A company built on values always offers something extra
Hana Součková has been the Managing Director of SAP Czech Republic since August 2018. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Hanka several times . She guards her privacy closely, so I greatly appreciated that she was willing to give this interview for Czech and Slovak Leaders Magazine, discussing not only intelligent enterprise but also her leisure time. Our hour-long interview passed by quickly. Hanka spoke with enthusiasm about Czech customers, value-based companies, as well as mindfulness and the art of taking time for oneself. She spoke with fervour and passion about the necessity of continuous learning and about herself being always ready to take on new challenges. Hana Součková is deserving of her ranking amongst the 125 most influential Czech women.
Intelligent enterprise has been a key issue for SAP for two years now. What exactly does this term, which may be confusing to Czechs, involve?
From its very beginnings, SAP has always endeavoured to understand enterprise in general, as well as the processes of our key customers. We use the experiences thus gained to create best practices for particular fields within the software we have developed, so that we can subsequently share these procedures with the entire market. Our SAP S/4HANA application, in combination with our traditional applications for managing purchasing, marketing or human resources, offers us another opportunity to move forward the processes amongst our customers and thanks to the connectivity of all current technologies we receive a new angle which brings not only new insights but above all intelligent solutions. In a nutshell, intelligent enterprise is about assessing current best practices, which are under constant development. Remember what best practices used to be five years ago in different areas, whether in sales, human resources or purchasing, and compare it to the situation today. There is still room for further digitisation or optimisation but there will be much greater benefit in thinking about how to utilize the data we have available to us for new models of enterprise or for modifying processes in general.
Instead of incremental improvement, SAP also offers a disruptiveapproach,said todaytobetheonlysuitable approach for succeeding in an ever more complex and linked-up world.
Exactly. Personally, regarding the intelligent enterprise trend, I most appreciate the discussion with customers regarding our solutions and how our technologies can help them in their business. Customers are aware that trends of disruption and agile management are on the agenda, and they are looking for ways to support these more. Thus, we not only lead discussions on how things are now, but we also hold strategic discussions on the necessary targeted vision in ten years’ time, regardless of the current solution. Personally, I think it is important not to let oneself be tied down by history, or the current state of implemented solutions, but rather come to a point where the business or company begins to focus more on the future in terms of functionality, rather than mere reaction or modification of the current state.
Your talk for journalists, organised in a futuristic style within an interactive truck, was focused on customer experience. You proudly presented cases of large Czech companies which have grown from their original family firms over the last quarter- century, and which use SAP solutions for further expansion, now on a global scale.
I think these Czech companies represent the true wealth of the Czech economy. It is extraordinary that quite a large percentage are still managed by their founders. Founders who have built up companies on the foundations of a long-term vision, resting on authentic values, give the business something extra, and for you, that is a reason to come back to them. The next generation today has a different approach to loyalty than the previous generations. In this context, it is important to stress that values and the customer experience linked therein play a great role. So-called “customer experience” is another term that is hard to translate into Czech. It isn’t just about general experience, but increasingly about the emotional experience the customer links to a particular service. The young generation is responding increasingly to whether they can identify with a company, its campaigns, its representatives and the values it embodies. If they do not, they can conclusively reject that brand. SAP recently undertook the acquisition of Qualtrics in order to refine our data on customer experience, aiming to help our customers to answer the question of whether they have the right product for the right customer, offered at the right time and in the right way. Thus, we are now ready to help the company bridge the difference between what customers expect and what they actually get. In this way, intelligent enterprise is not only about actual operative data. Its strength is hidden in the ability to link together current data on company management as well as feelings, experiences and emotions experienced not just by our customers, but also by employees and business partners. This gives the enterprise new meaning.
You’ve said that a company built on values always offers something extra. But in the past, SAP had a reputation as a company offering a costly solution, and thus it focused above all on global corporations that could afford such a solution.
As I’ve already mentioned, SAP sets out to bring best practices to the market. However, you can only bring these when you have a customer base of a certain critical size, creating vital knowledge. Best practices do not evolve based on two or three single experiences. Nowadays, SAP has 437,000 customers worldwide, and more than half of them are so-called SMEs. These stunning numbers can often be taken by Czech companies with a pinch of salt, but it is the experience of our local customers that confirms that SAP is definitely not suited only for global corporations. There is a parallel here with cars in terms of the costs. A car will take you from A to B, but it all depends on speed, safety, comfort, etc. Each of us, whether we are individuals or legal entities, has the ability to make a choice. We offer not just best practices, but also safety in terms of transparency, audits and a connection to company values, long-term commitment and vision realisation. Since 2010, SAP has invested 70 billion USD in development, which has involved not just developing our flagship SAP S/4HANA database, but also follow-up acquisitions, thus meeting our long-term commitment to continue our efforts at innovation, keeping up with the times. In regard to prices, a cloud solution may be one option for optimisation.
Let’s return to the Czech customers, who are your core. I appreciated the fact that your conference was attended by hostesses in beautifully tailor made dresses from Bernhardt Fashion, a company that was also one of the winners of the SAP Quality Awards in the “business transformation” category.
I wouldn’t like to name specific companies here, because then I might leave out others. So let’s discuss specific customer groups. I’ve already mentioned companies that are still lead by their original owners, whom we have managed to persuade about the added value of our solutions, and we appreciate that our cooperation with these companies is long-term, allowing them scalable growth at a global level. For traditionally medium- large and large players with foreign ownership interest, we are successful in considering new solutions and possibilities for trying out new approaches. We cannot forget about public administration and national enterprises, which imitate the approach of corporations. With most of these companies, we cooperate in some measure of SAP transformation, and further use of the added value that SAP can offer today. These customers monitor new trends around the world using what we call expert user groups; recently, for example, a meeting was held with an entity with the notable acronym of SUGARRAIL, although this comprised experts in the railway.
SAP Czech Republic’s important status within the global corporation was most recently attested to by the fact that the new Managing Director for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has chosen to work in Prague.
Tom Kindermans comes from Belgium and has had an international career not just within the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), but also the APJ region (Asia, Pacific, Japan). His wife is Czech so Prague was a natural choice. He has said he appreciates the fact that Prague is close to everywhere. Belgium is comparable to the Czech Republic. It is good that the region’s management is based in Prague and thus has a better overview of the diversity of all 16 countries the region comprises. Sometimes size can be both over and underestimated at the same time. In terms of opportunities, these seem to be the same everywhere. In reality, we have to serve the same number of ministries as our colleagues in large countries, but with a far smaller team. The magic of small countries within corporations can be compared to the magic of start-ups. You need to know how to select your priorities well; you cannot focus on everything. You also have better flexibility than in larger countries with large teams, which are more difficult to co-ordinate.
You’ve given many interviews, but you guard your privacy. I only found out from one of the interviews on SAP’s Facebook page that you follow three principles in your private life: family, yoga and planning. In your leisure time you have also managed to organise kids’ mountain bike races on the weekends.
Right now, I am reading a book in which one of the protagonists shared an experience, one that resonated with me. On the one hand, this person worked hard and intensely, but on the other hand enjoyed doing it all. Over time, ended up working for 20 hours a day and unable to disconnect. I hope that doesn’t happen to me (laughter). I had to give up organising mountain bike races after four years, because organising races in which 2000 children take part each year was basically more work. I think I am able to set a balance. My previous role was a regional one, so nowadays there is less travelling. I am aware, however, that my response to the question“How is it going?”is“Fast”. I sometimes regret not being able to experience the present moment more. On the other hand, during a crisis the wave passes over quickly and I don’t remain sad for long. In terms of yoga, I am still able to find the time for it. I’ve already mentioned the impact of emotions on decision-making, but essentially 27 emotions control our life, you have to give yourself the space to experience them and live them through. Yoga and mindfulness techniques are not objectives for me, but rather a means to take time out. The largest percentage of workaholics is amongst the thirty- something generation, who often do their work virtually and cannot set boundaries and unplug. I think one’s response to the question: “When did you last spend a whole day doing nothing?”may be a good indicator of whether they have succumbed to workaholism.
You give a lot of support to young girls in IT. What final advice would you give as a mentor?
I, myself, follow the advice: You always need to work on yourself. It doesn’t matter what your position is. Don’t work on yourself in order to achieve a particular position in five years; rather be ready to take on new impulses and ideas. I see today that some girls try too much to plan their future, and this narrows their opportunities. I studied at the Physical Education and Sports Faculty because I was interested in coaching and sport psychology. It might seem to some that I jump around too much, but I think we are shaped by all of our experiences. Last year, after a not particularly long period in a regional position, I transferred to my current local role. I consulted my husband on the matter, and he gave me support: Sure you’re ready. And I was.
For Czech and Slovak Leaders Magazine, Linda Štucbartová, DES, MBA