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SAP CEO talks Qualtrics acquisition, says experience data is critical

At the Qualtrics X4 Summit, SAP CEO Bill McDermott argues that experience data is now central to business success. He promised to build the capability to merge operational and experience data.

SALT LAKE CITY -- At the Qualtrics X4 Summit, users seeking clues about how SAP might change the newly acquired firm didn't get much in the way of insight from SAP CEO Bill McDermott. But McDermott, with plenty of swagger on stage, promised that the combination of the two firms would make other experience management competitors "nonviable."

McDermott also gave CRM tool makers something to worry about arguing that experience management platforms will cost CRM platforms some of its importance.

SAP recently acquired Qualtrics for $8 billion. The overarching goal of the Qualtrics acquisition is to create a system that combines the operational data collected by SAP's systems with the "experience data" Qualtrics gathers from customers and employees.

McDermott seemed to go out of his way to emphasize how critical the Qualtrics acquisition is to the future of SAP. "The most important thing on our agenda right now is experience management," he said.

But bigger questions for Qualtrics and SAP customers went unanswered. McDermott didn't go into detail on how the two companies will change each other, to what extent will Qualtrics' methods of collecting "experience data" from customers and employees affect SAP's broad set of products, or, conversely, what impact will SAP have on Qualtrics customers? Will it change its culture and approaches?

There were no insights, for instance, into how the Qualtrics acquisition might influence SAP SuccessFactors, its HR platform.

Users weigh in

Qualtrics produces what it calls an experience management platform, or XM platform. It measures four key areas: employee experience (EX), product experience (PX), customer experience (CX) and brand experience (BX).

The most important thing on our agenda right now is experience management.
Bill McDermottCEO, SAP

Saphra Cleveland, a statistician at APQC, a member-based research organization, said she has no idea how SAP might change Qualtrics, but she knows what she doesn't want to lose, and that's the simplicity of the platform.

"It's super user-friendly," Cleveland said about Qualtrics products. The back end is sophisticated, she said, "but the interfacing side is not sophisticated, and I don't want it to lose that."

"I want it to be very simple like Apple products," she said.

Brett Hammond, who uses Qualtrics to analyze patient data at stem cell research firm StemSurge, believes the SAP acquisition will be a plus for Qualtrics. "It gives them the ability to expand and grow and [gives them] purchasing power for their XM platform," he said.

McDermott said the combination of the two firms will be powerful. "If you all can marry the experience and the operating data in a real-time board room," he said, "you are going to win in your marketplace."

McDermott also believes the impact of the combination of operational and experience data will be broad. CRM is one example of a tool that will be affected, and he predicted it will drop down in terms of its strategic relevance.

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