What’s the news: SAP had its "SAP Leonardo Live" event in Frankfurt July 11th and 12th. Originally planned as an IoT event (that’s the original Leonardo brand) it was supposed to be a sequence to the (very good) launch event in Rome in fall last year (event report here). Frankfurt was more than IoT, as since SAP SAPPHIRE NOW (see here), Leonardo is SAP’s brand to collect all new offerings on top of the SAP Cloud Platform (with the latter not being part of Leonardo) and to implement next generation application projects together with customers, using the Design Thinking umbrella. Frankfurt was a good event to roll out more capabilities of the more mature members of the Leonardo family (BI, IoT) and to get the Leonardo message unveiled to a European / German audience. SAP took special attention to cater to the local audience, even using former CEO Henning Kagermann as a speaker, panelist, something that hasn’t happened since a long time.

Why it matters: SAP reconfirms its commitment to Leonardo. Leonardo itself is remarkable as SAP basically (but implicitly) admits that the 21st century best practices that enterprise will have to run on – are not established. In contrast – enterprises have to experiment and find their unique path to these best practices. The proven process for this is to pick a strategic area, use design thinking and the modern, 21st century technologies – around Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence / BigData and Cloud – as well as dominating the things with IoT. But these are individual projects, not the best practices that that SAP (and all SaaS vendors) want to have validated and sold to 1000s of customers. So, with the Leonardo projects, SAP has the opportunity to have their hands on the pulse of innovation of business processes. In some areas, e.g. IoT SAP’s offerings are more progressed, as SAP has started earlier and is delivering templates, code collections and samples to help jumpstart customer IoT projects. In other areas these assets still have to be created.

MyPOV –  Good to see SAP getting serious on Leonardo, adding credibility with the first follow up event after the launch at SapphireNow in Orlando. SAP is also putting more pieces in place from the traditional enterprise vendor playbook – e.g. the sign-up of partners, the opening of centers around the world etc. Would be even better if SAP admitted the best practice void, something chairman Plattner (also implicitly) did at the Q&A in Orlando. But maybe most enterprises are not ready for message of this nature from SAP – yet. But the realization is sinking in fast with CxOs. That SAP wants credibility with Leonardo is obvious, e.g. using Kagermann who has a long term trusted reputation for customers in Europe underlines that need.

The SAP Leonardo Portfolio
CxO Advice: CxOs know that the 20th century best practices will not keep their enterprise in the survival race of the early 21st century. Design Thinking work shops are nothing new, and have proven themselves in the past. What is new is that an enterprise software vendor of the caliber of SAP is ready to partner with enterprises to establish these new best practices. This ensures integration with the rest of SAP automation and the potential bonus of becoming part of the roadmap. In the traditional approach it was clear that the work would always remain a custom effort – with the associated integration burden and maintenance costs following from a custom effort. CxOs need to be aware of the flipside – that a Leonardo project that makes it to the SAP roadmap, will be available to all SAP customers at some point, not always a desirable outcome, especially for strategically differentiating projects. Enterprises don’t always want that capability being available to the competition. But for CxOs firmly rooted in the SAP ecosystem, Leonardo projects are not in question: It’s better to have a seat at the dinner where the conversation is about the future of enterprise software, and what SAP can deliver for that – than not being invited to the dinner at all. Better to participate and influence than to watch from the sidelines, with no strategic alternatives. The opportunity of Leonardo should be evaluated by non SAP centric CxOs for that reason as well. And Leonardo should be used by these CxOs to get their vendors coaxed into a similar offering. Exciting times for enterprise software ahead for enterprises, partners and vendors.