The Name

This year SAPPHIRE officially changed its name and became SAPPHIRE NOW. Why? Different answers from different people. Those that should know said: "The new name stresses the urgency." Urgency for whom, SAP? And will the next SAPPHIRE be named SAPPHIRE THEN? Never change a successful brand.

The Event

Another premiere for SAPPHIRE was the simultaneous show in Orlando, US and Frankfurt, Germany. With 5,000 attendees in Frankfurt, 10,500 in Orlando and 35,000 online participants, this was the biggest SAPPHIRE event ever. I must admit I was concerned going to Frankfurt while everyone in Walldorf desperately tried to escape to Orlando. Who wants to attend a second-hand event? But now I’m a believer. SAP managed to balance the important parts of the show between Orlando and Frankfurt. Keynotes were held simultaneously in both locations via virtual video connection and speakers in both cities. In general I never had the feeling I would miss anything important in Frankfurt simply because it was the smaller event overall. It didn’t make a difference if I couldn’t attend another 400 presentations in Frankfurt or 800 in Orlando from the total of 1,200+ presentations – I had a packed agenda and got all that I expected and needed, including 1:1 meetings with SAP executives like Jim Snabe. The simultaneous, virtual set-up not only helped to save a lot of cost, it created a sense of a bigger virtual community and underlined SAP’s ambitions for more sustainability. To all that traveled intercontinental: Shame on you, next year stay in your home region!

The Stars

Like every show SAPPHIRE 2010 had its stars as well:

Al Gore, the "once next president" as he introduced himself, held the audience captive with a humorous speech on sustainability – no slides but many anecdotes and jokes. Who cares that it was the same speech and jokes since 4+ years? The master of sustainability and his favorite topic are more relevant than ever and when he said “SAP, with its solutions and internal operations is a thought leader in sustainability!” I think it really means a lot and I believe him, independent of the cash he got for the speech.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire, had a far more challenging situation to master. Constantly pushed by the moderator (who was she anyway?) to talk about a topic that apparently wasn’t his favorite (guess what: IT), poor Branson nevertheless impressed the audience with his charisma and style. When asked about the name of his company, Branson answered: “Well, I was 16 when I founded it…”

Jim Snabe and Bill McDermott the new Co-CEOs of SAP jointly presented SAP’s new strategic direction. The two sales professionals clearly divided up the stage, with McDermott concentrating on the sales and business side and Snabe on product and technology. Specifically Snabe managed to (re-)establish confidence with the new and simple strategy "OnPremise – OnDemand – OnDevice" and his authentic style, while McDermott sometimes appeared more like an (over)polished actor (did I read Italian lover in another blog?). When actors become governors and presidents, CEOs can become actors too – believe in yourself.

Vishal Sikka and Hasso Plattner jointly presented the other co-keynote of the event focusing on "the next big thing" and SAP’s innovation pipeline. Specifically Sikka, SAP’s CTO and newly appointed board member, surprised the participants with his "coming out" at SAPPHIRE 2010. Dr. Sikka (no tie) described SAP’s quest for innovation in 3 points: "Reach, Real-Time and Cloud" which was a variation of the "OnPremise, OnDemand, OnDevice" theme, while Prof. Plattner (fancy tie) mainly lectured about his favorite topic of in-memory (see also his funky self-interview on the topic).

The Innovation

The most over-used word by SAP in the last few months has been "innovation." In fact it was used so much that the actual lack thereof became finally clear to everyone. So I did set out at SAPPHIRE 2010 on a quest to find innovation in all its various forms…

Jim Snabe notably described innovation as “turning ideas into money” and that we should not confuse innovation with creativity. “Innovation starts with quality; it’s not just about bringing ideas to customers”. I can buy into that.

A key innovation point of course included the whole topic of in-memory. Currently SAP uses in-memory for analytic applications only but has big plans to expand the technology further. In discussion with Jim Snab,e he revealed SAP’s plans to use in-memory for transactional processes (now we are talking). “So you are planning to create multi-tier memory solutions with a database, flash and in-memory layer?” our team of Forrester analysts asked Jim Snabe in our 1:1 meeting. “No, we will move it all to in-memory only. Completely!” Wow, that’s ambitious.

Real-time was another big innovation topic at SAPPHIRE 2010. Actually, after the planned acquisition of Sybase, SAP now calls it real real-time. The combination of Sybase’s CEP (complex event processing) real-time capabilities with SAP’s in-memory vision opens the door to new opportunities (also see my blog on SAP’s Sybase acquisition).

A whole area in the exhibition hall was dedicated to innovation and I did spend some time chatting with the staff and looking at their solutions from sustainability to cloud computing, business intelligence and collaborative decision tools (aka SAP StreamWork):

  • SAP’s newly announced sustainability report continues the strategy of an interactive online-only tool,  now, for the first time, integrated with social media and collaborative discussion tools.
  • SAP finally calls cloud computing what it is – cloud. Sikka announced the next version of SAP’s Carbon Impact solution, a native SaaS application based on SAP’s ClearStandard acquisition. But! SAP seems to realize that the zoo of SaaS technology platforms does not scale in the long run, and from the responsible people at SAP I received confirmation that the next version of SAP’s CRM OnDemand will be based on the ByDesign platform. A delivery date is not yet available but I expect that SAP will continue to consolidate more and more of its OnDemand solutions on the ByD platform over time. SAP does not make a lot of noise around this fact since ByD, with its release in July this year and almost 3 years of delay, is already under strong pressure for success. Another one of my predictions for SAP in 2010 seems to be materializing.
  • At the business intelligence booth in the innovation campus, I did run into an interesting discussion with some SAPler specialized in modeling predictive analytics in custom projects – an alternative to SAP’s partnership with SPSS (acquired by IBM). I’m sure we will hear more about that in the future.
  • A strong focus was also put on collaborative tools, like SAP’s new StreamWork solution for collaborative decision processes. However, I believe that the real differentiator for this solution will become apparent when it connects to transactional business data (from SAP and other system) as part of the decision process.

There was so much more than I could list in this single blog, but one thing became clear: SAP finally started to talk less about innovation but actually started to fill its roadmap and vision with innovative solutions.

The Celebration

While the evening event in Orlando featured Carlos Santana, I had the pleasure of joining Duran Duran in Frankfurt for a remarkable night of celebration. Thanks to Capgemini, who sponsored the event and gave me a VIP ticket, I could attack the sushi bar and let some fish swim in caipirinha. When the guys finally got their make-up working to look like 25 years ago, Duran Duran delivered a fantastic show and I was caught by 80s’ memories. I left the VIP area and dived into the masses and I swear I saw some IT people dancing to songs like ‘Wild Boys’ and ‘Notorious’. Finally, we all left the show, feeling like ‘wild boys’ and 25 years younger (until the next morning).

Thanks to SAP for a great event, good insights into a roadmap full of innovation, and thanks to the SAP AR team for an interesting agenda, packed with 20+ good meetings with lively discussions.

Please leave a comment or contact me directly.

Kind regards,

Holger Kisker