Categories: Founder's Blog


Sam Bayer


SAPPHIRENOW 2016 Reflections

I just got back from SAP’s SAPPHIRENOW in Orlando.  I thought it might be interesting to summarize the conference from the perspective of the person that’s interested in B2B eCommerce.

It’s probably best to break up the overall analysis into three components:

  1. What’s SAP up to?
  2. What are the exhibitors up to?
  3. What are people talking about in their presentations?

I’ll cover the first two in this post and will cover the analysis of the presentations in a follow-on post.

So what’s SAP up to?

  • First of all, you really can’t simply put up a B2B eCommerce website anymore.   The pitch is that you have to undergo a “digital transformation”.  Sounds serious…and expensive… and something you can’t do quickly or right away.  Oh, and if you don’t undergo this transformation soon, you’re going to be toast.
  • With that said, if you’ve got the time (and money) to undergo that digital transformation, hybri$ is a seriously badass intergalactic platform.  Marketing, Sales, Pricing, Services.  You name it, it can do it.  It can even sell things to your customers before they’ve begun to think about them!  Seriously, there is no doubt that hybri$ is the Rolls Royce of eCommerce platforms and to be on the platform has become an aspirational status symbol…and rightfully so.  Shoot, who wouldn’t want a Rolls Royce…or maybe a Tesla Model S P90d?  :-)
  • Every hybri$ booth was packed with people.  Granted many of the times that I walked by they were packed with hoards of SAP employees conversing amongst themselves, but clearly there was plenty of customer interest.  Most of the conversations/demonstrations were Retail oriented.  Little to no B2B focused demonstrations were available as best I could see.
  • At the core of the digital enterprise is S/4 Hana.  As one of our client CIO’s who was commenting on his first SAPPHIRE visit said, “I knew Hana was important to SAP but I had no idea that it was this important”.  We’ve had the good fortune of integrating our service to an S/4 Hana system at GDT, who happens to have been an early adopter of S/4 Hana.  I truly want all of our clients to get onto the S/4 Hana platform as quickly as possible.  For a change, I’d like to be the constraint on the end user’s performance.
  • Hana. Was. Everywhere.
  • YaaS (hybris as a service) was being demonstrated.  From their home page  “For the innovative mind.  Get to market faster by adding customisations and new features to your applications.  Embed market leading capabilities into your products”.  While in a nascient state, I think this holds some interesting possibilities down the road.  It’s sort of like a Magento Extension marketplace only architected as web services.  Very cool.
  • SAP Anywhere.  This is being marketing as a “front-office” solution for mom and pop businesses.  In what only SAP can pull off, their first reference client is Reggie’s Garage.  Who is Reggie you ask?  Reggie Jackson.  Mr. October.  One of my childhood NY Yankee heroes.  A man that we found out during one of the keynotes that has 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 World Series rings!  10 rings.  10 fingers.  That’s alot of bling!  And yet, based on the SAP Anywhere Pricelist, he’s only paying around $1K per month for his website. I got a private demo of SAP Anywhere by a lovely Red Bull fueled bow-tied sales engineer.  While I tried to get him to position SAP Anywhere vis-a-vis other eCommerce offerings in the market…he jiujitsued all of my attempts.
    • Are you like Magento?  No!  We’re easier.
    • Are you like a mini-hybris?  No! We don’t do all that fancy marketing stuff.  Besides, they’re for huge companies.  We’re only for the less than 500 employee company.
    • Are you like Shopify? No way!  We’re more than that.
    • Who is SAP trying to go after with this product?  The millions of small business owners.  Bike shops, Bakeries, Lawn maintenance firms etc.
    • What are you doing at this show?  I have no idea man.  I’m pretty much like a fish out of water here.
  • So what about the SME (small Enterprise market)?  It’s SAP’s fastest growing market.  Mid market manufacturers (<$300M in revenue or General Businesses in SAP Parlance) are about as far away from Nestle (the $100B, Fortune #72/500, keynote featured client) as you can get.  What do they do for B2B eCommerce…er, I mean for their “digital transformation”?  They’re told that they have to take the leap to hybri$ as well.  SAP’s assurances that they can (and have to) do it felt like the virgin skydiver being nudged out of the plane for the first time.  No worries, you’ll be OK mate!!!!But SAP offered proof…there is always proof at SAPPHIRE…that SMEs could (and had to) digest hybri$ in the form of a testimonial from a “will remain nameless” manufacturer of Car Washes.  I can’t help but picture the incongruity of a Rolls Royce going through a carwash :-).  I’m sure the fact that they could afford hybri$ had nothing to do with the deep deep deep guilt discount they got from SAP (to atone for a massively aborted WCEM implementation), in order for them to be the poster child for all SME’s at SAPPHIRE.
  • So…in summary…from an eCommerce perspective, SAP has:
    • the no-ERP solution with SAP Anywhere,
    • and hybri$ for everyone else.
    • and conveniently, there is no distinction between B2C and B2B because it’s all about the consumer and we’re all consumers…so it’s all B2C.  As if.

What are the Partners up to?

  • I could only find two technology exhibitors that dared to flaunt their eCommerce wares in the face of hybri$; CDI Technology and DataXtreme.  All of the names of the past are gone from the showroom floor.
  • CDI’s Suhas Gosavi is an industry veteran who owns the Oracle/JDE ecommerce midmarket and thanks to his recent acquisition by BluePay, is focusing (or at least should be) his efforts on offering his payment products and expertise to the SAP market.  It’s safe to say that Suhas and I are fans of each other and it was great to grab a cup of coffee with him during the show.
  • DataXtreme, is a veteran SAP consulting services provider and seems to have developed an Order Management and POS system for Lumber Liquidators.  They had the foresight to build it on Hana and are feeling an awful lot of SAP Marketing wind blowing in their sails.  Well played gentlemen!  The thing is, there aren’t many Lumber Liquidators out there, and if things keep on going in the direction that they have been, Lumber Liquidators maybe headed for their own liquidation.  Well, they may not have a winner of a  product, but they sure are getting a lot of traffic which probably won’t hurt their core services business.  Nice work guys!
  • Then there are the hybri$ implementation partners.  They come in two flavors, those who have evolved from an SAP implementation heritage and those that are the “Digital Agencies”.
  • Gorilla, LyonsConsulting, SapientNitro are three of the Digital Agency variety.  Their presence satisfies the “diversity quota” for the conference.  It was fun watching the dressed in Black crowd trying to make small talk with the suits.
    • When I asked these folks what a typical hybri$ SME B2B project looked like for them, $1M is pretty much table stakes with software and services costs split around 40/60.
    • When I asked them what happens when their prospects don’t have those kind of funds, the answer was they go to Magento.  But I already knew that :-)
  • The SAP derived practices are separated into Tier 1 and Tier 2.  You can easily tell them apart by the square footage of their booths.  Tier 1’s have two floors and couches.  By the way it’s interesting to note that the Digital Agencies, at least by booth size, would be considered Tier 4’s or 5’s…pretty much coat closet size.
    • Tier 1 partners are the: IBMs, Accentures and Cap Geminis.
      • Frankly, I didn’t even go into their booths.  Clients know what they’re in for when they knock on the Tier 1 doors…they are asking for, and they are going to get, a Digital Transformation!  At least 7 digits and possibly even 8.
    • Tier 2 partners are the: KPITs, Seal Consultings, and Yash’s of the world.
      • They advertise hybri$ and will sell anything that makes their clients successful.  We’re particularly fond of the folks at Yash!
  • The BIG news for me were the Product Configurators.  They were all over the place and they were big.  Of course SAP had their own CPQ (Configure Price Quote) solution.  The elder statesmen of the field, Configit, brought an impressive team and an array of solutions to adorn their two story booth with a penthouse view.  One of these days I hope to be able to find a project that we can work on together.  FPX and ModelN (who OEM’s Configit’s engine) were showing off their offerings.  I had a great conversation with the folks at FPX and am looking forward to good things to come later this year.  A new comer to the field, Ice Edge Business Solutions, definitely had the sexiest 3D fly-through technology.  Pretty overstated technology for the understated Canadians that they are.  All had pretty big booths.  That means they’re expecting for this segment of the eCommerce market to take hold.
  • The usual suspects of Payment Technologies were in the house.  The King of Hill, and the company who we have partnered with the most, Paymetric, was there in full force as were the normal cast of Paymetric wannabees…CardConnect, Delego and HighRadius and of course my friends at CDI Technologies (who we have also recently partnered with).
  • The last technology category of relevance to the B2B eCommerce crowd are the Freight Shoppers.  The ones we’ve seen and worked with the most…again with their Tier 2 sized booths…were ShipERP and ProcessWeaver.  While not always the the simplest thing to get right, integrating with their services certainly does take a lot of surprises out of the checkout process for our client’s customers’.  Giving someone on the web a choice of how much money they want to spend to get their shipment to them based on how quickly they need their products delivered is a great convenience.  The vast majority of our clients still include that asterisked “order total does not include shipping and handling” text at the bottom of their order confirmations.  That’s OK for awhile but that’s a clear case for the need to undergo a bit of a digital transformation.

So, for those of us mostly interested in SAP Integrated B2B eCommerce what I saw and heard on the floor was pretty loud and clear: it’s all hybri$ all the time.

That’s especially good news if you were suited up for your digital transformation, focused on retailing your merchandise to the consumer and are a marketing guy with a let’s grow our topline budget, and…this is kind of a BIG AND… you brought your checkbook.  SAPPHIRENOW  was the place for you.

If you didn’t fit that profile, if you were a mid-sized industrial manufacturer, or a mid-sized division of a larger company, you felt just as much at home at SAPPHIRE as the bowtie guy pitching me his product in the SAP Anywhere booth.

Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll dissect the entire SAPPHIRE Agenda of presentations and demonstrations in order to give you a sense of the conference’s content focus.