Here’s my take on these changes, and my attempt to put them into context. I believe a lot of this anxiety stems from partners and customers noticing changes between how SAP does things compared to how BusinessObjects.
I’m not trying to gloss-over execution challenges with this post. The execution of both the BI4 rampup (specifically the timing of launch activities) and product naming leave room for improvement.
My hope is that by talking about the high level context for these changes, partners and customeres will understand more about where we’re coming from.
Inspired by ERP systems, which have a high bar for quality and reliability, SAP has a rampup program which limits the availability of the software between the ‘Release to Customer’ date and ‘General Availability’.
Rampup is not a beta program. It uses production-ready software that is fully supported by SAP.
During this rampup period, cusotmers purchase and install the rampup software and key metrics for both number of productive customers, and the number of ‘red’ customers are monitored by our rampup staff.
Once the KPIs for these metrics are met, the software is considered GA.
Because the GA date is KPI-driven and not date-driven, projected GA dates often change when it becomes clear the KPIs aren’t met.
The upside of this release strategy is that once a product attains GA, we have complete confidence that it is production-ready.
The downside is less predictability in GA dates.
The software becomes generally available once it meets all internal quality, performance, and reliability criteria.
Uses a master-brand strategy.
Brand equity accrues first to the company brand (SAP), then to the portfolio brand (SAP BusinessObjects).
This brand strategy is enforced by an internal group that ensures all product names adhere to these standards.
As there are well over 1,000 products on the SAP price list, SAP uses a descriptive naming strategy for the product names.
There are a few exceptions to this (ie SAP StreamWork), but in general the requirement for descriptive product names have been the driver for recent product name changes.
The upside of this naming strategy is it better scales to focusing on the BI suite – in general, customers are buying into the overall SAP BusinessObjects value proposition instead of a specific tool within that portfolio.
The downside of this strategy is that in the transition some product names will change and become less distinctive.
Uses a product-centric brand strategy.
Similar to Microsoft, brand equity accrues at the product level.
I hope this helps explain some of the changes you’ve been noticing over the last few years. As you can see there are some tradeoffs, but in general I beleive the tradeoffs make sense.