Black Swan Image credit pixabay/25621Just over a month ago, the 30th anniversary of Sapphire saw well over 30,000 people descend on Orlando in one of SAP’s biggest conferences to date. It’s easy to get lost in the jam-packed schedule of client keynotes and new product announcements. But, now that the dust has settled, we’ve had some time to take a step back and look at what it might mean for the year ahead.

The Experience Economy

As largely anticipated following SAP’s acquisition of Qualtrics in January, the main theme of Sapphire this year was The Experience Economy. This was certainly hard to miss for anyone that attended SAP CEO Bill McDermott’s opening keynote. According to Bill, experience is everything. It’s ‘the organising principle of the global economy’. Buying decisions are now driven by the quality of the experience you receive from a brand, not just it’s product or service. Indeed, research from Accenture recently found that 65% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer who sends them relevant and personalised promotions.

Customer expectations are already outpacing brands’ efforts to deliver a personalised experience. The difference between what people expect from an organisation versus what they actually receive is creating a ‘gap’ that makes them turn elsewhere. Whilst this might spell opportunity for some, large legacy organisations have the challenge of achieving this personalisation at scale. Consumers are inundated with an unprecedented number of options for products, configurations, and promotions. Businesses must figure out how to serve everyone, without overwhelming anyone.

According to Bill, how to bridge this gap is the $1.6 trillion question on every CEO’s lips. A question that SAP hopes to answer. How? Data. Specifically, what SAP calls X and O data.

X&O Data

This refers to experience data, ‘X’, and operational data, ‘O’. Truly intelligent enterprises will be able to combine all the X and O data, connecting every business process from end-to-end. Doing so will create a continuous feedback loop that can inform both planning and execution that gets better with each iteration.

Of course, the majority of business leaders understand this already. Accenture’s 2019 Technology Vision found that 83% of business and IT executives agree that understanding consumers’ behaviours around technology will be critical for their organization to increase customer loyalty. However, putting this into practise is a completely different story.

SAP plans to be the platform which can do this, combining its own operational data with Qualtrics’ recently acquired experience data to deliver true personalisation for its customers. But the onus isn’t all on SAP. To achieve this, it also needs businesses to stop viewing their X data simply in terms of ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ customers. Instead, it encompasses a range of nuanced information, from feedback about products to employee experience. Organisations can then use this information to continually improve and personalise future interactions.

New Cloud Services

So how does SAP plan to become the go-to for experience management? Supervisory Board Chairman and Co-Founder, Hasso Plattner, unveiled the next stage of growth: SAP HANA Cloud services, which will bring the power of the HANA database to the cloud. This was a key discussion point amongst Accenture’s clients at the show, particularly the long-term benefits it’ll bring in terms of agility and adaptability.

Stronger Partnerships

Partnerships will also be essential, offering new commercial and engagement models to encourage rapid adoption. As more industries look to transform, strong collaboration will be so important in finding the right solutions to this range of challenges.

Accenture’s own joint partnership announcement with SAP, called project elevate, also focused on how to build the next generation of experience management solutions on SAP C/4HANA. Project elevate will address the unique experience challenges faced by different industries. Other announcements, such as free test and demo environments for SAP C/4HANA, were also positively received by existing partners.

Final Thoughts

From this year’s Sapphire, there can no longer be any doubt that SAP sees the experience economy as the future. With the announcements from the show, it should be in a strong position to become the go-to platform for experience management. Having set the stage, this year will be a chance for SAP to prove that it has the winning combination in place.

There is plenty coming up this year and a range of services associated with SAP that are ready now. For more information on what’s available, visit:

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John Erik Ellingsen is a managing director and the lead of the Accenture SAP Business Group in UK and Ireland. He is responsible for helping our clients innovate and transform in a digital world using the SAP ecosystem – a comprehensive ecosystem spanning ERP and the customer channels enabling clients to compete and be effective in a digital world. As the leading SAP consultancy, system integrator and application developer, Accenture provides comprehensive capabilities to assist our clients, including cloud services, SAP S/4 HANA, customer experience, big data solutions, advanced analytics, eComm and mobile solutions. Prior to this role John Erik led Accenture’s Technology practice for our Products Sector (Consumer Goods, Life Sciences, Retail, Automotive, Industrials, Infrastructure, Travel and Transportation), supporting clients with services spanning IT Strategy, Technology Consulting, Business and Systems Integration, Programme and Delivery Management, Digital / Cloud / SaaS / ERP Implementations, Enterprise Architecture and Software, Application & Infrastructure Services. The majority of John Erik’s career has been in business transformation and system integration projects across numerous clients in Government, Utilities, Financial Services and Products – including key leadership roles on many of Accenture’s most complex and innovative programmes to deliver transformational capabilities and value to clients.


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