Conference Coverage

SAP Sapphire Now 2016: Special conference coverage

Reporting and analysis from IT events

Sapphire 16: SAP’s McDermott stresses customer empathy as Microsoft pact declared

Microsoft’s Nadella says companies have ‘an existential need to bring our best together’

SAP CEO Bill McDermott has said the company will put more emphasis on “empathy” for customers, during his opening keynote at the supplier’s 18th Sapphire 2016 customer conference in Orlando.

“We’re on fire for customers,” he said, although he conceded the company was “perhaps too fast out of the gates with S/4 Hana” – the supplier’s full enterprise resource planning (ERP) on its Hana in-memory database, released in 2015.

In the first part of his talk, McDermott abandoned the traditional keynote format in favour of a more collegial panel, including executives from SAP business units Ariba, SuccessFactors and Concur.

SAP Ariba president Alexander Atzberger, SAP SuccessFactors president Mike Ettling, and SAP Concur president Elena Donio joined SAP’s president of customer experience and commerce (CEC), Carsten Thoma, and chief business officer, Quentin Clark, to talk about innovation.

McDermott was then joined on the stage by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, to announce joint plans to deliver support for the Hana database platform deployed on Microsoft Azure.

The suppliers promised to simplify work through new integrations between Microsoft Office 365 and cloud services from SAP, and provide enhanced management and security for custom SAP Fiori applications.

“We’ve always had a platform, ecosystem identity,” said Nadella. “Partnerships are absolutely necessary now, more than ever, and we and SAP have an existential need to bring our best together.”

He added that the “unintended consequence” of all user organisations becoming, as he said, independent software suppliers – producing digital technology as well as buying it from IT companies – was an increase in the overall cyber security threat. That requires a more dynamic way of providing security, one that is machine learned, he said.

“At Microsoft, we are focused on empowering organisations to build systems of intelligence that advance their digital transformations,” said Nadella.

“Together with SAP, we are bringing new levels of integrations between our products that provide businesses with enhanced collaboration tools, new insights from data and a cloud to grow and seize new opportunities ahead.”

A paradigm shift for enterprise

McDermott said: “We believe the IT industry will be shaped by breakthrough partnerships that unlock new productivity for customers beyond the boundaries of traditional platforms and applications.”

He added that the “certification of Microsoft Azure’s infrastructure services for Hana, along with [a] new integration between Microsoft Office 365 and cloud solutions from SAP, are emblematic of this major paradigm shift for the enterprise”.

The two companies are certifying Hana to run development, test and production workloads on Microsoft Azure, including the full ERP S/4 Hana.

New integrations between the companies will also combine Office 365 communications, collaboration, calendar, documents and other data with cloud services from SAP, including Concur, Fieldglass, SuccessFactors and Ariba.

The new capabilities will be available from the third quarter of 2016.

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