Michael Rieder, Global Head of SAP Enterprise Support and Senior Vice President of SAP Active Global Support for EMEA, explains the customer value of his organization and what makes it unique.
Having been with SAP for more than 15 years, Michael Rieder was involved from the very beginnings of SAP Enterprise Support. And through the organization’s evolution, he has helped develop, improve, and transform SAP’s support offerings to continually meet customer needs. Rieder now holds a dual role in which he oversees approximately 500 support staff serving more than 3,000 customers, while also heading up both SAP Enterprise Support program development worldwide and SAP Active Global Support for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). He is directly responsible for all the people and support functions in the EMEA market units, as well as the development teams that shape SAP Enterprise Support.
insiderPROFILES recently asked Rieder to share his insights on what customers can expect from SAP’s support offerings under his leadership.
Q: What are your specific responsibilities in your dual role at SAP?
In the role for EMEA, I am responsible for premium support delivery to customers under SAP MaxAttention, SAP ActiveEmbedded, and SAP Enterprise Support. I am in charge of premium engagements with customers from South Africa all the way up to Iceland.
The other role involves developing and extending the SAP Enterprise Support program from a portfolio perspective. The main task is to further develop the deliverables for this program, ensuring that those elements are made available to customers globally. The word “develop” here has three meanings. First, we develop an SAP innovation and operations platform (SAP Solution Manager) that helps customers operate SAP software inexpensively and reliably as well as innovate quickly. Second, we develop support engineering procedures to help customers leverage the potential that we deliver on the software side. Third, to complement all this, we offer a comprehensive knowledge transfer from SAP to our customers about how, why, and when to use the capabilities via the SAP Enterprise Support Academy.
Another main responsibility is to ensure the SAP Active Global Support delivery organization is educated and certified to deliver mission-critical support to customers and help them prevent any unplanned downtime or minimize planned downtime so the business is not interrupted because of an IT outage.
“One part of my job is to deliver a strategy derived from our vision. And on the other side, I can see this vision being realized as customers are using and getting value from SAP support.”
— Michael Rieder, Global Head of SAP Enterprise Support and SVP of SAP Active Global Support, EMEA
Q: What motivates you to go to work every day?
The biggest motivating factor is that no day is like the other. Because of the nature of my two roles, every day brings something new that I can experience or learn. I have a combination of development and delivery responsibility. One part of my job is to deliver a strategy derived from our vision — this is the program part. Here, I get to think about what we’ll deliver three or four years down the road and work with the development teams to generate those ideas. And on the other side, with the EMEA region, I can see how this vision is translated and realize with my delivery units how customers are using and getting value from SAP support.
I am also motivated by working in a very multicultural, international environment. I work with companies in both emerging and mature markets. And more customers are globalizing — for example, we have a link to the Americas, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. So working in such an international environment, combined with the fact that I have a great team to work with — both the management and the experts — is what motivates me every day in this role.
Q: Can you walk through what a typical day might look like for you?
A typical day might start with a morning call from the board asking for a strategy plan around a specific area for the next three years. This call is followed by an escalation call from a customer that needs help with a problem. Next is a meeting with a partner that wants to collaborate with us. Then I have a handful of meetings with my development team where we discuss how to plan the next development cycle. The day is finished with a meeting or call with a customer or internal people possibly in the Americas about specific strategic or delivery topics. And in between, there’s a host of email communication.
The next day or two, I might be onsite with a customer to work on specific innovation or operation-related activities or strategies, and come back with some action items for my organization.
Around 40% to 50% of my time is spent traveling to visit customers. At the moment, about 75% of that travel is throughout EMEA with the other 25% encompassing travel to Asia or the Americas.
Q: When you speak with customers, what challenges do they say they are struggling with today?
Timing is a major factor here because even just one year ago, customers’ concerns were very different — the majority then focused on cost, which is no longer the only case. Today, there are three big themes:
- Customers are thinking about how IT can partner with the business to better support business growth and objectives. That’s why they look for innovative IT solutions to support their business.
- The second priority they talk about is becoming more efficient and streamlining operations to free up resources and money to support innovation strategy.
- The third challenge customers mention is engaging seamlessly with outsourcing partners on IT operations or implementations.
On the technical side, the main challenges are around globalization, scalability, and speed of innovation. The key here is to do this in a nondisruptive way.
Q: What value should customers expect from their support engagements?
The benefits can be best summarized in four categories:
- Accelerate and orchestrate innovation. We provide customers with robust tools, methodologies, and support elements around speed of innovation and continuous improvement.
- Operations excellence. We also help customers with tools, methodologies, and support elements to stabilize and scale their operations to reduce TCI and TCO.
- Knowledge transfer. SAP Enterprise Support Academy provides education that is unique in the market as part of a support model and enables customers to quickly deploy and operate SAP software.
- Mission-critical support. In the case of severe issues, we offer a direct line to experts who react in minutes and do whatever it takes to get the customer’s systems up again.
Q: What role does the support advisory center play?
The SAP Enterprise Support Advisory Center is a group of experienced experts who help customers in roadmapping the path to accelerated innovation, best-practice SAP operations, and continuous improvement in order to get the maximum value out of the huge portfolio of SAP Enterprise Support.
Support advisors are focused on guiding the customers and creating roadmaps together with them by asking: How can they accelerate innovation? How can they achieve a level of operations excellence? How can they plan their upgrade projects? And what should their knowledge transfer roadmap, based on the SAP Enterprise Support Academy, look like so that their IT staff or partners can deploy all the functionality that we provide?
In addition, if a crisis does arise, the advisory center will help our customers get out of trouble and advise how to proactively avoid such crises in the future by leveraging all the capabilities that SAP Enterprise Support provides.
“Most providers offer only reactive support. We do much more than that. We proactively cover the full life cycle of software implementation and operations.”
— Michael Rieder, Global Head of SAP Enterprise Support and SVP of SAP Active Global Support, EMEA
Q: How do SAP’s support offerings differ from those of its competitors?
While mission-critical support is a very important part of what we do, it does not comprise the majority of our portfolio. The real value of SAP Enterprise Support — and how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors — comes from the other three areas: innovation, operational excellence, and knowledge transfer.
Most providers offer only reactive support, which includes incident management and mission-critical support. As a result, many customers only interface with their support provider through telephone or email to fix the problem. We do much more than that. We proactively cover the full life cycle of software implementation and operations — all the elements I just mentioned — with the innovation and operations platform supporting it (SAP Solution Manager). This is unique.
Another differentiator is that we have our own development organization that continuously works on the deliverables of the maintenance contract we provide. We visit or communicate with customers every day, so we’re a very customer-driven organization that builds the needs of the market directly into our maintenance offerings.
Our competitors have premium offerings, but this often means only two onsite visits per year for the customer. If they want more proactive work from the vendor, or proactive checks of their solutions, customers typically have to pay extra. As part of a premium engagement, we embed resources into a customer’s location so that there’s a consistent lifetime engagement with us. Because our customers run our software for decades, we develop a very close relationship with them. As SAP’s support organization, we are with them all the time, as long as they run our software.
And since we touch every customer, we see every implementation, problem, or operational glitch that they encounter. Then we take the feedback from customers and analyze it to drive a lot of our development. It’s all customer-centric and customer-focused.
Q: Could you share some of this customer feedback?
Sure. One recent example comes to mind. Last week a customer mentioned that with all the delivery infrastructure in the application lifecycle management and Run SAP Like a Factory approach, they could reduce the manual work in IT operations and move people and investments to the innovation cycle so there is much more time and money for business innovation compared to the past.
We ask customers of various sizes and industries to give feedback about where they see IT trends going and how those trends impact what they need from their support provider today and in the future. Several times a year, we formally invite customers — in different groups and sizes — to provide that feedback. Then we work closely with them to gather their requirements, launch a pilot offering, and when it is ready, bring it back to the SAP maintenance delivery, so all of the other customers can benefit from it. Customers love to see that we listen and that they influence what we do.
Q: What is the key message you hope resonates with customers?
I would emphasize to customers that although we may not need to have direct contact with them daily or even weekly — some companies still think of support in that reactive way — they do forge a closer relationship with SAP through these offerings. They should call the SAP Enterprise Support Advisory Center, ask for their SAP roadmap recommendations, and actively engage with support advisors to help them learn how to get the most out of their SAP support offerings.