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A lot of people ask me about where the market is headed and about SAP’s plans and progress towards building an ecosystem and multi-route go to market model around our on demand solutions.  These are strategic topics (I don’t use that term lightly), and they are both pivotal to the future of cloud computing and software as a service — and fundamental to vendor business and partnering strategies.   

A big part of this game is attracting a vibrant community of developers within both customers and partners who build on and extend on demand solutions to expand and address market opportunity, fill ‘last mile’ gaps and customer needs, and deliver value-added solutions and services.  By the way, this extends well beyond classic ISV partner types – I’ve spoken with many systems integrators as well as business influencers like tax, audit and advisory firms who see an opportunity to package their intellectual property in order to deliver more value to their constituents/customers, to expand reach and volume, and to deal with rapidly changing customer expectations in terms of cost and time to value. 

There are a number of platform as a service alternatives in the market today (some more interesting than others), but my belief is that we will see a great deal of change and maturation in this area.  First, and probably foremost… the developers and partners I talk to are interested in building on top of a business process platform that extends beyond a single department or function.  Don’t get me wrong, there are opportunities for partners to build targeted solutions, or even capabilities that extend beyond domains such as customer relationship management.  That said, the broader the business process breadth in the underlying platform, the more inherent opportunity there is for customers and partners to build vertical or micro-vertical functionality as well as useful add-ons or extensions delivering incremental value.   

SAP Business ByDesign is an on demand suite that is quite well suited to the current and future needs of growing midsize companies. But it’s really much more than that.  From the start, we knew we needed to build a business process platform that we, our customers, and our partners could build upon… and we’re now beginning to execute on that part of our strategy.  Business ByDesign is that business process platform, and we’re also providing capabilities for developers to build, deploy and manage solutions focused on process extensions and industry variants as well as new collaboration scenarios.  In fact, we’re leveraging Business ByDesign to develop and deploy new Line of Business on demand solutions that extend existing on-premise systems in areas such as sales, finance and human resources in order to equip groups of people work better together to achieve specific business outcomes.    

At the recent TechEd event in Las Vegas, I had the chance to work with an early version of Business ByDesign Studio, a new development environment based on Microsoft Visual Studio.  My session also was attended by several SAP Mentors including Dennis Howlett, Jon Reed and Leonardo De Araujo.  Dennis posted this review on his Accmanpro blog SAP Business ByDesign: a developer take, and Jon posted this Video Blog: ByD SDK “Deep Dive” Reactions with SAP Mentor Leonardo De Araujo.  My own experience was positive – while it is new and there are areas where it needs to mature along with the public solution model, I found ByDesign Studio intuitive, stable, and easy to use.  Developers familiar with Microsoft Visual Studio should be able to quickly master this development environment, and I’m pretty sure that the depth and breadth of the underlying business process platform will be a compelling draw.   

On demand offers the best opportunity yet to deliver a real business process platform to the market and we are well on track to do so.  Think this is easy?  No way.  On demand suites are still at an early stage, and getting a platform with the right balance of sufficient standard cross-industry functionality and international capabilities while at the same time providing easy customization is EXTREMELY hard to do.  That said, once again, we are well on track.  I predict that we will see partners of all types gravitate to the leading platforms over the coming months and years.  SAP intends to play a key role in equipping these partners and customers to build, deploy and manage compelling on demand solutions and services and we’re laying the foundation with a compelling platform for the future.  I may be biased, but I like our chances in helping to make this market – and to make our partners and customers quite successful in the process.   Interesting times ahead and I look forward to the journey – hope you’re along for the ride! 

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