“Cloud, Big Data and mobile are fuelling a 24/7 digital world. Everything is happening now to you, everywhere.”
Not entirely unexpected words to kick off any software firm's customer forum in 2013 - and the recent SAP Forum in Birmingham, UK was no exception.
Rob Enslin, president of global customer operations and member of the global managing group at SAP, told his audience as he kicked off the two day event.
“We are the innovation leader – we have to be. We have to understand that change is happening; for you to be able to survive that change, you’re going to need companies like SAP."
Change was pretty much Enslin's mot du jour:
And with the above mentioned Cloud, Big Data and mobile drivers, change is only accelerating:
“I remember in 1983 carrying my first personal computer – a big box that was difficult to pick up, a massively heavy monitor that took up the whole desk. It was followed by Windows 3.0 – and Microsoft Windows became the de facto standard for the way we did business. That was around 1991.
“We came up with SAP R/3 in 1992 and that revolutionised the way we did business – how you moved manufacturing and understood how supply chains operated, etc. It had a dramatic effect. We think the internet has been around forever but it didn’t come about until about 1996.
“So in that rough period of 20 years we thought things changed really quickly. But today, when you look at it, you’re now sitting with personal computers in your hand.”
“These changes are forcing you to create new business models, forcing you to innovate your business into areas that you’re not certain what is happening.
You have to move and make changes and adapt really quickly. Google, Tesla, Apple, eBay and Amazon are all models that started in the last 10 years.
But change is happening fast and to support that change you’ll need companies like SAP.”
And the biggest change - well, that would be HANA, wouldn't it? AKA:
"The biggest innovation in the business software industry in the last 20 years.”
Not that customers entirely saw it that way perhaps:
“Looking in the rearview mirror, our customers wondered why we got in the database business."
But sitting in the metaphorical driving seat, SAP quantum leapt to another worldview:
"We knew that change was speeding up. That quantum leap was happening. SAP is helping businesses compete – helping you make a quantum leap to ensure your business will be successful. This quantum leap is HANA. With it you can turn Big Data into big insights for big answers."
"HANA is the underlying core of the company. From the platform PoV, it's there for developers. Most customers will tell you that over time they will move their complete landscape - CRM, ERP, supply chain - over to HANA.
"We have to prove the value out. Customers are not going to switch over because it's a cooler tool. THe pricing for HANA for those move to Suite on HANA is not exorbitant. The user group is pretty happy with it. We tested it out on them.
The total cost of ownership for this who do a complete replacement drops in cost by up to 40% in terms of storage, processing power and so on."
HANA is also all about the cloud, a sector in which Enslin proclaimed SAP to be a leader. Not THE leader a la Oracle or Salesforce.com, but a major contender with a claimed 29 million users in the cloud.
Again, all roads lead back to HANA with a suggested 1350 individual customers signed up to HANA Managed Cloud, said Enslin:
"We know that complexity is one of the biggest inhibitors of business speed. With HANA in the cloud, we drive simplification and speed for you. Our commitment to the cloud is stronger than ever.”
Enslin was cautious in commenting on the new world order in the cloud prompted the previous week by Oracle's alliances with former rivals Salesforce.com and Microsoft. but he warmed to his theme:
"It's good news that Oracle has realised that there are partners out there.
"It remains to be seen where this will be taken. Marc has been using Oracle as an underlying database anyway. Let's see if they really do divide up the applications landscape.
"What happens to all those companies who have invested in Fusion? Do they get a trade-in? Everyone has to win in a partnership. It's pretty hard to trust that kind of partnership.
"We live in a world which is a world of co-operation and co-opetition. We all have solutions and we partner with other companies which also produce solutions.
"So we see richness coming from partnerships. But we find partnerships with start-up companies much more interesting. Our play is not so much about consolidating the old. The IT industry was built on companies innovating, not companies consolidating.
"Look at Oracle Fusion, What happened to the innovation? Maybe it's hindsight but they didn't deliver on the Fusion promise. Look at what we've done with our acquisitions - everything is in great shape. We do things to add more value, not to add less value."
Enslin summed up:
"I'm often asked who is SAP today - are you an ERP company, a Cloud company, a Big Data company?
"And the answer is 'yes'."
Disclosure: at time of writing, Oracle, Salesforce.com and SAP are diginomica premium partners.
(SAP Forum picture: Timo Elliott)