During a break in his concert at SapphireNow, Justin Timberlake took a tray full of shot glasses to every one on stage. It took him a while to hand them out as he said – “we have as many of on stage as there are in the audience”. Those are his Tennessee Kids, a wide range of instrumentalists, singers and dancers. For 90 minutes, the show was frenetic as eyes and cameras tried to keep up with JT’s lips as he sang and his legs as he danced and his fingers as he played keyboards and guitar, and even more as everyone twerked and crisscrossed on stage. Lots of generations of songs from his four solo albums but alas none from his NSYNC days when I started funding his career
From where I was sitting the show seemed chaotic and a bit too loud but everyone, especially the ladies in the audience were standing and swaying, and a good time was being had by all. As I tend to do to make sure my initial reaction is not too harsh, I came home and watched Jonathan Demme’s Netflix documentary on the band during its last tour in 2016. I watched it on the biggest TV at home and at a modest volume, and I enjoyed it much more. There is definite control in that group chaos. Lots of discipline, hard work and creativity.
In many ways, the concert summarized the three days of SapphireNow – lots and lots of products representing several generations of evolution. Somehow there was control in that chaos. And definite swagger on stage. I have lots to follow up from the event (and will have some in my blog next week, and much more in SAP Nation 3.0), but the initial conclusion: SAP is back and confidently so.
There was a breakout with Dr. Hasso Plattner. It has taken an inordinate amount of time, but he is feeling vindicated people can see how over-engineered relational databases are with their rows, columns, indices and DBA effort (and we blame Germans for over-engineering!). Why we should not be storing aggregates when today’s memory allows for calculations on the fly. How HANA 2.0 and Intel’s Optane persistent memory should turbo-charge in-memory computing. HANA can boast 23,000 customers now. I am convinced it would have many more if customers were not worried about giving SAP lock-in on their IT infrastructure in addition to that over their applications portfolio.
SAP has survived the point solution cloud onslaught from Oracle, Workday, Salesforce over the last 5 years. It has a competent set of point solutions for the back office as I wrote after the briefing in New York by Rob Enslin and his team a few weeks ago. As I wrote earlier this week, I am even optimistic about the opportunity C/4HANA has in a changing CRM market.
There was a session with Sven Denecken, Ivo Totev and others on S/4HANA in the cloud. Analysts peppered them with questions on how the public cloud version is maturing, multi-tenancy issues, why more incumbent customers have not migrated. They handled the questions well, and in the end can point to fact that 8,700 customers have signed up and 1,800 are live with at least some functionality.
I have been screaming for a while that after 20 years of cloud and in-memory computing, 80% of enterprise apps, especially industry books of record remain in client/server and prior architectures. Without industry processes, customers are finding they can only attempt small d – digital transformations around their back office, horizontal processes. So, I was pleased to see SAP announce that it is
“.. is working closely with Accenture, Capgemini and Deloitte to help customers in the process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing and service industries become intelligent enterprises by implementing support for a new generation of business processes,” Franck Cohen, president, Digital Core and Industry Solutions, summarized the heightened expectations “With a user experience that no longer requires a keyboard, and manual processes that are automated with the help of artificial intelligence, our customers will be empowered to reimagine their business models while keeping cost to a minimum.”
It’s going to be a long haul to move all the legacy IS solutions to the modern world and I am not convinced SAP needs its larger SI partners for this effort. It has some of the smartest customers in each industry it can directly tap into, but I am glad to see SAP (finally) start the verticalization journey for S/4HANA. Amazingly, it can easily outrun many of its competitors who have so far paid lip service to such verticalization.
There was a lively session with Helen Arnold, who heads the SAP Data Network which helps customers create new revenue streams and new business models from data. Its Data Hub is a recognition that till they have more robust vertical processes in the cloud, only a fraction of critical data these days comes from SAP transactional engines and customers need help integrating and interpreting data from sensory, customer sentiment and hundreds of other sources.
We got a nice show floor tour of Leonardo and its cluster of emerging technologies including machine learning, blockchain, and IOT concepts. The use cases were somewhat basic (my colleague Brian Sommer and I were particularly animated with our questions), but the competition cannot do much better and it allows SAP to be “buzzword-compliant” in the interim.
There was a nice update from Rainer Zinow about Business One and Business ByDesign. Rainer toils away from the limelight with these SME focused products, but with the dedicated channels quietly keeps growing these customer bases – over 60,000 and 4,000 respectively.
I spoke to several SAP Mentors who said they felt after years, their input is being valued again. And most are still interested in ECC, BW, MII, landscapes and previous generation of SAP products and keeping the lights on. I was particularly happy to see Jim Spath’s write-up of the sessions he attended at Sapphire.
SAP generously organized a very diverse set of customers for us to talk to. I spoke to customers from Australia, Spain, Sweden and elsewhere from healthcare, sports, government and other sectors. The diversity was impressive.
CEO Bill McDermott finished his keynote with his “Top 10” list of what SAP offers customers today. That segment is in the video below. It is salesy, as you may expect from Bill, but a nice summary of the broad product portfolio SAP keeps growing.
Back to JT and the Tennessee Kids. I hope SAP takes some lessons from them.
The reality in music is there are often only 2-3 hits from every album. That does not mean your customers don’t love you if they don’t like everything you offer. With so much going well, I am hopeful SAP will be more mature about customers who have moved to third party maintenance and those it has chased for Indirect Access charges. It can offer its customers so much more as I wrote here – that is a much better way to rack up revenues than from being mean to those who go with other vendors for some components of their portfolio.
I also want SAP to behave like the quarterback JT is on stage. He prays with the Tennessee Kids before they take the stage but he is demanding of them and expects a lot. I want SAP to expect similar of its partners. I have written books about how they have enjoyed the party without contributing enough.
In turn, JT can offer SAP a slogan
“You mother fxxxers watch how I attack..
If that's your girl, better watch your back…”
Yes, SAP is gradually getting its SexyBack