My first thought was – “What a question.”
I was with a client recently and we were discussing the merits of the various Enhancement Packages and it was mentioned that there might not be the need for a new ERP platform. This was something that I had not considered and this got me thinking. On my journey back from the client my mind went back to this conversation and I started to work out why I had not considered this before.
Firstly let’s start to where I was in my mind regarding this point prior to the conversation. All of the collateral I have read, and comments I have seen indicate that there will (in time) be a new ERP version for SAP.
History of ERP 6
ERP 6 was delivered around 2006 and it is now the most used version of ERP within the various SAP versions. Added to this, SAP have released 4 Enhancement Packages between 2007 and 2010 and the latest Pack has been slightly delayed but it will come. The key to the SAP message regarding ERP is the support of ERP 6. The story here is simple, the support dates keep getting extended, currently mainstream maintenance will end December 2015.
I also feel between 2011 and 2015 SAP will be delivering more enhancement packages, so when will SAP start to release a new ERP version?
OK, I admit it, I love Enhancement Packages. Within my main focus area of ERP (SAP FSCM), SAP have utilised the Enhancement Packages to deliver some great new functionality that is exceptionally easy to add to an existing ERP system. Some of the functionality is nearly plug and play with a bit of testing and training thrown in prior to the go live. When you measure that against the effort to upgrade say a 4.6c to ERP 6 the system and business effort is not comparable in the slightest. I believe they are a great success and the success of the Enhancement Packages may have installed a bit of doubt in SAP’s mind regarding a future ERP release.
Where options do SAP have?
Can SAP plan a major release when the majority of their ERP clients are on ERP6 or will be on ERP 6 within the next 18 months? Can SAP say that ERP 7, is the same as ERP6 with Enhancement Packages 5 or 6? The answer is a simple no?
Can SAP ask their clients to go through the pain of a main upgrade again when they are used to smaller delivery of new functionality that is specific to certain processes? Clients can for example say their Sales process is stable and not release any Enhancement Packages in that area, but say utilise some but not all of the functionality within Finance and HR. A new release of ERP for SAP would mean that all of the new functionality in the various enhancement packages would become available across all modules increasing the testing and training effort to move to the new ERP version.
Lastly could SAP stop Enhancement Packages being delivered to its clients? Well this is probably their only real option, but it is not client friendly.
SAP in my opinion have managed to manoeuvre themselves into a tight spot. The success of Enhancement Packages has lead clients seeing the benefit in releasing small chunks of relevant functionality independently. Trying to ask clients to move away from their current process of small regular new functionality to a larger release will not go down well and will stop clients moving to a newer ERP platform. I look forward to the next few years to learn and utilise the new functionality within the next Enhancement Packages. I also look forward to keeping an eye what SAP do next and what their views are.