The number 1 objective of my recent visit to Sapphirenow was to get to the bottom of what the new release strategy would mean to customers. They keynotes were quick to reiterate that the benefits of the new release strategy was that customers would not need to upgrade before 2020 for the business suite. The strap line is fine in principal and extremely attractive to customers. This however is old news as this was announced back in October 2011. Back then I wrote an article to see if I could get to the bottom of this – What will a “constant stream of Enhancements mean” to you?
So what I was after is simple – what impact will the new release strategy have for existing customers? Would there be underlying changes to the core of the system by implementing the new functionality? The details that I obtained from the sessions were fairly consistent – no-one actually knew how this would work. It is clear that either this has not been fully thought through, or the people that have the bigger picture have yet to share it. So with this in mind I set off to talk to a number of different SAP staff who were exhibiting to see if they knew or had an opinion on this.
The plan was not to put pressure on key individuals to see if I could prise the truth from them, more to speak with Product Managers and experts to see if they would share their view. The interesting output from the conversations I had was that opinions were mixed. There was one camp that believed that code and functionality would be released via a combination of release notes and support packs that would be bundled together. These would then be applied to the “core” and the new functionality would be available to the customer. With regard to the testing impacts the message from this faction was again clear, testing would only be required around the specific process that had been enhanced. These words and theories were very soothing and comforting as I believe this is the place SAP need to get to, and if they are not there at the moment, this is the direction they should be striving to achieve.
However life is all about opinions, and there were a number of SAP Product Managers who were more sceptical about the whole process. They were bought into the continuous innovation cycle which everyone applauds. However concerns were raised when the conversation delved slightly deeper around potential scenarios. It was clear that some Product Managers had actively thought about the potential issue of full system testing when apply a single future innovation and the impact this would have. They could see the issue that whilst the new functionality within the innovation may be attractive the associated extra cost of a full system regression testing would reduce the take up of the innovations. The innovations are being designed so the new functionality can be realised in an efficient process, but the extra administration of the further regression testing is the Achilles heel.
Personally I thought it would have been a good time for SAP to provide the low level detail around their future release plans and what the true impact would be to its customers. The planned change in tact could be a massive plus for SAP if they get it right, but on the other hand it will become a massive negative should they get this wrong. I will be doing my best to get to the bottom of this and when I get a single answer I will obviously publish it and pass my opinion in the form of a final blog.
I know that SAP do listen, and have customer’s interest at the centre of everything they do. The new focus points around Hana, cloud and mobile will be generating the headlines but the core should not be overlooked. The core needs to become agile and provide value to customers. Customers are looking to maximise their benefit from the business suite and the new innovations will provide the source of many of the future benefits but to ensure the strongest uptake of the new innovations the delivery methodology needs to be as pain free as possible.