day 3 at SAPPHIRE

The third and last day of Sapphire Now in Frankfurt started for me with a round table with SAP CTO, Vishal Sikka, during which he emphasised several times that Netweaver was still SAP’s supported platform and that it’s staying. It was good to have this confirmation, as Jim Hagemann Snabe’s keynote on Tuesday didn’t mention the work “Netweaver” once. Moreover, Snabe talked about a “future stack” and SAP having talks with “software vendors about it”, which initially brought a little confusion to the community.

Then there were of course the much anticipated keynotes from Sikka and Hasso Plattner. A lot of what Vishal was talking about had already been touched upon at the round table earlier in the day.

On In-Memory, I think the community was suprised and even delighted to hear that support for the product goes all the way back to SAP 4.6c. Vishal also talked about “Project Gateway”, which seems to be a key to SAP’s On-Demand ambitions for the “normal” ERP world. The next weeks and months will hopefully provide further clarification on Gateway. Sikka also mentined an internal SAP challenge back in March 2010 to produce 500 mobile apps. Up to Sapphire, more than 600 have now been developed (not all of these published though). It would have been nice to see and hear more about this, but I’m expecting more on this soon.

Plattner’s keynote was more of a dive into In-Memory Database, rounded off with a demo of In-Memory Analytics within a little real world scenario. Plattner delivered it in his usual off-the-cuff style which can be very entertaining. It certainly demonstrated the power this sort of technology has, especially its non-disruptive nature.

Biggest take away for me on day 3 was Business By Design (BBD) though. At a round table with SAP Go-To Market SVP Markus Schwarz and Eric Luengen we were given a demo of BBD version 2.5, the latest version of the on-demand SME solution. It was the first time I had seen BBD in the flesh and I have to admit that I liked UI look and feel (I know that the UI is not everyone’s cup of tea).

Customers should basically be able to re-configure simple things in their system themselves, whilst more complex changes or additions/extensions would be developed by an SDK to be released later this year. The SDK will be based (as mentioned before by Anne Petteroe) on the Microsft Visual Studio and C#. Dennis Howlett mentions some concerns around the possibility of SAP outsourcing the BBD infrastructure to third parties. Once SAP’s BBD team has found a good way how enhancements and plugins developed with this SDK can be marketed, there could be a big potential for a new or enlarged partner ecosystem. Let’s also hope SAP’s marketing efforts are strong enough to get all of this off the ground, as Dennis points out (he knows more about SME SaaS than me).

On the whole, it was a good and down-to-earth SAPPHIRE for me. I was expecting more fluffy, hot air type of stuff, but actually walked away with more hands-on info than I thought. This is also down to the great work of Mark Finnern, Craig Cmehil, Oliver Kohl and also the SAP Global Communications team. Altogether they provided very informative 3 days for me in Frankfurt. Thank You to you all!

day 2 at SAPPHIRE

Day 2 at Sapphire was very much a continuation on SAP’s message regarding innovation and rejuvenation. Apart form the keynotes by the co-CEOs, SAP Mentors and Bloggers had the opportunity to participate in a round table with Jonathan Becher, Executive Vice President of Global Field Marketing. Jonathan explained more about SAP’s aim to use Sapphire to demonstrate to customers the change that is happening within SAP. One major attempt in this area is the re-branding of Sapphire into “SAPPHIRE NOW”. My take on the conference so far is that SAP has managed to show itself in a much more grounded and listening kind of way. A refreshing change from a rather chilled atmosphere not too long ago, triggered by topics such as support costs, for example.

For most of the audience the two keynotes by co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe were the first time they had seen or heard what these two business leaders had to say. Where Bill McDermott showed vision and direction, Snabe filled the strategy and product gap. With Vishal Sikka there is now talk about a “virtual 3rd CEO”, responsible for the technical and architectural part. Judging by the Twtterstream during the keynotes and conversations after the speeches, my impression was that SAP has bounced back and has so far executed well.

However the software giant has quite a task on its hands as far as change internally is concerned. New paradigms such as the hybrid model for On Demand and talks about the “future stack” (for applications) have already caused quite a lot of discussions amongst employees, partners and consultants. Now everyone is looking towards this afternoon’s keynote by Vishal Sikka and the enigmatic Hasso Plattner for some clarity. To be continued.

day 1 at SAPPHIRE

I’m currently at SAP’s annual customer conference SAPPHIRE in Frankfurt. SAP is so far pulling out a lot of stops to get back its mojo in terms of innovation and showing leadership within the business application space. Many of the mentors are onsite in Frankfurt and Orlando (where the other customer event is run in parallel) – a nice change from an otherwise rather “suitey” event.

First session on Monday was a roundtable with SAP’s Ingo Benckmann, Senior Director Solution Management In-Memory Computing. Ingo gave us some high-level insights into how In-Memory Database (IMDB) is executed. SAP very much believes that IMDB is the “right technology at the right time”. Customers have become used to direct, immediate system responses and IMDB very much reflects this trend.

When asked about ways how IMDB will be implemented, Benckmann describes a customer’s path to SAP delivered in-memory technology as a “side car approach”. This means IMDB is added to an existing landscape, run in tandem with any relational database and therefore less disruptive, more like an addition.

“Answers questions you didn’t know you had”
Ingo Benckmann talked about the power of immediate responses from BI queries and new, quicker insights into company data. This was also reflected by other panel comments this morning. Most examples focus on improvements for BI reporting and analysis, I’m hoping to hear more about the transactional data side of things in the near future. In addition, there are necessary changes in the tooling which will probably be discussed in more detail at SAP’s technical conference later this year.


SAP is trying to walk the talk and tried out a new approach to the way how Sapphire is run. This year’s conference is held in parallel in Orlando, FL and Frankfurt, Germany. Keynotes were presented in both locations and via real-time multicast, emphasising the on-demand, immediate and real-time message. Overall, both keynotes by Sir Richard Branson and former US Vice President Al Gore lived up to expectation, albeit a strange interview format with Branson.

Panel Discussion with Jim Hagemann Snabe

On Tuesday morning, a CIO panel discussing “customer demand in a changing business environment” was asked questions by SAP Mentors (note: I’m part of the SAP Mentor group) regarding outlook and commitment on Agile project methodologies. Wolfgang Gaertner, CIO of Deutsche Bank couldn’t see any reasons why agile methodologies shouldn’t be adopted where it makes sense and is safe. Co-CEO Jim Snabe emphasised once again SAP’s commitment to make Agile part of SAP’s lifeblood.

Another interesting question was asked by SAP Mentor Richard Hirsch with regards to the role of SIs and SAP Partners in an on-demand software model. Snabe’s view is that SAP’s job is to create and maintain a stable core platform with various business processes, leaving the differentiation to the partners. I can imagine that this would mean quite a game changer for SAP partners (and potentially a lot less project work).

During the same session Snabe also emphasised a “hybrid” model of on-premise and on-demand software for many years to come. According to Snabe, On-premise is going to become more “shrink-wrapped”, which was most likely a hint towards more Best Practices.

All in all a good start to Sapphire and SAP’s efforts to regain customer confidence. Two more days to come.