ByDesign is here

Warning.  A year or more of NDA makes for a rambling gush.

Most of the launch coverage in the blogsphere has been positive, even some of SAP’s more strident critics are upbeat about the vision and progress. Dennis provides  an extensive  review of the enterprise irregulars coverage.  Herewith my take after watching the cast and reading a goodly number of posts.

A1S now has a name.  I heaved big sigh of relief that there is no number in the name, and personal pronouns are absent.   I really like the prominence of the word design in the name. Design thinking needs to be at the centre of what SAP does, so seeing it in a product name is a damn good way of reinforcing that.  

Having a sharp focus on a defined segment of the market helps SAP defeat its biggest competitor in the long term.  SAP’s biggest competitor isn’t Oracle, Microsoft, or even the cannibals.  It is complexity.  This is our  Bauhaus moment.

It is also good to see  SAP’s leitmotiv, Integration so prominently mentioned in the presentation. The message is as relevant today as it was when the company was formed. 

Testing and learning.

Several months ago I spent a day  testing the HR part of the solution. I hired an employee, gave them biographical and compensation data, work schedules, and so on.  I didn’t need any training, and I didn’t look at a manual.  Sure I found some bugs, but this stuff works.  The commitment and intensity of the development team  really impressed me.

I’m with James Governor on the GUI form. The 5 shades of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit Baby Blue doesn’t really do it for me.  But this is version one.

Leo mentioned ADP in his presentation.  More than any company in the world, ADP understands delivering software as a service at a competitive price point at  a  profit. By working closely with ADP SAP will learn alot about what it takes to really scale this offering profitably.  ADP gets hugely  significant new channel to market. So it is a win-win.  This relationship points to a new form of partnership. 

Fine young Cannibals.

I’ve not figured out all the cannibalising discussion, but to me it boils to down to brand management.  It is a challenge that successful product companies have to deal with all the time, whether they sell toothpaste, mainframes,  high end bicycles,  golf clubs, processor chips or cars.  It takes skill and timing to manage a product portfolio.  

James Governor told  me that IBM have managed multiple product lines for years, and did it well.  Consider the As/400 and the RISC line….His  post is  spot on.

…BusinessByDesign is exactly the kind of shop that would traditionally buy a packaged application running on an AS/400. The kind of customer that would forget about its server and put it behind a drywall…

This reminded me of an interview that Hasso Plattner did in 1997. (exact unedited transcript)

HP: Yes. The idea of R/3 was to build a system for the AS 400. AS 400, small computers, so we wanted to cover the low end of the market, because R/2 was well established on the high end. We had no intention to shut down the R/2. So R/3 was meant to cover the low end of the market. Now we can’t run on the AS 400. It didn’t work, physically didn’t work. C was not there, and all the ingredients of SAA never arrived in those days on the AS 400. Now it was obvious that SAA will collapse. The Whitewater Project collapsed in IBM, Advanced Manufacturing Project in Atlanta. They shut this project down. Two thousand people working on a manufacturing system. Our biggest threat ever. And Office Vision was struggling, and later abandoned. We said now we have to move on Unix and we go for the low end of the market. Despite we had this experience of nearly unlimited computing power, we were only limited by the database, a simple database computer. The capacity of the database computer.

The first prospect in Germany for R/3 we thought is a so-called medium sized market company dealing with screws. They are a large screw dealer. When we learned more about the company, the company had two billion in revenues in 1991. The company was operating in eighty countries in the world. So this mid-sized market customer all of a sudden had one of the largest warehouses in Germany, was–as far as transaction rate is concerned–larger than the largest R/2 customer in operation. That means from day one all these ideas how we go for the low end of the market got stalled

There are black swans lurking in the most unlikely places. The genius of Plattner, Hopp,  Tschira, Zencke , Kagermann and the gang in the 1990’s was to exploit it.  Changing your mind decisively is a rare skill.   Peter Zencke played a vital role in that decision back then, so the chance that SAP has forgotten the power of a serendipitous challenge accepted is slimmer than a Kate Moss look alike  contest  line up.

And on a sartorial note it was good to see HPK wearing a different tie. 

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5 thoughts on “ByDesign is here

  1. HPK was wearing no tie when we met the previous evening. Even more sartorially appropriate. And for the record, I was told it was a ‘business formal’ event so for the first time on over 2 years, I wore a tie. People didn’t recognise me.🙂

  2. You’ll have to come back and do some more testing, see if you can break something different this time!

    @ Dennis, nice to meet you in NYC. Keep up the good analysis. Definitely providing food for thought.

  3. Hi Thomas, thank you for giving an interesting insiders perspective on BBD.
    I have only one question for you: Can it do Polish payroll?

    Are you going to HR Tech in Chicago?

    Cheers, Carel.

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