Over on my RedMonk blog, I’ve finally gotten around to posting my trip notes on SAP TechEd 2009. Here’s an excerpt:
When it comes to “innovation without disruption” SAP’s story has been the same in recent years, and somewhat unique to SAP. Whereas most technology companies are eager to tell you about The New Thing, hiding their aging cash cows (if they have any) in the background, SAP is eager to tell you about their past and how utterly reliable it is.
Whether you throw it under the words R/3, NetWeaver, ABAP, “landscape,” “core,” or “timeless software,” what SAP is saying is: the software platforms our customers run their business on are mostly just fine, and mucking with them to inject the latest gee-gaw every few years is a bad idea. Instead of changes to core product, SAP’s strategy for evolution is to use an SOA-driven approach to layered applications (though, even that is tediously un-timeless as we’ll see below). Put in the vernacular, the back-end rarely changes, but clients and UI’s will come and go.
To go down the happy path, as SAP’s Thomas Jung put it in a recent enterprise geeks podcast, though many (all?) of the demos shown in the TechEd keynote weren’t “shipping” or even products, “just about anything they showed could be builtnow.” And that’s the ultimate desire of the SAP architecture – and also why SAP has gotten dinged for maintenance hikes of late: without new code to sell, maintenance hikes are one of the few ways to grow revenue.
Change in the SAP world is slow. At best, you can A-Team style weld on something new and fancy and wait for it to be sucked into the core.
Indeed, to hear many tell it, slow change is exactly what users and customers want from SAP. SAP is not in the game of helping companies be disruptive in their industry. Instead, SAP is in the game of day-to-day business and “protecting the chasm” (a company without a chasm probably can’t afford SAP), to use the Moore metaphor for maintaining the status quo.
And this position frustrates people who cover technology to no end. Popular, US-centric enterprise tech-think is founded on helping companies – even forcing them – to be disruptive. Use chattering class, then, finds a tech company like SAP perplexing because SAP refused to fit the only mold we think exists.
To read the rest, check out the full note over on PeopleOverProcess.com.