I spent Tuesday this week at the SAP World Tour 2010 event in Sydney, Australia and wanted to quickly share my experience with the community. I had never been to a World Tour event before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I guess the main thing I did want to find out was what SAP’s product strategy would be for the next few years.
I spend most of my time working with our existing clients or helping to find new clients and sometimes what is coming down the pipeline from SAP and their strategy can seem a little irrelevant (or at least distant) to my day to day tasks. It is however important to understand the big picture and then you can better understand how the bit that you do fits (or doesn’t fit) with that view.
Of course before I start I better put in the mandatory disclaimer and say that these are my own personal views and should not be construed as those of either SAP or the company I work for.
So down to it… what was the message? Well it seems that SAP think we are at an inflection point in technology and society (I would agree by the way) with a big shift to “People Centric” computing, so just as we moved from Mainframe solutions to 3 Tier client server architecture in the mid 90’s we are currently making a shift towards something new…
What is that “something new” going to look like… well SAP are betting on it being something like the following:
1. On Premise – This is basically what we currently have at most organizations where the ERP system is hosted internally and runs on the existing client-server type architecture. There was mention of the upcoming Enhancement Packs for both the business suite and Netweaver and the idea of being able to respond to fast changing business needs is seen as very important so that SAP customers remain competitive in their respective markets. There was also a lot of talk about moving to in-memory processing of large datasets for “Analytics on Steroids”.
2. On Demand – This is SAP’s way of saying companies will start to move some (not necessarily all) of their business processes and IT infrastructure into the so called “Cloud” – whatever flavour of cloud that might be (public or private). The big ticket item here is the Business By Design offering for small and medium businesses that is planned for some regions soon, but not for Australia apparently until 2011. I think it is interesting to think of basically outsourcing some of your non-core processes into the cloud, basically commoditizing them, saving money and time and allowing businesses to focus on the processes that differentiate them from their competitors. This hybrid model of On Premise + On Demand is very interesting.
3. On Device – The world is going mobile for sure and SAP aren’t missing out on that. The big play for SAP in this area is with their current partner and seemingly soon to be acquisition; Sybase. There were a lot of demonstrations on what seems to be the current de-facto cool device, namely the Apple iPad. It wasn’t clear to me if these demos were merely just that or if actual products would at some point be released by SAP in this space. The spin here was that this would be a very open platform allowing for partners and customers to build exactly what they need, rather than relying on SAP to deliver a myriad of different solutions.
The 3 pillars above will rely on an underlying technology platform and will require a high level of orchestration to make sure everything works together and forms what SAP are referring to as “Networked Solutions“.
So a combination of the above will be what shapes how companies use SAP and conduct business in the future and this is what SAP is making big investments in. In my view it is good that they continue to focus on what they do well in the On Premise space, when it comes to the On Demand and On Device parts… well… let me just say that I am yet to be convinced but remain ready to be so!
In my opinion the key will be the orchestration of business processes across these areas, in and out of the cloud from always on to sometimes on devices – a business process might start On Device but finish On Premise and on the way make a few stops in the Cloud! This will be a real challenge for sure and one that I look forward to playing out in the next few years.