Pondering Sapphires

I’d been vaguely  planning to write a more serious Sapphire tome sometime this week. The prod to do it now, on Sunday evening, came from Inside-IT.ch (a Swiss-online IT magazine).  It took a gentle potshot at us bloggers for not being serious enough.  Too much talk about ties and pictures of shockhorrorfun on flickr apparently. I was going to respond on the site, but the registration pages put me off. I just want to comment, not move to Switzerland.  German speakers can read it here.

 In theory I suppose I should split this up into more bite size chunks, but I find that difficult to do. (A bit like SOA)

Much of the blog commentary on the Sapphires has been on the brief sighting of A1S, whether it is market changing , the business model, whether SAP gets SaaS , and what it will cannibalize. This discussion is goodness and I hope those running A1S will read and absorb what’s been written.  I’m pleased that Salesforce are dissing us already, this probably means we are doing something right.

Hasso Plattner’s focus at Atlanta on the cloud and massive in-memory computing means that down the road there will be some fundamental changes in architecture and delivery mechanisms, even in the highend of the market.  Lots of ponder on then. (see Zoli on Hasso at Software 2007)

Other themes – SAP’s “embrace” of social media and blogging received lots of coverage, both from Atlanta and Vienna.  SDN especially has received heaps of positive feedback.  Harmony and other web 2.0 for the enterprise endeavours are also good news. Lightweight is a word I’d like to hear more of at SAP.

Charlie Wood has a super take on Sapphire, thoughtful yet concise. Please Read it.  (And if you are a SAP ecosystem guy, Charlie is exactly the sort of chap we need ISVing and making a good living off the SAP platform. At the moment he is doing stuff with salesforce.) Also have a look at Charlie’s post on the Pascal Brosset meeting.

But I work for SAP, so what was my take on Sapphire- not purely  as a blogger, but as an employee?  My day job focuses on the executives at our bigger companies, so fascinating though A1S  is, while it remains under the covers and focused on the space between B1 and All in One, it doesn’t impact my 9-5 existence much.   So what did I take away from Sapphire to motivate me?  What are the things that will drive business this year in my day to day? 

1. GRC is rocking. It has moved way beyond SOX, and with the Risk product coming on line this growth will further accelerate.

2. Office of the CFO focus. I’m a huge fan of the non-technical sell.  I expect the tuck-in acquisitions of Pilot and Outlooksoft will begin to pay off in q3-q4.  As with the Virsa solution, it will take a couple of quarters for the sales force to get on the ball, but once they do, this will ramp up seriously.

3. Microsoft is serious about Duet.

4. ERP and Netweaver adoption is there for all to see.  Both ASUG and  DSAG confirm this momentum. The naysayers have been proved wrong on this one. 2,000 new productive systems in year.

 This means that there are now lots more upgrade references, so this will drive further adoption. The dropping of the that dumb 2005 moniker will cause a little confusion and a ppt find and replace fest here in Walldorf, but I’ most of us are relieved to see it go. Henning Kagermann noted several times that this is the fastest release adoption in SAP’s history.  This tells me that the business is healthy. 

5. PeopleSoft replacements continuing. I received an RFP from an organization during Sapphire that nearly caused me to fall off my chair.  If they want a new HR-payroll, then, gosh.

6. Appliances. Enterprise Search, BI accelerator, and Duet. I need to find out more about these.

7. Endorsed solutions like Ruleburst. I have another post about them in the works.  We need to do a better job at helping sell other people’s stuff.

What else?

Henning’s concept of Business Network Transformation will become increasingly significant. How well a business integrates with customers and partners will be a major determinant of success. The same applies to SAP.(That is a familiar rant here)

 So, while much of the hype and ink spillage was on the SME, there is much for us enterprisey types to get on with selling and implementing.  The partners I spoke to at Sapphire are all busy. (Well done Axon, btw)  There is a healthy buzz in the ERP space. Nobody seems to be sitting around waiting for A1S. 

But my biggest takeaway remains Hasso’s comment at Atlanta.  Here is the clip.

This is SAP’s competitive advantage. The best companies in the world run our stuff, and want it to improve it.  I’m convinced that much of SAP’s success has been that great companies have bought our stuff, and told us how to make it better. We haven’t always listened, but now, more than ever we need to. Increasingly the future of business is not about internal process improvement, it is about the network. We need to gulp the kool-aid of quality collaboration and co-innovation.  Unlike most startups we have customers that lead their industries and trust us. Startups need to guess smart, we just have to ask.

Those that think that nothing is happening in ERP miss the significant architectural changes that have taken place over the past few years. Ask anyone who is building SAP add-ons today compared to 5 years ago.

The challenge is to still manage the add this field or sort out the molga  stuff, while elevating the discussion to a business level. This is what the Industry Value Networks and the Enterprise Services are supposed to do (neat wiki use BTW). Over the next six months or so I’ve decided to learn as much as I can about the Industry Value Networks and Enterprise Services. (a side project)

Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the term  “industry go-to-market”, it tends to drown out the need to focus on the cross-industry processes that are SAP’s bread and butter.  But from what I have seen of the Banking Enterprise Services, I’ll probably need to change my mind.  Have a look at what the forestry and paper IVN is all about. The enterprise services and the IVN need to get more aligned, I made the same typo as Maggie did and I work here. We need to simplify how we label and explain these concepts.

 But basically if we really listen to this lot…


And get them doing this with us.

Who knows where this could go? 

All SAP employees ought to  read Sig’s post. He sums up this place better than I can, and I work here.

As in few companies, it seems that the “engineering” is still in the driver’s seat.
After the (only one it was) distinctly marketing theory driven presentation I suggested that one should draw a parallel to the car industry – BMW and Porsche are engineer driven, GM is purely marketing DNA. Then you know the rest…
Yep, SAP seems to be an engineering and product (tangible) driven firm, while… you know who… seems to acquire and drive forward for more marketing oriented reasons

Update: forgot the photo credits to David Terrar and Marilyn Pratt. more on flickr, tagged sapphire07

Technorati tags: ,


del.icio.us tags:


2 thoughts on “Pondering Sapphires”

  1. Comprehensive as ever Thomas – have you seen what Hasso had to say in 15th May WSJ about complexity? That’s the killer for many customers it seems.

    On the IVNs – it looks like there’s a lot of work to do there. A couple I saw seemed horribly out of date. But maybe that’s me not looking hard enough.

  2. Dennis
    Thanks. Indeed complexity is a huge challenge. I wish I’d got you connected with the Design services guys. But lets work on setting that up somehow.
    The IVN stuff does need some online work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: