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     In my last blog post, I talked about the Innovation Forum series we’re hosting all over Asia-Pacific Japan (APJ) this spring and summer to bring our message of innovation to a region that still sees SAP as primarily an ERP company. These forums are a great way for me to get to know this incredibly diverse region as I take on this new assignment. I promised to bring you the local flavor of each event I attend, so here goes.

     Last week I keynoted at the Innovation Forum in Manila, to a standing room only audience of about 140 IT and business people. Darren Rushworth, SAP Managing Director for the Phillipines and Emerging Markets kicked off the discussion. Despite being just 10 days on the job, Darren was the perfect emcee, having joined SAP after a long tenure at a competitor because of the buzz in the marketplace about our customer-driven innovation agenda.

     The first thing I noticed was that our audience was mostly female, a first for me at SAP. I later learned that in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap rankings, the Phillipines ranked 8th out of 135 countries in terms of progress toward closing the gender gap.

     Here’s another thing that’s interesting about the Phillipines: It’s the text messaging capital of the world.  Landline infrastructure here is poor and calls are expensive so there are roughly six times as many cell phones as there are land lines. Text-based mobile solutions like the Sybase 365 application we did for United Bank of India should play well here.

     So should solutions for transportation, logistics and supply chain. Two things you notice right away in Manila are all the mom and pop kiosks and the incredible traffic congestion. There’s a huge road building push going on right now, but it was bumper to bumper everywhere I went. Traffic regulations are shall we say, loose, and observance of niceties such as lanes just doesn’t happen. Cars and trucks compete with motorcycles, scooters and bikes. And then there’s the uniquely Filipino Jeepney, a custom-built cross between a Jeep and a jitney that serves as a form of mass transit.

     So how you deliver to these smaller kiosks is a big part of what you need to think about in emerging markets. There’s not Walmart or Starbucks on every corner. The way they have to buy and store inventory is an issue. Cash flow is an issue. Apps that can help streamline direct store delivery (DSD) can improve everyone’s margin. The distributor doesn’t have to deliver as much, owner doesn’t have to buy and store as much and it improves customer experience because product is fresher.

     If merchants can take a picture of their refrigerator or interact with a simple website from a smart phone and transmit that back to the distributor, it could significantly improve the order fulfillment process. On the supplier side, analytics to look at traffic patterns and what is selling by store and time of day could enable a distributor to downsize trucks and optimize delivery times, and that could be a significant revenue generator.

     The discussion where we felt the most traction though, was around apps that use mashups of data and social media sentiment analysis to interact with customers to give them influence over what products are manufactured according to local demand.

     This was an audience that is very social media savvy and peppered me with questions about where their country stood compared to other countries in the adoption of new technologies. They really grabbed onto one of our use cases about a retailer with a 7-day manufacturing time that can actually make products based on the ‘likes’ of its prospective customers.

     This was the big ‘aha’ moment; previously when they thought about analytics it was primarily about data from inside the enterprise. They were very excited about this whole concept of apps that can look at a whole new data set and extend the reach and impact of the customer. They came away with a new understanding of the potential of analytics, as well as the new SAP. Follow the discussion here on SCN and on Twitter @bilafer or use the hashtag sapapj.