SAP News recently had the opportunity to speak with Juergen Mueller, chief technology officer and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, on some of the important topics facing SAP and its customers and partners.
Here is a transcript of the conversation.
Q: Thanks, Juergen, for making the time. It’s obvious to most that SAP continues a rather dramatic and impressive transformation. There’s always speculation about what every announcement means about the company’s priorities. What’s your take on where SAP is today?
A: Personally, I believe SAP is in a very exciting position today. By any measure, we have assembled a comprehensive end-to-end portfolio of business solutions. We serve large and small customers in every industry in nearly every country. The key for us right now is to show two things: consistency and innovation. Innovation is an obvious requirement. I also stress consistency because just last year we introduced a significant strategy to deliver the Intelligent Enterprise.
Our customers need to see us continue to focus on this strategy, especially showing that our analytics and machine learning capabilities are infused into all of our business applications. The key here needs to be business value. What can a customer that runs SAP do as an intelligent enterprise that they could not do before? How can the SAP user community be leaders in their companies by connecting the operations to the experiences? I believe we have a strong technology story to tell, but this will only resonate if we help customers demonstrate the business value they achieve with SAP. There are so many of these stories to tell and we need to constantly put the customer success first beyond our own soundbites.
Q: One quick follow up on your statement about SAP’s technology story. There is some speculation in a few places about the future of SAP HANA. You just became the leader of all SAP technology and innovation a few weeks ago. What is the future of SAP HANA?
A: To be candid, anyone who questions our commitment to SAP HANA doesn’t understand the strategy of SAP. We just named one of our brightest engineering leaders, Gerrit Kazmaier, to oversee the roadmap for SAP HANA data management.
The reality is that SAP HANA has been wildly successful for SAP and for our customers, with more than 28,000 customers on the SAP HANA platform. Almost all of our SAP applications, including SAP SuccessFactors solutions, make use of SAP HANA now. This turns it into one of the largest scale — if not the largest scale — enterprise application database.
Given the scale it has achieved already, we look to constantly build on the past success by introducing new SAP HANA offerings. We will make some major announcements about SAP HANA at SAPPHIRE NOW in a few weeks.
Honestly, I read some of these articles and they are basing assumptions about SAP HANA on a restructuring program that was announced earlier this year. I don’t want to minimize the anxiety that a restructuring creates for employees who are impacted. In cases where individuals make comments about their feelings or they question specific decisions, this is understandable. Personally, my hope is that SAP or our partners retain as many of these colleagues as possible. The facts about the strategy itself are what I have explained here. The restructuring is designed to invest more of our resources in areas where SAP customers tell us they expect us to invest. New SAP HANA innovation is one of those key priority areas.
Q: Another big topic we hear about in some parts of the market is around SAP Leonardo. As this is also part of your portfolio, what do you want people to know about SAP Leonardo? What do customers need to know?
A: Customers need to know that we have amazing engineers who are building more and more use cases with SAP Leonardo technologies embedded in our actual applications. This is what I was saying earlier about putting business value discussion before technology discussion. Look at companies like Pregis in the U.S., which is using SAP Leonardo Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor and analyze its machines. You even see SAP Leonardo Blockchain examples with Bumble Bee Foods tracing tuna from sea to the store shelves.
Machine learning use cases in our applications are expanding rapidly, and their impact can be seen in every industry. In fact, we have 100 unique machine learning-enabled scenarios, embedded in every SAP application, from SAP Fieldglass to SAP S/4HANA.
Another example of how customers benefit from intelligent technologies is BNP Paribas: The banking group was able to reduce customer on-boarding process for Hello bank!, its online bank, from 25 minutes to less than five minutes by using intelligent robotic process automation.
Maybe the one thing I wish we had done differently when we began promoting SAP Leonardo is to make the argument clearer to our customers that if you run SAP applications, you are going to benefit from SAP Leonardo innovation. This is a fundamental piece of our intelligent enterprise strategy and it’s only going to accelerate.
Q: You and Christian Klein are talked about as “new generation” Executive Board members for SAP. What does this mean to you and can you discuss the partnership with Christian to have a cohesive development agenda for the company?
A: I always caution people who use terms like “next generation.” The reality is that we have colleagues who have been with SAP for decades who are every bit as committed to the future as colleagues who have been with us for months. Age is only a number and has no bearing on anyone’s capacity to be an innovator.
Having said that, Christian and I are both humbled by the opportunity to serve on the Executive Board. Growing up in Germany we watched the growth of SAP under impressive leaders like Hasso Plattner and Dietmar Hopp. Now we have the opportunity to work with Bill McDermott and all our colleagues to take the company to the next level.
As for the development agenda, there is only one strategy for SAP. Christian and I, and also Rob Enslin from the Cloud Business Group, could not be more aligned on what we need to build for our customers to be successful intelligent enterprises in this experience economy.
Q: What is SAP’s biggest challenge and its biggest opportunity?
A: Our biggest challenge is to stay focused on our customers. It is so tempting in the technology industry to get carried away with buzzwords and “new breakthroughs.” The reality is that we are here to help companies extract value from technology, which is very different than simply celebrating every new idea. Customers expect us to be innovative, but also to protect them by making technology scalable in the global economy.
Our biggest opportunity is to connect enterprise technology to the individual, whether that’s the end consumer or the employee. This is the one boundary of enterprise technology that hasn’t been crossed. I am very confident we can do it and that we can improve people’s lives in the process. This is why you have only just begun to hear about the importance of experience data in addition to operational data.