SAP as innovation partner: 4 key questions

SAP's Sapphire conference kicks off Tuesday and the company will have to answer a few key questions for enterprise tech buyers.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

SAP's Sapphire conference kicks off Tuesday and Bill McDermott, now sole CEO of the company, will outline the enterprise giant's strategy, woo customers and convince tech buyers that it can be an innovation partner on premise and in the cloud.

Indeed, SAP's to-do list for Sapphire is long. The company needs to hit multiple industries in the cloud, sell customers on HANA and keep its licensing and maintenance revenue streams going. SAP will also have to ensure customers that executive turnover won't hurt the company.

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For enterprise technology buyers, the only question that matters is whether their legacy providers---SAP, Oracle, IBM, HP and a bevy of others---can be innovation partners in the future. Can technology debts at enterprises be partially paid off by the same vendors that helped create the deficit?

That question doesn't have immediate answers. It will take years to see if SAP can navigate trends like mobile and cloud. Big companies can innovate and transform, but you just don't quite know which ones will deliver. Here's a look at four big picture questions SAP will have to answer starting at Sapphire.

Can SAP really deliver a simplified go-to-market strategy, customer experience and technical roadmap? SAP wants to simplify, but has to prove it. Simplification of the buying experience and technology is expected to be a theme at Sapphire. 


Can SAP innovate organically or via mergers and acquisitions? Does it matter? SAP will talk HANA, analytics and user interface advances. Constellation Research principal Ray Wang noted that SAP will have to acquire innovation. Wang may have a point, but it's unclear whether acquisitions of cloud companies pay off as well given that customers can leave the fold easier.

Will SAP remain a tale of two cultures? SAP's core development is now run by Bernd Leukert and there is a perception that there's a tug of war between the company's German side and the American Silicon Valley camp. McDermott has to be the bridge between the two.

Is Fiori worth paying for? Fiori is SAP's new user interface and overall it's slick. However, SAP customers have to pay for Fiori apps. Wang argued that the UI enhancements simply be included. SAP user groups agree and have been griping about Fiori's $150 per user price tag. Is UI an expectation or a revenue stream?

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