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Back from SAPPHIRE NOW 2014

Dear readers,

Another SAPPHIRE NOW, another blur of three sixteen-hour days full of meetings, talks, encounters, ideas, energy. One week later, memories of all the words and all the faces are still very present in my mind, vivid enough to be able to rationalize what I witnessed before everything starts to fade away and become less distinct in the rush of our daily lives.

First of all, I want to say how proud I am of being part of an organization that uses an event like SAPPHIRE NOW not only to announce new products or commercial policies (we had quite a few of those as well, by the way), but also as a platform for enhancing the debate around the most critical issues faced by our industry and, to a certain extent, by our economical system as a whole. I am talking, of course, about the extremely interesting dialog between Prof. Hasso Plattner and Prof. Clayton M. Christensen, author of the best selling “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, during Hasso’s keynote. The topics they discussed are very important to me, because in the last few years most of my focus has been around disruptive innovation, and specifically on how to nurture disruptive initiatives inside the belly of a large incumbent like SAP.

While the technical value of getting rid of aggregates and indexes in databases is a pretty established and generally accepted fact, Hasso extended the point dramatically in explaining how a database freed from those artifacts is effectively model-neutral, and therefore can be smoothly leveraged by multiple applications, while today data tend to be tightly coupled with a specific application, therefore creating the need of endless duplications and synchronizations. This is very similar to one of the key value propositions we in the Global CD HANA team are pushing to the market; we call it data-centric application development, and we believe it has the power to unlock a lot of very interesting opportunities for innovation. You can easily imagine how exciting was for me to hear our Chairman of the Supervisory Board endorsing this approach. By the way, if you didn’t read “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Prof. Christensen yet, I strongly suggest you to do so. You’ll find it interesting, I promise.

Next in line, of course, still during Hasso’s keynote, was the climatic moment in which the CIO of John Deere stepped on stage to present their Predictive Maintenance project. I have been working on the Predictive Maintenance initiative for more than one year now, and this was a great moment. I also want to acknowledge here Alan Southall, the leader of the co-innovation development team who deserves most of the merit for this great success. Kudos to Alan and team, you guys rock! Beside John Deere, a good share of my time at SAPPHIRE NOW 2014 was spent around Predictive Maintenance. It seems to be on everybody’s radar screen right now, and I had many meetings with customers, colleagues and partners to discuss its value, and how to continue to develop it. There are very good reasons for which Predictive Maintenance is becoming such a prominent topic: it is applicable to many industries (more or less wherever you have complex and expensive physical assets to take care of), and while it is highly innovative, its business case is very solid and articulated around clear concepts such as reduction of down time, increase of efficiency and lower operational costs.

Finally, another highlight for me what how much this year I was able to learn from customers during the event. For a number of different reasons I am not able to mention specific names here, but I had excellent meetings with people from different industries and countries where at least for awhile we were able to forget the traditional roles and dynamics (you know, that stuff around customers and suppliers…) , and just discuss exciting business problems we would not be able to solve without the joined efforts of people coming from very different perspective, and bringing very different contributions. For me, this is the best demonstration of the value of the co-innovation agenda that SAP is pushing forward with relentless determination. We love it, customers love it, and it works. Can it be any better?

Now my challenge is going to take all these exciting moments and use them as a source of inspiration and motivation for the months to come… What about you, dear readers? If you were there as well, what was your SAPPHIRE NOW 2014 highlight? What did you take home from Orlando?



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