SAP’s Hasso Plattner began his moody appearance at Sapphire 2019 in Orlando, Florida with saying that his keynote will be the low-cost version of what attendees saw the day before. And by that, he meant SAP CEO Bill McDermott’s keynote where he pulled out all the stops.
For the first time ever, a customer walked on stage first and welcomed attendees to Sapphire 2019. After that, Bill McDermott himself took over the stage with his usual optimism and promised viewers a fantastic future.
Sapphire 2019 was characterized by a lot of vague promises. There was nothing definitive. Bill McDermott and executive board member Christian Klein promised that everything would soon be better.
Long-time SAP customers might be wary of these promises, as they contradict what is currently happening at the software company.
Sapphire vs. reality
Executive board member Michael Kleinemeier still has no successor. As most customers know, he had to extend his contract for another year. He will therefore also be attending Sapphire 2020, even though he originally planned to retire at the end of 2019.
With the departure of Rob Enslin, SAP’s cloud business lost its mastermind. Now, three executive board members have to clean up the resulting mess: Christian Klein, Jennifer Morgan, and Juergen Mueller.
On stage, everything looks marvelous at Sapphire. Behind the scenes, not so much.
CFO Luka Mucic was the one to slam the brakes when he announced a second Capital Markets Day in New York this year at Sapphire. This was big news for SAP – especially because such drastic measures were unexpected.
Hasso Plattner’s sarcastic remarks might have come off as jokes, but they reflected the root of the problem. Plattner did give a low-cost Sapphire keynote – mostly because his long-time partner and former CTO Bernd Leukert wasn’t there to support him. SAP’s new CTO Juergen Mueller was apparently not ready for the big Sapphire stage yet.
Hasso Plattner’s Sapphire promise
However, even Hasso Plattner couldn’t stop himself from making a vague promise. One thing he repeated over and over again was the metaphor of the hockey stick.
The hockey stick was meant to symbolize SAP’s soul-searching phase after the Callidus and Qualtrics acquisitions. It was meant as a metaphor for Hana’s future growth, for its potential to become the platform for the intelligent enterprise.
SAP’s revenue, margin, and stock price could all increase fast if SAP makes an effort in the next few years. If you would depict that growth in a graph, it would kind of look like a hockey stick. But this is only one of many vague Sapphire promises.
Even the German-speaking SAP user group DSAG, usually very sympathetic with SAP, sees a lot of major challenges.
“Ariba, Hybris, Concur, Fieldglass, Callidus, and most recently Qualtrics: SAP’s acquisition policy has led to a massive need in recent years to bring systems and master data together. We are aware that the solutions purchased from SAP still involve some integration difficulties. We have already informed SAP that the integration of the individual components is still unsatisfactory. From our point of view, there are signs that SAP is already working on further integration and, as announced at Sapphire, offers a first solution in the area of customer management with the Customer Data Cloud”, Marco Lenck, Chairman of DSAG, says.
Big data vs. Hana
There was one thing in Hasso Plattner’s keynote that definitely wasn’t just a vague promise. One slide of his Sapphire presentation showed the global data volume and how it will increase over time.
Plattner himself than addressed concerns that many customers have been having for years: that an in-memory database like Hana simply isn’t equipped to handle such big data volumes. The concept of Hana is that all data is in main memory. Big data requires something else. SAP thought ahead.
In 2010, it acquired Sybase and with it the database ASE (Adaptive Server Enterprise). Its architecture is similar to Hana’s but it is oriented more towards hard drive. The combination of Hana’s in-memory computing and Sybase’s ASE allows SAP to build major hybrid database systems for big data. SAP customers would then get the best of both worlds with the Hana platform; fast in-memory computing and cost-efficient hard drive.
Can Qualtrics solve SAP’s problems?
Integration and databases are only two of the many problems Hasso Plattner currently sees at SAP. He hoped that SAP employees would step out of their comfort zone and their air-conditioned offices and do something about it.
Hasso Plattner believes that Qualtrics could help. This software platform would allow for fast and definitive customer feedback. Consequently, SAP would be able to better plan its own development cycles.
On the Sapphire stage, Plattner also urged Bill McDermott to increase the speed of innovation significantly. SAP’s co-founder thinks that the public cloud with continuous invisible release changes for Hana, S/4, Qualtrics and more is the future for SAP customers.
It was hard to make SAP successful, Hasso Plattner said during his Sapphire keynote. It will be even harder for employees to keep it successful, he warned.
Based on their reactions during Plattner’s keynote, it wasn’t entirely clear if SAP customers were convinced of his public cloud vision.
This is the first part of a mini-series focusing on Sapphire 2019. If you would like to read the next one, click here.