LAS VEGAS–Oliver Bussmann, chief information officer with SAP AG, joined the Germany-based software company in 2009 to head the global IT department of 1,500 staff. He talked to ComputerWorld Canada at SAP TechEd about the goals and challenges of running a dispersed IT organization within SAP:
ComputerWorld Canada: SAP’s very own IT department was the first customer of the company’s HANA in-memory database announced earlier this year. What role does SAP’s IT department play alongside the product development business?
Oliver Bussmann: Joining SAP last year, the message that I received was SAP runs SAP and we drink our own champagne. We want to be more integrated in the development loop and really share experiences, recommendations with the developer organization so we can share that experience with our customers. And then if everything goes well, we share this information in customer meetings or through social media.
CWC: SAP has said it recognizes the current age of Internet devices being tethered to the user. What is SAP’s mobility strategy for its own employees?
OB: We realized end of last year that the whole consumer style is coming to the work environment. With the announcement of the iPads at the beginning the year, we started two things. One is to setup the infrastructure to deliver those devices. The second is to look at what kind of apps we put out there. We tried to increase the application scope. The trend is moving from one device to multiple devices and multiple operating systems. We are exploring already the Samsung Galaxy, Android devices, and also the RIM PlayBook. We opened up the iPad two weeks ago for all employees; if they have respective business cases they can order an iPad.
CWC: SAP has said it recognizes that customer IT landscapes are heterogeneous and, as a result, will continue to focus on on-premise besides on-demand options. Is SAP trying to maintain a hybrid IT environment?
OB: Yes, definitely. It’s a hybrid environment because we already have the first on-demand application in-house on the carbon impact side as well as SteamWorks. We have on-demand solutions in parallel to our on-premise organization. We also try to with our on-premise technology to virtualize as much as possible. And, because we are providing services to our Business ByDesign organization, we keep those services in-house because it’s an end-to-end experience. From a total customer ownership, SAP has to run the operation.
As more line of business on-demand solutions emerge we will also explore that. Because the lines of business must have instant access to the application and it helps us as an IT organization to fulfill these requirements. My job is to orchestrate that and provide the services in time and in budget.
CWC: The relationship between IT and the business is an issue we often hear about. How do you maintain that relationship at SAP?
OB: From a governance structure point of view, even if we have a pretty centralized IT organization there’s less than 10 per cent IT spend in the lines of business. We implemented at the beginning of the year that each line of business should have a business information officer who will be part of my management team and drive the whole project portfolio and requirements and also the standardization process globally.
CWC: What plans do you have for your own IT department in the short term?
OB: Definitely it’s a multiple direction. There’s the whole mobility stuff to be device-agnostic, put more apps and data out there, professionalize the whole system, device management. We will continue everything we do in the sustainability area. We have products like the carbon impact and sustainability performance management for which we are also the first customer. And we will continue investing in that. It’s enabling the business to drive sustainability and green plus also to be energy efficient in how you run data centre operations. We got certified in our European operations that we are one of the energy efficient data centre operations in Europe. And so you also have to drink your own champagne in the green sustainability arena. It’s not only selling stuff; you have to use, run it, embrace it and you showcase it.
We are investing heavily in data management solutions, enterprise information management solutions so there is the single source of truth for the different lines of business and having access through self-service to get access to information. Otherwise, there is inconsistency and duplication of effort.
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