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GDPR, Galaxy, Gigya & Great Expectations for AI [a Rundown of SAP Hybris Summit]

Posted on 10.24.2017

By this time next year, companies with data on European Union (EU) citizens will either be on the right side of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the wrong side.

While data protection is not the sexiest of tech topics, it is important and one that was discussed dozens of times in different formats at SAP Hybris Global Summit in Barcelona, Spain last week.

It would have been irresponsible to share visions of a “galaxy of customer data” (more on that soon) to be connected for better customer experience without providing sessions and strategies (of the non-legal variety) for impending regulation.


Thankfully for the 30-plus industries represented at the show, SAP Hybris did not take GDPR lightly particularly critical due to the context of the event with it taking place in an EU country, being post SAP’s Gigya acquisition announcement and considering the host company is one that “owns” a tremendous amount of first-party data. Despite the many use cases for data, GDPR served as a nagging undertone for participants and an incredible amount of work for SAP Hybris itself. Co-Founder and CTO Moritz Zimmermann said by the end of the year every product roadmap for SAP Hybris will be GDPR complaint (ahead of the May 2018 deadline for compliance). 

While the conversation topics at the event were still very much “every interaction is a data point” and “the signals are there, you just have to find them,” GDPR is forcing a dialogue change. When evaluating current enterprise software or a change to their enterprise software, companies should question the vendor's actions toward GDPR compliance. Vendors need to help their customers and partners think of how to give back data to customers. Ultimately, end-users need to easily view and self-select what personal information a company can have and how they can use it. This is a problem, of course, considering most companies haven’t even figured out a way to use customer data as it stands let alone compile it from various systems and present it legibly. 

U.S. companies relieved or a little smug at this point, should heed the warning heard at the event: GDPR will come to America before we know it. Joking about America’s litigious culture, Constellation Research Founder Ray Wang said we are just waiting for the first lawsuit. Warning, this coffee is hot.

Even though the liability of non-GDPR compliance is real for companies large and small, data is still very much an asset. SAP Hybris Global Vice President, Audience, Brand and Content Marketing Johann Wrede, for example, shared his top takeaways from day one keynotes saying the experience of consuming a product is growing in importance (read about products as a service here) and customer data is the fuel for this.

Earlier this year SAP Hybris released the results of a survey of 20,000 people and what they looked for when engaging with brands they do business with. Wrede reiterated the findings on stage reporting 80 percent of people asked are willing to share something to get a better experience. The number one reason they would abandon a brand is if the company used their data without the person knowing. Finally, 40 percent of Americans who share their data won’t if their data leaves the country. Wrede presented a perfect transition for Hybris Labs prototype Galaxy.

staffMovers & Shakers: Missing on stage at this year’s SAP Hybris Summit were Jamie Anderson and Brian Walker. Anderson left his position as CMO for EMEA President at Marketo. Not on stage but still at the show, Walker left his position as Chief Strategy Officer for Managing Director, Global Commerce Strategy at Accenture (a close partner of SAP Hybris). Alicia Tillman is now the Global CMO of SAP. 


The largest prototype to date, Hybris Labs presented its Galaxy experience. While Hybris Labs’ popular mobile and sensor-driven wine shelf was also unpacked (here we detail it as a beer shelf), it was easy to tell Galaxy was quite special to this team as it should be.

Anyone who has attended a conference knows the friction experienced when having to get their badge scanned to enter the show and to enter each session. There is friction when the badge scans, but it can be embarrassing when it does not (I belong here, I swear). SAP Hybris, wait for it, eliminated the need to scan a badge. It is akin to having a Lyft pull up on time versus unsuccessfully hailing a cab. While this is an over-exhausted observation, it bears repeating because in one scenario you feel cool or empowered and one you don’t.

Back to Barcelona, the badge itself tracked attendees’ locations and even interests as they navigated the show. Until attendees opted in to see their personal data, the information remained anonymous. With the Galaxy experience from Hybris Labs, attendees could interact with their own data through a virtual reality headset. We could see a heatmap of the conference attendees and pull up our own information such as our top interests and “visibility” at the show.

We, in other words, traded our data for an experience. Those taking part of the Galaxy experience still would have received the experience if they remained anonymous, but they shared something (just as Wrede said most customers will do) to get a better experience. From there, attendees needed to trust SAP Hybris with this information. There were even “no tracking area” signs located outside the restrooms. Press members were also comforted that the media center was a no tracking area as well.

While most readers can appreciate not having their badges scanned so frequently at conferences, what really matters here is the way participants were able to opt in to become personally identifiable as well as interact with their data. Consider the benefit of allowing people to interact with their own data in a highly visualized manner. The Galaxy experience is how SAP Hybris envisions customer data to evolve, because people can truly experience it. 

As companies become GDPR compliant, the data presented to customers is likely going to be a mess. While CTRL-F will be a person’s best friend when trying to locate the information a company has on them within a document – just think of sifting through your personal Facebook archive - companies can do more. The experience of the actual data management for end-users will matter, and SAP was quite forward-thinking in its pending purchase of identification platform Gigya.

editorEditor’s Recommended Reading 
General Data Protection Regulation: The Pandora’s Box is Open for Enterprise Websites 


gigyaFrom a legal perspective, executives at SAP Hybris Global Summit could not go into detail about Gigya. Based on the partnership the two companies already have, Gigya's CEO presented at the show laying out plans to offer a next-generation data platform combining Gigya and SAP Hybris Profile to manage identity, consent and profile.

Judging from Gigya’s current offering (see image), customer ease of managing their data and preferences will continue to be a priority. We have to expect SAP Gigya (taking liberty with the name) will also help with a company's auditing process (a good business to be in noted The Constantia Institute's Alea Fairchild). That is painting somewhat of a "before" (auditing) and "after" (self-selection) picture of Gigya and GDPR compliance, however.

It is important to note the "during" as well (permission). Will the Web be littered with window after window users need to interact with in order to complete a goal? "Collect my cookies, sure here they are" is somewhat the status quo today when visiting a website required to include this disclaimer. Jackie Palmer, global VP of strategy and solution management at SAP Hybris, said getting consent needs to be respectful of the person's needs but not too intrusive (again, not legal advice). Incentives may also come into play and so will demographics as to who is willing to provide permission and for what. 

The latest release of SAP Hybris Marketing Cloud is fully GDPR compliant, and while that is kind of boring Palmer noted, it is important. What is not boring and what people were buzzing about is artificial intelligence (AI).

Great Expectations for AI

Earlier this year it was promised 2017 wasn't going to be "AI Everything." It shouldn't have come as a shock then when SAP Hybris Co-Founder and President Carsten Thoma stated in his day one keynote that AI does not exist yet or when Wang said everyone on his team is looking at AI, but it's not really there. So where is it?

It might be in Hybris Labs where they are working on Charly the Chatbot. It can be easy to sweep "build your own bot" type functionality from the likes of Facebook into AI, so this may not seem that exciting. A couple months ago, however, SAP's Stephen Hamrick explained to us the current limitations and presented the opportunities of AI to improve what is currently available. Read, "Bad Bot, Good Bot. [A Q&A with SAP]."

Similar to Hamrick's explanation, Zimmerman during the show told Website Magazine, "Today, we have narrow AI that can be used for very small things like recognizing cats and dogs in pictures." 

What many conversations during the show alluded to was more machine learning capabilities helping businesses today. For example, SAP Hybris introduced machine learning into its Marketing Cloud for functionality like facial recognition and even marketing attribution. For the latter, Palmer indicated SAP Hybris is putting its purchase of Abakus to work.

SAP Hybris Customer Attribution will provide "marketers with accurate measurements of marketing campaigns and activities that lead to a customer purchase. Data is collected across all touch points of the customer journey, giving insight into what’s driving customer conversions and where to reallocate activities and budget in real time." In other words, the system tells a marketer where his or her money is best spent (e.g., email, search, social, advertising, etc.).

While AI might not be here in the way experts are looking for it, the machine learning approach is being used in practice already. For enterprise software, however, Zimmermann said AI is the biggest opportunity, period. 

Going Forward
There's a lot to take in at vendor shows, but one of the main themes at SAP Hybris Global Summit 2017 was familiar: companies still need to use their available data to transform the customer experience. What is new, however, is considering how to use this data while letting customers be in charge of it in exchange for that better experience.

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