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SAPPHIRENow 2016 - the verdict

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy May 20, 2016
SAPPHIRENow 2016 chalks up a success for customers. These are the people who count the most and on this occasion they gave SAP a thumbs up across the board.

sapphirenow 2016
A packed hall for the keynotes

I went to SAPPHIRENow 2016 with high expectations. I was not disappointed. From the gorgeous show floor layout, through to the quality of presentations and on to the meetings I had with both SAP executives and customers, it is hard to fault SAP on this outing. They certainly kept me busy over the time I spent there.

Jon Reed and I were especially fortunate to be offered 23 customers, most of whom are on our video collection. There were only a few no shows, one of which was because the customer could not get out of the country. You can't fault that.

All the customers I met had interesting stories to tell that validate many of the things SAP has been saying over the years. They also have great lessons to pass on which are well worth the hearing. Check out the video collection below.

We met with a broad range, from the smallest startups (150 people) using S/4HANA through to some of the most interesting transition stories like Siam City Cement which deployed S/4 in under nine months. In between, we had Cirque du Soleil, Stanford Medical School and many others. And there is no way you can fault Nestlé, one of SAP's oldest customers with a history going back to 1975, getting up on the keynote stage and offering a candid view of their HANA story.

Taken together, CEO Bill McDermott delivered on his promise of demonstrating how SAP is putting the customer first. But there's always a few catches, and this year's SAPPHIRE was no different. Here is the video playlist:

My meeting with Hasso Plattner was relatively low key with talk about educating the ecosystem for the transition to S/4HANA. It worries me that in some circumstances, the super high powered PhD's at the Hasso Plattner Institute have to be parachuted into customer situations. Where is the knowledge transfer to SAP engineers and out to the partner ecosystem?  We also discussed whether the digital boardroom should be separated from BusinessObjects. My view is that other solutions can learn from a beautiful thing but only if they're part of the solution set.

In our 'boyz' group meeting with Bill McDermott, the questions of growth and integration came up. McDermott says he is happy with what the team achieved at SAPPHIRE and that he's never signed so many deals before. So far so good and a welcome change after the Q1 miss. Financial analysts think SAP has eight quarters of solid runway ahead of it but worry what happens afterwards. As always, I think the FAs are full of it because the evidence from customers and ISVs tells me something very different. I am much more concerned about the topic of integration, something I discuss on video and which Vijay Vijayasankar picks up in his analysis.

Vijay's view is that SAP's portfolio is bloated and that it has too many ERP solutions. I say that's not the case because different markets need different things and each of the ERP solutions in the portfolio bring different value propositions to the customer. Time will tell who is right. On integration, Vijay makes the good point that:

SAP has a complex organization , which is matrixed . It’s not always easy to find one owner for any integration. Someone at executive board level will need to be a task master to pull this off and this will take some time to get it done.

Dick Hirsch believes the right person is the one leading data as a service. I say yes and no because SAP also has the acquired applications to take into account which are under Steve Singh's ownership. Then there are the pre-existing integrations to consider and then the API hub - which doesn't really exist but is a great concept. McDermott says it is everyone's concern but primarily, integration comes under the support wing. I am not convinced. But of one thing I am sure - it is a vital ingredient in SAP's roadmap that remains unclear and one that customers will expect SAP to own. For its part, SAP has the opportunity to become the software arms dealer to the world but it will only achieve that if it gets serious about the integration topic.

My one expected disappointment was well articulated by Vijay:

I miserably failed in my quest to visit every single booth on the show floor this year. I visited 12 on Tuesday , 8 on Wednesday and 2 on Thursday. I was not exactly thrilled with what I saw in the 20 that I did manage to visit. Way too many power points, and the few demos that were there – it was mostly about dashboards. Clearly SAP’s design thinking philosophy hasn’t yet caught up with several partners.

I guess it is just as well that Infosys is making design thinking central to its approach to customers!

I only shot one partner video and that was with MindTouch. I like this company a lot and they are adding value to retail and B2B customers by embedding content that helps customers understand products and services without the need to go searching via Google. That leads to better brand engagement. MindTouch referenced Whirlpool and Samsung as early customers. I happen to know that MindTouch is already embedded in some SAP solutions.

In conclusion, SAPPHIRENow 2016 goes down as a success. The previous few years had been lack luster at best and while we can always be critical, it is the customer who speaks loudest. On this outing, they did extraordinarily well.


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