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This content is part of the Conference Coverage: SAP Sapphire Now 2016: Special conference coverage
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Sapphire conference emphasizes empathy, S/4HANA, cloud

After CEO Bill McDermott set a tone of customer empathy, SAP used its annual Sapphire conference to strengthen the case for S/4HANA and the cloud, showcasing high-profile users of its next-generation ERP platform and announcing new cloud products and partnerships.

"Everything has to start with that ultimate empathy for that end user and the experience that they are getting from your company," McDermott told Sapphire conference attendees in his opening keynote. "In every encounter with our customers, we have to understand their customers, and we have to make the things that we do desirable."

The Sapphire conference then laid out key elements of SAP's efforts to make its products easier to use, principally through the more user-friendly ERP suite, S/4HANA, and software as a service (SaaS) offerings meant to simplify delivery of SAP technologies, including the HANA in-memory database.

But SaaS vendors SAP acquired in recent years got equal billing as later presentations emphasized Concur travel and expense software, Ariba procurement, Fieldglass workforce management, SuccessFactors human resources and Hybris customer engagement -- and the potentially useful ways to collaborate across the platforms.

SAP also announced new integration tools and app extensions in a spring update of its HANA Cloud Platform, which has become the focus of the vendor's efforts to deliver more of its technology from the cloud and help users begin to move their business processes to S/4HANA. A new partnership with Microsoft promised better integration between Office 365 and SAP SaaS products, and the two said HANA is now certified to run on Azure, the Microsoft public cloud. 

Also announced at the Sapphire conference: U.S. availability of SAP Anywhere, a SaaS e-commerce application for small businesses.

Insight into McDermott's Sapphire conference themes

In the video, SearchSAP executive editor David Essex sat down with Brian McKenna, business applications editor at, TechTarget's London-based website for IT news and analysis, to discuss the themes of the Sapphire conference.

In every encounter with our customers, we have to understand their customers.
Bill McDermott, CEO, SAP

McKenna reported on a question he asked McDermott in a meeting with European journalists at the conference, amplifying the CEO's earlier assertion that SAP would become more of an "organic innovation machine."

"He literally said that all the big chess moves have been made," McKenna said. "The SuccessFactors acquisition was a big one for them, then Fieldglass and Concur and the rest -- very much cloud-based properties. They've bought themselves leadership in that space. But from now on, they're looking to do things organically."

McKenna cited SAP Anywhere as an example of such "organic" -- or internal -- product development. The software was developed in SAP China before being released in the U.K. and now the U.S.

The discussion concludes with the editors' take on SAP efforts to move users to both HANA and S/4HANA, in part by enticing them with cloud offerings such as HANA Cloud Platform. McKenna said a recent survey of the UK and Ireland SAP user group revealed increased use of SAP's cloud portfolio, but most respondents were unsure how acquisitions such as Ariba and Concur fit in SAP's overall strategy.

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