Ryan Smith of Qualtrics speaks about SAP's New positioning: "Experience Company"
Ryan Smith of Qualtrics speaks about SAP's New positioning: "Experience Company"

SAP Unleashes Experience Economy (with Plug from Apple’s Tim Cook)

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Unveiling its new position as “the Experience Company powered by the Intelligent Enterprise,” SAP opened its annual Sapphire event customer with an unmistakable commitment to making Qualtrics and experience management the centerpiece of the world’s largest enterprise-applications company.

So why does this matter?

Or is this “experience” thing just a frilly fad?

A couple of weeks ago, in a piece called From Financial Services to Manufacturing, Here’s the #1 Priority for CEOs, I analyzed the unmistakable trend among CEOs of making “customer experience” the primary objective for their companies. This is not just a consumer trend—it cuts across all industries.

What “Customer Experience” Means In Enterprise Tech

While the traditional enterprise-software business is fully capable of helping companies do all the stuff that leads up to getting a product or service into the hands of customers, the enterprise-software business as we’ve known it has stopped right there—at the transaction. None of the big enterprise-software companies had any mechanism for connecting and engaging with customers *after* the transaction to capture the *experience* customers were then having, whether good, bad or indifferent.

As a result, those big software companies were unable to achieve a goal their customers have long wanted: uniting demand chains and supply chains for a fully integrated view of what’s going on in the world.

With its acquisition of Qualtrics, however, SAP intends to fuse its vast capabilities in managing business operations with the new “experience data” that Qualtrics’ solutions manage, analyze and build upon. And that combination—completely unmatched by anything any other software vendor has—is the animating force behind SAP’s sweeping transformation. (Please see SAP’s Brilliant Transformation: And They’ve Only Just Begun.)

SAP’s New Positioning: “The Enterprise Company”

Formerly billing itself as the Intelligent Enterprise company, SAP now notably bills itself as “the Experience company powered by the Intelligent Enterprise.” 

Yesterday during the opening keynote at their Sapphire Now event, SAP CEO Bill McDermott and Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith made their case for heralding the onset of the Experience Economy. And no less than Apple CEO Tim Cook later joined the keynote conversation to offer his perspectives. (Check out more of our coverage from Sapphire Now here.)

Tim Cook and Bill McDermott speak about SAP's New positioning: "Experience Company"
Tim Cook and Bill McDermott at SAP SAPPHIRE 2019

The power of combining experience data and operational data, McDermott said, “is the ability to deliver personalization at mass scale.” And that’s exactly the type of approach businesses need to take to deliver the brilliant customer experiences that buyers are demanding today.

Qualtrics Experience Data Powers “The Enterprise Company”

Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith (his brother Jared is a co-founder) joined McDermott to discuss the potential of pairing operational data and experience data. And please bear in mind that Qualtrics’ success—in the three months since it joined SAP formally, Qualtrics has added 500 new customers—has shaped Smith’s perspective.

“For the first time in history, experience has become the growth engine for business,” Smith said. “And experience management is how corporations will compete and win in the experience economy.”

Ryan Smith at SAP SAPPHIRE 2019

And while this next comment from Smith is merely an opinion, it demonstrates the scale of the shared ambitions of SAP and Qualtrics. “When I met Bill [immediately before Qualtrics’ imminent IPO], I knew that… we could completely transform the cloud.”

Highlights From SAP and Apple Announcement

Then Apple CEO Cook joined McDermott on stage for a wide-ranging discussion. A couple comments from Cook stuck out to me:

  • “Privacy and security is one of the top issues of the century.”
  • “The combination of machine learning, augmented reality plus mobile is incredible—the number of things you can do are limitless.”
  • CPG and retail shelf-planning have used paper and pencil for decades—“we’re using Core ML and augmented reality and iPads to drive a revolutionary approach in retail”
  • “Professional hockey is the fastest-moving sport in the world—coaches and players need real-time insights—and the NHL has gone big on SAP and Apple.”
  • “When Apple was at its lowest point 20 years ago, we turned to SAP for the right infrastructure to turn the company around—and SAP delivered.”
  • Asked to define the Apple-SAP partnership, Cook said, “It’s great, but there’s a long way to go—in the enterprise, we need to bring real-time information to every person in every company to make the best possible decision… We’re just at the front end of that.”
Highlights From Bill McDermott, CEO of “The Enterprise Company”

In closing his keynote session, McDermott asked three questions that lie at the heart of his company’s new position.

“First, experience is everything: what are the make-or-break experiences for your business?

“Second, in the intelligent enterprise, how do we connect every business process in service to those key experiences?
“And third, remember your X’s and O’s: how can your business be an exemplar intelligent enterprise with X plus O as the new frontier for a best-run business?”

It has been, of course, only a few months since SAP brought Qualtrics on formally. But I believe strongly that the frothy words from McDermott, Smith and even Apple’s Cook point to an exciting new era in the business world triggered by the ability of companies to view transactions as not the final step but only the beginning.


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


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