About one-to-many EMEA SAPPHIREs

There has been some hubbub (Dennis Howlett collects some comments here, Josh Greenbaum more positively here, SearchSAP story here) about SAP’s decision to move from a single SAPPHIRE event in EMEA (2008 was in Berlin) to a series of events around the continents.  From my experience working around the world — and based on no “inside SAP” knowledge whatsoever — I’m not surprised by what Mike Prosceno conveyed to Dennis.  EMEA (and APJ and LA) customers often pine for:

a closer-to-home experience, in local language, one that is more intimate, and provides better opportunities for networking with peers, but that also continues to deliver SAP executive insight, partner participation and, where possible, user group participation

We’ve had similar mini-SAPPHIRES (to steal from Josh’s headline) in different geographies — I’m most familiar with the SAP Forums that SAP Brazil puts on (2008 here, 2007 here).  The attractions of local language and partner access are pretty obvious.  Furthermore, I’m not sure how this could be perceived as obviously a cost reduction measure.  If anything, on its face this approach will require more commitment and coordination, never mind resources. 

Finally, whenever I’ve presented at such events, I feel like I’ve made real, in-depth contact with our customers.  I believe that they feel that way as well.  IMO, going to where our customers live — and not asking them to come to us — is a shrewd move.

Large Enterprise On Demand comes to SAP

Most of my 2007 was spent working on the foundation of SAP’s large enterprise on demand strategy, so it was gratifying to that John Wookey was brought on to lead the effort.  His mission will be to organize SAP’s on-demand product road map for large enterprise customers under a single strategy.  It is always nice to see something concrete come out of one’s work!

I had heard the rumors for a while, but confirmation just came last week.  Josh Greenbaum’s take (here) is as good as any I’ve seen.  I like that he redirects folks away from the technical challenges of the cloud — which are real, but trivial (in the technical sense of “hard, but knowable and solvable”).  My take parallels Josh’s: the product portfolio challenges will be the hard bits.

The most telling section of Josh’s piece has nothing to do with On Demand/SaaS per se.  For me, the Wookey “acquisition” is a signal about SAP’s optimism about the future.  The current cost-control measures get the headlines, but:

SAP clearly sees that there’s no time like the present to invest in the future, and bringing John Wookey on board is a remarkable vote for future success that SAP is willing to make at what otherwise might look like a pretty bleak hour for the global economy. 

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