Having attended Sapphire in the past I was prepared for long days, warm weather, fantastic networking and a renewed faith in SAP. I left with all but the latter.

Several folks I talked to commented on a “lack of energy” across the conference and a sense of tiredness. Tiredness not from the attendees after long nights of Accenture, Deloitte, and Capgemini’s open bars and customer events, but tiredness from yet another year of SAP stating they are making changes but not showing any definite progress.

This, on top of the recent rounds of layoffs, the reservation system crash during check-in and the less-than-adequate app leads us to question SAP’s ability to keep up with current market demands. Customers have exceedingly high expectations, and as an industry leader SAP needs to step it up.

While everyone’s experience at a conference as large as Sapphire (30,000+ attendees) will be different, a few key points stood out from my perspective:

A lack of live, satisfied S/4HANA clients

Yes, they exist, but they are far and few between. A majority of customer experiences shared were referencing upgrades or implementations still in progress. Implementation in progress does not fit our general standard of “success”. The recently published “SAP S/4HANA: State of the Market” by SAPinsider states that a mere 7% of survey respondents are currently live on S/4HANA. This is well behind direct competitors including Oracle ERP Cloud and Microsoft D365.

SAP as a whole is confusing

This is nothing new and has been the case for years as SAP has tried rebranding its products. Perhaps some improvements and standardizations are in the works as SAP pushes a strong move towards S/4HANA, but it is still confusing for customers evaluating SAP S/4HANA vs. Oracle Cloud ERP vs. Microsoft Dynamics and other ERP products.

Try explaining to anyone the differences between SAP S/4HANA, SAP HANA, SAP C/4HANA, SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA, HANA private vs. public cloud deployment, SAP HANA on AWS, Google Cloud Platform (or express edition on Google Cloud Launcher), IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure or AliCloud, etc.

Then try explaining partial upgrades, model companies, hybrids between ECC and HANA, and throw in the data discussion and people tend to give up. It may all be well and good, but SAP failed in my view to give clients any clear direction across the differences in deployment options, applications and integrations. It feels a bit like Oracle Fusion Déjà vu.

Lack of organization

Possibly stemming from the above point, there was no real organization to the conference that I found to really tap into. The app wasn’t especially clear and the staff in general seemed frustrated to receive any questions (yes, there were some very nice folks, but they were not able to help find anything besides food and restrooms).

This, in itself, could be overlooked, but perhaps this stems from a bigger cultural issue across SAP? With the recent layoff of 4,400 employees and the exodus of senior leadership, maybe a lack of enthusiasm should be expected. SAP talks about cleaning and entering a new era, and we are eager to see where they land.

The good

The conference was certainly not without some fun and excitement, including talks of emerging technologies, RPA, Data Intelligence and IoT, as well as a performance by Lady Gaga. Another potentially positive note is that SAP finally does seem to realize it may be a bit behind in cloud adoption. While the keynotes didn’t specifically state this fact, the message was clear with the new push toward public cloud (SaaS) and reminders of the 2025 deadline, forcing customers to ask when to upgrade from ECC to S/4HANA.

Conclusion:

Despite the disappointments taken back from Sapphire, SAP remains one of the top ERP systems in the Enterprise Technology space and has a tremendous opportunity to bring its legacy customers into the cloud. Hasso Plattner’s concept of the “Intelligent Enterprise” is a grand vision and is hopefully a term that SAP will continue to brand.
We are excited to watch SAP in the coming months and years and will update our reports as the German giant proves its worth in the modern era of enterprise computing.

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