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In October 2008, Forrester Research published a report titled, “Which Has The Better Apps Strategy: Oracle or SAP?”. The executive summary of the report stated that “Oracle’s vision for the future of its apps business is now clearer and more compelling that that of archrival SAP”.

 

Forrester based the report on a number of criteria including: market share, growth rate, clarity of vision, migration path to latest release, etc. Without going into too much detail, in my view, the report presented a biased view of SAP strategy. In the report, a table titled, “Oracle Versus SAP: 2008 Assessment”, was published to compare SAP and Oracle offerings. This table had columns for Criteria for Success, and Comments on who wins.

 

For category, “Vision for next generation”, Forrester gave Oracle the advantage by saying that Oracle has a clear vision for Fusion Applications and a timetable to deliver it.

 

My objection is that SAP had already delivered on its vision of eSOA enabled applications. So it isn’t a vision any more, it is a reality. Oracle has yet to prove its vision. So where is the advantage?

 

Secondly, in category “Path to Dynamic Business Applications”, Forrester compared Fusion Applications with Business ByDesign rather than Business Suite. It is like comparing apples with oranges. Moreover, the notion of role-based UIs, embedded BI, easy customization, and business services based composite apps, which Forrester used to give Oracle the edge, was presented by SAP over 6 years ago. Once again, SAP has moved beyond the vision stage and is already delivering on that vision.

 

Oracle has strength in Application Server and Middleware market, but the overall product strategy remains fragmented and unproven for now. Forrester gave the edge to Oracle’s future application strategy. We need to keep in mind that by the time Oracle delivers on its strategy, SAP would also have moved on. There are several other discrepancies in the report which show that it presented an unbalanced view.

 

However, the reason beind writing this blog is not Forrester report. It is the latest articles published on CIO UK and ComputerWorld UK websites on the proceedings of latest SAP User Group Conference in Manchester, UK. Amongst keynote speakers was ex-Forrester analyst, R “Ray “Wang, one of the writers of the above mentioned report. In the keynote, Ray Wang listed 5 SAP failures:

 

  • NetWeaver
  • Duet
  • Business ByDesign
  • Solution Manager
  • Enterprise Support

 

Ray’s views were also published in a blog by SAP Mentor, Dennis Howlett. 

 

Today, SAP has announced that the rise in Enterprise Support Fee has been delayed after consultation with SAP User Group Executive Network. We also know that there are serious issues in Solution Manager adoption, and Business ByDesign delivery. I am not aware of Duet adoption figures. May be someone from SAP can shed some light on how many organizations are using it. IBM has also partnered with SAP  to integrate Lotus Notes with SAP applications. Let’s see how much that sells.

 

SAP, like any other vendor, can’t get everything right from the start. However, everyone who has seen SDN transform into SCN knows how much SAP has changed over the years. The vibrant ecosystem and over 1 million SCN members is a proof of that. What I find most objectionable in Ray’s keynote is calling NetWeaver a failure. Ray Wang asked how many attendees used NetWeaver for end-to-end integration. Only a handful of the attendees confirmed. So Ray’s view was that since NetWeaver was supposed to help organizations integrate their business processes end-to-end, the negative response by customers proves NetWeaver is a failure.

 

I find this conclusion over-simplistic, and objected to Ray’s views on Dennis’ blog post. The community is also welcome to share their views. To me, asking the audience a question like “how many of you use NetWeaver for end-to-end integration” has an obvious answer…hardly any! The qualification “end-to-end” will result in probably a few hundred customers globally. Reason is simple: most of SAP customers aren’t running SAP end-to-end. This can be for any number of reasons: business fit, risk mitigation, strategic investments, technical evaluation, organizational structure/decision making, enterprise architecture, budget, etc.

 

What I feel strongly about is that no one in the audience stood up to challenge Ray’s views. The articles on CIO and ComputerWorld websites, being read by millions of decision makers and end users around the world, give Oracle a clear opportunity for bad press against SAP.

 

SAP’s Tim Noble said: “SAP has a strong focus on innovation as a company, as well as co-innovation with both partners and customers alike. We have a clear roadmap until 2012 that has been announced publicly, and we will have more announcements next year as we stated at the time of our Q3 earnings. Putting the customer at the heart of our organisation is our main objective and listening to their innovation needs, as well as better communicating our plans is critical to our plan now and moving into 2010.”

 

However, I feel that the whole SCN community, or at least the NetWeaver community, has a responsibilty to publicly state their views on NetWeaver’s success or failure.

 

Over the last few years, SAP has opened its doors to professional bloggers to reach out to the wider audience. I think these bloggers should also present SAP’s side of story to balance the argument presented by Ray Wang.

 

Disclaimer: The views presented in this blog are my own, and do not represent the views of my employer.

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  1. Gregory Misiorek
    i wouldn’t worry too much about forrester as they seem to play second fiddle to gartner and have a lot of retail consumer infotainment (eh, research) publicized. i would watch the independents, though, like vinnie and dennis. they know the industry very well and do take sides, but it’s their business. what i find missing in a lot of research is the looming giant like ibm. somehow, it doesn’t make into the fancy acronim-loaded outputs produced by the “analysts”, but it’s everywhere in the corporate it landscapes and i don’t mean lotus notes only.
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    1. Community User Post author
      Greg,
      Thanks for your comments. It’s ok if people take sides and earn a living out of it. However, I think the community should ensure that no one spreads their skewed views to customers and make them more nervous in an already fragile market. A keynote speaker is supposed to be someone who knows his stuff. This person is supposed to give a vision to the audience. If this guy tells people that you have wasted your money on something that doesn’t work, I think it will impact SAP’s credibility and future revenue. Imagine going to the attendees of this conference and try selling them NetWeaver 🙂 It will be a uphill task.
      We know very well that social media is quite effective in opinion shaping. So I believe that SAP ecosystem should be more vocal to set the record straight.

      IBM, as you know, is not into application software market. They don’t develop ERP, CRM, SCM, etc. So they are included in research on middleware, platform, infrastructure, tools, BI, etc.

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      1. Gregory Misiorek
        who would’ve thought…gartner is now buying AMR, thus making forrester even more irrelevant…IBM is very well in the application market, just look at their mainframe GLs still running in many Fortune companies, many times interfacing with SAP. IBM’s acquisition of Cognos makes it an application player par excellance whether analysts cover them or not…and yes, there are a lot of people who don’t like SAP for one reason or another, but we should be grateful for them as they help our business if we overcome their objections.
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        1. Community User Post author
          🙂 yes, further consolidation.

          By applications market, I meant business applications market. IBM intends to keep itself out of this domain for now, and works as SI rather than ISV. Their focus is more on application/integration platform.

          Analytics vendors are generally not included by analysts in business application category. These are evaluated using a different set of criteria.

          Any way, IBM is certainly there as a threat to many. For SAP, this means competition with WebSphere, Cognos, and InfoShpere products, in addition to others.

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      2. Dennis Howlett
        “However, I think the community should ensure that no one spreads their skewed views to customers and make them more nervous in an already fragile market.”

        This is a very dangerous statement that to me harks back to the days when the only thing IT companies would tolerate was good PR.

        There are good reasons why SAP has a blogger program and one that’s world beating. In part it is so SAP can get first hand the contrary positions from those who are on the ground and see what happens in the real world. It’s part of what the blog program people say helps keep the company honest. If it was any other way, I doubt we’d get the access to C-level SAP people that we do.

        Attempting to shut down alternative views will only encourage ‘us’ to redouble our efforts.

        The main problem SAP has in all of this is communication. A great example the other day. Mentors were given an early show of 12Sprints. Told please don’t write about it or show screen shots. I wrote a private Mentors note saying I found this constraining as this whole Constellation stuff looks pretty darned good to me. Then someone leaks to Read Write Web which makes a total hash of the story and now makes it hard for SAP to present a sensible picture. Which would you rather see out there?

        C’mon people – we may be hard but we’re usually fair.

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        1. Community User Post author
          Dennis,

          Thanks for your comments. The only thing I am suggesting is a balance in alternative views, not shutting them down. Everyone acknowledges the important role social media plays for SAP, and how it shapes customer opinion. That is why I feel facts must be presented. At any time, I did not deny the problems SAP has so far with SolMan, ByD, Duet, Support, etc. However,
          Ray’s question on NetWeaver was loaded, and the answer from audience was obvious. This resulted in bad press for SAP as NetWeaver is the engine that drives SAP forward. I feel the record should be set straight.

          Ray has formed an opinion based on his knowledge of SAP. I have my experience and understanding of SAP and its ecosystem. So all I am doing is presenting an alternative view to Ray’s keynote, which I feel should actually have been presented by someone in the UG audience. Since it was not, I feel the community should present its views on the subject. This blog is nothing more than an alternative view…

          Regards

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  2. Dennis Howlett
    Ray was invited by SAP UK&I UG – not by SAP. He represents the buy side of the equation. Expecting bloggers to ‘present SAP’s position’ in the terms expressed is never going to happen.

    Ray DID talk about innovation and said, among other things, that SAP has a ton of this going on. However, it is a reality that up until fairly recently, SAP was poor at sharing anything with UGs. This is changing and I note from talking with UGs around the world that SAP is opening the kimono. To some extent. However, I also believe SAP Mentors have far better access to innovations than customers.

    The author has gotten a tad fixated on NetWeaver but I could equally argue that with the core now fixed, with no planned development then perhaps now is the time to be getting customers better educated.

    Suggesting that Forrester is becoming less relevant because Gartner has bought AMR is a bit silly. Forrester does have some great people. Gartner is hardly a beacon for buyers other than as a tick list item in the evaluation process. If there is fault to be found then it is up to AR to fix these issues.

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    1. Community User Post author
      Dennis,

      I appreciate that Ray was not invited by SAP. UGs are independent bodies and can act at their own discretion. My point is that Ray’s comments should be balanced by people who feel NetWeaver hasn’t failed to deliver on its promise. An example is http://go.techtarget.com/r/85294/851393. I don’texpect SAP to pay bloggers to write in its favor for the sake of it.

      Yes, I am a bit fixated on NetWeaver as that was pretty much the only bit Ray got wrong in his keynote, which I feel should be corrected. I do agree with his comments on ByD, SolMan, Duet, etc.

      You are absolutely right that educating customers should be made a prority. Customers should be educated to make the most of information/communication channels like SCN. Most of customers don’t have a formal strategy around SCN, and don’t understand the value it offers.

      Regards.

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    2. Jim Spath
      Dennis:

        I find it odd for you to say “NetWeaver … core now fixed, with no planned development.”  If you mean that there’s a single base SAP kernel or code base, and it isn’t changing, that’s wrong, as any customer faced with the decisions on how often to apply kernel and support pack changes would know.  If you mean the kernel and code base are totally without bugs, you should ask a few more of your customer contacts how many SAP notes they look at and apply on a frequent basis.

        If you mean SAP isn’t going to announce a new name for any product in the next few years, that would be a shocker.  You’ve heard me rant about coping with the rate of change of patches and other business disruptions.  As for “now is the time to be getting customers better educated”, while physical education events like ASUG and SAP TechEd may have lower attendance that a few years back, virtual events continue to be well-attended.

      Not to mention “until fairly recently, SAP was poor at sharing anything with UGs” is hardly in line with my experience working with ASUG and SAP over more than 10 years.  I would say that information sharing to and from SAP varies with product development cycles, specific product managers, and to some extent, the personalities and engagement level of user group management.

      Jim

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      1. Dennis Howlett
        As I understand, SAP regards NW as mature and therefore no further core dev. My choice of words seems unfortunate but that’s what I’ve been told. Further dev concentrates on hardening the core (bug fixing etc?) If correct then that correlates with language used by execs in past conversations over the last year. If this is a concern then let’s get it on the table to clarify.

        As regards the ‘access’ issues – part of what you say feeds directly into my comments to you on the phone the other day that SAP seems to be getting its customer comms ducks in a row. Again – I should clarify – my experience is mostly with the non US SUGs. I have to say that when we spoke I thought you were expressing similar issues. 

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        1. Jim Spath
          Re “no further core dev”, again, ask customers how much business downtime and disruption have occurred since going to Netweaver.  As a former accountant, I’d value your insights into how companies have dealt with the new general ledger.  It seems to have great potential, but one doesn’t alter the books without a huge testing, validation, and risk assessment cycle.  And if I gave you the impression that communications with SAP have never been better, I apologize.  It’s definitely better for me as an SAP Mentor, and as an ASUG volunteer with a decade of networking building behind me, but how many other _ customers _ have Mentors on board, much less ASUG volunteer or ASUG Influence Council presence?

          Jim

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          1. Vijay Vijayasankar
            I agree with Jim – and I still see the downtimes and disruption at my clients who have gone for Netweaver. Smarter clients have a strategy to live with such disruptions, so that over time it becomes less annoying to business users.

            About access – sure mentors have great access, but there are only a handful worldwide. Same is true for ASUG volunteers. But every client has an SAP account exec, who acts as their advocate, and he/she tries to get the communication issues taken care of . Ofcourse it is far from perfect – and in general, I have seen bigger SAP shops (and  brand new SAP shops) getting more access than others. Like everything else, a netowrk with the right people at SAP takes time to build and it is a give and take process. If the client is ready to give references and do joint stuff at SAP events – ofcourse SAP will give them more attention than some one who does not.

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  3. Jon Reed
    Shehryar –

    I thought this was a good post, and provocative too! In the flurry of  the week’s deadlines I missed the chance to chime in, but was glad to see that Dennis Howlett did.

    I am an SAP Mentor and part of SAP’s blogger program also, and both programs are outstanding. I’ve asked some of the impact bloggers in the program how it compares with other ERP vendors, and they all tell me SAP’s is industry leading. One of the finest things about it is, from my angle that bloggers put into the fray with SAP executives, things get hashed out, but no one is told what to say – ever. Yes, there can be heated debates about coverage, but that’s good. Mike Prosceno and Stacey Fish, who run the program, I can tell you they care passionately about doing this the right way.

    The diversity of viewpoints you are asking for, in my opinion, already exists. Remember it’s not just bloggers, but reporters, analysts, and increasingly, an overlap between SAP Mentors and the blogger program. This means there are a huge diversity of viewpoints. The Enterprise Geeks, for example, who have done an outstanding job on their web site of covering SAP technical issues, are almost all part of the blogger/Mentor program.

    I think where you went right in your post, and what we need more of, is your own views on the merits of NetWeaver based on your own discussions with customers. I think it’s great for you to take something Ray Wang said and riff on it yourself. Disagree with him by all means – but do so not just with opinions but specifics of your own experience in the market. That will carry weight.

    Where I think you went a bit off direction in your post is by your stated desire that bloggers present a balanced view. First, I believe if you read widely you’ll see that already happens. Second, asking bloggers to trumpet certain SAP messages or to tone down their criticisms would be a complete betrayal of this great program, and SAP itself realizes this.

    I think you also may want to appreciate that the rise in influence of independents like Ray Wang and Dennis Howlett is a very positive development in the analyst world. Dennis, for example, has taken the time to post on this blog thread – how many from a big analyst firm would do that? The “rise of the independents” means that buyers are better represented. I don’t know if you know this, but Ray himself developed an Enterprise Buyers Bill of Rights, which is a really important step forward in helping ERP users to realize how they can more actively manage their vendor relationships and not get snowed by spin.

    Ray and Dennis are part of a more formal affiliation of five major independents called the Enterprise Advocates, and these guys have a lot of folks quaking in their boots, from big analyst firms to the vendors themselves. That kind of disruption is a good thing.

    Having said that, like you I don’t always agree with what these guys say – or for that matter anyone else. “Question everything” is a motto that has gotten me pretty far in life, or so I like to tell myself.  From the video excerpt Dennis posted, which we have to remember is only an excerpt, I did feel as you did that Ray could have framed that NetWeaver question a bit differently. NetWeaver has had its ups and downs across a range of products, but few would argue that NetWeaver BW has had a big impact on customer sites for example.

    Ray can be pretty hard on SAP sometimes, but I believe he is sincere in his desire that SAP triumph over market adversity, and as best I can tell, he believes that to do that, SAP must deliver on the innovation that does most definitely exist inside the company – but needs to be more strongly emphasized, or as Dennis pointed out, better and more openly communicated.

    Finally, another cool thing is that analysts, bloggers, and reporters are gathering next week for the SAP Influencer summit. The Twitter hashtag for that will be #sapsummit, so you’ll be able to track that and offer your own take and even ask questions that can be answered by attendees or presenters. If you reply to me at @jonerp, I’ll try to get your question answered if you have one.

    SAP is far from perfect, but I can’t help but think that the aspects you were criticizing are actually some of its strongest points. Think of it this way: if SAP can truly deliver on NetWeaver, Solution Manager, and collaborative tools in a more open environment, then the value for customers will be there. And if customers are happy, there will be no way to spin that negative.

    The vendor world is full of spin, but the blogger world ain’t perfect either. It’s a noisy place, but I can assure you that SAP is getting a tremendous benefit by openly exposing bloggers to new information and executive dialogue, and then stepping back to free those bloggers to report as they see fit. It may seem like the wild west of opinions and rants out there, but rest assured – we are all accountable in this market somehow – to clients, customers, and ourselves.

    Thanks for raising these important points, and keep blogging!

    – Jon Reed

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    1. Community User Post author
      Jon,

      Many thanks for your comments. I appreciate that you took the time and trouble of responding to my blog. I do know Dennis and you as SAP Mentors. I have subscribed to “Feeding the Ecosystem” and “JonERP” blogs. So I get a chance to read your candid views on SAP and ecosystem.

      I also value the fact that Dennis took the trouble to respond to the blog.

      While I haven’t been an active contributor on SCN, I have seen it grow from SDN into SCN over the last few years. So I understand and appreciate the value it offers to the ecosystem. It was an excellent move by SAP to invite bloggers like you and Dennis to present real life experiences and feedback from customers. Constructive criticism is a win-win for everyone. However, as you agreed, “questioning everything” is the only way you can find the best in people/organizations. It is not in my nature to let people go with their comments just because they are in a certain position of authority. Whether it is a CEO of a firm, an analyst, a customer representative, or anyone else, if I contradict with them, I let them know.

      My point in the blog is not about asking bloggers to speak in favor of SAP just for the sake of it. An honest feedback from bloggers is certainly very valuable for SAP to improve itself. However, I took an exception to Ray’s views on NetWeaver and commented on Dennis’ blog.

      You have raised a valuable point that rather than just criticizing Ray, I should quote my experiences of customer success. There was a reason why I was holding back, and wanted the community to come forward. The reason was that Ray and Dennis took the trouble of emailing me and explained their position on the subject of SAPs success and failures. I replied to their emails to explain my position. Of course, there are a number of points where our views contradict. Before posting these views on SCN, I needed permission from Dennis/Ray to make the discussion public. However, I have yet to receive this. Now that Ray has commented on my blog, I hope this discussion will become more productive and tangible.

      I have tried to keep an open mind on SAPs success and failures. Just as any other vendor, there are highs and lows of SAP product portfolio. In fact, I can add to the list of failures mentioned by Ray. But I do not agree with him on NetWeaver, especially the way it was classified as a failure. And the reason I decided to write this blog was to see how the SCN community felt about it.

      Making yourself accountable to your ownself is certainly a trait many people lack.

      Thanks again for your valuable comments and critique. Highly appreciated!

      Regards,

      Shehryar

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      1. Dennis Howlett
        @shehryar – I have no difficulty with you putting these discussions into the public domain. Apologies if there was an email I missed on permissions. Ray’s challenge is a good one!!
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  4. R Wang
    Shehryar,

    First of all, I wish SAP all the best in success b/c at the end of the day, our customers need choice in the marketplace. SAP’s failures in GTM does no one any good. We need them to be strong. We need SAP to get its act together soon.

    Being on the buy side, I’m always interested in hearing a good customer success story. Too often, all we hear are the failures from both the customers and the system integrators who have to put an implementation together.

    So here’s my challenge to you and other SCN members.  If you drink, I’ll buy you a drink for every customer you can refer to me that says the new NetWeaver works great. It’s cost effective. It’s innovative.

    To qualify, they’ll need to have me ask them a few questions such as:
    1. How much customization was required to get the product to work?
    2. Did you receive any free additional services from SAP or your SI in order to get the product to work?
    3. Did you actually pay for the license?
    4. Are you part of any SAP funded customer programs.

    and other related customer reference questions such as:
    http://bit.ly/5sz2KB

    If you don’t drink, I’ll buy you lunch.

    This is a win-win for me as we are building a case study list of success and failures of SAP. I’m sure SAP would love to see their customers also get out there and talk about innovation on NetWeaver and success here.

    I’m up to the challenge if you are.

    R “Ray” Wang
    Partner – Enterprise Strategy
    Altimeter Group, LLC
    http://blog.softwareinsider.org

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    1. Community User Post author
      Ray,

      Your questions are valid from TCO perspective. However, I beieve it is also important to evaluate:

      1. How much effort has the customer put in to make the most of the information and communication channels offered by SAP, including SCN and Service Marketplace.

      2. How many customers have a formal strategy around SCN?

      3. How many attend weekly NetWeaver Know How calls?

      4. How many feed the information gained in these sessions back to the management?

      5. How many adapt their SAP related planning based on this information and latest SAP roadmaps?

      6. How many have a formal Enterprise Architecture/IT Governance function in place to ensure ROI?

      7. How are the customers with lower SAP TCO different than the ones with higher TCO? What about factors like operating model and value governance?

      8. If customers have internal SAP staff, how much budget do they have to keep their SAP related skills updated? What is the cost of not updating skills?

      9. How many take part in initiatives like Enterprise Service Definition, Value Governance, SAP User Groups, etc

      10. How much do they depend on skills of external resources (contractors/SIs) to help with SAP implementation

      …and many more can be articulated.

      If you question the customers not happy with SAP, you’ll find that while product features is on of the reasons of resentement, it won’t be the main reason behind customer failures in making the most of their IT/SAP investments. It is important to differentiate the symptom from the cause. For example, if after going through a vendor selection and SAP implementation exercise over several months, the customer realizes that end users are not happy with the system, how would you know if the problem is with the product, or because the users weren’t engaged earlier?

      Similarly, if the cost of integrating SAP is too high, how would you know that the implementation consultants actually used the correct approach? I have been on several projects in advisory capacity where earlier bad decisions resulted in significant rise in cost of integration. Sometimes, it is just too late to change the project plan and you end up in a mess. Should SAP be blamed for bad decisions by implementation teams?

      So it is not as simple as, “NetWeaver not used for end-to-end integration means product failure”. SAP is not making a silver bullet which would address internal strategic/operational problems of an organization. Customers, who invest millions in trying to adopt SAP are also equally accountable for their decisions. It is perfectly fine to squeeze SAP for more value of bucks, some introspection always helps.

      While SAP remains a competitor in integration/application platform space, NetWeaver, as an application and integration platform (now BPP), has matured over the last few years. SAP’s core products have also changed a lot and have improved integration ability. The Enterprise Services Definition program, being run in partnership with customers and SI/ISV partners, is an excellent initiative. SUGs are also offering the customers an option to weigh in on future SAP roadmaps. ASUG is an excellent example of this.

      The differentiator for SAP remains its business applications and integration content which reduces the TCO. However, organizations still have to look at the broader picture before deciding on integration approach.

      I have yet to come across a customer looking to buy SAP products for its technology breakthroughs. May be SAP Sales Department can quote some customers. So whether it is the WebAS JAVA architecture which ensures the whole server doesn’t go down when a process fails, BIA to speed up analytical reporting, or future InMemory database offering, SAP customers are organizations focused on finding suitable business applications rather than technological breakthroughs. The core for SAP remains its business applications. Addition of BO means Data Management/Analytics becomes core for SAP as well.

      I’d once again re-iterate that I am not turning a blind eye to the problems customers face in adopting SAP products, and engaging with SAP to address problems. There are a lot of areas where SAP must improve. The economic climate will keep pushing customers to prioritize TCO reduction. SaaS/Cloud maturity is already changing the business applications space. This may mean SAP will loose customers unless some drastic measure are taken. However, given the history of resilience shown by SAP, I am sure that future GTM strategy which will ensure sustainability. Active engagment with the ecosystem will help SAP in beating the competition.

      As far as your challenge goes, I can’t engage with customers in official capacity to gather feedback. However, I have asked people I know to mobilize and gather honest feedback from customers. I am sure that SAP and SCN community will also play their part in quoting independent references for customer success.

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      1. Dennis Howlett
        @shehryar – at the risk of appearing to prop up Ray’s argument, I’ll cherry pick a few points and make a couple of general observations but before doing so would like to thank you for turning this into an excellent conversation:

        1. Your general point about value understanding is well made. I am well aware that some customers do get value they can quantify, assess and express satisfaction. I’d argue that’s mostly restricted to the top 400 SAP coddles. I’d go further and say that many of those same customers employ SAP rock stars (not all Mentors BTW) who make SAP ‘sing’ internally.

        2. It is a matter of fact that most (by number) are less aware of what SAP could deliver. You are correct to say customers need to be more aware but…I’d equally argue that is only possible when customers believe they’re in partnership with the vendor. SAP tries on this front but could do a MUCH better job. Ray’s Bill of Buyer’s Rights is an excellent template that SAP might wish to review.

        3. You say: “Similarly, if the cost of integrating SAP is too high, how would you know that the implementation consultants actually used the correct approach? I have been on several projects in advisory capacity where earlier bad decisions resulted in significant rise in cost of integration. Sometimes, it is just too late to change the project plan and you end up in a mess. Should SAP be blamed for bad decisions by implementation teams?”

        Yes – SAP cannot on the one hand express a desire for partnership with CUSTOMERS and on the other ignore what happens with implementation partners. We could have a long conversation on this point but suffice to say I believe that insistence on certification that matters (see the SAP Mentors wiki thread and proposals on this point) would go a long way to solving this problem. It’s not that somple but it’s a big part – something with which I know senior SAP education peeps agree.

        4. As for Ray’s challenge – I’ll go one step further. I’ve recorded several SAP customers on video (albeit A-i-O/ByD) that have good things to say. Check my YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/dahowlett or http://www.dahowlett.com or the right hand sidebar of http://www.accmanpro.com) Get your marketers or whomever to talk with Ray/me on video about the good, bad and indifferent. That’s what customers want to see. I’d be delighted to publicize success on my larger audience blogs.

        There is much more that could be said but this will do for the moment.

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        1. Community User Post author
          Dennis,

          Thanks for your valuable feedback.

          I agree with your points. Just to focus on point 3 though….I agree that as part of Go-live checks, SAP should QA the implementation approach to ensure customers receive the ROI. Every failed SAP implementation means SAP looses. I think it might be worth for SAP to come up with a Risk Management profile for each project. This can include factors like customer business process maturity, partner expertise, project complexity, Enterprise Architecture function, certified/experienced SAP resources, etc. Based on such factors, SAP should then identify the potential risks, and mitigate these risks by proactive intervention. I know this might sound too intrusive, but we all know the implications of a failed project. Food for thought???

          Another aspect to keep in mind about the first 3 points is that as organizations increasingly adopt SaaS models, dependency on in-house SAP implementation consultants will reduce with time. (Note: Jon Reed can certainly add value here by offering insight into the future of SAP consultants due to SaaS). What it also means that SIs will have a more important role to play in delivering value to customers. So SAP must consider how to equip SI partners with the necessary skills to deliver this value. I’d be interested to see how the SAP-Partner engagement model addresses this going forward.

          Whether certified resources are any better than experienced resources is a debate which has been taking place for a while. Consensus is still lacking amongst consultants as to what it takes to be the right person for the job. I think it might not be practical to expect all consultants to be certified. However, a risk profile approach might encourage customers to demand certified resources.

          On point 4, I am asking my contacts to ask their customers for positive/negative feedback on SAP products. I’d also request the community to pitch in. We don’t need detailed responses for now. Just a brief statement about whether they are happy with SAP products or not.

          Regards.

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  5. Vijay Vijayasankar
    SAP says it is both an application and an application platform company. But it didn’t start that way – and hence the application platform part, or Netweaver, has had less time to mature. So I think it is natural that netweaver gets some extra criticism.

    I have myself seen customers shying away from portal, XI,BW and so on a few years ago. However, as these products became better – I have also seen customers trying them out again, and being generally happy with them.

    However, application platform is not a light decision that any CIO takes – and once bitten, they are twice shy. So SAP has to make a concentrated effort to educate clients on new and improved netweaver suite. This is not easy – there are many strong competitors, and it is not a match that is won any more on features and functions alone. Over time, most of the top 3 vendors in every area have become very similar in capabilities. So it boils down to other things like maintenance costs, licensing fees, availability of training and whether anything complimentary already exists in the enterprise. It also depends on how a product is sold – for example, if you go through office of CIO – you need a different strategy than if you went through office of CFO or COO.

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  6. Martin English
    Roy,
      I don’t expect a feed (or a drink), as I work for a partner organisation in Australia.    One of the companies we support was the first Customer R3 installation in Australia (they divested companies about 10 years ago and we support two of the divested companies SAP systems as well).  In fact, we still support a production R2 instance for one of them.  I believe all three can be held up as large successfull and happy SAP ‘owners’.

    All three have made continuous investment in both technical and business training as their R3 then netweaver implementations have demanded.  They are also quite involved in the local SAP user groups, at both a technical and a business level.  While we have done a lot of the heavy lifting over the years, these companies have all taken ownership of both the implementation and the ongoing support management.

    On the other hand, without sounding like a sales plug, we’re both hardware and software agnostic (we can afford to be as we are quite a large organisation), and I’ve assisted in merging two companies – one on SAP and the other on MIMS – into a MIMS system.  To be honest, I can’t tell you whether that was due to dissatisfaction with SAP, or because of the politics of the merger.

    In short, I fully support the comments above – Successful SAP implementation and successful ongoing use of SAP requires serious engagement by all levels of the customer, from end-user (training, change management, etc) to board level (setting realistic expectations, inspiring innovation etc).

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    1. Community User Post author
      Martin,

      Thanks for your feedback. Yes, a successful implementation is much more than technology features offered by products. And a failed project doesn’t necessarily mean the product couldn’t deliver on its promise.

      I am sure there are several IBM/Oracle customers out there with cutting edge technology, yet demanding that their vendors do a better job of addressing their business problems with lower TCO.

      Similarly, it is too common to see bigger SIs messing things up despite having all the knowledge and experience to deliver complex projects. The scenrio I presented earlier (while responding to Ray) about high integration costs was actually due to the work of one of the largest SIs and a market leading ISV. Both didn’t have a clue about the SAP integration options available and ended up coding everything from scratch. The toll on the customer in terms of time, effort, and cost was substantial.

      Any ways, thanks again for taking the time to share your experiences.

      Regards,

      Shehryar

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      1. Vijay Vijayasankar
        I have been working for big and small SIs all my career – and I understand what you mean. However, I do think that the criticism is sometimes disproportionate. SIs do not mess up any more than customers or SAP themselves do – however, they are an easier target to accuse. Certification might help – i don’t disagree, but that is not a comprehensive solution in itself. I am keen to see what else SAP will do to ensure more succesful projects
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  7. Jon Reed
    Shehryar…congrats on a very successful blog post, maybe one of the best discussion threads I have seen this year on SCN. I meant to send you this follow on comment from last week but my laptop was stolen – however I had emailed it to a relay address so here it is:

    I’m glad you posted this blog and you raised great points. I already said what I wanted to say, so I won’t add much here. I think it’s great you challenged Ray since you disagreed with his views, or the excerpts of his views from the video at least, and in the future, I hope you share more on your own project learnings around NetWeaver. I hope you are clear that the only issue I had with your post was implying bloggers should write one way or the other about SAP. Singling out bloggers doesn’t really make sense to begin with.

    Also: customer stories are always more important than opinions- that’s good you are gathering them. I would agree with Martin English, and also your own comments, when you say that customers who take responsibility for their SAP implementations (and get involved with user groups) have the most success.

    As for “bloggers,” Right now I’m typing this from the SAP Influencer Summit. There are more than 200 reporters, analysts, bloggers, and SAP Mentors here – all getting previews of functionality, engaging in Q/A with executives. It’s not just about the bloggers, there are many voices. All these folks have many different agendas, backgrounds, and viewpoints. That’s a real diversity of views. I think it’s great to take any any of these views on, criticize it, refine it, blog on it. Thanks for doing so, and hopefully this important discussion on NetWeaver and real customer value will continue.

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