Innovation needs to get to customers before it is too late – else its value will diminish. This has not exactly been SAP’s strength historically, but from what I heard at the Boston Run Better Tour – SAP is very confident that they can get products out on a quarterly schedule.This is definitely a positive sign, considering SAP wants to be a big player in the on demand world.
On first sight – this is a terrific idea. But I do have a few concerns as well.
1. Publicly traded companies live quarter to quarter. Quarter end is the most stressful time there with every one running around like crazy to finish the quarter in a short window. Does it make a big difference really if an invoice is paid on July 1st instead of June 30th? well, no if you are not answerable to the analysts and yes if you are answerable. I would hate to think software developers get into this mania to beat artificial deadlines. And will analysts penalize SAP’s stock if they miss a quarterly release schedule?
2. What about quality? If you are forced to release every 90 days – you will typically get a month at most for testing. For a system as complex as SAP – I find it hard to believe that good testing can happen in that time, at least for first couple of years.
3. How many features will go into a release? Will developers try to sandbag, and put very little into each release to make sure they are comfortable with the quality of code they are releasing? Or someone could feel the need to be a hero, and try to overdo what goes into a release, and end up in a quantity beats quality scenario. How long will it take to strike a balance?
4. Do customers really want something new every 90 days, even in the on-demand world? In the on premises world, I don’t know any one who wants to upgrade every 90 days. In on demand world, maybe this is less of a problem. But a certain amount of non-disruptive nature needs to be built into the live updates. Turbotax can change every year – I don’t care all that much because I only need to use it once a year. I would be driven nuts if Yahoo email changed frequently, since I need to use it every day. If a sales order screen changed every 3 months, I am not sure how many people will like it either.
5. When you raise OSS notes, will we start hearing “just wait another quarter” as default answer?
6. How will certifications work? will u get certified on the Quarter 3, 2011 version of a module?
7. How will pricing work? Should customers buy every release? can they skip releases that offer things they don’t like? Will there be a switch framework kind of thing where we can choose what to accept?
8. How much advance notice will customers get for each release? If a certain release needs training or major change management, will they get enough time to get to that? and will they (and their consultants in case such help is needed) get enough training to be prepared for what is going to hit them?
I maybe totally off-base here – and will gladly stand corrected if some one explains the right way to think about this.