It’s been a few years since I’ve attended SAP’s SAPPHIRE conference, and after two days of briefings, keynotes, demos and experiencing some excellent multi-media production (more on this in a bit), I’ve got to say that as a digital marketer and long-time SAP industry watcher, there was a lot to like. Participating via SAP’s Business Influencer program (I first started covering the company in the mid-1990s when I was an analyst at Yankee Group), I had the ability to get some 1-on-1 time with a number of CRM and marketing execs, but some of my favorite discussions also took place on the show floor and with other analysts in the press room. So what are some of my takeaways?
It’s all about mobile. Everywhere you looked, there were iPads, smartphones and mobile apps on display. In fact, at the show, SAP announced a new wave of workplace and lifestyle apps to provide real-time mobile access to HR, finance, sales and mobile commerce functions. Some examples (that I could use!) include a Travel Expense Report mobile app, new solutions for playing e-learning content on iPads, and a mobile SFA (Customer Briefing) app for sales executives that combines CRM data with external business and news sources, plus mobile commerce solutions based on the company’s Sybase acquisition, and a number of mobile enhancements and apps for retail shopping, insurance and other business processes.
It’s also about the customer experience. Delivering a complete customer experience was a recurring theme across multiple sessions I attended, starting with a briefing many of the CRM influencers attended with Anthony Leaper and Kevin Knix (featuring a very nice maturity model), which highlighted a new area of focus for the company around social customer engagement – which includes a new partnership with one of the cooler companies in the social intelligence space: NetBase.
On the product front, I’ve been tracking the development of the SAP Web Channel Experience Management solution, and got a look at the latest features in the 2.0 release in Orlando when catching up with Jamie Anderson. In addition to looking great on an iPad, what’s noteworthy about SAP’s integrated e-Commerce solution is that it’s a lot more than just e-Commerce. In fact, there are some very nice e-Marketing feature now built-in like product recommendations, wish lists and loyalty management, integration of social content, and e-Service features including Knowledge Management via integration of eGain’s knowledgebase solution. All of this is delivered via a common user interface for viewing catalogs, product reviews, checking out, tracking orders, returning good and even requesting service, and some real nice use of personalization to keep users engaged – and on-task.
SAPPHIRE goes Hollywood. I’ve always liked SAP’s branding and ‘in-game presentation’ and at the Pulse we preach that there’s no better way to engage your audience before, during and after an event than with video content creation, multi-media experiences and web broadcasting. And man, did the SAPPHIRE event team take this to heart. With multiple broadcast studios on-site to bring the experience in Orlando to a worldwide audience, numerous ways to capture content from participants and influencers (for an example, see my SAP radio interview here), plus extensive online and social media engagement and sharing via www.sap-tv.com, this SAPPHIRE was a true multi-media production that provided a compelling experience whether attendees were onsite or online.
Final Thoughts. There was a lot of energy at SAPPHIRE, some great keynotes and generally a flawless presentation during the first 2 days. What didn’t I like? All the demo pods were good for sampling solutions in an area like Cloud or Mobile, but it was hard to get the ‘big picture’ on the floor and figure out how the various solutions tied together when it came to horizontal capabilities like customer analytics (maybe it was just me). And I know the concept must have looked great on paper, but having MSNBC personality Mika Brzezinski kick-off Bill McDermott’s evening keynote and then interview him live on stage seemed way too staged and just didn’t work for me. Mr. McDermott is a charismatic, likeable executive, and would be better off going solo OR being the one who interviews other guests IMO.
So, what’s the bottom line? As it was when I first started following the company, SAP continues to be a back-office technology powerhouse and a hub for innovation around large-scale business transformation (process), analytics (data) and apps. And the company still knows have to throw a party! But what is also apparent is that over the past couple of years SAP has been making strategic additions to its team – e.g., Bill Hou, and most recently Sameer Patel (who is speaking at IMS San Francisco), strategic acquisitions like SuccessFactors, and adding key partners that 1) fill out its CRM, cloud and customer experience capabilities, 2) create a much more complete story when it comes to social- and mobile-enabled solutions, and 3) offer the company new opportunities to enable both client and non-client organizations to create the next generation of intelligent business networks.