SAP Taps HANA as Starting QB to Take Company "Forward"

by Ken Murphy, Editorial Director, Data & Analytics

May 14, 2013

San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York perfectly summed up SAP’s mobile, cloud, social, and analytics strategies during the SAPPHIRE NOW keynote Tuesday morning while discussing his experiences as a fan at a Notre Dame football game.

Joined onstage by SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, NBA deputy and future commissioner Adam Silver and moderator James Brown of the NFL Today on CBS for the longest segment of the 90-minute keynote, York discussed sitting in the front row at the 50-yard line during a game at Notre Dame and yet feeling like he wasn’t on top of the action because he couldn’t follow the conversation about a controversial on-field ruling.

Think about that for a second: Front row. 50-yard-line.  Not a better seat in the house, and yet not feeling connected. Having a “front-row seat” always has meant metaphorically being part of the action, an eyewitness to history. Being there was more than just enough, it was everything. Now, that “front-row seat” means being connected with the world; listening, commenting, and understanding what is happening in real-time. York’s intent wasn’t to disparage the in-game experience; he is, after all, the CEO of an NFL team building a $1.2 billion stadium. Rather, he was pointing out that today’s fan expects more.  

McDermott hammered this point home during his opening remarks before a conference hall audience of 20,000, with an additional 80,000, including this writer, watching on-line. For businesses and consumers alike, access to real-time, actionable insight is the future. And for SAP, that future will be realized by the potential of SAP HANA, which McDermott characterized as “the fastest growing software product in the world,” the “intellectual renewal of SAP,” and the “platform for everything that SAP does moving forward.”

It is no surprise, then, that McDermott discussed the influence of the Millennial Generation, those 2 billion consumers born between 1980 and 1995 who, McDermott said, were “born into the mobile device.” Like the sports fan who expects instant up-to-date statistics, those consumers look at technology as purpose-driven, not product-driven; software, not hardware.

Summoning his inner Millennial, McDermott said that for that influential segment “technology doesn’t make me who I am; it allows me to do what I want.”

And that, really, is at the heart of SAP’s game-plan moving forward, evidenced by McDermott’s closing remarks when he said that SAP now defines itself as a B2B2C market leader with “user experience  now our top priority.” For SAP, he said, its most important consideration as it touches 75% of all worldwide transactions that are conducted on the SAP Business Suite is that “behind every business process is a real person.”

So for all the talk of how SAP HANA can help businesses run “smarter, faster, and simpler,” McDermott’s message during the keynote was SAP HANA’s real value being derived from helping people improve their everyday lives. From the car that can help its driver find parking, to personalized medicine, to biometric shirts, to real-time sports stats, to the application that gives brewers real-time statistics on beer pours, SAP HANA helps transform heretofore “dark data” into meaningful data by making sense of intent to predict future possibilities. (For more on beer industry insights, check out the article on WeissBerger on Page 27 of SAPinsider’s special SAP HANA issue.)

After wrapping up his opening remarks, McDermott introduced his all-star sports panel for more discussion of SAP HANA. York and the 49ers of course teamed with SAP to develop the SAP Scouting mobile app, and Silver pointed out that the NBA statistics page on is powered by SAP HANA.

And that fan experience that York unintentionally disparaged? Well, look also for SAP HANA to be front and center for the “new” fan experience at the 49ers new home stadium, Levi’s Stadium, scheduled to open in Santa Clara, Calif., in time for the 2014 season. (SAP is a stadium partner and owns naming right to the team’s practice facility). York said that fans can expect a “ticketless and cashless” experience during game-day, where they can create their own individual experience without leaving their seat; everything from ordering food and drinks to following a fantasy team to having their own sideline reporter.

This experience, McDermott said, is part of SAP’s strategy to “connect the league to the team to the fan in one integrated value chain,” as it rushes headlong from scrimmage into the sports and entertainment industry – the 25th industry it’s now a part of.

No different, really, from SAP’s recognition of the importance of a business’s customers, the “real person” that McDermott said is at the heart of every transaction with the SAP Business Suite and the SAP HANA platform that intends to make that customer’s everyday existence “smarter, faster, and simpler.”

Front-row seat, indeed.

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