The whole interest in sustainability is wearing off isn’t it? SAP’s Scott Bolick answers

At the SAP TechEd event in Madrid recently, had an interview scheduled with SAP’s Scott Bolick. Scott is responsible for SAP’s Sustainability Solutions. Dennis Howlett, of JD-OD, knowing my interest in sustainability, asked if I’d like to conduct the conversation with Scott.

I was happy to oblige and so here’s a transcript of our chat:

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone. This is Tom Raftery of GreenMonk TV, doing interview for JD-OD. And with me I have Scott Bolick from SAP. Scott, would you like to introduce yourself?

Scott Bolick: Thanks Tom. My name is Scott Bolick as you said, and I’m responsible for SAP Sustainability Solutions and those solutions are across at four different areas and hopefully we can chat a little bit about those now.

Tom Raftery: Sure. So Scott, sustainability it’s a – the whole interest in sustainability is wearing off isn’t it, nobody is really into sustainability these days. Am I right?

Scott Bolick: Well I think you are wrong, I think there is a caveat. I think one of the things that we’ve seen in the market which I think is actually a good sign is that sustainability was a topic de joure in 2008, 2009. It’s still there, you still see more and more CSOs coming online but what you are seeing is instead of a centralization of power within those chief sustainability officers, what you are actually seeing is the sustainability officers setting the strategy for the company.

And then whenever you look at the actual execution, when we look at where people are actually purchasing IT that really is coming down into the LOB, so it’s R&D for sustainable products. It is the supply chain when you look at sustainable supply chain. It’s manufacturing whenever you look at sustainable operations. So I think to say that it’s not there, it is wrong, I think it’s there, it’s stronger than ever. I think what people are discovering is it’s sedimenting back into the underlying businesses and that’s where it should be fundamentally.

Tom Raftery: Okay, but I mean with the current state of the economy, are people really willing to get their –stick their hand in their pocket and spend money on sustainability solutions?

Scott Bolick: Yeah, absolutely. And I think when you take a look at why people buy for sustainability, I think there is three reasons people buy. First and foremost is compliance, and there are increasing regulations around the globe whether it be for product or whether it be not just for — whether it be safety and showing that you are increasing the safety within your operations. And so one of course whenever you take a look at that and you look at the complexity of business, it’s spread out on global operations, they need solutions that are IT solutions to be able to adhere to those regulations in a timely and in a low cost manner.

Second you continue to see people interested in those solutions that help them save money, energy management obviously being top of mind.

And third, there are those companies that are spending on aspirational, really trying to understand what is the product footprint of the products that they sell into the market and how they can lower that footprint whether it’d be carbon or whether it’d be other substances.

Tom Raftery: And where are you seeing most of the traction these days? What is the most – what is the area of the largest – well either spend or interest for SAP at the moment?

Scott Bolick: I think if you take a look at some areas that are really hitting for SAP, one of the areas is operational risk management. And if you would go back and you just look at the last couple of years, what you see are these big events that these events happen and then there is a tremendous impact on the brand reputation, there is a tremendous impact on the financial valuation of those companies. And so what you are seeing is companies on a trend, the first trend on operational risk was really about compliance, am I compliant to regulations, now you are seeing people increasingly looking at proactive prevention, how do I actually go out and report incidents before they happen, how do they then analyze those incidents, put them in a risk framework and then how do I actually execute management of change. So we are definitely seeing a tremendous amount of interest from across multiple industries.

And finally what we are beginning to see is some really interesting stuff where people are looking at the tremendous amount of data they have and trying to figure out how they can correlate that data and actually get into predictive analytics around risk. So that’s one of the areas we’re definitely seeing.

Tom Raftery: Okay and when you talk about data I mean a lot of – the various solutions have massive amounts of data associated with them, how is SAP going to handle that, the big data issue?

Scott Bolick: I think one of the things that we are fortunate is that unlike some players in the market, we within SAP have strong technology both for analytics and then when you look at big data obviously we have HANA. So some of the things that we are doing is working with customers and determining how we can leverage HANA to push them over limits that they might otherwise have. Limits in terms of their own operations and limits in terms of processes.

One of the ones I love is we have an embedded product compliance customer who is now looking at putting embedded product compliance on top of HANA. So this company has 100,000 different recipes, they produce 3000 to 4000 documents a day and obviously that’s on the backend, but on the front end they have got to really make sure during the design process that they understand whether or not the substances, whether or not the ingredients are going to be compliant to regulations. One of the things they are doing is by putting it on HANA is they can get the check back in a second rather than getting a check back in terms of minutes or hours. And obviously if you are in R&D, the last thing you want to do is your designing — is to sit in front of the computer and wait to determine whether or not it’s compliant with regulations and obviously those regulations are regulations that are country specific.

Tom Raftery: Sure. So sustainability is here to stay.

Scott Bolick: Absolutely.

Tom Raftery: Great. Scott, thanks a million.