The Sapphire Now conference kicked off Monday in Orlando, Fla., with 60,000 customers, partners and employees of SAP participating, either at the conference facility or watching it online.
The first day of the event offered the usual lineup of celebrity speakers — corporate and otherwise — with Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong featured in the morning and SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott delivering his keynote in the afternoon.
Cloud, Big Data and Mobile
In between the corporate presentations — which included speeches from Anthony Bosco and Bridgette Chambers, respectively chairman and CEO of Americas SAP Users Group — SAP’s marquee customers described their use of the enterprise vendor’s business applications with Big Data, in the cloud, and on mobile devices.
CoinStar, Burberry and Ace Hardware offered their takes on how SAP has worked for them, solving particular pain points and helping to knit together their enterprise IT backbones.
It would have been surprising if these topics hadn’t been featured at Sapphire, Charles King, principal of Pund-IT, told CRM Buyer.
“Mobile collaboration, social collaboration, the business cloud, and such issues as Bring Your Own Device to work (BYOD) are on the top of people’s minds these days,” he said.
The Consumerization of IT
Many of these issues are not necessarily core to SAP’s fundamental value proposition, which is enterprise resource planning. However, as technologies such as the cloud and Big Data become ever more entrenched in the enterprise, SAP must pay them heed.
“In essence, SAP is a company whose feet are firmly planted in the data center from a product standpoint,” noted King, “but as IT gets increasingly consumerized, it feels it must respond with its own initiatives.”
Of course, Sapphire wouldn’t be Sapphire without some dose of SAP’s core computing expertise. Expect to see discussion and display of high performance business analytics, King predicted.
“There is a significant amount of interest in SAP HANA, the business intelligence and analytics platform, especially as it relates to Big Data,” he said.
What is interesting about SAP’s approach, King said, is that it is partnering with a number of vendors in the analytics space, which is a departure from what most firms do.
“Many analytics and ERP companies are single-vendor plays,” King said.
“SAP has done well with HANA to date. If they can successfully position themselves as a partner of choice for vendors that want to get into this space and for customers that want the benefits of a technology like HANA but don’t want the lock-in, they will find themselves far ahead of their competition.”
Expect to hear some practical talk by users in between sessions and keynote addresses as well, said Nucleus Research Vice President Rebecca Wettemann.
“I would expect a lot of customers will be talking about the upgrade path to ECC 6,” she told CRM Buyer. “March 2012 is when the extended maintenance on the prior version ends.”
Customers that have not migrated to version 6 will need to make some decisions very quickly about whether they want to upgrade or move to customer-specific maintenance, she said.
Looking within the SAP ecosystem for assistance — with Sapphire a natural congregation point — is what companies that haven’t made a decision will be doing now and in the coming weeks, she said.
In general, “the Sapphire event is a great opportunity for members to look at SAP’s ecosystem to optimize their use of its applications,” Wettemann added, “so we will likely see a lot of announcements from SAP and its partners as well.”
SAP did not respond to our request for further details.