I had the pleasure of attending a FP&A conference yesterday (#FPAWest) – conveniently located here in San Diego. SAP chose the event to launch a new product – ‘SAP Cloud for planning’, so let me share my first take. The press release can be found here.

Many enterprise vendors (and others) have tried to crack the Microsoft dominance with Excel as the Swiss Army knife of the business professionals. Almost no vendor has even been able to put a dent in the armor (as I described here already). The main reasons why Excel has kept its dominant role are that it can be found on nearly every enterprise desktop in the world, the power of the Excel grid control and the functional richness of Excel itself (though most users use less than 5%). The irony of the Excel killers is, that they mostly start – and then even end in Excel – creating value add for users in between. Most enterprise vendors have found a way to co-exist with Excel – allowing for the popular import and exports of Excel spreadsheets.

But it is good that vendors are trying, with good success (see e.g. my take on Informatica Springbok here) and now we can see SAP throwing its hat in the ring with Cloud for Planning. (In good SAP tradition a confusing name, given the S4HANA launch, it needs an upgrade to Cloud 4 Planning maybe? Going forward I will refer to the product with C4P in this post).  [Update Feb 20th - SAP correctly reminds me that C4P was named before S/4HANA and is following the SAP product naming conventions. MyPOV - Fair enough, sill a mouthful.]

Here are my top 3 takeaways from meeting with the C4P team extensively yesterday:

HANA makes a difference – any spreadsheet maker’s dream – I have written, blogged and spoken about the pros and cons of HANA, SAP’s in memory database many times. But C4P is different than the traditional enterprise application, as it essentially stands and falls with memory capabilities. As every heavy Excel user knows, even on today’s generously endowed machines, memory can become an issue. But memory is available plenty with HANA, so to a certain point, HANA is any spreadsheet builder’s dream. But HANA also has a nifty calculation engine, and the C4P product takes advantage of SAP owning both the C4P product and HANA (many on the product team come from the HANA team originally), embedding and adding key spreadsheet capabilities right into HANA. Granular security, the flexibility of the columnar database help additionally to build what C4P is – a great spreadsheet that was not build by a productivity tool vendor (aka Microsoft) but an enterprise software vendor. Finally the nature of HANA of being a database, gives the C4P product a distinct different capability than the conventional approach to FP&A, holding large models / matrices in memory. By its very nature, certainly aided by the often mentioned compression algorithms of HANA, C4P has a much lesser footprint than its traditional FP&A competitors.

Ivo Bauermann kicks off the C4P launch

A great tool has many uses – Despite being just launched as a product, C4P does so many things right already, that additional planning usage scenarios will be in demand. It should be only a question of time when prospects, customers and internal SAP product teams will ask to use C4P for usage beyond the classic FP&A usage, looking at e.g. S&OP, Workforce Planning etc. At the same time the product certainly needs to keep growing, as it takes a delicate balance between capabilities in C4P vs Excel to win over the trust and then the brains of the business user. In the past most attempts failed, as vendors could not win over the business user. What makes me optimistic (for now) in the C4P case is, that the first version if already pretty rich as a spreadsheet, but even more that the product team though of the next step, beyond the spreadsheet. Finance professionals don’t create spreadsheets for themselves, but to share them and collaborate with other employees in the enterprise. With an inbuilt collaboration option, C4P becomes instantly more valuable. And yes, for the FP&A heavy users, I saw a calendar, too.

Screenshot from SAP website, here
A HCP showcase – For a long time SAP did not talk PaaS, good for the vendor those times are over with SAPtd fall of 2014 (my take here) which made clear that HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) is the PaaS platform (my First Take here). With the C4P product being developed on HCP (and HANA) it is a great showcase that (certainly) with a lot of hard work and dedication, you can build a very attractive product right from scratch in less than a year, even though not in the main use case for both HCP and HANA (which is building transactional enterprise applications).


A very good V1 product by any measure. Now SAP needs to find the customers and position right with its existing BPC offering, which the team reassured me is no problem. That would be the confirmation that SAP BPC users see C4P as what it is – a better way to do FP&A work than with Microsoft Excel. But always better to hear it from customers. My hope is also that SAP gets the pricing right, C4P lends itself to freemium, pay by the use sales models as well as a viral marketing and selling approach. And then every product needs a roadmap, C4P needs to balance out basic spreadsheet with more advanced analytical capabilities. Overall it needs to remain close to the needs of the business professional with a planning need.

I will keep an eye on the FP&A vendors, as the new technologies of cloud, BigData, Analytics etc. all lend themselves very well to build the next generation of FP&A applications, and as such it centers well in my nextgen Apps research area.

And more on overall SAP strategy and products:
  • Progress Report - SAP HCM makes progress and consolidates - a lot of moving parts - read here
  • First Take - SAP launches S/4HANA - The good, the challenge and the concern - read here
  • First Take - SAP's IoT strategy becomes clearer - read here
  • SAP appoints a CTO - some musings - read here
  • Event Report - SAP's SAPtd - (Finally) more talk on PaaS, good progress and aligning with IBM and Oracle - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP and IBM partner for cloud success - good news - read here
  • Market Move - SAP strikes again - this time it is Concur and the spend into spend management - read here
  • Event Report - SAP SuccessFactors picks up speed - but there remains work to be done - read here
  • First Take - SAP SuccessFactors SuccessConnect - Top 3 Takeaways Day 1 Keynote - read here.
  • Event Report - Sapphire - SAP finds its (unique) path to cloud - read here
  • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP becomes more about applications - again - read here
  • Market Move - SAP acquires Fieldglass - off to the contingent workforce - early move or reaction? Read here.
  • SAP's startup program keep rolling – read here.
  • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
  • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
  • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
  • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
  • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
  • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
  • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
  • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
  • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
  • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
  • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
  • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
  • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
  • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
  • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.

And more about SAP technology:
  • HANA Cloud Platform - Revisited - Improvements ahead and turning into a real PaaS - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP commits to CloudFoundry and OpenSource - key steps - but what is the direction? - Read here.
  • News Analysis - SAP moves Ariba Spend Visibility to HANA - Interesting first step in a long journey - read here
  • Launch Report - When BW 7.4 meets HANA it is like 2 + 2 = 5 - but is 5 enough - read here
  • Event Report - BI 2014 and HANA 2014 takeaways - it is all about HANA and Lumira - but is that enough? Read here.
  • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
  • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
  • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
  • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
  • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
  • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
  • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.
Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.
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