Last week when George Clooney hosted President Obama at a swanky Hollywood gathering, I curiously went back to the section in Walter Isaacson’s book where Steve Jobs helped the legendary VC, John Doerr with his planning for Obama’s dinner at his house. Jobs suggested the planned menu was too fancy and used the words above. It was a helpful reminder of how even powerful and wealthy individuals keep each other grounded.
I left SAP’s swanky event in Orlando on Monday (after a fascinating session with Scott Schenker, VP Global Events who described the planning and technology behind the event – even more elaborate than last year’s I had blogged here . Reggie Jackson, Van Halen and other luminaries were scheduled for after I left ) knowing well the NetSuite event in San Francisco would not come close in glitz and glamour. But what I got was several reminders of what SAP could learn in staying grounded.
- There were the company’s two leaders, Evan Goldberg and Zach Nelson, playfully strutting around in silly Wayne World and Speedy Gonzales costumes
- There was Evan happily demoing tools and field level elements and discussing continuous improvements via twice a year releases in his keynote
- There were customers making basic requests on white boards (photo below thanks to Frank Scavo) and happily discussing in various sessions basic feature/functions and enhancements
- Zach’s reminder than in its first decade NetSuite had not held a major customer conference - more of a focus on delivering product and value
- Mei Li, in NetSuite marketing, gushing what a great place it had been to work for 13 years
- Zach announcing features which several customers have been already testing for months.
The last point is particularly important. For years, SapphireNow has been about new product announcements – HANA, ByD, SUP etc etc. Years later, SAP can barely show a smattering of customers or partner applications on them. I had vigorous discussions in Orlando with my friends David Dobrin and Dennis Howlett who think I am unfair to SAP and its partners. I wish they could have seen some of the things at SuiteWorld.
For a change I would love to see SAP NOT announce something, and instead go sign up 500-1000 customers to early test a product, and quietly strive for some significant metric like 15,000 to 20,000 partner apps and then release them at SapphireNow.
The other thing SAP could do is forget it is a $ 20 billion company. Its new product revenues are only a small fraction of that. In that sense it is not that much bigger than NetSuite. At SapphireNow I heard a rumor that SAP may spinoff its cloud division. Far fetched I would say, but SAP would do well to organizationally strive for NetSuite’s “still a startup” feel.
Talking about Orlando and San Francisco, both vendors excelled in their hospitality, thanks to Mike Prosceno and Stacey Fish at SAP and Mei Li and Paige Musto at NetSuite.
My daughter asked me this morning how the trip was and it hit me everything was perfect. The air trips were ahead of schedule, the hotels upgraded, the weather superb, and my fussy food habits were amazingly catered to. I would do well to stay grounded and not expect each trip to be this flawless :)