SAPPHIRENOW 2011 Report Out day 2 – CEO Keynotes, On Demand


Tuesday was a rough day for me – especially since I did not get much sleep on Monday night. I started off the day with a breakfast with Jon Reed and another friend at the Hilton Lounge.  I felt much better after figuring out that these guys didn’t do much better on getting sleep either :).  Right after breakfast, I went to the convention center to watch the Co-CEO keynote session. I sat with Dennis Howlett and Vinnie Mirchandani at the blogger’s corner, and watched it on the big screen. I think they keynote was kind of “over-produced” as an event – and it took some sheen away. Not sure if I am alone with this view – but I guess once every one posts their views, we will know.

There was the mention that ByDesign now has 500 customers. Seriously, I am not sure if this is good or bad or indifferent. Since it is not a market I am familiar with, I cannot make more than an educated guess. For a hosted solution – 500 customers look pretty low to me.  I will reserve judgment till next year to see how this scales. SAP’s competitors in this space are all focused on very narrow domains, where as SAP has a good broad solution. So it is not completely fair to say SAP is not in the game – but if they have to be counted, 500 customers ain’t cutting it for me. I know Dennis Howlett disagrees with me on this – and I respect that.  I need to see more growth before I am convinced.

SAP is betting the farm on HANA and Sybase. In my mind, both are pretty safe bets. The vision is clearly there – and it is a matter of execution now.  Snabe said they are opening the app store. I did not see it being shown on the screen, and the link that got tweeted out didn’t seem like the right one. It redirected to by-design site or something. If some one has it – please tweet it to me @vijayasankarv.

The highlight of the keynote in my eyes is the Sales on Demand solution. I think it is the single best application I have seen from SAP. Hats off to the team that design and built it. Frank Scavo and I had a chance to meet Sven D and Nicholas C – execs from that side of SAP that runs with OD solutions, and I came away highly impressed from that meeting. It has totally been built with the user in mind – and not the management. It just does enough for the user and no more – which is key for a sales person to adopt it.  It is based on ByD platform – and I hope this team is able to put their learning back into the platform.

I asked these guys about the integration with business suite and between various OD apps that will get developed. I like the answer here a lot – the integration with business suite is via the age old trusted mechanism of iDocs. And there will be consistency across applications via a profile – so security, look and feel, personalization etc can somehow be managed across applications. And each application will be foremost about being solving one problem really well. I was pleasantly surprised to hear them articulate the “light integration” concept.

At the moment, the OD solutions do not have an offline feature beyond outlook integration. In my eyes – this is a big miss. Without a robust offline capability, it is hard to imagine this solution taking off big time, since in several parts of the world (including my house in Chandler, AZ) bandwidth is a serious issue. Sales people are not always connected to internet – and when they are ready to enter data into a system, it is usually in a plane ride or something with minimal chance of being connected. May be 5 years from now, it is safe to assume every one can connect all the time – but till then, this will remain a gap.

Another question for SAP – is there a plan to migrate business suite to By-design platform? There is probably not an easy way to do this, but since ByD is more advanced in how it is developed, I assume there are some plans in place for this. Or am I losing it here?

There was a Global Communications Party in the evening on Tuesday, and it was pretty good. I got some time to chat with Oliver Bussman, SAP CIO. He is a total atypical CIO. He is a salesman/marketer/CIO all turned into one. SAP should actively use him in their sales cycles to close deals. I also watched Bill M and Jim S, the Co-CEOs in action, and they are both very good leaders from what I heard from the people around them.

However, as I went off to the IBM event after this GC party – I started having a question in my mind about this Co-CEO situation. Snabe is a technician at heart and McDermott is a sales guy at heart – and hence they complement each other. Both are super smart. But how long will they stay as Co-CEOs?  I am not very good at speculating – so I just decided to bury the thought for now.

One last question before I wrap up day 2 – the one thing an innovating group does not need is big overheads – be it cost, oversight, methodology etc.  SAP is a smart company – they should know this better than me. So my question is – why is SAP not spinning of By-Design as a separate entity, so that it can flourish without the weight of the big mothership?

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