SAP VP cloud solutions Sven Denecken: Hybrid is “picking up speed”

CloudTech caught up with Sven Denecken, VP cloud solutions at SAP at the SAP UK & Ireland Forum earlier this week, to discuss what the term ‘hybrid’ really means, the advantages of HANA Enterprise Cloud, and where SAP truly sees itself

One of the more interesting flashpoints from the opening morning of the SAP UK & Ireland Forum in Birmingham this week was at the end of Rob Enslin’s keynote.

As reported by CloudTech in an editorial, Enslin told SAP customers and partners that, when he was asked what SAP’s main focus is – ERP, cloud, big data, mobile apps – he replied that it was all of them.

So with that in mind, and given that HANA, SAP’s data aggregation technology with in-memory capability, is referred to widely throughout the company, would customers be confused about what they’re actually getting?

Sven Denecken, VP of cloud systems at SAP, told CloudTech that whilst he hears this “very often”, companies are looking to talk about overall business transformation.

“More and more, these are business discussions,” Denecken explains. “60% of the purchase decisions are influenced by line of  business leaders which are not IT.

“IT is a very important line of business, I would argue, but more and more influence comes from the VP of sales, VP of marketing, chief of HR. They want to transform their business, so that discussion is not ‘what is my mobile, what is my in-memory’ – they’re not interested in that.

“They want to understand ‘how can I bring my business to the next level?’ So the discussion is about what distinct business problems we need to solve together with our clients, and I think the overarching theme for me is simplification. Cloud is not a technology, it’s an enabler,” he adds.

Back to business in more ways than one

SAP still calls itself a cloud company, although Denecken explains that this title isn’t “fishing for the hype” and that he expects to change his job title in two years’ time because of cloud’s omnipotence.

“I think cloud will get commodity with many others,” he says. “On-premise will still remain for certain areas, and rightfully so, so we keep innovating there. [In two years] it’s not going to be cloud strategy, it’s going to be back to business.

“We’re going to talk more business, we’re going to look at line of business that drives the change in companies, and we’re going to offer 360; what is the right dosage of mobile, cloud and on-premise that you need for your business?

“We’re going to come back to this discussion,” Denecken says confidently.

And why not? With 1350 firms signed up to HANA and 450 startups using HANA as a platform, the subscription numbers are solid, and the most recent financial results were an overachievement, according to SAP.

Hybrid or interoperable?

More importantly, SAP’s long-term strategy appears to be hitting current cloud trends square on – sophisticating big data and the hybrid cloud.

“The combination is hybrid,” Denecken says. “It is the right mix of cloud solutions, the private cloud and the on-premise.

“That’s why we’re so excited and actually that strategy didn’t change much since last year – but in 2013, it’s just picking up speed.”

For Denecken, he prefers to use the term ‘interoperable’, as opposed to hybrid, which he describes as “techie”.

“For me, speaking with business leaders, they want to interoperate and they want to change business – it’s something different, so they want change, and now they have a goal to deliver value in the quarter – and that’s what business leaders need.

“While they know the foundation of business needs to keep that pace, there’s nothing simple any more. Cloud hasn’t made business easier, but it has brought the ability for business leaders to decide on where they want to change, and where they want to change fast.

“Now it’s us, the vendors, to figure out how we can make that interoperability run. It calls for platforms, it calls for standards. There’s no doubt that cloud is here, but what is the real business value and how can I get it to work in this time?”

If further proof were needed, cloud is certainly maturing – both from a technological and vendor perspective – and companies need to catch up in order to avoid missing out.

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