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Software not the focus in APAC digital transformation: SAP

​Businesses instead want to be able to operate digitally and innovate with technology faster, regardless of whether they do so on an enterprise software stack or cloud.

Organisations in Asia-Pacific are focused on being able to operate digitally and adopt innovative technology faster, and they want to do so regardless of whether it is on an enterprise software stack or in the cloud.

The market had moved on from debating about the merits of enterprise software against cloud applications, according to Scott Russell, SAP's Asia-Pacific Japan president, who was appointed to the role in June 2017.

Asked about the future of enterprise software, a market in which SAP had been a major player, when so many had flocked towards the cloud, Russell instead noted that companies now were focused on running their business digitally and tapping technology to gain efficiencies. Whether they did so on-premise or in the cloud was no longer a primary point in this discussion.

"What companies want is to be able to innovate, consume technology faster and easier than before, and this can be done both with enterprise software and cloud," he said in an interview with ZDNet. "Clearly, [shorter] time to adoption and value is one of the advantages of cloud."

He added that companies also recognise the need sometimes to run hybrid environments in order to achieve the desired business outcome. Singapore supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice, for instance, deployed SAP Cloud Platform to run and analyse sales reports in real-time, but linked this to its core operational processes including financial and HR, which ran on-premise on SAP's core software platform.

Russell noted that businesses of all sizes in this region were keen to leverage new technology quickly, whether this meant being able to use the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, or machine learning to extract insights from the data they had.

"Simplicity also still matters. You need to make sure you're operating in an environment where it's easy to interoperate between different business solutions, so the extendibility of the technology and software is crucial," he said.

And despite its history as a traditional software player, he stressed that SAP was not in catch-up mode in competing against native-cloud players. He noted that the software vendor's deployment cycles had increased significantly, with software releases done on a quarterly or half-yearly basis, depending on the application.

It aimed to further drive digital innovation with SAP Leonardo, he said. Running on the SAP Cloud Platform, Leonardo was touted to be able to integrate with existing SAP applications to make these more "intelligent".

According to Russell, it offered a range of services based on emerging technologies. For instance, it enabled businesses to extend their SAP applications to support blockchain capabilities as well as provided pre-configured IoT applications--such as for connected vehicles--to allow companies to connect IoT sensor data to operational processes running on SAP S4.

"It allows companies to imagine new business scenarios and seamlessly orchestrate that into their core operational processes," he said. "The connection is important. Doing digital innovation in an island results in it being disconnected to the rest of the enterprise."