In your view, what is now the most high-pressure topic in the corporate world?

According to a study, the life span of a company has dropped by 50 years in the last century – and is now 15 years, based on American data. This is mainly driven by innovation by new startups, smaller companies which make the lives of old “dinosaur” companies harder. One of the most important things is speed – speed of new ideas that pop up, products that reach the development stage, innovation, the speed of serving customers and how quickly companies can develop new kinds of service. If you have an old model of thinking, you will not survive. There are a lot of good old brands which no longer exist – Kodak for example – which failed the digital transformation. If a company is not constantly up to date, not innovative enough to step into customers’ shoes, then it will lose market share and, eventually, fail. In light of this it’s not surprising that, according to another study, 72% of CEOs see the next three years as more critical than the past 50 for their industries. At the epicentre of change is the acceleration of a redefined business model.

Am I right in saying that SAP's main goal is to put its clients on the “highway” to finding the right business model?

Customers look to us to help them run simply, and concentrate on their core business – to seamlessly connect people and technology in real-time. We help them run as best they can and help them innovate to win. Our business is digital transformation, and with our 40-plus years of expertise and our culture of innovation, we can support our customers. Especially today, when many people are talking about, for example, the growing phenomenon of bimodal IT – where Mode1 ensures that companies’ legacy systems run the most efficiently, and Mode 2 defines how enterprises are innovative. This is how organisations can have the latest ideas converted into products and business processes.

How does the local development centre contribute to digital transformation on an international and a national level?

We work very closely with selected clients, utilising the methodology of Design Thinking. They benefit from our latest developments but they also influence our development, since they share their needs and experiences with us. So we can adjust our development to their needs. For example, IoT has the possibility to ensure real-time access to huge amounts of data through SAP HANA. We see huge potential in the auto manufacturing industry, where autonomous cars will produce 4000 GB while driving. New services will evolve from this data, in the insurance sector for example. And this kind of business was not possible before this amount of real-time data became available.

What are the major trends being addressed from the development centre in Budapest?

Beside big data and IoT, we need a methodology to digest this huge amount of data. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning is one segment we are also heavily investing in in Hungary, which will be an even bigger trend in the future – also on a global level. We will utilize AI to consume all of this data and extract meaningful information. This is important because data by itself is useless until it is converted into information that we can use. And then we come to a level where machines can make judgments on fixed rules, and learn the choices that the end-user might make, so we get much more automated processes. In the end, you will be able to use AI to support your decision-making. I believe that in ten years we will have totally different workplaces than today, and all of the digital transformation happening now will result in routine tasks becoming much more automated.

Will we use voice control at SAP software too? For example, saying “Hello SAP. Show me the main financial data of the last three quarters,” with a gentle voice presenting the data while I also check the numbers on my device.

We already have a similar pilot to this. What we are heavily working on is the next generation of support. We will have bots fully integrated into SAP software, which give our clients support on several topics. This feature is already available in the cloud.

How many people work in SAP's development centre in Budapest?

More than 800 today. We have three main areas: support, development and cloud operations. They are all about the future and we plan to hire even more. The development lab in Budapest was founded in 2005 and started with about 70 people. I became managing director of the centre in 2012, and since then I’ve managed to open more than 500 new positions in Hungary. Quite a big success – but of course it is not because of me. We have shown that we can deliver what is needed to our customers.

Will you find those people? The shortage of ICT professionals is a growing problem worldwide, and here in Hungary.

We have 19 labs around the globe, and we see a shortage especially in the CEE region. First of all, the potential talent needs to know that we are here. One thousand people are already working at SAP in Hungary, and they are the best recruiters. They like what they do and where they work at SAP, and they are a reference for a lot of their friends. We have huge recruiting machinery in-house. On the other hand, we have lot of consumers who use SAP – and their users, and their customers, also use SAP, so it is a well-known brand. We can also offer positions and duties in Budapest that are unique, even on a global scale.

You've already mentioned machine learning as one big area you are working on here in Budapest. What are the other main “topics”?

What is public and very well-known is our partnership with Apple. We are moving forward on this, intensifying this co-operation to make SAP apps available on iPhone and iPad. We are also looking for other opportunities on the entire mobile market. Our generation is used to fixed offices but the next generation will be different. They will be more mobile – they will be working anywhere, anytime, whenever they want. This new generation will bring new ideas, have a different kind of thinking, and this is what we need to affect the next developments. Users expect the latest technology, to work the same way in the home as in the workplace. With this flexibility of demand, our development centre also needs to be flexible. That's why I say that in the future everything will be offered from the cloud. Apps will be consumed from the cloud in the future.

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