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Angus' Story

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Iterating things organically in the organization has been done well historically and I still think SAP will continue to do that. We've shown that we can assimilate companies easily, while continuing to grow things organically.

Angus Keer-Keer

According to Angus Keer-Keer, he has an SAP time capsule. It’s not an inanimate object. It’s his eldest daughter. "She basically represents my entire SAP life", he says.

It was 2002 and the impending arrival of his daughter, their first child, was the catalyst for a significant career advancement.

"I was working for a company in Australia and being a loyal Kiwi, I wanted to come back to New Zealand, so I was contracting with a local company for a year. Then the whole thing of joining SAP was instigated by the approaching responsibility of fatherhood. Obviously I started thinking that I needed the security of a full-time job. I had to do the right thing and end the uncertainty of contracting, so I approached my employer and they said, no, not at the moment. They were still figuring out what they needed from their support perspective.

"So I literally went back to my desk, sat in front of my computer, and typed in ‘SAP APO’, which was the advanced planning solution of the time. And it was the first job that came up. Bang! So I went through all the steps and pressed the ‘Apply’ button. It was all pretty quick.

"Then a few weeks later I was flown up to Wellington for a panel interview, which was quite daunting. Now I employ people and I don’t use panel interviews – it’s quite funny because I’ve only used that technique once when it was a real rush to get somebody on board."

Angus confesses that he was “incredibly nervous” before flying to Wellington to start working with SAP, but reveals a little-known fact about his first day. Making a double confession, he says that not only did he miss his flight, but that he never actually told anyone at SAP about it. "I was booked on the early flight out of Christchurch to go to Wellington and I was late and I missed it. I was so lucky that Air New Zealand just put me on the next plane. I arrived in Wellington a bit later than planned, but didn’t breathe a word to anyone."

"It was really a timing thing because I thought I had a bit of leeway but it turned out that I was wrong. Looking back on now, the way in which most airlines operate is that if say, four passengers with confirmed seats don’t actually check-in for a flight, then the airline puts four of the waitlisted or standby passengers on the plane instead. I got to the airline check-in counter and they said, ‘Sorry, your flight’s gone’ because another passenger and I hadn’t checked in so two people with standby tickets had got on the flight. In short, I learned a valuable lesson – don’t cut your margins too fine, especially on the morning flights!

"I was quite nervous because I didn’t actually know who was going to meet me at the SAP Wellington office, so of course I didn’t know exactly whom to contact, or even how to contact them because it was the early days of cellphones. Let’s just say it was probably one of my more nervous flights. Truth be told, I wasn’t overly late, because the airline put me on a flight that was just half an hour later. But I was certainly concerned. I was quite relieved when I finally turned up. It wasn’t my most relaxing flight, that’s for sure.

"I didn’t breathe a word to anyone about the missed flight", he says with a laugh. "I thought, I’m not going to tell anyone about it. I had to be there at a certain time in the morning, I think it was nine o’clock or thereabouts. I was probably there by about 9.30 or 9.40 and no one seemed to make any comment on it or any reference to it, so I thought, I’m not going to bring it up. I learned a very important lesson on the parade ground from my days in the Navy, because if you make a mistake on the parade ground, sometimes the worst thing you can do is correct it. If you make a wrong move, most of the general public won’t even notice it – but if you backtrack, they’ll realize that you’ve made a mistake. As long as you just carry on, no one notices. That’s what I did when I arrived at the Wellington office. Nobody needed to know!

"When I look back on my first day, it’s really interesting with the benefit of hindsight. I literally turned up in the office that morning and was told, ‘Here’s your laptop, here’s your phone,’ and I walked down Lambton Quay to the customer site. I was literally sitting at my desk at the customer site just after 10 o’clock in the morning. But now that I am a manager, if I reflect on that experience, it is such a huge contrast with how much effort and how much focus we put into the whole onboarding process.

"After 17 years here, I’ve really seen a great deal of evolution. Everything goes in cycles, right? And it’s interesting to see some of those core cycles coming back. When I joined SAP, we had our core ERP system and we had our next-generation products – collectively, CRM, BW, APO, and SRM were the new frontier for customers. I actually joined as a supply chain consultant for a small proof of concept that we were doing at the time for a new client.

"Over the years, I’ve seen different stages of evolution across our product range. We’ve also acquired products, but it’s interesting to see, especially in the last two years, how we’ve really begun to reinforce the importance of our core ERP processes, as well as the integration to them.

"I don’t think that they were at the end of their life cycle, but I think that it was a renaissance period in recognizing what customers are looking to us for. You’ve got that bedrock, as well as the innovation around the outer core and the ease with which people can integrate those extra valuable layers. It has been interesting to follow the journeys of different customers in the market. That’s really important, as is the frequency with which we get it right. Sometimes we don’t, but in the main, I think we get it right more often than we don’t.

"With regard to all the acquisitions, I’ve certainly seen us getting better at bringing onboard these new companies and the way in which we’ve assimilated them into the organization. I think that’s really important. We’ve been very good at bringing them in but not tripping over ourselves in the process, or stumbling while we go through integrating them in every conceivable way.

"We’ve got to recognize that we won’t always be the sole owners of innovation and new ideas. Other companies will always try and encroach on that space. If we can be a company that is open to listening, while also being open to acquiring, and the ease of bringing them on board, we’re certainly going to be a lot better off in terms of the future. Iterating things organically in the organization has been done well historically, and I still think we’ll continue to do that, but certainly, we’ve got the best of both worlds now, because we’ve shown that we can assimilate companies easily while continuing to grow things organically.

"Overall, that’s not really about shifting focus as it is about taking a wider view. You look at the programs that SAP encourages, and it’s clear that we still seek people’s ideas internally. I definitely believe that we are operationally and intellectually open on every single level. Historically, we probably were a little bit too introspective and thought that all good ideas could only come from within the mother ship, but now we look in both spheres, which is far more meaningful."

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