with SolMan 7.2 since May 2016, and have been able to gain experience in several POCs and installations, we very much recommend the switch to 7.2.
What chances do you give HEC and HCP in Europe?
Martin: That’s a particularly difficult question because some factors that are unclear play a part in the answer. Of course, cloud scenarios make sense and, over the course of time, the cloud will assert itself in more and more places.
Yet the risks are not to be overlooked. For instance, SAP provides no offer for a ‘path back’ with regard to the licences at HEC. In both cases, the application-user loses a considerable share of its autonomy.
Taking the longer-term view though, there can be no doubt that Hana in the cloud and Hana as an integrating cloud platform have good business prospects wordlwide.
Where do you see your SAP’s point of emphasis for 2017 and, in general terms, the greatest challenges in and for the SAP community?
Martin: We have specified our product-offering. This means that we offer specific solutions for specific sets of tasks in a clearly defined project, with a high degree of monitoring by the customer.
Examples are our ‘BW after Hana’ project in ten stages and a dedicated update from SolMan 7.1 to 7.2.
To get this, no application-user wants or needs to get a contractual commitment with a supplier, spanning several years and including the bureaucracy this involves. We take care of both tasks in clearly-demarcated projects.
Thank you for this discussion.