Sapphire Now : Day 1 in review

SUMMARY:

Day one of Sapphire Now 2013 brought its share of surprises and enough hyperbolic HANA-is-superfast quotage to keep the hype meter in proper orbit. I spent a good chunk of day one in the JD-OD.com video studio with customers and startups, getting the views from folks who had made the trek from Czech Republic, Germany, and Israel.

sapphirenowsmallDay one of Sapphire Now 2013 brought its share of surprises and enough “HANA-is-superfast” braggadocio to keep the hype meter in proper orbit.

I spent a good chunk of day one in the JD-OD.com video studio with customers and startups, getting the views from folks who had made the trek from Czech Republic, Germany, and Israel. I also shot the JD-OD day one wrap with the usual suspects, which should be up by tomorrow, massive file uploads and anemic hotel wifi permitting. I did make it out to some presentations that were, in some cases, eye-opening.

Here’s three quick hits from day one, two from press conferences and one from my own meetings:

  1. McDermott’s keynote was a vast improvement over the previous years’ well-intentioned but over engineered ‘talk show’ panels. This time it was none other than James Brown, the host of NFL today on CBS. Brown has presided over some big egos and he was not daunted by the Sapphire Now stage, nor did he pretend to be an enterprise-know-it-all, going for jocular humor over pretentious questions.

The all star sports lineup, which included Adam Silver, Deputy Director of the NBA, and San Francisco 48ers CEO Kevin Plank, was a marketing coup on SAP’s part, all part of its effort to align itself with sports brands that draw in passionate fan bases. Green Bay Packers fans weren’t thrilled to stare at a huge 49ers logo for an hour, but that’s a price SAP will happily pay. 

In the press conference after the keynote, McDermott gave himself (and SAP) high marks, saying that today’s keynote had re-invented SAP as a “B to B to C” company. That seems extravagant, but there’s no denying these consumer HANA use cases (which have nothing to do with SAP ERP) are a well-played marketing effort on SAP’s part, and a welcome distraction from complicated cloud announcements.

The most potent criticism of the sports panel was that it lacked gender and geographic diversity. I talked to a number of non-US attendees who didn’t relate to the panel’s content. SAP needs to get soccer teams like Manchester United or Real Madrid involved with HANA.

  1. SAP buried the mobile lead with its Afaria cloud announcement. In a surprisingly subdued afternoon mobility event – aside from a welcome manic burst from demo dolly Ian Kimbell – Sanjay Poonen announced an Afaria cloud option, something the community has been clamoring for, but perhaps given up on expecting. SAP got it done. Later Tuesday, a mobility customer told me: ”I wish we had the Afaria cloud option [announced today]. I’d never do mobile device management on-premise again.” Along with that announcement came shockingly easy to understand and transparent pricing. This announcement would have sounded better from the morning keynote stage, but it’s out there.
  1. In a meeting with SAP’s Rainer Zinow, key player for SAP Business ByDesign and Financials OnDemand, Zinow made his case for the promising future of both. He demonstrated a KPI dashboard for a (relatively) new iPad app, Business in Focus. It’s available to Financials OnDemand customers, and will likely be available to ByDesign users in the future.

Zinow said that SAP’s Board now runs SAP using this mobile dashboard, which in their case pulls data from the Business Suite. Contradicting the numerous pundits that have describe ByDesign as either a “failure” or “dead,” Zinow seems more confident than ever that ByDesign, with ‘well more’ than 1,000 customers, has a firm place in SAP’s product line.

With much of the code base being shared with Financials OnDemand, there seems to be a new clarity on how the two products fit together, with ByDesign being ideal for subsidiaries and Financials OnDemand being a large enterprise line of businss play. That said, while Zinow’s team seems to have a heightened level of clarity, the rest of the world does not, as I was reminded when I attempted to relay these clarifications on Twitter.

It remains to be seen whether SAP will have a clear cloud message during Jim Snabe’s Wednesday keynote and the Plattner/Sikka double feature on Friday. It is one of SAP’s most daunting challenges for the remaining two days.

Customer reactions to these issues are crucial. Out of respect to SAP’s chance to finish delivering their content, I will hold off on any premature assessments here. Oh, and Steve Lucas has now taken over Analytics at SAP (his old job), adding it to his database and technology leadership role. Today, he added that he was building a “big data organization” at SAP, which sounds impressive and impressively vague at the same time. I will be asking him about this on video tomorrow, perhaps around the time you are reading this.