SAPPHIRE NOW Madrid: and the Hat-trick of Business Transformation


Last week I spent an inspiring and almost sleepless week in Madrid for Sapphire NOW. The labor strike did not mute our collective efforts to align and plot our joint work within the SAP EMEA Marketplace. As expected, everyone was there. Monday Afternoon before show startsThere were over 10,000 in attendance and many more connecting in via the web. From the “world of SAP” perspective, the concrete is still drying on the major changes that have been announced during the last few SAP events, so as expected, this was not a year of shocking new announcements, but more the foundational establishment of these ideas as they begin to be realized. I went to the show to understand if Americas and EMEA have different optics on SAP’s direction and if either showed a glimmer of a leadership position on advancing the “next gen” of SAP. (more on this later…) bueno no?

 To accomplish this task, I had to talk with many customers, friends and SAP smart-guys alike. It started with a customer dinner sponsored by EMC, VMW, Cisco & Intel at the Casino de Madrid. Monday night 40 or more of us gathered in this grand hall for an friendly start of the week. An opening of sorts on the ideas we would continue to discuss throughout the coming days. What a brilliant location to do this. (Happy Birthday @Sylvie75015 & Parmeet!) 

To move forward in this one way discussion, let me first state my position on what is changing business today. I have heard no better summarization nor have I found any outliers to my assessment of where the business dollar is spent today to transform. I like my version, which I’ll share with you now. So… consider yourself lucky to get this brilliance straight from the Donkey’s mouth. 😉  Today there are 3 things that are driving spend. A hat-trick of trends that are not only singularly important, but together they make an inertial jolt that cracks the patina off everything status quo.

Primary Business Dollar Spend Today:

–          Application Modernization (I include cloud/virtualization here)

–          Business Analytics

–          Global Mobile User

These three trends are driving the majority of focus and together they literally change the industrialized world from back office to storefront.  If you’re hardware and processes can float in a cloud, while your self-service global user uses “choose your own” mobile devices to interact with your business which is smarter about core competencies because of the better use of the data you own, you can see how optimization in cost, revenue, share of wallet, distribution, commerce, inventory, etc… all change.  Who’s the looser in this new world order?  Those who use 1990’s binoculars to view 2020 business models and those who frankly aren’t creative or open enough to engage their customer and eco-system in a transformative process.  Ok we are susceptible to DotCom-itis here. However, we’re not talking about ill-thought shallow commerce tools (I hope…). If you don’t see the opportunity for business model change, you may find yourself working for the person who did.

So to me, the strategy is to build the disciplines and open up the frontal lobe a bit.  Just as we have had massive specialization over the last few decades. I believe we will continue to see companies become more inter-dependant; “nodes” on an inter-linked mesh of business process and market options. We can’t make products and then sell them. We will need to be more collaborative across the process from idea to inventory to satisfaction and support. We reduce blockages between the expert and the consumer, our job is to hook our competence to the plumbing of “demand”. This requires much higher levels of trust, confidence and interactions between the platform creators, market innovators and the change agents that make it happen.

I bring all this up because I believe the SAP eco-system is the best staged in the industry to begin this journey.  First SAP has the three jeweled crown to make the most of the Hat-trick.  This includes their invigorated platform with key cloud offerings through the eco-system (aka CSC, AWS, SunGard, etc.). They have HANA/ASE to transform analytics, plus the database layer of the stack, and they have the Afaria mobility platform to engage the mobile user. Not that they haven’t done a good job creating the product suite, but the mastery is in how they changed the dialog. The last few Sapphires have focused on everything from jacked-up iPads running the front-end of SAP, to social stories about small business incubators who leverage SAP, analytics and mobile to reach places that don’t always have consistent power, much less german engineered business systems.  The keynotes predict the change and demonstrate the initial flicker of opportunity that awaits.                                                                                   Jim Snabe in his keynote, addressed the changing model of distribution. Smartly he used the analogy of  the music industry which transformed from LP albums to iTunes over a 20 year span. He took the audience through how these changes were not always comfortable and in some cases left some folks standing by the roadside, while giving birth to new innovators like Apple. Through this example he showed “tech” companies can be “business” companies as well.  From this clear example, he took the collection of us through other industries like fashion and financial services and showed how these same patterns are appearing across industries. Reduced formalized/packaged distribution, increased consumer involvement in the design and fulfillment process. He implied how output becomes less of a  structured assembly-line product and more of an interactive “result” (consider Gone with the Wind vs Call of Duty; or Catcher in the Rye hardcover v/s Rye Whiskey Wikipedia entry…).

I also heard a common message from what I call the change agents, the Deloittes, Accentures, or Bluefins of the world. Whether large or small most are working on speeding business process change while looking at a massive customer base who’s running SAP like they did in the 1990’s. There is a treasure box of services waiting for those who can help companies apply cloud, analytics and mobile in new ways to speed their time to value, reduce costs/risks, while they enjoy performance improvements in the new world order.  Good news, the platform technologies help like they never did before.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to hear Sanjay Mirchandani speak on the transformation of IT at EMC (including a global deployment of SAP), you are missing one of the best examples of the future in the market today. Sanjay can talk for hours about ITaaS, choice driven mobility integration, and what you realize in this message, you can’t even begin until the landscape is 100% virtualized.  His choice tool for this were “Vblocks“. The improvements he has driven in responsiveness, cost reductions and ultimately…agility are profound.  If you look at the technologies he used in the plan (VCE, VMW, EMC, Cisco, SAP, Spring Source, etc.) the needed combination of innovations have only been together for approximately a year.  We are on the cusp of great change.  As for change agents, Sanjay’s team used experts from the eco-system like Accenture to help get it right and apply tribal knowledge. These changes I speak of requires the piece parts to come together to make change happen.

I stated that there were not many ground breaking announcements, but on Thursday VMware and SAP announced HANA on Vsphere. Today this only supports non-production deployments, but having the ability to virtualize HANA provides a new level of flexibility and improves provisioning during the sandbox period, helping accelerate HANA adoption. EMC and Cisco were happy to see this alignment push through. Again one more example of convergence between the big drivers of business transformation.

I’ll end by mentioning the SAP Mentors. If you haven’t had the pleasure of spending time with the Mentors, it’s your loss. This is a “band of brothers” who have been honored by inclusion in the Mentor program. You can’t buy your way in, you have to earn it. Membership spans outside of SAP and this group is on the front lines of change. I had the chance to catch up with several mentors at the show and I can tell you that what many of us would call keynote “hipe” is substantiated in the “hands” of these mentors. Customer innovation isn’t an empty demo, these guys are seeing it happen in the field. Some of them relatively young (compared to me) will be the lead guard of what’s to come. They are helping set the new agenda.

Again it was a great trip. I mentioned at the front of this blog that part of my journey was to highlight the similarities and differences between Americas and EMEA. I am shocked to say, I saw little difference. The dialog is global, so as you slip between one geographic theater to another… the wall-paper is quite familiar. Its more about meeting the people involved than drastic differences in strategy. People work with people they like.  In a swirling whirlpool of transition, some things never change. Chao.

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