Notes from Sapphire 2013

Sapphire 2013

Sapphire 2013

It was a last minute decision of sorts. After toying around with the idea of whether to give Sapphire a miss this year or not, I finally decided, it is only apt for a growing company like ours to keep its eyes and ears open at conferences like this. Why? For the simple reason, that we got to keep pace with the ever changing priorities at SAP (not to mention the rapidly changing acronyms, UIs, to name a few).

Let me get down to the main question first.

Was it worth the travel and the time away from the office?

Answer: Yes.

What was my biggest takeaway from Sapphire/ASUG 2013?

Answer: HANA and Cloud

Anything else?

Answer: Hmmm. Yes. Actually to be specific, HANA, Cloud, HANA, Mobile, HANA, HANA, Fiori..oh by the way Did I forget HANA?

How were the keynote sessions?

Sometimes the keynote sessions alone make a conference of this magnitude worth attending (remotely or onsite). I have to say I was not that impressed with the overall keynote content. Professor Plattner’s was the only one I got to relish the most while from SAP’s perspective Bill McDermott’s opening keynote may have been the most impactful, given how he had some really powerful customer endorsement in the form of Under Armour and all that. However, not to take away anything from SAP’s overall attempt to keep the messaging of the conference consistent, I also felt that the introduction of Fiori during the last keynote session by Vishal Sikka brought in an equal amount of excitement and confusion at the same time, which has almost become a routine now with SAP’s every new product announcement.

What is the general direction SAP is taking?

Well. This is a great question for which there is no simple answer. Before, during and after Sapphire I have heard many people talk about how SAP, as a company, is changing from being a software company to a platform oriented company. The buzz on twitterverse echoes the same sentiment. SAP’s emphasis on HANA and Cloud being case in point.

But I do sense the restlessness at the top at SAP. The realization that the future is about providing multiple options to customers is what is driving SAP to line up a series of features/platforms/products at the same time. Needless to say, this is going to pose a great challenge to SAP, because neither do their partners like us (Cogent IBS) have clarity on where SAP wants to prioritize, nor do their customers have a hand holding SAP angel to steer them in the general direction of ‘light’.

Is HANA here to stay?

Yes. One of the main objectives for me attending this conference was to gather some information around HANA and scope out its metrics. SAP’s shift from pushing HANA mainly as a great aid for analytics to a great aid for Big Data processing and Big Data analytics was very evident during the conference. I attended a couple of sessions on HANA for Payroll & HCM.  And as an HCM/Payroll professional, I am very excited about using HANA for HCM and I can imagine how other module applications could benefit from HANA. So, there is a certainly a future for HANA. It boils down to SAP’s pricing strategy around HANA and how it manages to successfully market the cloud features around HANA. I will be keeping a close eye on the developments.

Anything interesting on the HCM front?

Yes – It was very interesting to note that SAP is continuing to invest in HR core while pushing Successfactors Employee Central aggressively. In fact, SAP is heavily investing in HR Renewal, an HR Core all inclusive and mobile friendly UI. I couldn’t attend HR Renewal sessions, but from talking to others it was obvious that the customers still have a choice to stay on premise and work with HR Core (what we traditionally know as ECC), while having the opportunity to get a taste of HR Renewal and all that. No one will be forced to use Successfactors Employee Central. That is good news for partners and consulting companies like Cogent IBS.

What about Fiori?

What about it? Oh yes, Fiori means Flower in Italian. SAP Fiori is a brand new app collection built on a new UI (UI5 platform). Looks sleek and is reusable..(looks the same on desktops and mobile devices). For starters, SAP has bundled some 25 apps including some self service ones. Other than the fact, when I looked at the demo, Fiori looked pretty sleek and minimalistic, the larger question is will customers buy into this. I have my own sense of skepticism around SAP Fiori just because I think it is a work in progress initiative at this point and SAP is a bit too aggressive in getting the word out (Did I mention that the keynote speech by Sikka included a good 20-25 minutes of flower based slide backgrounds and great amount of wisdom on symmetry of nature, etc.??). But I am willing to give it a chance. If anything, my biggest takeaway from this was to explore UI5 as a development tool for some of our future apps that Cogent’s Mobility team plans to develop.

It was great seeing some clients, partners and old colleagues. Also, it was great making some new professional connections. If anyone is interested in getting some more specific details on any of the topics above, please contact me.

I will be covering the HR2013 Amsterdam soon (June). We will have a booth there – Booth 925.

Follow us on twitter @cogentibs. See you soon.

-Ganpy.

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