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Bilafer’s BHAG: The Quest For The Whole Product

My team and I had the opportunity to speak with members of our Ecosystem at TechEd in Las Vegas and the recent ASUG/BusinessObjects User group meeting about building on top of or around SAP’s solutions –think of this as extensibility. 

We talked a lot at TechEd about SAP as a platform, I had some great conversations with partners who have already built on our platform, some who are thinking about it, and some who still aren’t sure what it is and what it means.

No matter which camp you’re in right now, there’s an unmistakable energy building around the changes in the air at SAP (for more on that, see my Bilafer’s BHAG: One Helluva BHAG).

That change is being driven by the quest for the whole product, as defined by tech marketing guru Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm, one of my favorite business books and required reading for any tech entrepreneur.  SAP is on a mission to realize the whole product—lots of them actually. To reach our goal of a billion users by 2015, it’s not optional, it’s imperative.

What is the whole product? In high tech, it’s a core technology offering, plus additional elements required for the product to have compelling value to a customer.

Moore uses an example from Savi, a start-up whose RFID-based inventory tracking system was adopted by the military for Operation Desert Storm.  Savi made a commercial success of the technology by selling it to manufacturing companies moving to a just-in-time inventory system. But to do that, they had to go beyond the core technology– RFID tags and scanners. They had to build a whole suite of technology products and services to allow all the different players across that value chain to interact with the system.

And, most importantly for our story, Savi also turned to a variety of partners and allies to help with additional hardware, technology and training that they weren’t able to provide in order to create the whole product. And that’s what we’re looking for at SAP.

We’ve already got a few. For example, SAP’s Governance and Risk Compliance (GRC) software allows companies to put industry specific compliance rules into a system where they can track and monitor activities against those rules. Up until recently, customers bought SAP GRC software, but then they had to create their own rules library and build it in the SAP environment—not a fast or easy undertaking.

SAP Partner Deloitte has deep experience in consulting with energy companies, and they had already developed a comprehensive library of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) rules.

Deloitte and SAP partnered to enable Deloitte’s FERC and NERC rule sets to plug right into SAP GRC. Now customers can go straight to the SAP Business Analytics Marketplace and get the whole product. In fact, Deloitte has added rules libraries for a number of industries to SAP GRC. These whole products significantly improve the value for GRC, and help customers leverage their investment in SAP to reduce the total cost of ownership and accelerate their time to value.

Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’ve been able to deliver both SAP GRC and Deloitte’s library to more users than either company could have on its own. It’s a win for everyone.

Now, it’s not as simple as it sounds. I knew Vik Verma back when he was CEO of Savi and was crossing the chasm. What takes Moore two pages to describe took about 3 years to actually execute. Besides building the whole product, they also had to improve transparency up and down the demand chain – the ecosystem needs to become an extension of the company, not just a delivery vehicle. They had to build an experienced and passionate team, and they had to build credibility within their new market and with their new partners, which can only be built over time by consistently delivering on promises and commitments.

The same challenges face SAP as we transition to a platform company. It’s a quest, and we’re looking for more than a few good partners to join us.

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  • It’s an interesting concept.  It takes best of breed to a whole new level.<br/><br/>SAP working with other partners to create a “new” exciting best of breed product.  Something that is totally integrated, because they have worked together.  Hopefully they will stay as “partners” not as one or the other owns the product.  That would be a lot like what we have now.  Partners own their product.  They say they are compatible with SAP.  And they are.  Only there is a lot of work to get their product to “talk” to SAP.  That would be the old model of best of breed, that I’m very used to.<br/><br/>Thinking about this new world, we, the customers, would not have to struggle with communication to and from SAP.  <OK, maybe we still would.>  But there would be no finger pointing.  It’s a problem with the SAP side, get a fix there.  Or it’s a problem with company XYZ get a fix from there.  Or it could be company ABC that has the hardware.  It could be a sizing issue…<br/><br/>It would be a problem where from a customer side who fixes it would be invisible.  Ha!  I think that is awhile from being there, but it would be great.<br/><br/>A whole new world of possibilities.<br/><br/>Great thoughts!<br/><br/>Michelle<br/><br/>