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Interview: Staying ahead through innovation

T.C. Seow | Sept. 27, 2012
One-on-one with the global CIO of software giant, SAP AG.

How do you stay up to date on technology development?

Especially for high tech company, it's very important. How can you be up to date? First of all I learned in the last 12 months that the consumer technology business is driving the enterprise IT. The mobile devices, apps, content, even how we provide services, are now pretty much driven by what's going on in the retail business. Let me give you an example: We just opened our eighth mobile solutions centre to allow customers to test-drive corporate devices meet with our experts to get help [like in a retail store]. That's something we've learned from watching what's going on out there and trying to bring the experience here. We have two choices: either we think ahead and provide that or if the business is asking for, or if we don't do anything, the business will bypass us and get the services out there, because they have sophisticated people with [the right] IT background.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the market?

I go to consumer shows like CES to see what are the trends. Then I make judgement policy when this will come into the business or not. You have to think about how you engage your team to look into that. The second thing which is critical is the iPad. I use mine to look at 50 news sources everyday -- RSS feeds, news headlines, etc., all on one screen. It shows you all the headlines in [a way] that I can absorb them in a visualised way, for the IT business, normal business and nationally and internationally. Scanning through, you immediately can see what the hot topics are right now. Plus, I'm watching and following blogs from influencers such as analysts to see what the hot topics are.

At the end of the day, I read my own newspaper, which is composition of different news sources. In that way, I can absorb much higher amount of information than in a text environment. The good thing is, I can share this information [I've gathered]. Because social media is integrated -- Facebook, Twitter, email -- I can share this internally, or externally, and see the reaction generated out there. If I see a good article, I could comment on it and share this on Twitter. In return, I could see if one of my 5,000 followers is in agreement or otherwise. I'm following 300 people. You get a lot of good recommendations that you'd never get from traditional media. So from that perspective, I know exactly what's going on in the business and IT sides. I spend 30 percent of my time meeting our customers globally and I get a pretty good idea of what are the hot topics right now in each industry. In the end, I have to be up to speed on everything. My job has now changed in the last 12 to 18 months to become more customer-facing. Also, I now handle investor relationship. I go to financial conferences, and share the financial results of SAP, strategy and market, and through my 200 CIO meetings, I have pretty good insight of the market. My role has evolved into a general manager instead of focusing only on IT. This is also the story I share with my peers. It's possible to move out of the traditional CIO niche to a broader role.


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