SAP sells new ‘customer empathy’ approach, unveils real-time, cloud-based IT updates

ORLANDO — Listen up enterprises: SAP‘s Bill McDermott wants to “keep it real” with you when it comes to the changing needs of IT. In fact, the CEO for the business applications provider used the phrase several times during his keynote at the company’s 28th annual SapphireNow & ASUG Conference event this week in Orlando.

McDermott recounted tales of visiting customers around the world, including Canadian firms. “Seventy-six per cent the world’s business transactions run through an SAP system,” claims McDermott, adding the customer will ultimately determine whether SAP wins or loses as a company. He encountered a perception that SAP wasn’t responding fast enough to enterprise demands for more real-time and streamlined processes and was lacking, as he termed it, “customer empathy.”

SAP as a company aims to do a better job of knowing more about customer concerns in order to succeed, he said. Innovation is about products, listening to customers, and setting up innovation in the ecosystem: “We might not have it right on Monday, but by Friday we will fix it,” he offered.

“We have to know and care more,” he added. “This is a customer-to-business economy… everything has to start with that empathy for the end user,” he said. This includes a stronger focus on real-time interactions and making it easier for enterprises to move to the cloud.

He formally committed an “SAP value assurance” for enterprises, saying it was a pledge to speed up new deployments and improve access to customer support. He also touched on the importance of being more personally accessible to customers, going so far as to providing his email address — [email protected].

SAP CEO Bill McDermott addresses media at the 28th annual SapphireNow event in Orlando
SAP CEO Bill McDermott, left, addresses media and analysts at the 28th annual SapphireNow event in Orlando

SAP is in a unique position as a technology company, McDermott told during a post-keynote executive Q&A session. The company is recognizing how important the cloud and network technologies are to today’s organizations: “We always want the technology to be a little bit ahead of the education of the workforce and the ecosystem. People learn, catch up to the technology and then deliver with excellence” he said.

“What SAP can do a better job at, is taking these advanced technologies like HANA and S/4 HANA and really make sure the (customer) ecosystem is educated and at full-throttle. And that the SAP workforce on the services side really has the best, most rapidly formed practices to implement and help the customer derive value from it.”

To that end, SAP made a host of announcements at the event, most notably its renewed partnership with Microsoft Corp. to deliver broad support for the SAP HANA platform deployed on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. The companies have collaborated in the past to varying results — primarily around on-premises business intelligence and data integration — but the new announcement focuses on digital transformation and helping organizations move to the cloud.

Microsoft Azure positioned as platform for hosting SAP apps

SAP HANA will be able to run on Azure by the third quarter of this year, McDermott said. This includes certifying SAP HANA to run development, test and production workloads on  Azure — including SAP S/4 HANA — and tighter integration with between Microsoft Office 365 and SAP’s Concur, Fieldglass and Ariba products. This also includes improved management and security for its custom SAP Fiori apps.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella accompanied McDermott on the stage floor, and outlined why the business alliance aims to take advantage of its own hyperscale cloud offering with SAP business software products.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott & Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the 28th SapphireNow event in Orlando
SAP CEO Bill McDermott & Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the 28th SapphireNow event in Orlando

Microsoft’s identity has always been a platform provider and the SAP partnership speaks to the need to “speak to our customer’s realities,” said Nadella on stage. “It’s about empathy for (customer) realities and bringing our best together.”

So for enterprises using Office 365 and SAP accounting and inventory systems, Nadella saidd the appeal lies around tighter integration and greater productivity by not having to switch between products to get work done.

SAP’s HANA push

The company is making a push around its HANA relational database management infrastructure. This includes new updates around graph data processing — enabling enterprises to visualize data connections to understand complex relationships between people, places and things — and new capture and replay functionality to enable cost and downtime-conscious IT departments to capture live workloads to evaluate new features, assess upgrade options and measure impact before making changes to the live production system.

SAP also introduced a midsize market version the platform: SAP HANA, Edge edition features the company’s predictive analytics software and supports a 32 GB database and 128 GB of dynamic tiering, enabling IT personnel to manage data as it grows by moving from in-memory to lower-cost storage as needed.

Keep reading this week for more news out of the SAP SapphireNow event. 

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Ryan Patrick
Ryan Patrick
Seasoned technology reporter, editor and senior content producer.

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