ORLANDO, Florida — Empathy was the main theme emanating from SAP CEO Bill McDermott’s keynote presentation before an announced record-setting crowd of 30,000 attendees at Tuesday’s opening day of SAPPHIRE NOW 2016.
The overriding goal for SAP, McDermott said, is to demonstrate an unmatched level of passion, energy, and empathy for the customer. That alone, he said, "tells the story of whether we win or lose," and is a promise backed by innovation, design thinking, and superior products that customers, once in possession, cannot believe they ever lived without.
This was a subtle shift that advances SAP’s “Run Simple” messaging that accompanied the 2015 release of SAP S/4HANA, and moves it to a focus on running the "Live Business," SAP’s new mantra.
"I’ve been talking about ‘simple’ for quite a while now, but I know that simple is hard," McDermott said in explaining SAP’s goal of streamlining business complexity and making it simple for companies to run live with technologies such as SAP S/4HANA. And with SAP systems running 76% of the world’s transactions and enabling $39 trillion of world commerce, SAP’s commitment to a "new company culture" of being straight-forward and empathetic to customer needs and goals could go a long way to making the Live Business a reality.
As a proof point of this commitment, McDermott announced the Value Assurance Program, created to help SAP S/4HANA customers make the most of their investment and help ensure the feasibility and viability of the solution for their specific organizations. The four-pronged program includes planning and safeguarding, technical implementation support, migration and functional implementation support, and an innovation and optimization arm.
McDermott announced the program as a mea culpa of sorts for an initial lack of a cohesive roadmap for SAP S/4HANA, spurred in part by the rapid adoption of approximately 3,200 customers within the first year of its release. Moving forward with empathy for customers as they look to run live, McDermott vowed that SAP wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
"This is a company,” he said, “that is on fire for serving the customer…. If the heart and soul is totally committed to the customer and the customer’s customer, we’ll get it right."
McDermott underscored the importance of the announced change in company culture by his assertion that the next decade will be much more disruptive to the enterprise than the previous decade. "Machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality… intelligent applications will fundamentally change the way you do work in the enterprise and collaborate with trading partners outside of the enterprise," he said.
While this makes connecting with and understanding what customers are trying to achieve so critical, it’s not a new lesson, said McDermott, who drew a parallel from his days as a small business owner running a New York delicatessen. "If [the customer] doesn’t walk back in the door, you’re dead."
So even though the products and technologies McDermott is selling today — a digital core in SAP S/4HANA, and cloud, network, and Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled technologies — are quite different, the vision for customer empathy remains strong.
'I want to convey the obsession we have for (you) and your customers," he said, in the drive to help change business models. "We want to dedicate our company to that goal."
News and Notes
The initial seven SAP partners for the Value Assurance Program are Accenture, Capgemini, Deloitte, EY, IBM, PwC, and Wipro. … McDermott provided his email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and asked customers to email him if they don’t see what’s happening at SAPPHIRE NOW in their own companies. … Elena Donio, President of Concur, discussed Concur’s integration with both Starbucks and Uber for customers to file expense reports at point of sale. She also demonstrated "smart luggage," a travel bag that integrates with the traveler’s itinerary that offers immediate notification if the itinerary is off track. … Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Intel CEO Intel Brian Krzanich joined McDermott on stage separately to discuss several joint innovations. Krzanich took and posted a selfie with McDermott on Twitter. …. SAP SuccessFactors President Mike Ettling echoed the empathy theme in a panel with other SAP executives by saying that "success is simply human."