SAPPHIRE09: a view from the cloud

I could have entitled this a view from the cheap seats given that I am observing SAPPHIRE09 from my cubby hole in Spain, along with 8,000 other virtual visitors. The other 10,000 are on the ground in Orlando.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

I could have entitled this a view from the cheap seats given that I am observing SAPPHIRE09 from my cubby hole in Spain, along with 8,000 other virtual visitors. The other 10,000 are on the ground in Orlando. Not surprisingly, a number of random observers are wondering why the show floor seems sparsely populated.

At the end of SAPPHIRE day one, what have we learned and what's a surprise? The answer to both is: precious little other than SAP is on a major all around rebranding exercise with 'clear' and 'clarity' front and center. Courtesy of Twitter and #sapphire09, I was able to get a reasonable picture of what's going on. James Governor for instance said:

SAP has renamed all of its disparate internal volunteering efforts worldwide Clear Purpose. I like that #sapphire09 #csr #branding

Dick Hirsch on the other hand said:

lot of focus on glass in SAP's new "Clarity" focus - hope no one is throwing any rocks :-> #sapphire09

You get the picture.

The lively stuff happened during the keynote with analysts, Irregulars and SAP Mentors variously pitching in with 'interesting' observations covering everything from speculation as to whether demo maestro Ian Kimball was wearing an old suit to grumblings about the availability of power strips in the new age of shrunken battery life. However, Tweet activity dropped off like the fall in SAP's Q1 top line software revenues when it came to the press conference.

I'm still scratching my head over that. As far as I can tell and in the absence of Leo Apotheker, SAP's co-CEO, the press conference was more an extended product demonstration designed to focus everyone's attention on Business Objects Explorer, the marriage between SAP business warehouse and BOBJ's Polestar. In that regard, SAP masterminded a superb mind melding job because almost none of the floor questions came close to addressing troublesome issues. Instead they were dutifully cued into BOE.

The investor relations conference a little later in the day was clearly designed to soothe the nerves of Wall Street analysts whose obsession with the top and bottom lines creates the kind of tension that buy side industry analysts find frustrating. Even so, there were a few nuggets worth mentioning.

Apotheker was quick to ensure the analysts understand SAP does not believe it is out of the dark economic woods just yet. Full marks for getting that one down. He then carefully laid out SAP's long term strategy of having a mix and match, cloud and on-premise play that allows the company to sashay, or is it swoop? between evolving delivery models but with a gradually increasing focus on delivering services while continuing to focus on the goal of a 35% operating margin.

"That [cloud] should not be confused with on-demand," said Apotheker, noting that the boundaries between on-premise and private clouds is 'fuzzy.' He also said that the 30% reduction in TCO demanded by the KPI's agreed with SUGEN would be "a walk in the park" from SAP's perspective. This lends weight to at least one argument that at least some of the KPI's are stacked in SAP's favor.

Jonathan Schwartz talked about co-innovation and co-operation with customers and partners as ways of driving value but to be honest I see that as more a sop than reality - today. That despite Bill McDermott and Jim Snabe picked up that same beat in the closing keynote: " Customers are the still the same, the difference is now you have to collaborate with them." At least one observer parsed that as a 'good social technology sign.' These are early days in SAP's experiment with different marketplace and ecosystem types but even so, credit is due for at least creating an environment where friction is taken out of the sales cycle.

I have to wonder though whether there was a certain irony in the contrast between Vinnie Mirchandani's I can see clearly now post and Yariv Zur's observation that as the final keynote moved towards its conclusion:

The sounds of thunders outside make everything said inside so much more dramatic #sapphire09

But then as I say, I'm only seeing this from the clouds...or the cheap seats...depending on your point of view. I'm sure others will have much more depth and nuance to add into the coverage.

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