‘Best practices’ of SAP Malaysia’s new MD

SAP Malaysia’s new MD Bernard Chiang: “We should always seek first to understand, then be understood”.

SAP Malaysia’s new MD Bernard Chiang: “We should always seek first to understand, then be understood”.

By Sharmila Ganapathy

SAP Malaysia’s new Managing Director Bernard Chiang may have an impressive resume but at the heart of this corporate leader are the core values that drive him, namely always having a human touch, and the role models who inspire him.

Chiang’s 25-year career has encompassed many roles, including Country General Manager for the imaging and printing group at HP Malaysia, Lenovo Malaysia’s first Country Manager, and General Manager for the original equipment manufacturer business at Microsoft Malaysia. And in the early 2000s, he helmed IBM’s Global Financing division.

But Chiang’s illustrious journey has been aided by role models who have guided him. A key influencer he continues looking up to is President and Managing Director of SAP South East Asia, Francois Lancon, whom Chiang first worked with at Nortel Networks.

“He exemplifies the six core values of SAP – success, accountability, professionalism, integrity, teamwork and trust and builds trust by being consistent with positive action. That to me is very important. He always has the interest of his employees, lives SAP’s core values and has this gift of inspiring employees from all walks of life,” says Chiang of Lancon.

Growing up, however, Chiang’s role model was his father, who migrated to Malaysia from China as a young man. Naturally, family comes first for Chiang (pic). Does balancing business and personal life get tough?

“That’s where I balance; when I work, I work 100 per cent and, when I am with my family, I spend my time wholeheartedly with them.”

Chiang himself acknowledges that he has learned a lot throughout his career thus far. “As we go through the journey in life especially our professional lives, you get ‘best practices’ from all these organisations.”

He adds that he continues learning from his subordinates. One comment from an ex-employee, in particular, stays close to his heart. “The comment was very straightforward: ‘You treat people like people’. These are very simple words, but the interpretation is that we should not lose sight of being human first, and treating one another with utmost respect at all times.”

Chiang also shares that, in every organisation he’s been in, he makes it a point to build employee engagement activities. “They need to feel that what they are doing contributes to the bigger picture because, when the company is successful, they are also successful.”

He also explains that he makes it a point to practice a principle he learnt many years ago from his favourite book: habit number five from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, which is “to seek first to understand, then be understood”.

“That is a very powerful statement,” says Chiang. “Before you make any judgment always seek first to understand the other party’s concern. Then you should be able to undertake whatever you want, that’s where the bridging comes in. It is a very powerful habit that I constantly use. Always, just listen first. You must listen with intent, not just hear something.”

SAP’s vision for Malaysia

So why did Chiang choose SAP at this juncture in his career?

“Basically what is great about SAP is its vision of making the world a better place and the company’s efforts to improve people’s lives and businesses throughout the world. SAP’s vision and mission aligns with my core values, and I feel every bit of it from the depth of my heart,” he says.

Chiang’s vision for SAP Malaysia is straightforward: For SAP to be the cloud computing company of choice through the provision of simplified solutions that “empower our customers to consume innovation faster and solve business problems better.”

SAP currently provides solutions to more than 850 companies in Malaysia.

It was also the first global technology partner to collaborate with the Malaysian Government to join the MyUniAlliance initiative by integrating SAP training into the curricula at various local institutes of higher learning.

Launched on October 11, 2011, MyUniAlliance is a Human Capital Development Strategic Reform Initiative by Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) with the support from The Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) to meet the demand for highly trained and relevant workforce for the ICT industry. This programme aims to develop Malaysian graduates to be industry-ready, empowering them to be highly employable in the job market.

SAP aims to upskill 12,000 tertiary students in Malaysia by 2015, while nurturing graduates with appropriate business skills and industry knowledge.

When asked about SAP Malaysia’s vision to grow the local ecosystem, Chiang replies that, by 2015, the company’s aim is to have at least 40 per cent of SAP’s software revenue coming from local business partners.

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