Today at Microsoft's Ignite conference in Orlando, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was joined by Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayan and SAP CEO Bill McDermott to announce the Open Data Initiative across the three vendors. Important enough to merit a traditional commented press release – you can find the original here. As this was a well concerted launch with three CEOs present – each vendor has put up their microsite for this, I recommend to visit them to catch the slightly different POVs of the vendors…- Adobe is here, Microsoft is here and SAP is here.






ORLANDO, Fla. — Sept. 24, 2018 — On Monday, the CEOs of Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and SAP (NYSE: SAP) introduced the Open Data Initiative at the Microsoft Ignite conference. Together, the three longstanding partners are reimagining customer experience management (CXM) by empowering companies to derive more value from their data and deliver world-class customer experiences in real-time.
MyPOV – Good intro – but why limit to customer experience management – why not even call this CRM? Yes, Adobe has most assets here and SAP is lost on naming its C4/HANA product a bit. but make no mistake – this is about single truth of the customer – for B2B and B2C enterprises… the vendors will come around and fix this to CRM… and of course no coincidence this was announced 24 or so hours before Salesforce's Dreamforce kicks off in San Francisco.

In today's world, data is a company's most valuable asset. However, many businesses struggle to attain a complete view of their customer interactions and operations, because they are unable to connect information trapped in internal silos. At the same time, important customer information also resides in external silos with intermediary services and third-party providers, limiting a company's ability to create the right connections, garner intelligence and ultimately extract more value from its own data in real time to better serve customers.
MyPOV – This has been the 20+ year promise of every CRM vendor – always desired – seldom achieved. But vendors traditionally only have taken an exclusive to their offering's stance – which of course does not reflect enterprise reality, which spans multiple vendors… and left it to the enterprise to implement this use case.

The Adobe, Microsoft and SAP CEOs on stage at Microsoft Ignite Source: Microsoft Ignite Webcast Holger Mueller
The Adobe, Microsoft and SAP CEOs on stage at Microsoft Ignite
Source: Microsoft Ignite Webcast
Companies around the world use software and services from Adobe, Microsoft and SAP to run product development, operations, finances, marketing, sales, human resources and more. Today, Adobe, Microsoft and SAP are joining forces to empower their mutual customers with the Open Data Initiative, which is a common approach and set of resources for customers based on three guiding principles:
MyPOV – So why limit it to customer data? Ok to start there…

  • Every organization owns and maintains complete, direct control of all their data.
  • Customers can enable AI-driven business processes to derive insights and intelligence from unified behavioral and operational data.
  • A broad partner ecosystem should be able to easily leverage an open and extensible data model to extend the solution.
MyPOV – Good principles. Of course, #1 works good for intra-enterprise – but less good for inter-enterprise when delivering complex customer value scenarios…  especially in the era of DaaS the three partners need to spend a little more thought cycles on this. #2 is likely going to become an Azure money machine… as Microsoft is the hosting IaaS – Azure Data Lake likely going to be the repository…  subscriptions will go there… And #3 will work when the three can show traction… The data pool alone will be attraction enough for 3rd party ISVs. The latter is good news for enterprises.

Based on these principles, the core focus of the Open Data Initiative is to eliminate data silos and enable a single view of the customer, helping companies to better govern their data and support privacy and security initiatives. With the ability to better connect data across an organization, companies can more easily use AI and advanced analytics for real-time insights, "hydrate" business applications with critical data to make them more effective and deliver a new category of AI-powered services for customers.
MyPOV – Enterprises need a central repository for customer data… used to be called the Customer Data Hub, the single source of truth etc… let's see if the three can pull this off.

"Adobe, Microsoft and SAP are partnering to reimagine the customer experience management category," said Shantanu Narayen, CEO, Adobe. "Together we will give enterprises the ability to harness and action massive volumes of customer data to deliver personalized, real-time customer experiences at scale."
MyPOV – Well said -for Adobe's perspective – which is mostly B2C.

"Together with Adobe and SAP we are taking a first, critical step to helping companies achieve a level of customer and business understanding that has never before been possible," said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. "Organizations everywhere have a massive opportunity to build AI-powered digital feedback loops for predictive power, automated workflows and, ultimately, improved business outcomes."
MyPOV – Well said as well – but more future oriented… very little business insight can be derived from looping customer data together – business data needs to follow – and that's where the announcement has stopped… but also things get very hard.

"Microsoft, Adobe and SAP understand the customer experience is no longer a sales management conversation," said Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP. "CEOs are breaking down the silos of the status quo, so they can get all people inside their companies focused on serving people outside their companies. With the Open Data Initiative, we will help businesses run with a true single view of the customer."
MyPOV – Good job by McDermott – with a partner encompassing quite… nice to see the people perspective… and good to see customer (and not consumer!).

To deliver on the Open Data Initiative, the three partners are enhancing interoperability and data exchange between their applications and platforms — Adobe Experience Cloud and Adobe Experience Platform, Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP C/4HANA and S/4HANA — through a common data model. The data model will provide for the use of a common data lake service on Microsoft Azure. This unified data store will allow customers their choice of development tools and applications to build and deploy services.
MyPOV – This clarifies some of the key platform… Azure and Azure Data Lake. No surprise – toolset remains open – may it be Adobe's (likely the weakest for developers, strongest for no coders), and Microsoft Dev Tools and SAP Cloud Platform.

Open Data Initiative Adobe Microsoft SAP Holger Mueller
A first Marketecture of the Open Data Initiative
Source: Microsoft Ignite Webcast
With the Open Data Initiative, companies will be able to:
  • Unlock and harmonize siloed data to create new value
  • Bi-directionally move transactional, operational, customer or IoT data to and from the common data lake based on their preference or needs
  • Create data-powered digital feedback loops for greater business impact, while also helping to enable their security and privacy compliance initiatives
  • Build and adopt intelligent applications that natively understand data, relationships and metadata spanning multiple services from Adobe, SAP, Microsoft and their partners
MyPOV – Kudos to define the use cases. Channels the thinking and gives a sense of direction to this broad initiative.

Technology leaders at top retail and consumer products companies, such as The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever and Walmart, have expressed support and excitement about the Open Data Initiative."This initiative from Adobe, Microsoft and SAP is an important and strategic development for the Coca-Cola System," said Barry Simpson, chief information officer at the Coca-Cola Company. "Our digital growth plans centered around our customers are fueled by these platforms and open standards. A more unified approach to the management and control of our data strengthens our ability to support our growth agenda and our ability to satisfy security, privacy and GDPR-compliance requirements. The industry needs to follow these leaders.""Every day, 2.5 billion people use a Unilever product in over 190 countries around the world," said Jane Moran, CIO, Unilever. "The Open Data Initiative from Adobe, Microsoft and SAP is an important undertaking that will help us reimagine customer experience management by bringing together data across our entire organization to build more direct, meaningful relationships with consumers in real time.""We're excited about the Open Data Initiative and the value it will unlock for Walmart," said Clay Johnson, executive vice president and enterprise chief information officer, Walmart Inc. "With greater ability to connect and harness the power of our data, we can enhance the associate experience and create entirely new ways to serve our customers online and in our stores."
MyPOV – Always good to back up an announcement with customer quotes, and these are all large and respected enterprises.


Overall MyPOV

So why only now? Certainly, the Salesforce success has gone noticed and competitors have noticed they need to partner more and better to make up for this. More importantly solving the heterogeneous customer system landscape is something that can be tackled by multiple vendors only – and is a massive pain point for enterprises.

What is different now? Three things have changed:
  • The  cloud is a better platform: Customer processes are dynamic, and the cloud offers the flexible platform… and customer processes need automation (AI, Chatbots etc.) and that is better (or only) provided effectively in the cloud.
  • SaaS vendors with no IaaS: Adobe and SAP have no longer a horse in the IaaS race – and partner with IaaS providers – this allows in this case Microsoft to become the underlying platform for this new offering… and Adobe and SAP are partners already.
  • Multi-vendor interfaces become real: The cloud / PaaS and DaaS (LinkedIn wasn't mentioned – but I am sure is part of the conversation) makes n:m vendor interfaces possible… replacing the 1:1 partnerships of the past. Those 1:1 partnerships still left customers with the dreaded spaghetti integration scenario….
So now it comes back to the three vendors to make this announcement tangible beyond the three CEOs presenting it: Technical details, commercial details and roadmap need to be defined – sooner than later. Enterprises need to make customer value chain decisions every day in order to stay competitive – the sooner they know what a vendor – or here a vendor group – can do – the better they can make decisions. So much potential is there that has not been mention… the tools that can built next gen Apps on the data. The scope expansion to beyond customer. The upside of LinkedIn in the mix. Etc. etc.


But for now, congrats to Adobe, Microsoft and SAP to team up on a difficult topic in an innovative way – now they "only" have to make it work …