Welcome to Supply Chain Matters coverage of the SAP Sapphire Conference, coming to you from Orlando Florida.  Our first posting will dwell on initial events and impressions.

The most interesting aspect of this year’s conference is that it is a virtual conference, simultaneously held in both U.S. and European venues.  I personally like this format, and believe it will help to bring out the strengths of SAP as a global provider. 

As one powerful example, our sessions began this morning with a global news conference that featured each of the SAP Co-CEO’s fielding questions live from each venue.  Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe was on satellite feed from Frankfurt, and Bill McDermott anchored the Orlando venue.  Needless to say, the prime topic of discussion from each side of the Atlantic was the recently announced acquisition of Sybase by SAP.  Many questions were peppered on why the acquisition, how the acquisition fits with SAP strategy, and indirectly, did SAP pay too much.  Both executives were very clear to point out SAP does not acquire to gain market share, but rather to move the company forward.  The other emphatic statement was that Sybase will support SAP’s strategy to empower the mobile workforce, the on-device leg of the three legged delivery strategy that also includes on-premise and on-demand.  I observed a very noticeable trait among the SAP’s senior executives to stress the importance of SAP’s existing partner relationships in mobile, database and analytical applications by name. This was no doubt motivated by perhaps the initial concerns from key partners regarding the thrust of the Sybase acquisition. and SAP executives are feeling a need to smooth the waters.

The other key theme for this year’s conference is SAP Business by Design, and the general product launch scheduled for later this summer.  While SAP is emphasizing the progress and momentum of this strategic product, there have not been a lot of details thus far.

Both of these themes have impact on global supply chain process enablement.  Each of SAP’s Co-CEO’s made frequent reference to supply chain applications as an important benefit for mobility and on-device use.  SAP Business by Design will also include a supply chain component, including planning, procurement, manufacturing and of course, analytics and reporting.  My goal here in Orlando is to seek out more detail, and there is an open question in my mind as to whether such details are available for public consumption. I’ll have more impressions to share after some initial interviews with SAP’s supply chain leadership team.

 Bob Ferrari