Today is the first day of a brand new community on the SAP Community Network – the SAP ByDesign Community. While its initially focusing on topics related to SAP Business ByDesign, I expect this community to rapidly expand to cover topics related to all the On Demand, SaaS, PaaS, and cloud solutions and technologies offered by SAP. While SAP has positioned certain offerings for different segments of its customer market, those of us who work with these kinds of solutions cross between customer segments. Our common interest is in cloud based offerings, and its this common interest that is the basis of our new community.
Cloud computing is hitting mainstream in the SAP customer base. One way you can tell is even old guard SAP basis guys are talking about how to run R/3 systems in private clouds, and there are groups of non traditional SAP customers are subscribing to SAP products such as SAP BusinessObjects BI On Demand, SAP StreamWork, and SAP Business ByDesign.
SAP customers are looking for IT execs, enterprise architects and IT practitioners with expertise in these solutions and how to relate them back to their existing SAP and non SAP investments. And, many traditional line of business executives are taking IT into their own hands and buying their own solutions since cloud solutions are available to anyone with a credit card.
As I look over how the topic of cloud has expanded in the world of SAP customers, it’s interesting to note what’s changed and what remains the same. Here are my thoughts about what’s changed:
- Far fewer IT technicians are required due to automation, whether within the data center or in an outsourced solution
- Opportunity for business-IT alignment is better since business is often in the driver’s seat, or at least applications can be discussed as a business service
- Usability of software has gone from lip service to a most important buying criteria
- Technical implementation times have decreased substantially
What’s even more interesting are the kinds of issues that are staying the same:
- The more complicated part of adopting enterprise systems remains change management of the workers, not the software
- Traditional IT outsourcing moves the “inflexible technology” problem, but does not eliminate it – and the oursourced service provider has even less incentive to change operations than traditional IT
- Data quality, master data management, and data integration are issues that still need to be dealt with, usually after solving the more immediate business pain
- Once core business processes are well managed, customers are looking for capacity for customization and agile adaption to unique needs
- Governance of user access, especially for non centralized systems, or when service purchasers leave a company
My reasons for pointing out the above aren’t to start naming solutions, but to jog a discussion of the kinds of people who make up an “On Demand” practitioners community within the broader universe of SAP professionals. The kinds of people I’m running into include:
- CIOs with much smaller IT staffs
- CFOs that do IT (in smaller companies)
- Enterprise architects that specialize in cloud strategy
- Enterprise architects specializing in business network partner integration
- Business analysts / business process experts within a regular business departments – not IT departments – responsible for a cloud SaaS solutions
- Consultants that specialize in business service solutions
The kind of discussions around cloud / On Demand / SaaS discussion are radically different. Here we have business folk that have grown up with technology and are generally savvy about its use. And you have IT personnel that have a much higher degree of service orientation to the business since they’re basically considering buying a business service as opposed to doing a technical implementation.
Now the description above sounds like a tech heavy community still. In fact, I see two distinct “lobes” of this community – one that is more business operations focused, and would certainly involve anyone who cares about best practices for a business process, or end-to-end corporate visibility. There’s still a strong, but far less labor-intensive technical component as architectural questions, enterprise information considerations, and support for custom needs still remain. However all of this is one community because cloud-based / on demand computing is much closer to the stated goal of SAP’s BPX Community – to bridge the gap between business and IT.
I’m very excited about this new tribe in the nation of SCN communities. I look forward to interacting with all of you who chose to participate virtually and in person at future SAP community events.