Readers know my favorite vendor event format is the analyst summit. User conferences are fine, but I always feel we intrude there on customer time. In the past, SAP has done such summits in silos – focused on a products like Ariba or industries. So, I was glad it convened one across its wide portfolio in New York this week. Most of the day and half was under NDA. That annoyed some analysts but it actually allowed for more back and forth. The U shaped format of the room and the volleys between SAP executives and analysts, and the many one-on-ones reminded me of the electric first summit Workday had convened 9 years ago. Of course in 2018, we got to use Taiden infrared wireless microphones and watch presentations on crisp, giant Prysm interactive displays.
The setting was stimulating between the Langham hotel and the SAP offices in the Hudson Yards development. The recently redone hotel with is distinctive Alex Katz art and proximity to NYC icons like the Empire State Building, the Public Library and Grand Central station is a great place to feel the vibrancy of the city. SAP’s offices are breathtaking with a 360 degree vantage of Manhattan and views of train yards, helipads, countless buses, taxis and Uber cars which make the city hum. (I also got to visit a friend at BCG a few floors below whose office is cool in its own way with workout rooms and cafes and a bit further away, Cognizant’s Collaboratory)
I was very encouraged that most of the conversations were focused on process, industry and geography. This used to be SAP’s strength and it is good to hear Board members and a new generation of executives who lead its cloud properties like hybris and Ariba talk fluently about trends in talent management, shop floor, customer facing areas and be able to bring in nuances from different verticals and global regions. Every so often the company gets consumed with platforms and tools like NetWeaver and HANA and forgets it is an application software vendor. There was mandatory technology talk and buzzwords in this session but I felt good about SAP’s present and future after spending time with these executives.
I felt less sure about SAP’s past which was on display in a non-NDA session (as it had already been announced couple of weeks ago – see my reaction then) on its Indirect Access related initiative. SAP is saying the right things that it is contrite and wants to win back customer trust. But going back to each customer and asking them to consider moving from user to document-based pricing is going to take an enormous amount of energy. That is especially so since SAP does not seem to want to recognize that value is moving away from transaction processing to analytics and intelligence. Value is moving away from back-end processes to the front-end digital capture, automation and customer facing activities. That the cloud has already commoditized on-prem processes. That if you want customers to re-open contracts that are 15-20-30 years ago, you cannot just focus on what you want to focus on, but also revisit pricing across industry specific engine pricing and cloud functionality. I hope SAP lets each customer decide if they want to consider changes to their old contracts. They have done dumb things before like raise maintenance rates in the middle of a deep recession so can only hope they don’t not push too hard on this new format.
Overall, though, it was a very enjoyable and educational couple of days. I am hoping to have plenty of material for my blogs and SAP Nation 3.0 from the conversations I hope to continue from these meetings.
Rob Enslin, President, Cloud Business Group who along with Bernd Leukert, who leads Products and Innovation hosted us. Rob told me later he would consider moving the summit to an annual cycle and even expanding it to two full days. That’s great news.
Photo above from SAP’s Hudson Yards office, below of the art in my hotel room –kept expecting the ladies to start playing Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)