Sapphire now 2016 – an event report 

To begin with , I am so tired now ! I thought I had an easy schedule but between lack of sleep and walking around OCCC , I am exhausted . I skipped the concert , ordered in some food and thought I will post this blog before sleeping

It was great to meet friends from all over the world . It’s absolutely an annual pilgrimage for many of us . Steve Wozniak on the ASUG keynote stage was a great bonus – what a great guy !

First off – SAP needs to be congratulated on tremendous customer focus this year . Having an iconic customer like Nestlé on keynote stage with a strong endorsement – that was huge!

I did have a chance to talk to several SAP customers this year accross the event , the various parties and at the Hilton bar . Now I clearly know why SAP leaders hit on the “empathy” theme on their keynotes – customers are looking for more action (perhaps less talk too) from SAP on implementation management , integration etc . Surprisingly no one said anything about SAP support . Maybe 3rd party support is not as big a deal now as I expected it to be .

The “surprise” for me honestly was that SAP leaders themselves seemed to be surprised by what they heard from the CIOs they spoke to. This frustration has been there for a while amongst customer ecosystem .

Integration is a complex topic for SAP for many reasons like

1. SAP has a bloated portfolio . How many ERP versions are there today ? Three S4 things , A1, B1, BByD , Anywhere … And some probably overlapping with each other . Sure it can be argued that the customer base can be segmented in a way that makes a case for each ERP product . But that is mostly an excuse in my mind . If they don’t rationalize portfolio – real integration will remain a dream

2. 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

3. There are way too many acquired products – which don’t have similar technology or metadata to core SAP products . It won’t be trivial to build meaningful and seamless integrations

Nevertheless , I think SAP absolutely needs to be congratulated for taking on this challenge heads on . I wish Bernd and others the best

Just as integration is a challenge , so is tackling customization . SAP has had many different ways to customize and enhance its products over time . If the engineering team can find a way to extract those into an abstract layer in an automated way – SAP can move its entire ERP customer base to cloud in one shot without any of them losing their supposedly unique differentiators . It will be a moonshot R&D project for SAP and I am not sure if that is something they will take on now or in future

I spent some time with Nayaki Nayyar on IOT . It’s probably the first time I heard a clear articulation of what SAP wants to do in this space . Good start and I will be keeping an eye on it to see what unfolds

Carsten Thoma , the president of SAP Hybris , was impressive in his vision and his pragmatic approach . Integrating legacy CRM , SD etc with SAP Hybris is not trivial. New channels keep cropping up and this team has a lot on its hands . For those of you who understand pricing engines – think of the effort to rationalize three or four disparate approaches ! What impressed me the most was the idea of a customer profile that SAP Hybris can generate on the fly across channels . Carsten confirmed they use SAP HANA and MongoDB for it in back end.

Alex and Dinesh hit it out of the park with what they showed me about Ariba . Brilliant UX and probably the product that convinced me that SAP can deliver on simplicity . The guided buying scenario , triggered by a free form search – I loved it . Dinesh showed us how the APIs are exposed – and I hope they open it up to every developer in the world , and not just the registered SAP partners . My other wish list was that suppliers be allowed to push campaigns and promotions to their catalogs .

Talking about UX – I did not get as big a kick as I expected out of the digital boardroom solution . Granted it looks very pretty – but seemed like more of visualization and less about insights and action . Also , if you are showing cross enterprise data – should it not have search as primary interaction medium ? Also – it seemed like there were a lot of “clicks” on the touch screen when I saw the demo – instead of “touch” . I really think SAP should rethink the design from ground up

I absolutely loved the web tool to help plan S4 migrations that was presented during Hasso’s keynote . Excellent investment by SAP !

Talking about overlapping products – BI portfolio is a classic example of SAP historically resisting rationalization . This year , Steve Lucas announced they are going to categorize everything into two bundles . One for cloud self service and other for enterprise . That is a good logical move .

And they are bringing back “BusinessObjects” brand in a big way! I thought it was a bit odd to double down on BOBJ brand to fight the likes of tableau – but we will see how that plays out in the market . Irrespective of branding , I hope these two buckets are a good start in streamlining the portfolio . Success can be declared when in future we don’t see sold out sessions on “how to pick the best SAP BI tool” at events like sapphire 🙂

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 .

Many thanks to SAP for having me – it was great to be back here after a gap of few years !


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

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