Elena Shishkina, CFO of SAP UK and Ireland.
Enterprise application, analytics and efficiency solutions provider SAP has some of the biggest names in the corporate world as its clients with a number of FTSE 100 finance chiefs relying on it for customised software platforms.
From back office to boardroom, warehouse to storefront, desktop to mobile device, the company's offerings can be found everywhere with 'efficiency' being the byword. So how does a company touting efficiency to a plethora of finance chiefs practice it internally?
SAP's UK and Ireland CFO Elena Shishkina says that quite like some of the solutions it offers to clients, the journey often begins with examining the needs of the finance function and simplifying things.
Innovation begins at home
"Innovation is the key. Providing enterprise solutions to the corporate world is our bread and butter, so it is crucial that we constantly strive to bring about innovation within our own finance function and practices. For instance, our shared service and intelligence centres have constantly helped us standardise [and globalise] functions in an incremental fashion over the past few years," she says.
"Additionally, flagship products [for example SAP HANA, our marketed platform for real-time business intelligence] are employed internally. Such an exercise not only helps the finance function, but also serves as an internal testing ground for new innovation and assists in the passing of anecdotal evidence about such innovations to existing and potential clients."
Shishkina says in the current macroeconomic climate, being innovative internally, helps acquire a clear vision. To this effect SAP is investing heavily on shared services and its centres of excellence over the medium-term."This ever more crucial, as clients' demands have changed regardless of their market capitalisation in the current age of austerity."
Having joined SAP in 2005, Shishkina has seen it all. By 2007, she had risen to the rank of CFO at the company's Russia and CIS business. In April 2011, she took up the finance chief's reins at SAP UK and Ireland.
Grasping the international climate comes naturally to Shishkina who has studied in the UK, France, US and her native Russia. Prior to SAP, she held the positions of CFO at ASB Reitung in Russia and worked as a consultant at InterMatrix.
"If you asked me for a pan-global assessment of the 'then' and 'now' when it comes to the IT spending of companies, there has been a tangible shift in the amount as well as the nature of the capital invested," she says.
"In the past, companies saw software spending as a component of capital expenditure on hardware. That thinking has been turned on its head, more so in the last five years. Today, the IT drive is more about innovation and efficiencies that would advance corporate objectives going forward. As a consequence, software spending is earmarked separately in the overall capital spending of most big companies.
"In wake of the financial crisis [of 2007-08], we notice that the more economic stagnation we see in the market, the more there is a tendency by clients to spend on innovation and efficiencies."
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