Binnie’s mission right now is to deliver an overall portfolio of analytic solutions to SAP’s customers. In this interview that took place during a July analytic gathering at SAP’s U.S. headquarters, he talks about SAP’s market positioning and moves into a broader discussion about business and data analytic trends in the marketplace.
Before we get the business trends driving analytics, I’d like to talk about SAP’s message to the market. With SAP’s ERP portfolio and all the acquisitions, Business Objects, Sybase, SuccessFactors, I am curious if you see analytics or business intelligence or something else as the current entry point for discussions with existing customers and prospects.
I am part of one of the businesses so to an extent that question belongs to someone else, but SAP as a whole has five businesses. If you went to our enormous customer base I think they’d say the on-premise business applications remains the center of what we do. In our on-premise business, something like 60 percent of the world’s GDP goes through our software. We have 17 million people operating in the cloud every day. We have a mobile business we are building very quickly that is going to be transformative in how all those other assets get delivered. We have a database and technology business and we have the analytics business which I operate. Each of those five represents a whole business that would be successful on its own but is more successful in context as you realize these things are all connected.
That much breadth is hard to center up in a message. I asked because a lot of messaging we’re getting from SAP now seems to be centered on the HANA in-memory database and analytics. Is that just a constructive place to engage businesses?
In the analytics business we think there is a plain connection between the database and technology and our mobile business with HANA and the transformation of the data environment to new architectures. Mobile technologies are the method by which content and insight and interaction moves outwards to the edges of the organization but you could also put the business suite in the middle of that picture, with the data marshalling in this real-time environment and applications being delivered out to business users that are connected to that SAP core application context. But I think our core focus is still very clear. We are about making organizations run better. It’s on the signs.
How are database customers responding to the analytic message?
Data warehouses and the core database part have been around a long time and we see that industry in the midst of a huge transition. There is in-memory technology coming through, new architectures [where] we think of analytics as taking all the information of value in core assets and the differentiator is how the business uses that information to make a difference. That also underlies everything we do. You have to run the actual mechanics of the business better, you have to operate IT more cost effectively and deliver many insights that come together in one mission.
We’re hearing of many companies that want to decentralize business intelligence and of growing customer demand for self-service BI environments. How does that reconcile to the traditional use of enterprise software?
I agree with the observation. I was chatting with Howard Dresner before our event this morning and we were talking about this interesting duality around agility, time to value and self-service versus governance and the laminar flow. The truth is there is the duality of needing to do or understand something right now and the knowledge that if I just do the “now” stuff all the time I will end up with chaos. So there is a wonderful ongoing tension between short, quick, reactive and long, slow and efficient and analytics is always going to be like that with new ways and new insights always waiting along that adoption curve. Clay Christenson talked about crossing the chasm and we do that every week. We are always doing something for an early adopter in an organization and something else for a late adopter. Both need to happen.
Yet we still hear that large enterprises are too slow to support immediate needs and that sends business users back to their own devices.
IT tends to focus on the long and slow like a big plan or data warehouse no one needs, and business has the short focus where they create the spreadmarts that can’t be sustained and we end up arguing whose spreadsheet wins, not whose data is right. That’s still true but the questions my customers ask me are usually not about technology or how to build a BI system. They want to know how to apply the BI analytics to some problem or challenge, and that conversation is also focusing on what the business is trying to solve and the multitude of strategies they have. On the back end, they might need a flow of operational metrics through sensors in trucks that service coal mines in Australia, right up to an executive and a dashboard on his cell phone.