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I bet a lot of you have been intrigued by SAP’s Industry Value Scenarios, which have been introduced in Business Suite 7. Since there is a lot of information available on the enhancement packs and analytics part of it, my focus here is only on Industry Value Scenarios. 

 

A google search convinced me that there is no scarcity of buzz on Business Suite 7 announcement. Most sites have reproduced the press release verbatim without any commentary – which makes me hate them, and to a limited extent makes me annoyed with google too. Next I find a bunch of bloggers, (many of whom have disclosed that SAP picked up the tab for their airfare and hotel – which is a very honorable thing to disclose), commenting on BS 7. After reading through all of this information, I ended up where I feared I would be – having more questions and confusion than I had before I started.  Usually, I get to discuss such issues with fellow consultants at airports or over dinner, but that did not happen this time around. This past week has been one of the blessed few in my life when I did not have to get into an aero plane to go some place. So I am posting my thoughts and questions here, with the hope that we can generate some discussion and can learn from our collective wisdom. 

 

SAP is not short on functionality – and it has a great framework for making enhancements. The UI has been improving over time too. Solution manager has improved a lot, and lets us handle testing etc more comprehensively. So what are the areas that SAP could focus on? From a customer point – it would be things like easier upgrades, less licensing and maintenance fees, faster/better resolutions from AGS, faster time to market (or time to profit, as SAP prefers to say), easier implementations of cross functional scenarios etc. It is the latter two that SAP tries to solve with the Value Scenarios.

 

Now this leads me to my first question – SAP has a lot of enterprise services, and a great platform for using them in CE. Despite its tremendous footprint – SAP is almost never the only show in town. Most clients have other products or homegrown systems in their landscape that does parts of the end-to-end scenarios covered by the Industry value scenarios. SOA is a neat solution for such end-to-end integration. So what is the extra value that SAP is providing with these new Value Scenarios? Are these meant to be templates of an ideal process assuming only SAP systems exist in a landscape? If so, I see only limited value add here – the obvious reason is that most processes vary from company to company and it is these differences that give them their competitive edge. Granted there may be a few commodity processes, but they won’t change all that much, and companies might not have great incentive to do it in a new way.

 

That being said, it would make lot more sense if all parts of the end to end process in a value scenario are integrated in an SOA fashion and the tool allows us to use CE and BPM to enhance and augment it. I could not find any information on whether the tool works in this fashion, and am hoping that some one here can educate me on this. 

 

SAP can definitely claim that with such pre-defined processes, they can lower the time-to-profit. I think this is a strong message, and would probably interest a lot of C level executives. After all, every company is keen to get some short term ROI these days. However, it is also a tricky situation. Since no one has used this before, and probably only a handful would have gone to a class and gotten certified – who would do he honors of implementing the new solution? I am keen to see if SAP will announce an incentive system for this to gain momentum, or do the first few implementations themselves to prove its worth to the world. 

 

Also, I am curious to see how the short term ROI theme extends to a long term ROI theme. Assuming, some one did bite the bullet and implemented the value scenarios – will they need to spend even more money later to move to a longer term solution? Or will it be a close to seamless process? 

 

Next, I understand that a graphical visualization of the process comes with these value scenarios. Again – what is this trying to solve/address? I would like to think that a BPX type person can use this tool to define the high level process, and then functional experts who know the underlying systems can go configure their respective parts of the solution to make it work. But how is this different from BPM and CE functionality, where again a BPX could have modeled an end to end process and other experts could fill in the details?

 

Visual aids are great – no doubt, but it is not that it is a huge differentiator. Even without visual tools, customers have implemented cross functional SAP projects successfully. Even with all the visual tools – you still need a good deal of experience to configure the underlying systems. I guess one can argue that visual aids can augment and increase the productivity of these SAP experts that exist today, but I wonder if this will be a significant differentiator. What do you guys think? 

 

My last question is – what segment of SAP customers will use it? For one – in a tight economy, I wonder if a significant number of customers will upgrade their systems for the sake of using Value scenarios. So primarily, the audience would be the larger, more established implementations that have a committed upgrade plan, and who would upgrade to get into the “no more costly upgrades” state. To them, value scenarios should be a side benefit.  Do you guys see any other segment that would jump in now? 

 

I am trying to see when I can get my hands on a BS 7 system to see first hand how these actually work. if I am successfull, I will post my experiences in a follow up blog.

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  1. Vijay,

    I have a few comments and not really answers to your questions.
    1)Most of the companies, as you highlighted have many other IT platforms which cover their end-end business scenarios. About 80% of the automated activities, which are standard activities (within an industry domain) are covered by business suite. These help the client to become as cost effective as possible with the best practices in their field. That being taken care of, the remaining 20% of automated activities – which allows the companies to differentiate themselves, are the ideal SOA candidates. These include processes which are integrated end to end (incl. third party software & manual activities). So SAP is allowing users to build a stronger cost effective platform over which then CE allows them reuse & build.
    2)Continuing with my point above, the standard processes are less volatile and are needed to be stable & reliable(taken care by BS). BPM deals with designing & executing volatile processes (with help of SOA) which are the on the top of this stable processes.
    3)Moving up in the process maturity curve & having a great ROI does not only include implementing a great IT platform. I think it is also about how you deal with process structure & process governance. How well a company measures its performance through process indicators & keeps working on continuous improvement.

    I am not really sure about you last two points though. In this kind of economy, customer really wants a REAL reason to shift to a new platform.

    Let me know what do you think.

    Regards,
    Anita

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