Products to Services — The SAP Hybris Summit 2017

Thomas Wieberneit
5 min readOct 22, 2017

This year’s SAP Hybris Summit in Barcelona was attended by almost 3,000 paying participants, which is likely to make it the biggest ever, in spite of the recent unrest in Catalonia.

It was packed with partners and presentations. The message all around was about subscription economy, how companies will need to transform themselves from product- to service companies, and how SAP supports this by delivering YaaS, networked solutions, IoT and machine learning, based upon the SAP Cloud platform.

Owing not only to the topic of subscription economy GDPR was, of course, a topic, too. The key message here was: Our software helps you being compliant.

With SAP Hybris standing not only for ecommerce but also for SAP’s new brand of CRM (oops, engagement) solutions, there was astonishingly little information about the Sales- and Service Clouds and only a few bits about the Marketing Cloud. The pending acquisition of Gigya was naturally out of scope, although Gigya as a partner featured in the show with a booth and presentations in the theaters.

Day One

Having said this, the first keynote, held by SAP Hybris president Carsten Thomas, was slightly underwhelming. It set the stage for the topic, but was essentially last year’s content. The narrative was all about how companies like Uber and Airbnb change the game for traditional companies, the impact of machine learning, and the importance of focusing on experiences (not even outcomes). In brief: nothing new, and only a fuzzy view on SAP Hybris’ strategy.

It, however, was presented very well.

The Q&A’s offered on day one added some more flesh to the topics, also on the delineation between SAP Hybris and SAP. Carsten Thoma: “We want to focus on all the products that are enablement products” and “if you talk about experience, this is actually what we are focused on”. In other words, the ‘traditional SAP’ concentrates on the transactional part of the software — the heavy lifting — whereas SAP Hybris focuses on customer- and employee facing software.

However, being challenged about SAP Hybris Marketing both, Thoma and Marcus Ruebsam, SVP Global Head of Solution Management, SAP Hybris, admit that in spite of having a sizeable number of developers on the product, there is a need to balance new innovations for the ‘next wave’ with what “you have to do [for] today”, but first priority remains the creation of a complete view on the customer. According to Macus Ruebsam the Marketing Data Management piece is crucial, including the combination of online and offline data. Optimization using Abakus drives results and the first party data abilities of Gigya will add further value.

SAP sees the keys for being successful tomorrow as data management and enablement.

The day’s second Q&A was about the Revenue Cloud, featuring Adobe as a customer. The message to be conveyed was that SAP’s revenue cloud helps a customer with a complex, heterogeneous systems architecture turning their products into services while having the ability to measure and monitor to offer the “best matching contract”. Quizzed here the Adobe representative more or less admitted that “best” means best for Adobe, not necessarily for the customer, which depicts how far companies still need to go in terms of customer centricity.

Day Two

Rob Enslin’s keynote on day two brought the audience closer to how SAP intends to address the challenges facing businesses. This keynote, substantiated by a demo that led the audience through the process of acquiring a drone through a service incident, and upselling showed in how far SAP sees IoT and Machine Learning permeating applications. The storyline showed the audience everything from intelligent recommendations through an IoT data driven service call with resolution and a profile driven upsell process. The bold statement made by Moritz Zimmerman was that SAP is the only company that can deliver this breadth of services, stretching from (customer) acquisition through sales, and service, to billing, and being powered on one platform — supported by IoT and Machine Learning (phew, what a monster of a sentence …).

The keynote got closed with an appearance of fast speaking futurist Sophie Hackford who animatedly told the audience that “Minority Report” with all its continuous surveillance and advertising is already an exciting reality. To be honest, I found that more than slightly dystopian.

My PoV and Analysis

Overall I think that this was a good event for SAP Hybris, although in my eyes too much centered around ecommerce. The event could have benefited from more messaging around engagement and enablement. Also the number of press releases was surprisingly low. Still, a good event that gave a view on strategy.

With a storyline that stretches from (customer) acquisition through service and revenue (Revenue Cloud) and that supports the vision of a networked and subscription based economy, SAP Hybris has a compelling and consistent vision of the future. I, however, would suspect that other companies will contradict the bold statement that SAP is the only player that can deliver on this functional breadth. Microsoft, Oracle, and even Salesforce do make the same claim.

Where SAP is right, though, is that the vast majority of transactional data — 76 per cent — at one time or the other touches an SAP system. This in all likelihood is due to the Ariba network. This is a very good basis for machine learning, however one should not forget that SAP’s customers own this data, not SAP. Still, combining this data with the profiling possibilities that Gigya promises, there is a tremendous potential, even if it is on the leash of privacy regulations.

It will be interesting to see how the repositioning of YaaS to become an enterprise repository of (not so) micro services pans out. The short term vision seems to be establishing it as the new basis for delivering added services to SAP solutions, which is not dramatically different from now.

However, being based on and integrated into the SAP Cloud platform it has the potential to re-architect the way SAP builds and delivers software, as well as customers and partners. Integrated with the Revenue Cloud the new YaaS is a showcase of how the subscription economy could look like.

On the downside, although SAP’s vision is compelling, I know some customers that complain about missing functionality, e.g. in the subscription area (Revenue Cloud) or (e-mail) campaign execution. They regard these functionalities as basic and essential. There consequently is a gap between narrative and reality or perception that needs to get closed. This either requires a different balancing between going for the ‘next thing’ and fulfilling current needs or more education.

Regardless what it is, this gap needs to be closed.

Famous Last Words

One more word on the topic of subscription economy. SAP execs times and again used ‘sharing economy’ as synonymic to it, naming Uber and Airbnb as prime examples.

There is nothing like a sharing economy!

The term ‘sharing’ implies altruism. These companies, at best, are using peoples’ altruism to their benefit. These companies, as well as SAP’s vision are about a platform economy, and dominating markets (plural!) by scaling to become the strongest platform around. Part of it is using the data that customers willingly or reluctantly give. There is no altruism whatsoever involved.

Acknowledging this more openly would be good for all involved parties. That builds trust. After all, lacking trust was cited as the number one reason for customers (consumers) to abandon a brand.



Thomas Wieberneit

Helping businesses to improve in Digital Transformation, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, CRM, Innovation