SAPPHIRE is a week of sleeplessness and schedule conflicts, and this time is no different. Right up front – Big thanks to Mike Prosceno, Stacy Fish and Andrea Kaufman for the excellent meetings they arranged for bloggers. Today’s agenda included meetings with Rob Enslin ( who heads global sales), Sanjay Poonen (heads Global solutions) and Steve Lucas ( heads D&T), and of course the big key note from Bill McDermott, the Co-CEO.
Enslin used to be CEO of North America, but it was my first time ever meeting with him face to face, although I have seen him doing keynotes etc many times. He knows the pulse of the market – and is aware of the challenges SAP has to over come to make it a successful year. Between him and the current North American CEO – I think SAP sales is in North America has the best leadership they can have. I enjoyed the meeting a lot – since he gave answers to the point. My big question for him was what he sees as the future of SIs since SAP seems to be doing mostly a “productize the consulting” approach. Rob did not deny that, but pointed out that it will take some time to truly productize – and even at that stage, the need for business consulting and integration does not go away.
Next up was Steve Lucas, and he is some one I know well. Here is a photo of Steve with his IBM branded HANA box.
Steve recognizes that HANA is young, but his main message is that HANA is still one part of a portfolio of database products. So SAP can offer RDBMS solutions too for the clients who need them. And to his credit, he did not reiterate the “we will be number 2 DB vendor by 2015” mantra this time. I believe they will stick to the “fastest growing DB” message.
Both Enslin and Lucas emphasized that time taken for hardware delivery is a big problem for HANA sales as it lengthens the sales cycle. I think this can be somewhat solved by deploying HANA to cloud, which is fairly easy to do. You can always migrate to physical hardware once you have it. But a lot of work on HANA can be accomplished just by having it on cloud. As far as I know, the only way to do this today is to hack the installer – but that is an easy problem to fix.
I would also hope that in Hasso/Vishal keynote, SAP will do something about the HA and DR scenarios for HANA. It is a question every CIO will ask before HANA can be deployed in production. My proposal is simple – while the keynote is in progress, they should just pull the power plug of HANA box and show HA will kick in.
Next up was the meeting with Sanjay Poonen. Sanjay is also someone that I have known for some time, and is an absolute straight shooter. He is a perfect example of the “new SAP executive” who not only asks for external feedback, but also acts on it in a time bound fashion. He is already making progress on developer enablement and licensing , and we should hear some details soon. Sanjay’s approach is to think big, and not be reactive to competition. I got the feeling that his biggest priority now is Mobility. He is working on simplifying how SAP mobility works on all dimensions. I will be keeping an eye on this, as I believe this is a huge market for SAP to dominate if they get it right.
And then there was the keynote. It started off well – with some awesome music. That music is by far the best opening I have ever heard at any SAP event. But all the good vibes I had at that point vaporized in a hurry once Mika Brzezinski came on stage and started asking for who in the audience are democrats (ans – a minority) , and who are republicans (ans – a huge majority) . And from then – it was kind of downhill for me personally, and I tuned out completely for next several minutes. If she had a brand of humor, it was not one that I recognized. In general – I think this part of the keynote was a waste of time.
And then Bill McDermott entered the stage in a sharp suit, and did a very “presidential” speech. If he runs for political office, I think he will do very well. He definitely is a talented speaker. His main message was that today, it is a world of consumers – and that mobility solutions are the way to get to them. He sees a massive market for that. He also gave plugs to HANA ( biggest thing that happened in Big Data – which is quite a stretch I would think) and Social (which is very well deserved for my buddy Sameer Patel, the new GVP for Social at SAP).
The big takeaway from Bill’s speech were that business should aim for speed, simplicity and personalization. And I thought he was spot on. I am waiting to see how SAP solutions will evolve to cater to their CEOs vision.
The best part of the keynote for me was the customer panel that included Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, Ace Hardware CEO Ray Griffith and Coinstar/Redbox CEO Scott Di Valerio. I would highly encourage you to watch the fascinating panel discussion on video from SAP’s site. The CEOs seemed to love HANA and mobility and social. But if I understood them correctly – their experience with SAP software is mostly (if not only) in the business suite. HANA, Mobility etc sounded more like things they like for the future, and not something they are already doing in the present. It is rather ironic that despite Bill talking mostly about new generation technology solutions – customers are still only exploring the business suite which has been around for a while.
In between all the blogger meetings, I did get some time to spend at the IBM booth demonstrating our cool HANA based solutions to customers, partners and analysts. Our innovation center did a tremendous job building all this out, and I would shamelessly shout from rooftops to encourage everyone to check out the solutions there in next 2 days.
It is 2 AM here, so I am going to stop here for now, and get some sleep. Tuesday is a big day, and I am looking forward to learning more about SAP’s plans.