00:08 | 18.07.21 | Interviews | exclusive 89554

Alexey Petunin: Armenia is one of the leading innovative countries today

Itel.am’s Interview with Alexey Petunin, SAP CIS Chief Operating Officer

- SAP officially entered Armenia’s market more than 10 years ago, in December 2010. How do you assess the company’s achievements in the Armenian market during this time?

- The information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Armenia has been growing steadily over the past decade, and the Ministry of High-Tech Industry was established in 2019.

Today, Armenia’s IT market is one of the most promising ones in terms of business development, speed of introduction of new technologies, openness to innovations and joint digital projects, and SAP has become one of the key suppliers of business solutions to this market. SAP is actively involved in the country’s digital agenda, helping companies to effectively navigate the digital transformation path. We share our business practices and years of experience in various industries and have launched many projects in the financial and public sector, retail, logistics and manufacturing.

Our broad cloud portfolio has helped to dramatically reduce the time of project implementation and achieving business results for clients. The Armenian market is also very interesting for our partners both in Russia and in other CIS countries. Borders are not an obstacle - we can do projects in a mixed format and remotely. In the past few years, one of the most noticeable trends both in Armenia and in other international markets has been focusing on solutions that help improve customer experience and interaction with buyers and, consequently, improve service.

SAP also actively supports the development of youth communities in Armenia through the SAP University Alliance program in order to enable them to realize their talents, including in the global technology market.

- How many clients do you have in Armenia and is it possible to draw up their generalized “portrait”? Are these mainly large companies or also medium-sized ones?

- Our client is open to everything new, is not afraid to experiment, but does it correctly, without unnecessary risks, understands why he needs to change with the help of technology, participates in the process at all stages of the project, trusts our experience, using the best practices in achieving his goals.

If we talk about the number of clients, then the question is simple on the one hand, but “the devil is always in the details”. In the traditional sense, we would describe as our clients the companies that are already using our solutions. But at SAP we view this concept more broadly, talking about an ecosystem that includes both partners and customers, where we go through the path of digital transformation together and create new solutions and new experiences. For example, in 2018, together with ACBA Bank, one of the leaders in process automation in Armenia, we launched a large-scale five-year digital transformation program that will affect all divisions of the bank. The bank uses SAP solutions for transactional banking, planning and budgeting, for building a bank data warehouse, for the main processes of personnel administration and talent management. With the help of modern technologies, ACBA Bank will improve the quality of work with clients, reduce the time of introducing new to products to the market, and improve both operational efficiency and the efficiency of basic processes.

“Yerevan City”, a retail trade leader, is also using our digital platform, effectively building the planning, forecasting and management processes. Other companies from retail, insurance and banking sectors are also using SAP solutions.

Alexey Petunin Alexey Petunin
photo © SAP

At the same time, we communicate with many medium-sized companies that are ready to develop and transform. There are many such requests in retail. Executives understand that without robust, easily scalable solutions that can analyze big data, increase customer service and deliver a better user experience to their customers, it will be difficult to compete in the growing market.

- Armenia’s market is small. What can serve as a driver for growth?

- Being small can serve as a driver for growth. This makes it possible to grow in terms of quality, a more detailed study of certain solutions and platforms. As for the state and the business, it allows working in close cooperation, developing the country’s digital export potential among other things.

Armenia actively participates in the international digital agenda. Many of country’s IT companies work with the foreign business, which requires speed in implementation and development, and the use of the most modern tools and practices. This is also facilitated by a modern approach to project implementation based on cloud technologies and microservice architectures offered by key players in the IT market and providers of business solutions, in which SAP holds a leading position. A very interesting observation during the pandemic was the serious transformation of the supply chains, methods of communication with clients, demand structure, types of services offered. In these conditions, the key growth factor is our customers’ ability to quickly adapt their business processes to changing market realities, to quickly test new approaches to interaction with the buyer and to achieve increased income, primarily through the use of modern IT technologies.

The ecosystem of startups and the work with youth communities, as well as the adopted “Armenia Digital Transformation Agenda 2030” is another driver of development of the ICT sector.

- In an interview with Itel.am in December 2010, SAP General Director in CIS Vladislav Martynov said that the priority areas for SAP business solutions in Armenia are the banking system, the public sector and the mining industry. Have new directions appeared and have the old ones been kept?

- SAP continues to actively cooperate with banks, which are traditionally one of the most developed sectors in terms of technology penetration, as well as retail: we closely cooperate with retail too. We also share our best world practices in implementing projects aimed at digitizing relations between the state, the business and the society, which is relevant for the implementation of Armenia’s digital transformation agenda. SAP’s portfolio also includes many interesting solutions and developments for the mining industry, which is one of the drivers of the Armenian economy. These technologies are successfully used by both Russian and international companies, allowing them to effectively build processes and quickly introduce the most advanced developments in their industry.

- The launch of SAP Startup Factory project in Armenia was announced in early June 2021 in partnership with BANA (Business Angel Network of Armenia) and with the support of the European Union. What are the main goals of this initiative?

- The main goal of launching SAP Startup Factory by BANA is to select and help as many startups as possible get into the global SAP Store partner solutions marketplace, which gives access to the global SAP customer base.

Alexey Petunin Alexey Petunin
photo © SAP

We are planning to attract up to 10 startups at the first stage of acceleration of the SAP Startup Factory by BANA. The program will become a good example of development of startup ecosystem for other CIS countries. Besides, such projects facilitate the exchange of experience and best practices in digitalization, which helps maintain export potential and develop competition.

- The press release on the opening of the SAP Startup Factory said that the project “will allow Armenia to become a hub for regional startups.” What does “region” mean in this case?

- As I said, today Armenia is one of the leading innovative and high-tech countries in the world, a real technological center. Initiatives such as SAP Startup Factory are a good example and a launching pad for other CIS countries for working with startups and entering international markets.

- Representatives of the government and IT companies admit that the most important problem of the industry is the lack of qualified personnel. Can SAP participate in solving this problem?

- SAP is already doing it. In 2017, the Russian-Armenian University in Armenia became the first university in the country to join the University Alliance. Jointly with the SMART Center, the innovative project of the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) for the development of rural settlements, SAP Next-Gen Lab - an innovation center for students and young IT professionals - was launched. This project is called to provide access for residents of Lori region to SAP solutions and educational materials in the sphere of virtual reality, blockchain and IoT technologies, etc.

Alexey Petunin Alexey Petunin
photo © SAP

In total, 17 SAP Next-Gen Labs have been opened in Russia and CIS countries since 2017. We realize the importance of training qualified personnel, therefore we are actively developing the ecosystem by investing in training. More than 135 universities in Russia and CIS get free access to SAP software for educational purposes.

In addition, last year we launched SAP S/4HANA Academy, a free hybrid training program for 3d and 4th-year undergraduate or graduate students, aimed at young people interested in a career in IT consulting. The distance learning format allowed students across Russia and from a number of CIS countries to complete the course, providing coverage in 11 time zones. In total, 1000 students from 5 countries, 33 cities and 114 universities were enrolled in SAP S/4HANA Academy, more than half - 540 people - successfully graduated from it. This year we plan to launch another SAP S/4HANA Academy, as well as SAP Cloud Academy.