SAP CEO Bill McDermott at SAPPHIRE NOW: Seize Our Destiny to Win in the Experience Economy


From the moment SAP CEO Bill McDermott bounded on stage to kick off this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, he captivated the audience with a clear plan for winning in the experience economy.

“We measure the quality of our work by your success and business outcomes,” said McDermott. “We’re focused on becoming the best-run version of ourselves in the relentless pursuit of making our customers the best-run businesses in the world. Together we can help the world run better, improve people’s lives, [and] face down the world’s toughest challenges because we’re seeing them as the world’s greatest opportunities… Once again, we find destiny in our hands.”


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Closing the $1.6 Trillion Experience Gap

McDermott traced SAP’s evolution over the past decade, showcasing the company’s $70 billion investment in innovation to develop SAP HANA, the leading technology and data management platform, along with an end-to-end portfolio of cloud applications and networks, and dedicated service professionals backed by a thriving ecosystem that allows customers to move at their own pace. Leaders from SAP, as well as some of the world’s renowned global brands — including the NBA, Royal Dutch Shell, and Tapestry — came on stage throughout the morning to share their companies’ transformational journeys with SAP. The common thread was how leading organizations are becoming intelligent enterprises for business advantage in the experience economy.

“Experience is now the organizing principle of the global economy,” said McDermott. “Every CEO I meet is trying to solve the experience gap…the difference between what people expect and what they actually receive. This is a $1.6 trillion problem because frustrated people will look elsewhere for a better experience… SAP was already the richest source of operational O-data, but we didn’t have experience X-data. SAP must be the platform that combines X-data and O-data. X- plus O- [data] gives you the ability to deliver true personalization at mass scale so you can bridge the experience gap.”

Only Experience Brands Survive

McDermott introduced Qualtrics Co-Founder and CEO Ryan Smith, who explained how his company’s pioneering experience management (XM) category aligned with SAP’s vision for the future of enterprise software in the experience economy.

“Bill knew the experience economy changed the way businesses compete…redefining what companies could expect from [enterprise applications] to not just survive, but actually win in the experience economy,” said Smith. “With the rise of the internet, smartphones, and social media, it’s never been easier for customers, employees, and stakeholders to evaluate which companies provide great experiences and which ones don’t. Today organizations are disproportionately rewarded when they deliver a great experience, and absolutely punished when they do not… For the first time in history, experience has become the growth engine for business.”

Citing the emergence of gourmet coffee baristas and ride-hailing services, Smith said no industry was immune from disruption. Upstarts in every sector from exercise and commercial real estate to financial services and logistics began in an existing company’s experience gap.

“The race is on, and only the experience brands are surviving,” he said. “There are four experience areas of business: customer, employee, product, and brand. The XM platform gives you the machinery to operationalize experience management and close these gaps… Experience management is how organizations compete and win in this experience economy.”

SAP, Apple Partnership Expands

Apple CEO Tim Cook joined McDermott on stage to talk about the expanded partnership between SAP and Apple. CORE ML, Apple’s on-device machine learning technology, will be available for the first time as part of the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS. Machine learning models will automatically download to iPhone and iPad so apps can run offline, and then dynamically update while connected to SAP Cloud Platform. SAP expanded its native iOS experience across its broader applications portfolio, starting with SAP Ariba software. SAP also announced it will expand its app offerings to the Mac.

Cook explained how retailers could use machine learning and augmented reality (AR) to speed up in-store inventory management and streamline product maintenance in the manufacturing industry.

“When you’re looking for productivity, efficiency, and experience, machine learning and AR are key. Mobility is a must. We have to deliver the best information to the right individual at the right time to get the right business decision,” said Cook. “With SAP incorporating these into their SDK, what we can do is just limitless.”

Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity

McDermott concluded by urging the audience to understand that experience is everything, and the intelligent enterprise connects every business process to the “make-or-break” experiences for their business.

“How can your business be an exemplar of the intelligent enterprise with X plus O as the new, new frontier for best-run business?” he asked. “The digital boardroom becomes a place where human emotions power intelligent enterprise systems; where we use SAP Leonardo not to replace humans, but to better serve them. You are leaders of business, and SAP’s purpose is to help you embrace this great potential. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We’re inspired by the responsibility we have to those of you who choose our brand, and the next generation who represent the bold and bright future of a diverse and inclusive future. We will win.”

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