Bill McDermott: Cloud First, Alibaba, And C/4 Hana
Blog SAP Community

Bill McDermott: Cloud First, Alibaba, And C/4 Hana

SAP CEO Bill McDermott has a distinct strategy: cloud first, and S/4 and Hana for everyone. To be able to implement it, however, he is forced to form new kinds of partnerships.

For example, in 2018, he entered a partnership with Alibaba, a Chinese multinational conglomerate specializing in e-commerce and retail.

“China has been SAP’s second home for more than two decades,” McDermott said in a press release. “Alibaba and SAP’s growing partnership expands our ability to empower digital China by building intelligent enterprises. SAP embraces the China Dream as we prepare for substantial expansion here in the years ahead.”

Alibaba and SAP are planning to offer Chinese customers S/4 Cloud and SAP Cloud Platform through Alibaba Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. Consequently, they hope to make it easier for customers to opt for the cloud.

Basic guidelines of Alibaba partnership

At the Computing Conference 2018 in Hangzhou, China, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang and Bill McDermott explained the basic guidelines of their new partnership. Alibaba and SAP have been providing joint solutions through the Alibaba cloud for two years now. Their aim is to help customers in China keep up with a changing market. Since last year, they have been working on a strategy to offer S/4 and Hana in the cloud.

Alibaba’s customers are furthermore supposed to expand their existing corporate solutions, develop new applications, and integrate third-party technology with SAP Cloud Platform.

“We are pleased our partnership with SAP reached new heights today,” said Daniel Zhang about the new agreement. “The availability of SAP’s globally renowned ERP system S/4 Hana Cloud on Alibaba Cloud is another milestone in our globalization strategy, and exemplary of our mission to make it easy to do business anywhere. We have formed a close collaboration with SAP in the past, and it is exciting for us to expand our partnership.”

In the course of the partnership, SAP will continue to use Alibaba Cloud. In turn, Alibaba will use ERP software S/4 to support its business model and push forward with its innovation. Alibaba and SAP will also evaluate a partnership in the areas of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, New Retail, and New Manufacturing.

The partnership hopes to provide companies with solutions that support digital changes and help generate value for customers. “The entrepreneurs who believe and embrace the future, and who can leverage new thinking, new concepts and new technologies will be future winners,” said Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba.

Collaborations and acquisitions like Qualtrics seem to be what Bill McDermott means by empathy. McDermott also strengthened or initiated partnerships with AWS, Google, and Microsoft.

Microsoft and SAP

As a show of commitment, Microsoft and SAP announced last year that they would now use each other’s cloud solutions. Both companies will have to decide for themselves which one of them got the better deal.

Through their partnership, the companies will co-engineer, go to market together with premier solutions and provide joint support services to ensure a good cloud experience for customers.

“We are taking our partnership to the next level with this new capability to run S/4 Hana in the Microsoft Azure environment,” said Bill McDermott. “Businesses trust Microsoft and SAP. Together, we will help companies win the customer-driven growth revolution.”

Both SAP and Microsoft will leverage S/4 on Azure for their business processes. Microsoft is currently restructuring its internal systems and will implement S/4 Central Finance on Azure.

CRM, Salesforce, and C/4 Hana

Besides new partnerships, acquisitions, and his “Cloud First” strategy, Bill McDermott will have to prove himself in an area of his choosing: CRM. With C/4 Hana, he wants to become leading CRM provider and surpass his biggest competition in that area, Salesforce. He wants C/4 to assume a similar position like ERP.

The new CRM suite is supposed to support customers and bind them to SAP. Bill McDermott furthermore wants to redefine Customer Relationship Management. His vision for C/4 is that of a continuous offer not just focused on operational requirements, like many traditional CRM solutions.

After the acquisitions of Hybris, Gigya, Callidus cloud and Qualtrics, SAP wants to combine all of these solutions to cover every front-office area, like customer data security, marketing, trade, sales, and customer service.

“SAP was the last to accept the status quo of CRM and is now the first to change it,” McDermott said. “The legacy CRM systems are all about sales; C/4 Hana is all about the consumer. We recognize that every part of a business needs to be focused on a single view of the consumer. When you connect all SAP applications together in an intelligent cloud suite, the demand chain directly fuels the behaviors of the supply chain.”

Now we have come full circle. In his book “Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office”, Bill McDermott describes how he was never one to simply accept the status quo for what it is. He always tried to push the boundaries of what was perceived possible.

Bill McDermott successfully pushed boundaries in his years at SAP. If customers and employees have always appreciated it as much as he would like them to is a different story.

This is the last article of a series. If you would like to read the first one, click here.

E-3 Magazine February 2019 (German)

About the author

Peter M. Färbinger, Editor-in-Chief

Peter M. Färbinger is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher at E-3 Magazine, AG, Munich, Germany. He can be reached at

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Sign up for e3zine´s biweekly newsbites

Please do not use administrative mail adresses like "noreply@..", "admin@.." or similar as these may get blocked for security reasons.

We use rapidmail for dispatching our newsletter. By signing up, you agree that the data you have entered will be transmitted to rapidmail. Please take note of their terms and conditions and privacy policy.termsandconditions.

Our Authors