SAP Sapphire Recap: The Race to Simplify

Give credit to the organizers of SAP Sapphire, held last week in Orlando, Florida. I’d never attended this conference before, and was a little intimidated at the concept of navigating the one million square feet of the event space and choosing which of the 1,800+ sessions to attend. That is a staggering amount of information, logistics, and endurance to take in in only three days and not end up feeling completely overwhelmed.

Throughout the week, as I dashed from session to session, I passed hundreds of SAP volunteers wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the company’s new mantra, “Run simple.” I initially found myself chuckling at the concept of there being anything “simple” about the agenda I’d created for myself, or even SAP software as a whole.

But at the end of the week on my drive back home, it hit me. Those three days flew by. I didn’t miss a single session, I learned an absolute ton, and SAP CEO Bill McDermott and original founding member Hasso Plattner did an amazing job of explaining that while SAP is certainly complex, the enterprise software’s purpose is to simplify the lives of its users so that they can continue to simplify the lives of their own customers.

Maybe it’s that Skytap has always worked to provide the same level of simplicity, ease-of-use and collaboration to our customer base, but from the moment I arrived at the opening keynote and saw, “Wouldn’t it be nice to do our jobs instead of finding time for them?” scrolling across the massive big-screens overhead, I found myself “getting” the concept before it had ever been established as the common theme of the entire week.

McDermott’s keynote encouraged the 25,000 in attendance and more than 250,000 watching online to “run without worry, confusion, or distraction.” The metaphor of running without these hindrances is so aligned with what cloud-based environments provide enterprise development and test teams in particular, that I chuckled at how similar SAP’s messaging is to our own.

We see these hindrances among prospective customers every day. Dev/test teams find themselves unable to “run” or do their jobs at all, due to long idle times while waiting for provisioning. Environmental parity is non-existent, resulting in defects being found in production rather than earlier in the SDLC. IT finds themselves unable to get to work far more valuable to the organization than constantly configuring hardware and network connections, due to a lack of opportunities for automation.

From a technological (and marketing) standpoint, both McDermott and Plattner’s keynotes, and many of the 1,800+ sessions focused on the new capabilities found within the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, the company’s newest product offering. While HANA can be used for seemingly anything revolving around database analytics, many labeled the technology as enabling “seamless integration” inside of a “real-time” or “on the fly” enterprise. The result of using HANA was advertised not just to be able to do your job faster, but to make your job easier and simpler in order for you to be able to do your real job—innovating at all times—so that your company’s customers can “run simple” as well.

In many of the sessions I attended, the audiences were asked if they’d begun moving aspects of their business to the cloud, and I was surprised at the large number of those who had not done so and were experiencing the pains related to scaling and a lack of agility.

For those who have yet to make the move to the cloud, one of the most impressive displays I saw at Sapphire were the number of industries represented by speakers who all experienced the same pain points before making the move to the cloud. I sat in on presentations from professionals in healthcare, farming, telecom, finance, public utilities, governments, food and beverage, retail, and everything in between.

We’ve all heard variations of the “if you’re not a software company in this day and age—you should be.” While many of the industries listed above may not have considered themselves software companies in the past—by moving to the cloud and implementing agility, simplified infrastructures, empowered IT departments, and “real-time enterprises”—they certainly consider themselves as such today.

I expect that future Sapphires will be attended by far more self-described software companies who are there to not become convinced to moved to the cloud, but who will find it hard to remember a time they weren’t already there.

To learn more about how Skytap helps development and test teams build better software faster, download this complimentary white paper, “Agility in the Cloud: How Dev/Test Teams Can Increase Velocity While Reducing Defects.”

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