My Sapphire 2019 preview: questions SAP needs to answer
My Sapphire 2019 preview: questions SAP needs to answer

SAP Must Address 5 Big Questions At Sapphire Next Week

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As SAP prepares to host 22,000 of its nearest and dearest next week in at its annual Sapphire event in Orlando, the #4 company on the Cloud Wars Top 10 needs to address several key questions for customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders.


My Sapphire 2019 preview: questions SAP needs to answer
Sapphire Now 2018

The good thing is that none of those questions are driven by doubts about the company’s strategy, its position or its potential. SAP is booming in all of those areas, as proven by its surging cloud revenue, market momentum and stock price.

No, the big questions that CEO Bill McDermott and newly appointed cloud leader Jen Morgan will have to address involve how to harness the vast potential of the assets SAP’s assembled in ways that customers find easy to understand, acquire and consume.

With its massive installed base of big corporate ERP customers around the world, its aggressive move into competition with Salesforce via its new CX portfolio, its hypergrowth cloud business, and most of all its blockbuster acquisition of Qualtrics, SAP has vast opportunities to chase in today’s digital economy.

But how will it pull all those pieces together in ways that make perfect sense for business customers eager to move more aggressively to the cloud?

In a nutshell, that’s the big honkin’ question in front of SAP. So in that context, let’s take a look at the 5 key issues SAP will no doubt tackle next week in Orlando for the 22,000 people attending live and roughly 650,000 participating online.

1. How will SAP position Qualtrics within its vast portfolio of applications?

That’s an important issue from an internal org-chart perspective, but the real story SAP needs to lay out for customers and prospects involves the accessibility of the “experience management” capabilities of the Qualtrics-powered solutions and approaches. SAP will certainly position Qualtrics adjacent to and in some fashion bundled with SAP’s new CX portfolio. But will SAP go further? Will it reach beyond the category of customers and tie Qualtrics into employee experiences via SuccessFactors? Or within SAP’s vast universe of ERP and S/4HANA customers? And how will SAP make it extremely easy for customers to tap into the vast array of new capabilities SAP is offering? How will SAP prove to customers in a compelling fashion that weaving Qualtrics into some/many/most of their business processes will make those companies smarter, faster-growing, and more successful?

2. How much clout does SAP have in hybrid cloud?

As hybrid cloud and multi-cloud become the enterprise standard, how will SAP ensure that its customers can count on SAP to provide them a clean and unified architecture into the future? How will SAP demonstrate its ability to allow customers to move seamlessly across on-premises systems, public clouds and private clouds?

SAP is the world’s largest enterprise-applications vendor. And the vast majority of the workloads those apps drive are still on-premises. With SAP now also the fastest-growing big-scale SaaS vendor, how will SAP win the confidence and trust of its customers that SAP will create seamless hybrid solutions that allow them to manage their IT estates into the future with full certainty? In short, how will SAP prove unequivocally to customers that as SAP aggressively pursues its bright future in the cloud, it ensures that the hybrid approach favored by customers will be supported?

3. What specific customer solutions will Qualtrics deploy?

What can we expect as Qualtrics scales, and as its “experience” capabilities become fully enmeshed with SAP’s “operations” capabilities?

At Qualtrics’ X4 customer event in March, co-CEO Jared Smith offered a compelling presentation about the forthcoming “instruments” that Qualtrics is developing to turn customer feedback into optimized business decisions and outcomes. What’s the timeline on those? How will they work with SAP operational data? And how quickly can customers move from evaluation to value?

4. Will Qualtrics capabilities impact SAP’s employee experience tools?

Can Qualtrics make SAP’s SuccessFactors a market leader by adding insights and actions that other HCM providers can’t or don’t yet offer?

In the “experience economy,” employees become “ambassadors” in the parlance of Qualtrics. So from the perspective of customers looking to retain and attract world-class talent, how will Qualtrics become a difference-maker for them?

5. What’s the full and complete vision for what SAP calls “the intelligent enterprise”?

With its vast collection of applications and tools and solutions, SAP must find a way to shrink or at least simplify all of that capability into customer-centric value propositions. This is particularly vital in these times when businesses are themselves going through massive and often-wrenching internal changes that result in new business models, revenue models, talent plans, go-to-market approaches and more. So while every business would certainly want to become a truly intelligent enterprise, and while SAP touts its ability to help transform companies into intelligent enterprises, what’s SAP’s roadmap for helping businesses undertake and complete that journey? How does that plan differ across industries? How does it pivot from a focus on operations to a focus on customer-facing experiences?


It’s nice for a company to be confronting these issues from a position of strength and opportunity, rather than from being unprepared or ill-equipped. At the same time, that doesn’t mean the challenges or questions are going to be easy for SAP.

But, in the Cloud Wars, that’s what separates the leaders from the rest: the ability to elegantly and powerfully frame the technology in the service of what customers want and need today and into the future.

So next week, I’ll be doing regular updates from Sapphire 2019 on how SAP’s doing with these big questions—it should be fun.


Disclosure: at the time of this writing, SAP was a client of Evans Strategic Communications LLC.


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