SAP TechEd season got underway in Las Vegas at the back end of September. Now it moves to Barcelona. My Tweetstream shows plenty of people are en route, so here's a taste of what I am anticipating and the broad thrust of questions I want to raise. Your agenda might be very different.
Juergen Mueller, SAP executive board member, and CTO will build on his Las Vegas keynote during which he hinted there would be more (and I hope substantially more) on product integration.
Integration as a topic of interest has never been far from the SAP business agenda but in some senses got a tad lost as SAP both acquired new and expansive products, while also building out S/4HANA.
Some will argue that integration will not take on the kind of shape old-timers might imagine and especially in an age of RESTful APIs and a binding UX technology in Fiori. I'm not so at a time when the laptop/deskside machine is increasingly used only by power users, RPA picks up the repetitive manual tasks and where (just about everyone else) is toting a mobile device yet still requiring access to processes that straddle applications and data siloes.
At SAPPHIRENow, Christian Klein, SAP executive board member, and COO made a clear commitment to integration, a topic that DSAG believes should be at the center of SAP's current efforts.
This TechEd provides an opportunity to get updates from both board members on this topic.
S/4HANA - greenfield v brownfield v do nothing
At SAPPHIRENow, Klein caught my attention when he talked about some things that SAP is changing to help customers move forward with S/4HANA. Here are the key messages from that time:
- HANA as a service is now a pay as you go service
- SAP wants to automate SMB buying in the cloud
- SAP is working on customer success such that systems alert customers about forthcoming releases etc
- SAP has identified 80 situations where Qualtrics can help SAP improve services
- Deloitte says their S4/HANA issue is not demand but lack of skilled resource.
- SAP closed 18 datacenters in 2018 with plans to close seven more in 2019, that will leave 36 around the world
This is TechEd, but these are essential business messages our constituents want to understand better. The greenfield v brownfield discussion has animated a good few of our constituents, and each of the above topics has a bearing on that debate.
I'd like to hear clear guidance from Klein about how firms should make the best decisions.
Cloud - a hybrid topic
In the past, SAP struggled to figure out how to accept, let alone position cloud-based solutions. Most of the available, if sparse, evidence suggests that the vast majority of customers are continuing with their versions of on-premises deployments. 'On-premises' is something of a misnomer because the majority of SAP customers don't run their own data centers but have what cloud aficionados will call an outsourced or private cloud.
There is a considerable ongoing debate about how SAP applications should best be deployed. Except for S/4HANA, most applications in the SAP portfolio are what observers would define as 'cloud.' SAP is 'friends' (or should that be 'frenemies'?) with the Google, Microsoft, and AWS IaaS hegemony as well as its own (but dying) cloud infrastructure. I'm interested in better understanding the IaaS gravitational pull for SAP customers. If what I am seeing is an indicator, it looks like Microsoft Azure is winning, but then I'd be interested to know if customers are spread betting.
At the same time, I'd like a clearer steer on the on-prem/cloud discussion related to S/4HANA. My best guess is that customers will mostly stick with their 'version' of 'on-prem' for the foreseeable future. There is enough evidence to suggest that the sheer volumes of data throughput in SAP's more significant customers cannot be pushed to the cloud without performance penalties. The question then comes: to what extent can the data generated by systems of record be used by operational systems without there being a significant disconnect between what each of those system types is telling the decision maker?
S/4HANA cloud is always a contentious topic. In that context, I am hoping a meeting with Sven Denecken, S/4HANA, head of product success, and co-innovation will offer some clues. I suspect the conversation will be dominated by talk about innovation but that then circles back to the whole deployment model discussion.
Developers, developers, developers
At the risk of invoking painful memories of Steve Ballmer dancing around the Microsoft stage like a demented jackrabbit, it's important to remember that SAP TechEd is primarily aimed at developers. There are plenty of resources, and I shall be dipping in and out of them. To that extent, I shall spend a reasonable amount of time on the show floor, and especially looking for cool 'stuff' in the developer garage. Last year, there were thousands of builds recorded on the show floor. I wonder how many this year and what shape they'll take? I'll let you know what I find.
This year will be a busy SAP TechEd for me. My days are loaded but not overloaded.
I've received a bunch of question requests from my Twitter stream on a variety of topics, and those will go into the mix. If you have burning topics I've not covered, then feel free to add them in comments.
Taking the pulse among customers is always useful, and here I am, especially looking forward to an update from Doehler, a company I met last year. Customer updates are essential because they help others understand the technology journey. I expect to meet 'new' customers as well.
Mueller's Las Vegas keynote was measured and almost drama-free. I suspect that was a warm-up session for Barcelona. But more interestingly, there was a distinct admix between business and technical topics. TechEd is for developers and engineers, but I wonder whether Mueller was trying to subliminally suggest that developers need to better understand and stand alongside the business?
And if you see me, say hello. I'm always interested in learning what's new in the world of SAP.
If you'd like to get a summary of key takeaways from Las Vegas as your starting point, then check this from CIO.