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Practical info on tap at SAP Sapphire Now 2018

At Sapphire Now 2018, SAP needs to combine high-level conceptual information with practical examples of how its technology helps businesses solve real business problems.

Next-generation technologies such as AI are likely to dominate the stage at SAP Sapphire Now 2018. The annual conference of SAP users, partners and vendors takes place June 5-7 in Orlando, Fla.

Like past conferences, it's expected that SAP will showcase its latest technology and product advancements, but attendees also expect to see practical applications of how the technologies solve real problems.

Gavin Quinn, founder and CEO of Mindset, a Minneapolis-based SAP partner that specializes in SAP Fiori development and implementations, believes that machine learning and AI will be the biggest overall focus, but he wants to see how SAP is using this in realistic ways.

"Last year was more about 'here's Leonardo and look at these exciting things we're doing,' but now we want to know how much the rubber hits the road," Quinn said.

There's evidence that this will happen, in that SAP has been putting AI and machine learning features into live applications, but the proof may lie in the keynotes. Quinn explained that he would like to see major customers provide testimonials about how AI features have changed their businesses, which may put SAP ahead of the other major vendors that are integrating AI into ERP platforms.

"There's been a lot of talk running up, but those kinds of success stories would lock it in for me," Quinn said. "I think SAP CoPilot could get a lot of play, which is their bot play in a lot of ways, so I think that will get a lot of gravity during Sapphire."

More clarity on ERP applications, please

SAP Sapphire Now 2018 attendees should hear a lot about Leonardo and connectivity, but SAP needs to strike the right balance between high-level conceptual discourse and practical applications of their technology, according to Cindy Jutras, president of Mint Jutras, an ERP consulting firm.

All too often they talk at such a high level of abstraction that it becomes somewhat meaningless, either that or they get into the weeds of the technical details.
Cindy Jutraspresident, Mint Jutras

"All too often they talk at such a high level of abstraction that it becomes somewhat meaningless, either that or they get into the weeds of the technical details," Jutras said. "I would also like to hear if they are bringing SAP Leonardo down into the midmarket and if so, how."

Midmarket companies don't want to focus on technical possibilities, Jutras said. They want technology to solve problems and don't have the time, money or expertise to develop their own applications.

Jutras is most interested in seeing what SAP is doing on the ERP applications front, including S/4HANA, SAP Business One and SAP Business ByDesign, but she noted that Sapphire is not usually known for that focus.

"On the SME side I am hoping to get an update on the process of turning Business One into a platform and I'd like to get some clarity on Business ByDesign," she said. "It seems like Business ByDesign and S4/HANA are starting to encroach on each other's market segments, and I'd also like some additional clarity on S4/HANA Cloud specifically."

SAP targets Salesforce in CRM market

SAP appears to be clearly targeting Salesforce, which is expected to be a main theme at SAP Sapphire Now 2018, according to Kelsey Mason, senior analyst at Technology Business Research.

"It will be interesting to see how they take all of their various [CRM] front-office assets -- Hybris, Callidus, Gigya -- and create one comprehensive suite and how they tie Leonardo, specifically the AI and IoT aspects, to that portfolio," Mason said. "I expect that CRM rebrand to share center stage with S/4HANA and SAP Leonardo, and the theme once again will be the intelligent enterprise."

Mason would also like to see how SAP's concept of "customer empathy" comes into play, particularly in light of the indirect access issue of the past year.

"This will likely be touted on the main stage, first as a way to show customers that SAP has heard their complaints and has addressed them, and second a proof point to show that SAP is the only vendor to have clear pricing strategies for digital access in IoT scenarios," she said.

Mason expects a lot of hype around S/4HANA, the new CRM portfolio, and SAP Leonardo, but would like to see how SAP ties its "orbiting applications," including SuccessFactors, SAP Ariba and Concur, into its intelligent enterprise vision, rather than treating them as an afterthought.

"I would also like to get a sense for traction within the S/4HANA portfolio," she said. "Most of the customers to date have chosen the on-premises version, but it would be great to hear the breakdown of customers using public cloud, HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) hosted, and on-premises S/4HANA. It would also be nice to understand how many customers have chosen just one aspect of S/4HANA such as Simple Finance versus how many have chosen the full S/4HANA suite."

Mason would also like to see SAP Services have a presence alongside major SAP service providers, including Accenture, Deloitte and EY.

"SAP Services is a big part of the S/4HANA and SAP Leonardo stories, but one that doesn't seem to be highlighted as much," she said. "It does complicate SAP's relationships with some of its major partners, but that's why I think putting them together on stage to talk about how they can work together to help customers form and execute digital transformations and become the intelligent enterprise would be good to hear for both customers and partners. I'm not holding my breath that this will happen, but certainly something that would be nice to see."

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