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I was fortunate to be invited to a phone hookup with Vishal Sikka very early (3:30am Sydney time) this morning.

 

The primary purpose of the meeting was for Vishal to provide an update on what has been happening with HANA since we last met at Sapphire in Orlando. The catalyst for the discussion is that HANA is transitioning from “Ramp-Up” to “GA” next week. 

 

There is no doubt the HANA story is remarkable from many different angles. Not the least that after its’ first real public outing at Sapphire in 2010 the product went into ramp-up just nine months later and is now becoming generally available seven months after that.

 

Many of us have been critical of SAP for slow delivery of product. The creep from product/feature announcement, development, ramp-up, to customer relevance and finally to customer adoption has traditionally been of ice-age proportions. This is not entirely SAPs’ fault – after all there is still a significant number of SAP shops running good old R/3 4.6C (or earlier). Many of these customers view pretty much every SAP product announcement since 1995 as irrelevant for them as their existing technology stack wont support things like Web Dynpro, web services, etc. For them SAP is truly an organisation from the nineteen-hundreds and R/3 bears no relation to other applications they use every day like Google, eBay, iTunes or Angry Birds.

 

To develop and deliver a product like HANA which is so different from SAPs’ traditional fare in quick time is quite an achievement. To do so and be able to demonstrate (as far as I can see) universal enthusiasm from the ramp-up customers is also amazing. Clearly this is no longer your Grandmothers’ SAP.

 

I first detected a real change in SAP at TechEd in 2008. It was just the faint whiff of a shift in the breeze, and I certainly didn’t go away convinced it was permanent change, but it was there.

 

This morning Vishal was keen to talk about “Intellectual renewal at SAP”. And so he should be. In my view SAP pretty much wasted the first half of this century and they need to get out and convince us that they are on a new path. We need to be convinced the change is good, all encompassing, and irreversible.

 

I am convinced that it is good. I want a strong, vibrant and innovative SAP because my career depends upon it. And I believe in the “Innovate or Die” adage.

 

My lingering concern is how all encompassing, and therefore permanent, this change is. Apart from New Zealand I probably live in the country that is furthest from SAP HQ – no matter if you think that is in Walldorf, Philladelphia, Palo Alto or Bangalore. Even if you regard my geographical knowledge as suspect you have got to admit that if you travelled between all the key SAP locations you wouldn’t get too near Australia.

 

I do not yet see the same enthusiasm and passion for the new innovative SAP that I see in Vishal, Hasso and the other key SAP leaders reflected in my local SAP office. 

 

And don’t get me wrong – I don’t really expect to either. After all they are really just a sales office in one of the smaller markets in the SAP world. For them it is all about making their sales targets. Sure they have consulting, education and support services here but the success of the business is all about software licenses. If they don’t make their target people get sacked. Hard to get too enthusiastic about that.

 

But a great way to measure the success and permanence of the cultural change happening inside SAP will be how easy it is to detect that change in far off places like Canberra and Wellington. When SAP employees, partners and customers in the farthest corners of the SAP world detect the same enthusiasm and passion that I see in those that spend their days physically closer to the mother-ship the transformation will be irreversible.

 

I look forward to the day when a junior SAP employee based in Dunedin actively engages in a debate about how cool in-memory technology is – and not just because it is fast.

 

HANA as a product is unlikely to be relevant for my customers for some time. But as a symbol of renewal at SAP its’ relevance is immediate.

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7 Comments

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  1. Gregory Misiorek
    you’ve missed a location: Potsdam, but it’s still cool to be ahead of everyone else when the sun rises in Sydney. Except maybe for Wellington, NZ, your tweets will be there before everyone else’s 😉

    @greg_not_so…waiting for HANA to get installed on my Z0H5

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  2. Tammy Powlas
    for getting up at 3:30 am and then reporting back to us.

    Interesting observation re: local SAP employees; I don’t interact with many SAP local employees face to face.  I do interact with SAP on ASUG webcasts and ASUG Influence Councils where I do get to hear the SAP employees’ passion for the product(s).  I wonder if the same success could be replicated in Australia? 

    Tammy

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  3. Jonathan Wilson
    Hi Graham,

    I can’t really see the point of local SAP offices just echoing the same global messages  from Vishal, Hasso etc particularly if those messages aren’t (yet) relevant to the local market.

    While local discussions should surely have the same “enthusiasm and passion”, they need to be  about products and innovations that are relevant to that market.  In Australia / NZ, it may be possible that Business ByDesign is much more relevant than HANA, and if so, I would like to see my local SAP office focus their energy on that.

    I also don’t believe that the focus on sales targets is such a negative.  In the end, what’s the point of talking about any of these products, if customers aren’t buying them, using them and most importantly getting value from them.

    Cheers,
    Jon

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    1. Graham Robinson Post author
      Hi Jonathon,

      thanks for your feedback.

      I agree with the points you are making around local market relevance and I was not trying to suggest sales targets are a bad thing, or a good thing, just a thing. 😉

      My post was more aimed at the issue of effecting cultural change across a large, multi-faceted organisation. This is a difficult task.

      I strongly believe organisational culture comes directly from the top – and the good news is that SAP leaders like Vishal are certainly walking the talk.

      Cheers
      Graham Robbo

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  4. Bala Prabahar
    I don’t know all the details as to why SAP announced HANA’s GA the way they did. It seems they missed an opportunity to motivate a junior SAP employee based in Dunedin. When iPad was announced by Steve Jobs, I know a person on street all over the world was interested in getting one for himself/herself. I know HANA is different because it is targeted to enterprise world and not consumer market. However the point is we’re talking about motivating a Junior employee(s) and sales people working for SAP somewhere in the world.
    Does anyone know why HANA’s GA was not announced in a big event? Is GA not a big milestone on big data?

    Bala

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  5. Chris Paine
    Hi Graham,
    an insightful opinion piece. I think perhaps there are a few in SAP Australia who do feel the passion, and it shows. Just spend some time with the guys from SAP Research in Brisvegas and you’ll get passion overload 😉 But I think the malaise spreads further than just SAP – ask many SAP consultants in Aus what NoSQL, or even a columnar or column oriented DBMS is, for example, and you will probably be greeted with blank looks.
    Perhaps we could figure out how to get some internships at SAP Research going for the local SAP office/SAP community and we could start sharing that passion for what’s new in SAP?
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, provoking, informative and entertaining, as always.
    Cheers,
    Chris
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    1. Graham Robinson Post author
      Hi Chris,

      thanks for your comments. You are right the SAP Research guys are awesome! You idea of having internships at SAP Research has merit.

      I remember when we (I was still at SAP) first learned there was a branch of SAP Research in Brisbane. It was a shock to all of us. There had been no communication between SAP Australia and SAP Research about this at all!

      Cheers
      Graham Robbo

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