SAP: The challenges and opportunities in becoming 'the' cloud company #CloudWF

It's one of the more interesting uses of capitalisation CloudTech had seen in recent times. SAP co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe outlined their company's plans to become THE cloud company following Q1 results, as the software giant looks to shift its traditional on-prem image to a more agile cloud-first model.

And according to SAP UK&I managing director Kevin Kimber, the signs are pointing in the right direction for this business transformation.

"It's hugely ambitious," he tells CloudTech. "It's never been done before by a company of this size. We believe we're well on the way to achieving it, and our customers tell us that on a daily basis, we're really at the heart of those discussions. It's absolutely squarely in focus."

Recent updates from the company have been something of a roadblock, however. Last month SAP axed top cloud chief Shawn Price, while the Q1 results backed up the software provider shifting the goalposts to the right in terms of cloud revenue targets.

Yet in many ways it's more about changing the personality mindset of SAP as well as getting customers to shift over.

"I think it's at the heart of everything we do," Kimber says. "I think it's a really interesting opportunity for the company, it's a really interesting opportunity for our customer base."

For Kimber, whose background is in west coast startups, he adds: "The agility you have in those businesses is something that SAP is looking to embrace, and you see that on a daily basis, the drive to simplicity, both internally and to enable us to be simple and transparent with customers."

There's a problem though: SAP's software, as a scathing Forbes article noted, is not exactly known for its simplicity. With mobile and cloud converging, this only exacerbates the problem. Recent moves, such as SAP Fiori, seem to be on the right path, and this change is something Kimber acknowledges.

"If you look at it, our customers are demanding, and the marketplace is demanding, simplicity," Kimber says. "From our perspective, we've always been known for driving business innovation, and cloud is the current way of putting technology right at the heart of business decisions and driving that innovation.

"On a daily basis we're focused on how do we be easier to do business with, how do we enable customers to consume technology in an easier way, and that's an ongoing opportunity for all of us," he adds.

Recent partnerships are also looking upwards. SAP announced a strategic deal with IBM to integrate SAP HANA - still a solution looking for a problem, in some eyes - with IBM's Power suite to create Power HANA.

Both companies are broadly making the same bet; two big legacy organisations attempting to rebrand themselves as cloud-first firms. And from the evidence seen so far, SAP is happy to take the short term hits in order to reach that long term goal.

"The investments we're making from an acquisition perspective, the organic developments we're making, they're all cloud first," Kimber explains.

"It's all about enabling customers to consume more. We've all heard that message loud and clear: the shift happened, and is happening on a daily basis, and so everything we do as a company, whenever we talk internally, whenever we talk externally, is always with a cloud context first.

"It's a service culture, which means delivering service and time to value as quickly as possible," he adds.

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