Five Guys – a SAPPHIRENow assessment on day 2

SUMMARY:

Five guys get together to chew the fat about what we’ve seen at SAPPHIRENow 2017 so far. There has been plenty to consider and the odd surprise. Read on and watch as we assess this year’s event.

SAPPHIRENowOne of the long held SAPPHIRENow ‘traditions’ for some of us is a round up video of our experience at the event. We normally record this on the last day but the schedules of participants was such that we had to move the recording up a day. As it turns out, that’s OK this year because by the time we got together, we’d heard the keynotes and had our principle executive meetings.

For reference, the 5 Guys are:

Vijay Vijayasankar who heads IBM’s new cognitive computing business unit. He also writes an occasional inspired blog, like this one on service providers in the 21st century.

Harald Reiter who runs SAP at Apple and who in a previous life implemented SAP solutions at global companies.

John Appleby who runs Mindtree (formally Bluefin Solutions) in the U.S. and who was one of the early SI representatives to understand the value of SAP HANA. Appleby has a road warrior’s obsession with carry on bags.

Making up the five are Jon Reed and myself.

As background, we all met many years ago when we served as SAP Mentors and were frequently thrown together in executive conversations. We have all become friends and confidantes over that time, even though some of the ‘badges’ have changed.

In this year’s video we score the keynotes, provide color on the thorny issue of indirect assessment and SAP licensing and opine on SAP Leonardo.

The mixture of views is interesting and surprisingly similar on most topics, given that each of us represents a slightly different face of the SAP galaxy. For example, we all felt that while Leonardo is a work-in-Progress, we give SAP a thumbs up for coming to this year’s SAPPHIRENow with a fresh set of tools and technology that, for example, in Reiter’s eyes, hold significant promise and which, in Vijay’s view, are the right(ish) approach for a company facing new challenges in a world awash with technology.

Where we kind of disagree is on the indirect access issue. Both Appleby and Reiter take the view that SAP customers need to take more responsibility rather than expecting media, user groups and analysts to do their dirty work for them by painting SAP as a bad actor. As Appleby puts it:

…caveat emptor has been around thousands of years

While that is true, your average SAP customer has a hard time understanding what they’re signing up for and there are occasions when what they though they bought turns out to be incorrect for licensing purposes.

Having said that, we believe SAP will address this topic with much more than empathetic words. In our joint conversation with Bill McDermott, CEO SAP, there was talk of developing tools that assist customers in better understanding their license position at any point in time. On video, Appleby is adamant in his belief that SAP will deliver on this need.

Reed asked each of us to provide a glimpse of something unexpected or a surprise. I’ll leave readers with that thought and suggest you pick up the video at around 8 minutes.

Finally, we give our individual assessment of the success or otherwise of this year’s SAPPHIRENow. Once again, Appleby was adamant – ‘best ever’ which suggests that there is plenty of life in the old dog yet. His company targets for leads coming out of this year are aggressive and off camera, he said they were pretty much there at the end of day two.

Our overall impression is that SAPPHIRENow has genuinely matured to one that is well beyond an annual chummy get together of friends old and new. The event has always been that which sets the pipeline for the next year and sees SAP close out some of its most important deals. Tied to that, some of its parties can best be described as ‘legendary.’ But as we all agreed and which McDermott shared, SAPPHIRENow 2017 has been a journey of education as SAP sets out its forward looking vision for new products, many of which do not exist today, but which customers can start to imagine for tomorrow. In that sense, SAPPHIRENow 2017 has been a much more serious affair.

The one surprise for everyone was the lack of talk and emphasis on SAP S/4HANA. S4 and HANA have dominated the talk at these events for at least the last six years so to see it almost ‘off the table’ was interesting. In our conversation with Hasso Plattner, I suggested that S/4 is pretty much done. While he agreed in principle, he sees plenty of R&D ahead on that front with a full 10% of that cost going to interfaces and UI alone.

Even so, we jointly observed that even if SAP wasn’t going to make a big deal out of S/4HANA, you can be sure that many of the customer conversations were about how they get on the implementation train, which has been slowly rolling out the last year.

What was not said on camera but which Vinnie Mirchandani suggested later is the lack of talk about building out the core for vertical markets. I am going to disagree as I think all the guys would also do. The emphasis for enterprise application development is shifting away from systems of record to what SAP calls systems of intelligence. That is far and away from SAP’s core and requires a different type of developer mindset.

SAP is on that journey to both find and develop partnerships with those vendors who can help SAP on that journey. It was noticeable for example that both Google and Microsoft had prominent booths. And I for one sense that the sometimes frustrating days of ‘only SAP’ are coming to an end as the company recognizes its need to both expand it horizons and change it own modus operandi.

Image credit - via the author

Disclosure - SAP is a premier partner at time of writing and covered most of Reed and Howlett's T&E.

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