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SAP Sapphire reimagined for 2020: The nice, dangerous and ugly of Christian Klein’s keynote

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SAP CEO Christian Klein 

I have never written something “analytical” for some time. I used to be preoccupied with some issues which I doubt I’ve to repeat to you – because you had been and are too, however they left me with a extreme author’s block. So, making an attempt to disregard the author’s block and nonetheless be productive, I spent numerous time engaged on video (CRM Playaz associated) and in addition considering what I’ll do with the CRM Watchlist this yr (test the top of this put up for that). However Monday, June 15, 2020, SAP CEO Christian Klein gave a keynote speech and, similar to that, the author’s block crumbled and right here we’re.

What I’ll undergo is simply his keynote, not the convention as an entire, since my main concern is SAP’s route and usually, that’s coated within the CEO’s speech at main conferences. His job is to not simply body the proceedings however communicate to the outlook and the route and execution of that route for the corporate for a minimum of the subsequent yr. However on this case, as a result of the pandemic pressured us right into a digital universe that depends on digital manufacturing and viewing, I am additionally going to debate what SAP did to provide their digital occasion and significantly the keynote session. There are classes to be realized and practices to emulate – and the brand new requirements are being set by numerous the tech corporations who’ve transitioned their dwell occasions to digital. Discussing what SAP did on this keynote, good and dangerous, content material and manufacturing is what I feel is instructive past simply the norm of “What’s new (or outdated) in SAP’s route as set by Christian Klein and SAP’s board.”

So, this piece will probably be damaged down into three elements. The manufacturing, the content material and route of SAP are the primary two and whereas not associated instantly, the third is an announcement that in case you are a fan of the CRM Watchlist, it would be best to hear. Generally the dialogue of the content material and the manufacturing will probably be intermingled, however I’m going to do my finest to intentionally separate the 2.

Let’s begin with the speech itself. If you would like to look at the entire thing – which I like to recommend you do – here is the link to it.


This was Christian Klein’s debut as the only CEO of SAP and all its entities. An enormous job on a giant stage. Whereas I haven’t got the numbers of attendees, I am guessing his digital stage was a LOT greater than the usually substantial numbers that SAPPHIRE generates dwell. I do know that for instance, PegaWorld generated one thing like 68,000 “attendees” for CEO Alan Trefler’s speech and usually they pull 15,000-18,000 dwell attendees. SAP’s SAPPHIRE Reimagined dominated final week’s vendor information, so the numbers I assume had been immense. From what I collect, the technical difficulties they’d initially of the convention (we had been unable to get on besides through Twitter) had been on account of unexpectedly heavy site visitors. Which a minimum of anecdotally confirms an unlimited variety of events. I do not fault SAP for being extra standard than they thought they had been. Tech glitches now, with stretched bandwidth occur and SAP had us diverted to the alternate Twitter channel fairly rapidly. So, ignore the whiners who had been searching for one thing to complain about. Kudos to SAP to discovering the “patch” actually rapidly.

Christian dealt with himself properly – particularly on condition that it was his debut and it was in an uncommon setting dominated by inexperienced screens and movies, with an unseen viewers. He was comfy, informal, and addressing the hidden viewers instantly.

He centered on three themes that apparently are SAP’s current and future. They’re:

  • Sustainability
  • Profitability
  • Resiliency

Earlier than we get into the particulars, it’d make sense to have a look at the large image.

The overarching company narrative and message for SAP for the final three years has been “Clever Enterprise.” It is a wonderful story/message for them as a result of they’re actually one of many lower than a handful of corporations that may lay declare to it and help the declare, dealing with the operational wants and to a big extent, the analytical wants of each the back and front places of work and what rests in between. The others are Oracle and stretching it just a little bit, Microsoft. What makes this PARTICULARLY compelling and that aligns properly significantly with their give attention to resiliency has been SAP’s long-term efforts with provide chain and logistics. Beneath the tutelage of former SAP chief Hala Zeine, at present CPO at Celonis they had been in a position to construct up a really robust digital provide chain answer, one which, to the perfect of my information, stays high of its class. As a result of pandemic stretching the provision chain to the nth diploma and now to the protests sheer mass and scope bodily disturbing supply, the message round resiliency and the SAP’s already current options make them necessary to the world for each enterprise continuity, but in addition doubtlessly in saving lives a minimum of not directly, via using their provide chain operations. SAP’s very energy on this space helps enterprise resiliency each in strange and extraordinary instances and conditions – and as norms change, SAP stays aligned to the change, even with their current efforts.

If I am to guage issues (and I’m a judgy New Yorker), I might say that there’s a lot to love about SAP’s route however there was a specific amount of head-scratching tone deafness that confirmed up in locations, although elsewhere there was a crystalline sharpness to the that alignment with the world even when we’re unclear of the place the world goes.

The Themes: The Good, the Dangerous, the…Lacking

The three threads had been interwoven with the SAP “Clever Enterprise” company narrative. They’re each methods for SAP’s strategy to the market and indicators on the route that SAP has chosen to go as 2020 evolves.


Early in his speech, Christian Klein set the thematic tone with this: “We will change into extra resilient and make sustainability worthwhile, and profitability sustainable.”


I’ve had this dialogue with them up to now. Let me say it once more. Equating sustainability’s raison d’etre as profitability is LITERALLY the mistaken message to ship to EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD besides essentially the most mercenary and crass enterprise buttheads – which finally look wasn’t an precise goal market. The aim of sustainability’s evolution as a world concern is that it’s a GLOBAL CONCERN. We have to do one thing that not solely offers the help of our international financial engine however within the course of saves the earth from ecological catastrophe. The message and focus of sustainability is NOT “help the worldwide financial engine.” It’s “save the earth from ecological catastrophe.” There’s NO different message. The economics are implied, however they don’t seem to be the aim. Get it? Not…the…goal.

To SAP’s credit score, and to my aid, when Christian Klein dug into sustainability, it was correctly positioned for what the worth actually is – it helps the world be a more healthy and higher place for all of us. However, when a CEO speaks, and is setting the framework, not only for the speech, however for the route of his firm for the approaching interval – particularly within the midst of dramatic uncertainty – it is not clever to undercut your individual place proper from the beginning for the sake a glib phrase. I need to assume that this SAP 2014 thought “sustainability = profitability” was thrown in there as a result of it sounds cool – and thus can be a very good social media soundbite. Sadly, this sort of pondering suborns imaginative and prescient, mission, and techniques. To be honest, this sort of digestible advertising is rampant all through the trade, in all types of codecs. One other instance, simply to offer you some context, is the necessity for some obscure purpose, to have your outlook outlined by phrases that every one begin with the identical letter. Particularly C. However even D’s and P’s get some play. Here’s an example. Here’s another example. Another. The final one, The 4 Cs of Enterprise Communication is especially ridiculous as a result of to fulfill the requirement of the four Cs the fourth one is Communication. One of many C’s of communication is communication. I feel that makes the purpose. Clever pondering eats glibness for lunch. Peter Drucker did not say this. I did. You may tweet it.

Though this was a pretend pas for SAP, I do know that they do not consider sustainability solely when it comes to its worth to income. Way back to 2018, SAP had gotten previous that antiquated, and simply mistaken public message and located their good work on sustainability particularly round decreasing the carbon footprint the place it categorically and correctly belongs – beneath the aegis of “good for mankind – and the earth.” Look at this commercial they did with Clive Owens in 2018.

That is the SAP that I wish to see. A enterprise that’s keen on doing good in addition to doing enterprise – and will get the connection between them. And I do not imply “sustainability = profitability” after I say that.

Resiliency aka Resilience

Essentially the most highly effective message was round resiliency, particularly as we endure a pandemic and international disruption, was resiliency. SAP’s give attention to the provision chain, logistics and the again workplace throughout our present disaster has been possibly not horny, however an necessary initiative with provide chains stretched to breaking factors. I reported on this back in April when SAP released a number of applications for free to not only their customers but to the world in general to help strengthen the supply chain because it was being practically pulled aside on the time on account of panic-driven massively elevated demand. Bear in mind the Nice Bathroom Paper Scarcity of 2020? Oh wait…not over but. However SAP acknowledged its accountability not simply as a enterprise however as a very good company citizen and did and continues to do one thing for the final good.

Like the rest (see later) the important thing to focusing round these three themes should not the phrases spoken, however the actions taken. And it isn’t simply the actions taken but in addition the aim driving the actions. It goes to the center of one thing I’ve been saying for the final a number of months to all companies:

You can be judged afterward what you do now.

Resiliency although is one thing that SAP can’t solely interweave in its messaging round clever enterprise however one thing that they’ll genuinely help the market on. They’ve the instruments and the options in addition to the expertise and historical past to have interaction with corporations at each stage from enterprise continuity to supporting a transition from a standard to a digital provide chain.


I’ll ignore this fully. It actually wants little to no clarification.

The lacking

I do not know when you observed however I have never made a single reference to SAP CX. Odd, would not you say, since my precise wheelhouse resides within the land of CRM, CX and CE. You realize why I have never made any references? As a result of aside from a short arcane reference to C4HANA, THERE WASN’T ANY DISCUSSION OF SAP CX and that’s an astounding and obvious oversight that isn’t simply because I’m a CRM/CX/CE man. This entire and extremely puzzling omission comes 5 years after their first pivot to buyer expertise and buyer engagement (2015) after which what they known as a pivot however was a 360-degree pirouette in 2018 to buyer expertise and buyer engagement. Read this post I wrote in 2018 that covers both the pivot and the pirouette.

To indicate their dedication and good religion, they lastly removed the SAP Hybris identify and it turned SAP CX. Then they went forward and acquired trade legend, Bob Stutz, the Godfather of CRM Know-how (I get to say that if I want to) because the President of CX, (right here is his look on CRM Playaz about 45 days in the past) and brilliant CX industry analyst Esteban Kolsky to be their CX strategist. That appeared to point out that SAP was critical about their pivot/pirouette to the shopper and to CX/CE and CRM usually.

Or so I believed.

However that went away if Christian Klein’s keynote is any indicator. There was no signal in any respect that SAP was dedicated to their CX observe after former CEO Invoice McDermott actually acknowledged for the file that the shopper and CX had been SAP’s most necessary initiatives. I do know that SAP goes to say to me that “Hey we’re nonetheless dedicated to the shopper.” I do know that. I am not equating dedication to clients as solely realizable to CX options. So do not even go there, please. Nonetheless, that stated, how do you anticipate to serve the Clever Enterprise if CRM, buyer expertise and buyer engagement options aren’t a significant a part of the seen portfolio and platform? That does not appear obvious when there was NO emphasis in any respect on it.

Harken again to 2018 and a quarterly earnings name with Invoice McDermott, then CEO and now CEO of ServiceNow. Here is a summary of it from a post by ZDNet Editor in Chief Larry Dignan:

“SAP CEO Invoice McDermott is aligning his firm behind a next-gen CRM platform that can take direct intention at Salesforce. Particulars about this effort are scarce–at least till SAP Sapphire in June, however McDermott’s “we would like CRM” mantra raises an attention-grabbing query: How weak is Salesforce?

McDermott, talking on SAP’s first quarter earnings convention name, could not cease speaking about CRM. Analysts performed alongside and requested a bevy of CRM questions. In broad strokes, McDermott indicated the next:

  1. CRM must be reinvented in a manner that ties again finish processes to the entrance finish.
  2. The cloud allows an organization like SAP to be extra line of enterprise and entrance workplace.
  3. SAP’s acquisitions of Gigya and Callidus give it a giant CRM alternative.
  4. Prospects have gotten involved about Salesforce’s pricing and pockets share.”

Ignoring the silly #four touch upon Salesforce — as a result of the one factor I will not hearken to distributors on is their opinions on their opponents — that is what turned the FOCUS of SAPPHIRE 2018 and now it appears to be erased. I do know CEOs have to search out their very own route. I get that. However to pivot 180 levels once more to one thing that ignores actuality – CRM is the most important enterprise software program market on the earth – CX and buyer engagement solely make that customer-facing market even bigger – and that SAP has a substantial funding in it, is a significant mistake.

If I used to be SAP, I might instantly deny what I’m saying after which ship out a justifiable case on their dedication SAP CX and thus to the customer-facing necessities that corporations have. I do not say they don’t seem to be dedicated. I am saying they confirmed no proof of it of their present and upcoming route.

The Manufacturing: It Issues in a Digital Age

On a recent CRM Playaz episode leading up to PegaWorld, Don Schuerman, CTO of Pegasystems and moderately superior man, had a extremely necessary commentary/perception: due to the present international bodily and social disaster, in the case of how companies have to consider what and the way they current to the world, “we’re transferring from theatrical to cinematic.”

That commentary is a definitive one. We live in a world that at present could also be loosening the restrictions however has been via lockdown at dwelling and extreme limitations imposed on working any bodily enterprise. Digital efforts, whereas not full blown transformation which requires much more than use of extra digital instruments in quantity (a topic for an additional day), are how we talk with each other now and for the foreseeable future – and, truthfully, past that. I do not assume we’re going again to the identical paradigms and practices that we had – although that is most likely stating the apparent.

What does that imply when a enterprise presents itself to the remainder of the world which can be watching and listening however is bodily invisible or at most, just about represented?

For a number of years, I’ve been making the purpose to my shoppers and to the market as an entire that, within the enterprise know-how trade, prefer it or not, we dwell in a world outlined by the efforts that Salesforce and significantly Marc Benioff have been making. Their efforts should not solely driving info to the market and to their constituencies, however they’ve constructed an interesting tradition and a advertising machine that has been, to say the least, theatrical. Their success at doing it that manner units the bar, whether or not their opponents prefer it or not. Consequently, one piece of recommendation I’ve persistently instructed my shoppers (although not Salesforce since, properly…) is “you must be extra theatrical.” And, to the purpose, a few of them had been and it made a distinction. The usage of theatre – the appearing, the frilly, colourful, significant imagery, the movement all creates an thrilling, if executed properly, to the purpose, effort that has emotional impression. Storytelling is a part of theatre as a lot because the costumes, the units and the actors so to talk. Generally it is simply colourful openings to dwell conferences. Probably the greatest ones I ever noticed – executed by Adobe in 2018 – was the dwell convention launch wall video to the Adobe Digital Advertising and marketing Summit in Las Vegas. I’ve a video of it that I took with my cellphone of 60 seconds of it that is not nice, however it’s instructive. Be at liberty to ask me for it and I am going to ship it to you (electronic mail me at mail Here is a screenshot in any case.

However the theatrical will depend on the dwell occasion much more than it will depend on the digital. Now we have to assume cinematically as a result of the triggers and indicators at a digital occasion are completely different than at a dwell one. Plus, it has been clear for the previous few years that video was and is more and more, the most well-liked means to eat content material. The information is there. Check out the 55 video marketing statistics at If you want a strong confirmation of the power of video. A number of of them actually standout particularly given the context all of us dwell in:

  1. Six out of 10 folks would moderately watch on-line movies than tv. (Google)
  2. By 2022, on-line movies will make up greater than 82% of all client web site visitors — 15 instances increased than it was in 2017. (Cisco)
  3. 59% of executives say they might moderately watch a video than learn textual content. (Wordstream)
  4. Viewers retain 95% of a message after they watch it in a video, in comparison with 10% when studying it in textual content. (Insivia)
  5. 72% of shoppers would moderately find out about a services or products by means of video. (HubSpot)
  6. Movies appeal to 300% extra site visitors and assist to nurture leads. (MarketingSherpa)
  7. 85% of customers wish to see extra video content material from manufacturers. (HubSpot)
  8. 71% of individuals watch extra video than they did a yr in the past. (HubSpot)

These alone make an incredible case for video – and the opposite 47 simply improve it much more. Which is why cinematic is the order of the day.

What SAP did right here was hit one out of the park to the purpose that the cinematics of the keynote actually set the usual for all conferences to return. They did a BRILLIANT job of manufacturing the content material they wanted to succeed in the a whole bunch of 1000’s who had been more likely to be both viewing the occasion dwell or can be watching within the coming weeks.

Give it some thought. It was a number of precise folks, numerous inexperienced screens in a distant setting, with rather a lot, if not all of the taking pictures of the video being executed in glorious bandwidth optimized excessive definition – from distant areas the world over. But, the standard of the cinematics was off the charts very good and the story being instructed utilizing them with the inexperienced screens brilliantly executed. I am not talking to the content material – which is what I deal with above. I am talking to the narrative supported by the cinematics. That’s a minimum of to date, on condition that we’re all looking for our manner on this new (hat tip to Phil Fersht) irregular , which is changing into a brand new regular – although not there but. However SAP nailed it. And all their opponents want to look at the keynote and among the different periods (not all of them) and learn to current one thing.

However…and there’s a “however” right here…that results in one of many nice conundrums of the route of SAP. The mixture of the brilliance of the cinematics with a head-scratching transfer that was so extreme that I wanted to place Neosporin on my scalp.

The Nice Conundrum: I can not HEAR the ocean, however I can SEE the currents

In the course of the keynote I noticed what could also be one of many best case research I’ve ever seen when it comes to what a case examine on this period must be. What are the traits of manufacturing an incredible case examine, you ask? Okay, possibly you do not ask, however I am going to let you know anyway.

  1. It wants to point out using the seller’s options, instruments, companies however in an unobtrusive manner – with the main focus squarely on the shopper’s actions.
  2. If in a video format particularly, it CAN’T be a senior govt on the buyer’s firm speaking concerning the greatness of the seller.
  3. If in a video format, it CAN be a day within the lifetime of the corporate – and ideally – the course of that day (utilizing the seller’s options being implied and express the place wanted) within the firm’s buyer/firm ecosystem.
  4. It wants to have the ability to resonate with the lives of these watching or studying it. That means, although it is a specific buyer, the common nature of the actions must be offered in a manner that makes the reader/viewer say, “I can see that.” As a result of in different methods, they do “that.”

It wants to point out the worth of the merchandise/companies however right here it veers a bit relying on the kind of format. If it is in readable kind, there must be some information to point out the “provable” worth of the options/merchandise/companies and so on. If it is a video, it wants to point out the effectiveness of the options/merchandise/companies in supporting the frictionless operations of the enterprise and interactions with the shopper and the next enchancment within the expertise of the shopper with the case examine’s topic firm. Graphical information may also be part of it.

There’s extra to this, however I am going to depart it at that.

SAP did this with their buyer. They confirmed the shopper of their buyer’s expertise from the buyer facet on their cellular machine for essentially the most half and confirmed what occurred when the shopper/client, utilizing that cellular machine, made custom-made decisions for what they wished to purchase. Then they confirmed the workflows, operational necessities, manufacturing cycles, provide chain actions, logistics, delivery and supply and the buyer taking supply of their product and the comply with up and suggestions from the shopper/client to the corporate and so on. The top to finish ecosystem in motion and SAP’s front and back workplace platform supporting it.

Improbable. Actually. One for the ages.

However…once more with the buts.

You will discover that I omitted the shopper. The explanation was that the shopper is the conundrum. The brilliance of the case examine was marred by the selection of the shopper. The client was Porsche. And the buyer, who was recognized as Christian (once more, what the…?) was shopping for a custom-built Porsche.

That is tone deaf. At a point where in the U.S. alone over 13.3 percent of the workforce (over 21 million) are out of work, the world is plunging right into a deep recession and possibly even a melancholy, your buyer alternative is one thing that solely the rich can contemplate even in good instances? What the….?


Watch the case examine. You will see what I imply each on the extraordinary high quality of the idea and the manufacturing and the simply mistaken alternative of buyer.

Which is an actual disgrace as a result of the format and execution of the case examine reveals that SAP is pondering in ecosystems and platforms, it bodes properly for his or her future in the case of the clever enterprise nevertheless it additionally goes to the center of why they generally simply do not achieve the traction that this brilliantly modern firm may achieve. They journey on their very own ft.

In Sum…

As powerful as I am being on SAP, I feel that regardless of the foremost shortcoming, they’ve begun to outline a “sustainable” route for themselves. As a result of they’ve behaved admirably in the middle of the disaster both on the pandemic and on taking actions towards racism and for range (for one example, listen to the opening statement of the Q&A with the SAP Executive Board), their actions through the disaster, help their dedication to sustainability and particularly to resilience. These themes solely resonate when you can present the actions you’re prepared to take and the investments you’re prepared to make. Simply saying issues would not make you nice. They’re appearing on behalf of the commitments that they make.

The excellent news this yr is that they solidified the clever enterprise as their core narrative, and it aligns actually properly with their core choices. They interwove significant themes round sustainability, resiliency and profitability – themes that as we uncertainly return to work – or a minimum of these surviving parts of what work was – essentially, they’re issues that companies and their clients have concerning the lives they dwell, the world they dwell in, and the enterprise that they conduct.

All good.

The tone deafness of the shopper alternative – its dangerous however not earth shattering.

However the omission of CX as a significant a part of their pondering and probably their portfolio could be very troubling to me – as it will clearly be.

So, all in all, it is combined. I applaud SAP for a few of what I heard and stay a fan of the corporate. I love its commitments and achievements not solely total however particularly through the pandemic/social unrest the place they’ve been responsive with not simply the mea culpas that everybody appears to be throwing round regarding systemic racism however with motion which is what issues.

However they do want to answer the puzzling lack of CX as a part of their strategic route. One more pivot, or simply an oversight that they’ll repair? I would like it to be the latter, however I am going to wait to listen to.

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