The Business System Spectator

I went to two times at SAP’s SapphireNOW conference in Madrid earlier this month, at the final end of the month-long visit to Spain and Italy. The trip to Madrid gave me a good opportunity to catch up with the latest developments with SAP since the Sapphire conference last May in Orlando. Jim Hagemann Snabe offered the Wednesday keynote, that I found tighter and more balanced than similar messages shipped in Orlando. Back then, the keynotes appeared to emphasis HANA overly, SAP’s new in-memory data source technology. Although HANA is hugely important to SAP still, the message is currently more balanced between SAP’s three-concentrate areas of technology: mobile, cloud, and in-memory computing.

I also valued Snabe’s tone, concentrating favorably on SAP’s roadmap and customer success tales. This was a welcome differ from recent keynotes by the CEOs of some of SAP’s competitors, whose bar-room brawling style might be more entertaining but doesn’t provide much real insight. Personally, I find Snake’s low-key approach much more palatable, and I have to believe customers feel this way also.

So, in a nutshell, here’s my important thing: I see SAP in a period of transition with cloud processing, flexibility applications, and in-memory processing. There is improvement, but success is not guaranteed. SAP has two major cloud initiatives: its Business ByDesign (ByD) ERP collection for small businesses and its Line of Business (LoB) SaaS applications, which complement its Business Suite.

Concerning ByD, SAP is on target to reach 1, by year end 000 customers sold, although SAP executives indicate that reaching that goal might come down to the cable. Although reaching or exceeding that number will matter for some SAP folks’ year-end bonuses, I would view anything close as being a significant accomplishment. My consulting team at Strativa recently evaluated ByD in a competitive offer and arrived away favorably impressed.

Customer reference assessments through the Madrid conference were also encouraging. I believe SAP has successful with ByD: both for subsidiaries of its large customers and in net-new small business deals. Those who question the viability of ByD at this true point should reconsider their assumptions. Over the Line-of-Business side, progress is much less impressive. SAP has one SaaS application-Sales On Demand-in general release.

But don’t expect to see other applications anytime soon. Travel On-Demand (mainly expense reporting) will get into beta in Q1, 2012, regarding Sven Denecken and Kevin Nix, who mind up LoB development. Career On-Demand is planning to go to the first beta customer in Q2, 2012. In addition, Kevin and Sven explained of another LoB application now in development: Social Service and Marketing On-Demand. No focus on is had by me date because of this product. SAP positions these LoB applications as people-centric applications, helping end-users accomplish their day to day activities. Although this is an interesting approach, the LoB apps don’t have very broad practical footprints.

For example, Sales On-Demand is primarily focused on the cooperation of pre-sales groups among others as they coordinate their activities for specific prospects. It is in no way a complete CRM package-it is not a complete sales force automation app. Likewise, Career On-Demand is not a complete talent management system.

Rather it is targeted on helping people take care of their goals, objectives, and day to day activities and to see what others across the organization are working on. Finally, Public Marketing and Service are narrowly centered on handling situations from Tweets and other social mass media stations. In my view, the LoB applications are a defensive play by SAP, aimed at keeping its installed base from leaving the SAP-fold for newer cloud-based providers. Likewise, Career On-Demand is intending to keep SAP HRMS customers from considering Workday.

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Finally, Travel On-Demand is SAP’s response to Concur’s expense management system. The other problem with the LoB applications, frankly, is that they are a past-due response by SAP. It’s like the student who become in (hopefully) a well-written article, but misses the deadline. So, on my scorecard, SAP gets an “A” for ByDesign and a “C” because of its line of business applications. Within the mobility entrance, SAP is apparently making good improvement. Based on a briefing I received, there are 50-mobility applications available in the new SAP Store now.

Of these 38 are authored by SAP and 12 are from partners. You can find 200 more in the development pipeline (split between SAP and companions is not clear to me). All the current apps in development are based on the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP), and this is where there are a few pressing issues.