An Ex-SAP dude’s wish list for SAPPHIRENOW 2014

Sapphirenow 2014 is kicking off on Monday – and although I don’t work for SAP or an SAP partner now, I care a lot for the company and its ecosystem and thought I will jot down a short note on my thoughts on what I would love to see unfold.

1. Let the new leadership team have its own identity

Bill McDermott is a well known entity – so although he is now sole CEO with Jim Snabe moving to Supervisory board, I don’t think anyone thinks of him as a “new” leader. If anyone can chart a course for the new SAP, it is Bill. 

Then there is Bernd Leukert. He is very well known inside SAP – but probably not as well known outside SAP. With Vishal leaving SAP abruptly and Bernd moving to Executive board – I saw a lot of commentary along the lines of Bernd being the new Vishal. I think this is a rather unfair expectation to set up. Vishal was a good leader but so is Bernd. But they are very different people . I would love to see Bernd explain HIS vision of how he expects SAP to develop over the next few years. 

2. Project the bench strength

One of the few things SAP could have done better was to give visibility of its bench strength to external world. Its not that SAP doesn’t have bench strength. Rob Enslin, Steve Lucas, Michael Reh, Rodolpho Cardenuto, Bjoern Goerke ….and many others are capable leaders waiting in the wings. Its up to Bill and Bernd to shine the light on their leadership team and I am sure we will see more of it – if not at sapphire, then shortly thereafter. 

3. Embrace channel partnerships

SAP can’t do it alone. SAP became an amazing ERP company because of a significant ecosystem of partners around them. Rodolpho is now in charge of the partner organization, and he works for Bill directly. I would love to see SAP double down on channel up and down its stack . How can I not say that ? – I am a channels dude myself now at MongoDB 🙂 

4. Show product direction that matches the simplification message

Investors and analysts need a message – but partners and  customers need clear product direction. When SAP leaders talk about innovation – they should give clear examples of what is actually getting simplified. Simplification is needed not just in products – it is also needed in how developers, partners and customers do business with SAP. Easy ways to download trials, simplified licensing etc are all good things to announce.

5. Stop charging for UI/UX improvements

Hopefully we will hear about Fiori and/or Personas being free. I am not holding my breath on it – and I am generally NOT a fan of making software free indiscriminately. However in the case of UI/UX – the poor reputation historically cannot be attributed to anyone other than SAP itself. So why charge for it to maintenance paying customers? Make it free and hopefully it drives enough Hana and Suite business to compensate on revenue front. Nothing will cheer user groups more than this announcement, if we get to hear it.

6. Explain what “SAP, the cloud company powered by Hana” really means

It is a great message – but now it is time to explain how this vision is going to be realized. SAP has a very heterogeneous cloud portfolio. Personally, I don’t think it is a bright idea to replatform all the acquired solutions to Hana. Customers who buy SaaS are buying a solution with a certain SLA. They don’t care what it runs on as long as the functionality satisfies their need, and SLA is met. Parts of all these solutions could probably have benefits that Hana can give. So a replatforming effort might be worth for carefully chosen parts of the portfolio. HEC, HCP, BI, BW on Hana, Suite on Hana etc are the ones that definitely directly correlate to “powered by Hana”. SAP needs to clearly explain the roadmap on transition to a full cloud company .

That is the technology message – but being a cloud company also needs a business execution part to be nailed. This is really hard for a company that needs to balance between on premises solutions and cloud solutions. So I am very curious to hear how SAP will lay it out.  

That is it . I wish the very best to SAP – have a great SAPPHIRENOW 2014 !


SAPPHIRENOW 2012, Madrid – Keynote Expectations

This year, I am not going to Madrid to attend SAPPHIRENOW  and SAPTECHED 2012, due to some scheduling conflicts on work front. I will be following the event online as much as I can. My JD-OD friends will surely do their excellent wrap up videos, and I can’t wait to watch them. Also, a shameless plug for my IBM team at Madrid . Please go visit them at the IBM booth, and ask for Gagan Reen, and watch the retail application we built on HANA, specifically on XS engine.

I am not sure if there is a lot of new news that SAP has to share with the world this time. Not a lot of time has passed after SAPTECHED 2012 in Vegas. I am a big fan of keeping SAPPHIRENOW and SAPTECHED together as one event.  And having events so close to each other serves very little purpose to SAP and its ecosystem. I hope SAP does it in US too – and a change of venue from Orlando and Vegas couldn’t hurt.

I am sure the keynotes from Bill McDermott, Jim Snabe and Vishal Sikka will be awesome, as they usually are. What do I expect from each ?

From Bill McDermott, I expect to hear some color on why an amazing innovation like HANA only has about 650 (probably some more now, since 650 was what we heard in Vegas at Teched) customers. More importantly – what are his plans for 2013 .  APAC is where the action is for a lot of enterprise software. I would love to hear what Bill has to say about unique solutions for APAC companies. Of particular interest to me is what he plans to do to capitalize the mobility market there. It is ripe for the plucking . Checkout what I wrote last week on my way back from India. 

Maybe Bill will let Sanjay Poonen to do a short section of his keynote to explain the mobility strategy in more detail.  Another thing I expect Bill to go into is the convergence of mobility, hana , analytics and cloud . In past keynotes, he has articulated what each bring to the table. But the business value for customers clearly is in the intersection of all (or some) of it.

From Jim Snabe, I expect to hear the business side of SAP’s cloud story – with emphasis on the Ariba acquisition and Collaboration. I am sure several SAP customers will be excited to hear about how SAP is planning to give them extra value on Ariba’s vast business network. And collaboration plays a key role – since none of SAP’s competitors in collaboration space has the advantage of tight integration to the context of business processes.  An interesting side question to SAP cloud strategy is how SAP’s investment in HANA as the DB for ERP, CRM etc ties with the fact that new innovation in business processes from most of their competitors like SFDC, WorkDay etc are on cloud.  So why is SAP choosing to invest in On-premises HANA enablement, when the world is generally moving to cloud?  I hope Jim addresses that question. If I was in Madrid, I would have asked this in person to Jim.

There is no denying that my favorite part of any SAP event is Vishal’s keynote.  From Vishal, I expect to hear the next level of detail on SAP’s platform story. Platform is the future, and SAP’s platform is evolving rapidly. Maybe he will finally announce the sunset of the beloved Netweaver brand for cloud. What would be a really good thing for Vishal to explain is what is the next thing that the millions of ABAP programmers in the ecosystem to do in near future to keep themselves relevant.  It is a captive audience that is extremely loyal to SAP. It would be a crying shame if they are not shown a clear path forward on skills they need for the new-SAP.

Alright then – I am ready to kick back, and watch the virtual event. Good luck SAP .

SAPPHIRENOW 2012 – Interview with John J Leffler of IBM

Added: 1/6/2015 John Passed away on 3rd January, 2015 in an unfortunate accident, while vacationing with his family. My tribute to him can be found here

Most of you know that I work at IBM. IBM is probably the biggest partner of SAP globally – on Hardware, Software and Services. I have spent a good part of my SAP consulting career in IBM Global Business Services, and I have several mentors who are IBM executives. I have looked up to them for many years, and have derived a lot of value from their insights. I was curious to see if these folks would be open to share their perspective with the larger ecosystem so that a few others can get the benefits that I got by listening to them analyze the SAP market, and explain their views on career growth. Of course there is an aspect of IBM getting some potential good press as a result, which I don’t deny for a second.

I reached out to one of my favorite leaders – John Leffler, to see if he has an interest in such an initiative. He agreed in a heartbeat, and we decided to shoot this while we were at SAPPHIRENOW 2012 in Orlando, FL. Kristina Ferrari , another IBMer and dear friend volunteered to shoot it with her flip cam.  It is an unedited version – and an amateur production 🙂

John Leffler is the Managing Partner for IBM’s North American SAP consulting  practice and takes care of our relationship with some of the top customers globally, and used to run the global practice till very recently. He has been in the SAP field longer than any one else I know, and has seen the SAP consulting market evolve from its first days. John grew his career from being a functional consultant, and then as Project manager and then a regional leader and about 12 years ago, he started leading the whole practice across the world.

John is big about differentiation in the market – and hence he readily throws all his weight behind the innovation agenda of our SAP practice. I can vouch first hand how much support he has given to the practitioners who explore innovative ideas in the realm of SAP solutions. John is a great supporter of co-innovation between SAP and IBM, and have actively sponsored several such initiatives in the past.

So without boring you any more with my commentary, here is the interview . Let me know what you think. If you have questions for John, let me know and I will try to find answer.

Here is a bonus video where John and I discuss how to develop an SAP consulting career in IBM. I originally shot this right after the video above for my colleagues in IBM’s SAP practice. But I thought there is enough material in this to pick the interest of folks outside IBM too.

I am planning to do a few more of these with IBM and SAP executives going forward, if I see an interest from you folks.

Some random thoughts on SAP’s cloud strategy

As I am flying to Bangalore, I have been thinking of SAP’s cloud strategy – or at least what I understood as their strategy – a fair bit. In general, they did not blow me away. However, I do think they have a lot of things done right. So here are some random thoughts for what it is worth.

SAP is targetting 4 groups – Customers, Employees/People, Money and Vendors. I like that – that covers a lot of the enterprise.But if being everything to everyone was a successful strategy, Business By Design would have scaled greater heights by now, which obviously has not happened. So somethings need to be prioritized over others. The big players in cloud – like SFDC, targeted specific segments and did not try to be everything to everyone. And in general – including SFSF – they have attracted more customers and users than SAP ever did.

I have often raised the opinion that SAP should run cloud as a separate business so that they are not burdened financially or bureaucratically by the larger legacy organization. So I was thrilled to see that SAP allowed Lars to operate cloud as an independent business. And he brings tremendous energy and passion to the table, which is also something SAP could do well with. So organizationally – I think SAP is well set.  If there is one question in my mind on this front – it is whether there will be consistency of engineering across SAP anymore if cloud is a separate organization. But given Lars and Vishal seem to be best buddies, I guess it will work out just fine.

SAP will also  offer parts of BByD as loosely coupled apps – like finance for example. This might work out ok – except, I think Finance in itself is more of a necessary evil, than a true innovation. Without financial postings – the rest of SAP won’t work very well . I am not sure how many will buy the finance solution just to run their GL. A few will for sure – but I don’t see it as a growth engine yet.

SAP derives most of its money from the on-premises world. This poses two challenges. One – if SAP takes a suite approach on cloud, they will have to cannibalize some parts of on-premises solutions. And two – they have to integrate cloud with on-premises world. Neither is an easy challenge to overcome.

First about trying to reinvent the business suite on the cloud. Don’t get me wrong – I do think eventually suite needs to run on cloud. What I am not convinced is the need to do it now, since that is not a path of least resistance within or outside SAP. I think SAP would find it much easier to create apps that solve specific problems that on-prem cannot solve easily. For example – on-prem does Accounts Receivables very well, but not Collections and Disputes management because those users typically are not on-premises. So, instead of moving AR to cloud – why not just move collections and disputes management to cloud? And once that is successful – there will be very little reasons for resistance to move rest of AR, and eventually all of GL to cloud, even for big companies.

And about the loosely coupled thing – I am not exactly buying into the idea of “out of the box” integration of cloud to on-premises systems. One – SAP is not considered a leader when it comes to integration technology. And two – on premises world is heavily customized, so nothing really works out of the box there. I made a living as a programmer primarily because nothing integrates in standard. For SAP to have a credible integration story – they should probably buy TIBCO or something ( ok, sorry to my friends who have heard me say this a million times). But given the high valuation, it might not be feasible.

On the social aspects of cloud, I like what they are doing. Combining Jam and Streamwork makes total sense for customers. And I applaud SAP for their stance that “Business” is the better part of “Social business”.

HANA is a perfect DB/platform for cloud. It will be a safe bet for customers and SAP since HANA can evolve and mature much faster in an environment that SAP has full control over.

One last thought before I have to shut my PC off. What is SAP’s data center story? Cloud needs significant data center efficiency. I think I heard SFSF has its own data centers. If SAP is serious about cloud in a big way – I think it is in their best interests to tell the world more about their strategy on data centers. And to extend that thought – they might even have to buy a hardware company at some point.

I am out of here before the flight attendant of this AI flight will shut my laptop down for me herself. Let me know what you think.

SAPPHIRENOW 2012 Orlando, day 3 – HANA, Developers, Partnership – and one more thing !

Day 3 has been my favorite ever since Vishal and Hasso started keynoting on the last day of SAPPHIRE. So I was up bright and early, and got to the keynote area much before it started.

Unlike last year, this time it was Hasso who started the Keynote. The first part of his session was all over the place, and did not do justice to his tremendous showmanship and technical brilliance. My feeling is that Hasso should be allowed to do it freeform without the constraints of the teleprompter and powerpoints. I would go to the extent of saying, he should also be given a whiteboard that can be projected on the screen so that he can explain his concepts more clearly. He took plenty of shots at oracle, with roaring approval from his fans in the audience.

The highlight of the keynote for me was Vishal announcing that developer licenses for HANA and Neo are now free. That is awesome news – and gratifing to all of us who have made the case with SAP in the past.

Vishal also announced the GA of Visual Intelligence, previously codenamed Hilo. It is a great product – but not the most mature. It hardly had a ramp, which is probably ok since it is a desktop tool. It fills a void in SAP’s portfolio today, and I hope it can match its established competitors some day soon. The only surprise for me was that it did not support Universes in first release. I asked that question to Adam Binnie and Mani Srinivasan – and they assured me that it will get new releases very quickly.  Having seen Mani in action over time, I think SAP has a rock star product manager on their staff. His passion for his product is of the highest order of magnitude.

Hasso downplayed ERP on HANA – which I think is the right thing for SAP to do. He also explained how OLAP and OLTP loads are different in nature.  ERP on HANA is not the best use of SAP’s time – I think they just aim to do this to gain credibility for SAP to tout HANA as a full fledged database.  ERP on HANA makes a lot more sense for SAP if it becomes simpler, and hence cater to an eventual convergence of on-premises and cloud versions. But just for speed – it is limited to long running batch jobs like payment runs, clearing of documents, dunning etc.  but considering SAP has to rewrite a lot of code in existing system, I doubt if it is a worthwhile investment.

A big problem for folks going into HANA on Business Suite is the quality of SQL knowledge they need.  what we knew of as SQL as ABAPers won’t cut it. Actually the development paradigm of going to database for the minimum, and using more of ABAP is inefficient totally. Even for a SQL developer – he/she should know how to make use of set operations, since cursor based SQL is kind of like doing it in old ABAP. This skillset issue is something SAP and ecosystem should address head on. Product development on HANA should take education along with it. In this regard – I should thank Margaret Anderson and her CSA team for their stellar efforts in keeping us partners educated on HANA all the time, even as things change quickly.

Jeff Word’s HANA book, which some of us contributed to – was heavily pushed at the event. I got a copy signed by Hasso, Bill, Jim and Vishal. I need to get Jeff’s autograph too some day before I use it for the reason I got it all signed. Here is a picture.

It was a gratifying experience for me personally, since IBM got a lot of coverage in the keynote. The 100 TB system for HANA is IBM X series scale out machines, and we saw the subsecond response time on it. I had mentioned to many people at SAP including Vishal, Sethu , Aiaz and Steve Lucas that they should pull the plug on a HANA box during the keynote. And they did exactly that – and it worked like a charm. We saw the fail over of the nodes on the big screen. I hope SAP will provide additional details of the data stored in those nodes, time taken and so on later. HA is a big part of the buying decision for HANA – and I think this exercise will boost customer confidence a lot. The other side of the coin obviously is disaster recovery across sites, to make sure  HANA can be put in data centers without too much trouble and manual intervention. But that is harder to show in a key note. But in near future, I expect SAP to publish more details on HA, DR, log shipping, work load management etc. That will single handedly speed up the HANA sales and delivery for SAP.

Vishal also gave my team a shout out for the working capital management solution we built. Late last week, I got pinged by Vishal and team while I was in the Bay Area. It was a simple request – can I come quickly to Palo Alto to meet them, or should they drive out to meet me? I drove to SAP’s offices and showed the app to Vishal and team and they loved it. And they loved it and put it on key note. Thanks folks – much appreciated. Also a big shout out to Dennis Howlett who was the first to tell me this is exactly the type of solution HANA should power. Thanks Dennis. And last but not least – a HUGE shout out to my dear colleagues and their leader Gagan Reen who worked tirlessly to build out 8 end to end usecases to show case business applications of HANA. You guys ROCK, and I could not be more proud of you.

I also got to short interviews on video with the two leaders who manage IBM’s global SAP consulting business, and North American SAP consulting business – Jay Bellissimo and John Leffler. A colleague shot the video of both, and I am waiting to get the download from her. If it came out half decent – I will post it here. These guys have both seen SAP evolve, and I think it will be useful to others in SAP ecosystem to hear their perspective. I am not a skilled interviewer – so I am not holding my breath on this coming out with high quality, but lets see.

And oh – just one more thing. While at SAPPHIRE, I got announced officially by IBM’s Managing Partner for SAP Practice as “Head of Global and North America SAP Forward Engineering team”.  Thanks John and Jay and the leadership team.

It is quite a mouthful – and what the title means is that I will lead the efforts in IBM’s consulting organization for the innovation agenda in our SAP partnership – including HANA, Mobility and Cloud. My charter is to build the capabilities in engineering to put SAP’s amazing technology innovations in the context of business applications to add value to our customers. It is a tall order, and I am humbled at being given this opportunity.

I knew of this for a few months now, and till the official announcement came – I have already been working on many of the things this job entails. One thing I know for sure is that I cannot do this alone – so I am looking forward to collaborating even more with customers,  the SAP community, SAP itself and within the larger IBM organization to collectively surface the best solutions.  I already have solicited input from many people and they have all been generous with their time and ideas – and I want you to know I greatly appreciate it. I am not trying to lead a charge here – I am more looking forward to being an enabler of innovation with the teams and leaders in place today.

There are way too many people to thank – but I will resist the urge to name them all. You all know who you are ! But I have to make two exceptions – without SAP’s Marilyn Pratt’s and Mark Finnern’s efforts, I would have NEVER gone down the path I eventually did with SAP community, and that is what made the difference when I look back.  I cannot thank them enough.  I know all of us SAP Mentors and community members will join me in saying a big thanks to both of these wonderful people for all they do ! they are the BEST !!!

SAPPHIRENOW 2012 Orlando – Day 2 – Cloud, HANA and Mobility

My initial idea was to write an update for each day after the session – but after the first day, that plan did not work out. So here I am finishing this post in India., while fighting jetlag. Day 2 of SAPPHIRENOW was a lot more chaotic for me than Day 1 for sure. The day started with Jim Snabe’s key note, including Lars Dalgaard’s presentation on cloud at the end.

Right off the bat – Lars brings a kind of energy to SAP that is usually only seen with Bill McDermott on stage. Lars came across as confident, positive and strong in my opinion. I was also mighty pleased to hear that SAP and SuccesFactors implemented all of each others cloud solutions internally in few months. I had a chance to meet Lars with my blogger buddies. He is an amazing guy with a laser like focus on details. Jon Reed did an outstanding job in that meeting, and came in well prepared with a comprehensive list of questions for Lars.

Here are some highlights of what we learned
1. Lars had a chance to kill Business By Design if he wanted to. But since he thinks the only missing part for the product to be succesful is a good go to market strategy, he decided to not kill it.
2. There is an opportunty for SI partners in cloud space, and he is looking forward to working with them.
3. He thinks HANA is the best thing that could have happened to cloud portfolio, and he will be using HANA extensively in his products.
4. Engineers from SAP and SFSF are being integrated now

As expected, Jim did a solid job on his keynote.It started with a video on SAP history. Funny part for me was Josh Greenbaum saying R/3 was an open platform or something such, and the guy sitting next to me watching the keynote choked on his coffee. So things started on a light note for me.

While BByD will continue to exist as a suite, parts of it will also be offered as smaller point solutions – like for Finance. I am on the fence on this strategy. SAP is a late entrant to the cloud market, and needs a strong differentiating message for its cloud portfolio. I think they could do one of two things – or even both.
1. Create horizontal solutions which cover large number of customers – for example, Collections and disputes management in cloud, with integration to BByD or On-premises FI-AR.
2. Vertical solutions for SAP’s industry solutions that cover the business partner network – like say dealers for automotive, or insurance agents for insurance companies.
I am looking forward to see how SAP differntiates in cloud going forward.

Jim also envisions the world will move in a few years to putting all the data in main memory. I beg to differ on this as well – I seriously doubt disk will get replaced soon. Later,I was happy to see Hasso’s vision is that of hot storage on main memory, and cold storage on disk . Of course, Jim could be totally right – and I am looking forward to seeing how this will unfold in the market with customers. I did a gut check with a few that were in the convention center – and none of them seemed to think all data will ever sit in main memory.

After the keynote, in a private blogger meeting – Jim discussed the future of HANA. BW on HANA is the next big thing on his mind to get traction in the market. I readily agree – since it is low risk and high reward for customers. Also – most BW systems are small, and SAP already has proven that HANA works with 100 TB, when the largest BW instance in the world is only 80 TB.

However, there is a big issue in making this work – and that is the sales enablement. BW has 17000 or so installations worldwide. If SAP has to hit 10% of the market in 2012 that Jim thinks they can hit – they need to close more than 10 deals every working day for the rest of the year. As I have mentioned many times before, the partner ecosystem has been largely shut out of HANA so far for many reasons. It is getting better now, but not to the extent that between SAP and Partners, 10 deals will be closed every day.

However, when we met with Bill McDermott – he did not define the challenge as 10% of existing market. His minimum goal is to double the revenue they got last year out of HANA and Mobility. That I think is an achievable target, and will not need 10% of the BW instal base to be converted. Bill did clearly mention that it is a bare minimum goal, and that he fully expects to beat that target.

Another difficulty with expediting the HANA sales process, according to SAP executives like Lucas, Enslin and Snabe, is the availability of hardware in quick time to do POCs. If SAP can put HANA on the cloud and ensure data security, this is a problem that will go away quickly. Customers can migrate HANA from cloud to a physical box, as HW gets delivered. Hacking the installer to put it on cloud is very easy – so hopefully this stops being an issue.

Jim did mention something that picked my interest a lot. His vision is an 8 day migration of a BW HANA system. Apparently SAP is working with some SI partners on migration factories where a customer can ship BW systems to be upgraded and sent back. I am not convinced this is workable in the field.

1. Most customers run a 3 system landscape for BW, and each will need to be upgraded.
2. Shipping them to India is not going to be easy due to security concerns on data
3. Very few of the 17000 are on 7.3 version which is needed for BW on HANA. It is not realistic to have an 8 day upgrade to both 7.3 and HANA.
4. Migration directly depends on quantity and quality of data in the system. If the system has huge data, and customer only has a short weekend window to migrate the data in production- it will be a challenge. Either they will have to archive a lot of old data, or they will stop migrating and just stand up a new system with just high value reporting.

But Jim’s vision is the right one to have despite all of this. If HANA is to become a volume play for SAP, they need to find a way to accelerate sales and implementations tremendously.

Another interesting couple of tid bits while we are on the topic of BW on HANA

1. John Appleby found out from one of his meetings that 3.x objects do not need to be converted for BW on HANA. They will work ok, but will not have the ability to take advantage of HANA. I did not know this till John told me on Tuesday. SAP could do better with communications.

2. How will BW (and eventually Business Suite) enhancements work in HANA? The enhancements are today done in ABAP server, and typically uses a row by row processing technique to process data, as opposed to set processing. So essentially they cannot make use of HANA’s power, and will become a bottleneck in performance. I asked this question to Hasso and Vishal on Wednesday afternoon, and they did not have a clear answer. Rewriting them manually into some kind of stored procedure is not easily accomplished due to volume of enhancements in a typical ABAP system. I am waiting for SAP to give us an answer to that.

We also spent considerable time with Sanjay Poonen, who heads D&T, Mobility and Apps. Sanjay is big on mobility ever since he took over that portfolio, and is very optimistic about SAP’s chances. He took our feedback to heart last time and was instrumental in getting developer access sorted out to a great extent. Afaria on cloud is a tremendous value proposition for SAP if the price point is really low. On Apps side, they do need to woo many more developers to make it work. But with open technology partnerships announced for Sencha etc – SAP has a shot at making money on mobility.

In my mind – for SAP to succeed in cloud and mobility, they have to immediately address one thing. That one thing – often ignored – is APIs. SAP needs to be good at APIs if it has to attract non-SAP developers to work on mobile and cloud solutions. And it is an easy target for the existing couple of millions of developers in SAP ecosystem. It is low hanging fruit in my opinion, and ripe for plucking. If I might go on a limb and make a suggestion to SAP – that would be to let Craig Cmehill form a team and evangelize that with the developer community. He is already a rock star with a big fan following, and will be readily able to hit the ground running.  Of course, some one at SAP needs to check with Craig first to see what he thinks of this 🙂

Day 2 was also a big party night – starting with Global Comms reception. After spending a few hours there, and catching up with several mentor buddies , I skipped over to the IBM party a few doors away. I was amazed to see how many customers were interested in Mobility and HANA and wanted to start projects on it. And then we walked back to Hilton at the convention center late at night, led by Mike Prosceno. There is an unconfirmed rumor that we passed the peabody hotel twice in the process !

SAPPHIRENOW 2012 Orlando, Day 1 Wrap – speed, simplicity, personalization

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.