At first glance, SAP's Sapphire Now event in Orlando was more about evolution than revolution in terms of the company's "Run Simple" strategy, with the focus very much on upgrades to its HANA Cloud Platform and related software, rather than major new product suites or systems.
But dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that these upgrades are SAP's way of really cranking up momentum behind that strategy.
In a keynote speech, SAP chief executive Bill McDermott said he wants businesses to be "data driven and seamless" by using SAP's HANA platform and the software that sits on top of it by enabling manual processes to become digital.
"We believe it's a HANA world now and all data has to be put on one data platform and companies should be seamless," said McDermott.
In practice this involves SAP adopting a "cloud first" approach, whereby new products are developed to be used in cloud environments then adopted for use on internal IT systems, rather than the other way round.
The thinking behind this approach is to encourage new and existing customers to move away from complex legacy systems to cloud-based services and software delivered as a service, not just product.
In turn, this will help businesses keep all their data together and run operations from one platform, thereby running in the simple and seamless manner SAP promotes.
Not the 'old on-premise guy'
Frank Niemann, vice president at analyst house PAC, told V3 that SAP had to move in this cloud-first direction to keep pace with the trends of the technology industry.
"The vast majority of its customers run in on-premise mode only, or they'll let the on-premise software run in an outsourced data centre, so cloud is fairly new," he said.
"However, SAP has to react because cloud is the trend; [technology firms] are using cloud and SAP has to be there as well with its core product."
Niemann explained that SAP had to develop new cloud-enabled products that show its customers that it is no longer the "old on-premise guy".
However, given the volume of legacy customers SAP has, Niemann said SAP is not going to stop offering on-premise products and solely embrace the cloud in the way software rival Salesforce has.
Creating a compelling cloud
One of SAP's key moves championed at Sapphire Now is the closer integration of its S/4HANA and HANA Cloud Platform, aimed at enabling firms to shift from systems running old SAP software on legacy hardware, to cloud services supported by HANA.
Tony Bauer, principal analyst at Ovum, told V3 the architecture change that S/4HANA has over its predecessors allows the software suite to be more efficient yet potentially expandable.
"SAP has done this in a way that keeps the data model intact to limit disruption for existing Business Suite customers but still takes full advantage of the HANA in-memory architecture to keep the underlying architecture lean, more maintainable and easier to integrate with other modules or third-party solutions," he said.
Yet while the software and service may be technically sound, Niemann noted that SAP still faces hurdles convincing old customers to move from highly customised legacy systems to a new cloud platform.
"From a technical standpoint, SAP is good at developing complex software, improving it, and now they have a next generation of software [S/4HANA]; this is what they can handle," he said.
"The challenges we see is how do their customers get there: they have their on-premise systems so how do they get to S/4HANA [in the cloud]?"
With the suite of services offered by S/4HANA, Niemann said SAP needs to approach the heads of different business units in a company and explain the benefits of the cloud services for their department, rather than just pitch technical prowess to IT leaders.
"What [SAP] has to do is convince its customers that S/4HANA provides value to you so it is useful for you and it makes sense for you to move," Niemann added.
"Companies that are better at that are those that were born on the cloud, such as Salesforce, because they don't talk about the technology infrastructure, it's just: ‘Here's the system and dear chief marketing officer if you want marketing from the cloud then talk to me'."
Given that McDermott has not pulled any punches when rubbish the idea SAP is in the market to buy Salesforce, it is unlikely the US firm will be seen as a company for SAP to borrow ideas from.
SAP may not have shaken up the industry with its announcements at Sapphire Now, but its objectives are clear: bring HANA and its business software together and have companies in multiple industries deploy them within cloud environments.
The path to this cloud nirvana would appear to have a few hurdles that SAP will have to hop over before it becomes truly a "cloud first" company, but it will travel this route in good company with the likes of Microsoft and its cloud- and data-driven "empowerment" ethos.
Intel wants to get inside your car, despite missing out on mobile
'We'll keep fighting to fight to keep the web free and open,' claim EFF
Breached in March by the same attackers, claim 'insiders'
And all for less than £150, according to Keith