Last week, in the Enterprise Irregulars chat room I said in a thread “Analyst Relations at vendors generally want to influence v. seek intelligence. So they want analysts to say nice things about what they can offer today. As important should be influence of their own R&D. This is how our market and competition are changing and how our offering should change. But how many vendors really want to hear that from an analyst?”
Well, I have to eat crow.
At a meeting SAP organized for analysts this week in Utah, they actively sought feedback on messaging they are planning for their SapphireNow event. They also shared plenty of detail on their $ 8 billion acquisition of Qualtrics. Xs and Os were definitely in the air as it coincided with their X4 Experience Management user event in town . SAP has been looking at datasets which integrate Qualtrics experiential data with operational data from its own systems. It was all under NDA (at least for a few weeks till SapphireNow) but the conversation with many of the senior executives was refreshingly open. I cannot remember the last time we have had so much candid conversations with a vendor.
Two other things stood out for me on this trip. We got to see the Xs and Os in a very different setting. Stacey Fish and Craig Cmehil of SAP, Jon Reed of Diginomica and I helped kick off a hackathon at Brigham Young University. The dataset the students worked on included employee data from SuccessFactors and related survey data from Qualtrics. Thinking back to my own student days, I would have been intimidated by the assignment. But these young men and women have already used ERP software and data visualization tools in class and in internships. It was invigorating to see their enthusiasm.
I enjoy presenting at campuses around the world on themes from my books. This session coincided with the 14th birthday and 6,000 post anniversary of the New Florence blog. I told these young ones I was amazed my blog was going strong after all these years – for me so much innovation is the sign “it’s a great time to be alive” like it was in Florence during the European Renaissance.
On the drive, we had conversations about changing developer communities, a theme I also cover in the book. Open Source, ML in China, Industrie 4.0 in Germany, changing investments in Silicon Valley. We talked about movies about developers and geeks – War Games, Tron, Pump up the Volume and many others. It was a useful reminder of the constant turmoil that technology brings. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.
Being around the SAP management team this week, you could not help but sense the restructuring SAP is going through. Dennis Howlett describes it in his own Hollywood terms here. Open as SAP may be, I stayed away from prying too much. There are legal and other sensitivities during such corporate initiatives. As an individual, I sympathize with those that get hurt during such moves. However, in my book, I point to many opportunities SAP has missed so I think we will see even more change. And, whether SAP changes or not, the world around it is changing rapidly as our conversations at and to and from BYU brought out in spades.
Having said all that, SAP is an aberration when it comes to openness. I see too many vendors seek out a string of positive tweets at their events, limit access for conversations with execs, express annoyance at even the slightest negative comment. What is concerning is many of these comments come courtesy of their customers but they would rather have not have them publicly repeated. I expect to get unhappy comments from other vendors in the book. They would prefer I only pick on SAP. So, for the most part my observation about influence v. intelligence still applies. Will it change? I hope so, but after 25 years at Gartner and since, I am also pragmatic.
What I can do, is to compliment vendors like SAP when they do show openness. And hope it spreads around the industry.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)