The flavor of the season seems to be RDS (Rapid Deployment Solution) now. Anyone and everyone who is anything in the SAP marketplace is talking about RDS. I wanted to take a moment and really get to the bottom of this new wave of web and market chatter on RDS. We all know that this is not something that is new. All blue blooded SAP consultants have been familiar with the earlier avatars of RDS viz. Best Practice templates, Pre-configured templates and so on. The branded version of this in the form of RDS is a structured bundle that contains the pre-configured Business Configuration set (BC Set) plus content like business process documentation, process flows, testing scripts, migration scripts and so on. All these are bundled with implementation services and sold as a productized service. The entry point price point is really low. The main objective of RDS is to disruptively reduce cost and enhance speed to market. If this is not new, why this sudden fancy with RDS then? Well, I think it is a convergence of a lot of things. Consider this.
Firstly, large “soup to nuts” greenfield implementations have become a thing of the past, atleast for the most part. You still do come across the sporadic case of multi-year back office implementations in organizations that are transitioning from an SME organization to a large enterprise. Also, you see a few of these in under tapped industries like say Natural Resources. But these are few and far between. Most new implementations are in “Line of business” slices of the organization. This is a very important trend to be noted with respect to the wave of RDS chatter. RDS as a concept is more amenable to be implemented in small chunks. Given the nature of rapidfire implementations that RDS promises, it is essential to draw a boundary around what each RDS solution will provide. Consequently, most RDSs are focused on sub-processes within various Line of Businesses. You will not see an RDS that encompasses an entire back office implementation cutting across Financials and HCM.
Secondly, mechanisms of differentiation between the non big4 players are blurring substantially. Every one claims everything right from methodologies, frameworks, tools, accelerators to strong SAP alliance, partnership levels, strong talent etc. Winning or losing is very often becoming the function of talent on display during the sales cycle. It is very quickly becoming a resource play and that too is significantly scarce even for commodity skills like FICO, MM, SD ABAP and Basis. So, how does one differentiate? Atleast, in the immediate term, everyone seems to be rooting for a “best practice template(a.k.a RDS)” approach that will ostensibly reduce the customer’s TCO and enhance the speed to market. The slew of RDS offerings in the marketplace needs to be seen to be believed. RDS solutions are not restricted to just Line of Business solutions. It is cutting across processes, domain and technology. You have RDSs around HANA, RDSs around mobility and RDSs even on something as new in the SAP stable as Crossgate. While it is not totally clear on how overlapping RDSs from different SIs will co-exist and promoted by SAP, that does not seem to be dithering anyone. On their part, SAP as an organization is pulling out all stops to promote RDS as a concept and that is the third reason we will explore.
The world at large is rooting for low TCO, faster speed to market, low custom code, best practice templates, easy usability, agile implementation and what have you. The world at large is also substantially enamored with cloud based SAAS applications as well as a slew of pseudo cloud options in the process of accomplishing some of these classic objectives. CIOs, CFOs, CEOs and all other CxOs you can imagine are falling for thin applications that have little to no chance of scalability. They are willing to compromise on features and functionalities in a heartbeat in return for the elusive quick ROI metric. While procuring these applications, there is an overwhelming propensity to make do with whatever standard features and functions these applications offer. While for the immediate term it is a great approach to quickly effect ROI, it severely impairs future scalability. One wonders why such an approach is not being used for deep and broad tier 1 applications. SAP is now tapping into this mindset by aggressively promoting RDS as a concept across all its platforms. This is a win-win situation across the board. The gains for the customer are numerous. They get a deep and broad application like SAP at a lower cost and faster speed. After a quick launch and acceptance, they could expand the footprint in due course, budgets permitting. For SAP, it is able to effectively counter competition and reduce shelf ware. For instance, a “Line of business” like SAP CRM is seeing fresh uptake on the strength of multiple improvements including a high number of RDS offerings in this space. Given this changing customer and competitive behavior, it made eminent sense for SAP to put all its might behind a concept like RDS
Given the above background of why RDS is finding new found acceptance across the board, let us go a few layers deep on how RDS is converging extremely well with a lot of other events on the SAP technological landscape. At first I thought RDS is just one more acronym coming from the SAP stable. Atleast, that is what I thought prior to my full blown indoctrination to this concept a few months ago at Walldorf. While this was first introduced to me almost 2 years back and then again about a year back, the latest attempt from SAP was rather convincing. I am writing this blog as I really think RDS is at the cusp of greater acceptability and become an industry standard for tier 1 products that have over the years gained the reputation of being feature rich and content deep but have suffered from other tags like “User unfriendly”, “High TCO”, “Tardy speed to market” and what have you.
I fundamentally believe that like HANA, Sybase and a couple of other strategic initiatives, SAP is beginning to get it right with RDS. Consider this… The SAAS vendors made billions by cashing in on customers perception of tier 1 applications likeSAP being heavy-footed, user unfriendly and high maintenance. But in the process have provided non-scalable applications with more strings attached than you can imagine. On the other hand it is heartening to see that SAP has taken the criticism leveled by its critiques very seriously. If one observes all the steps taken by SAP in the last few months and years, they have in a rather classically German way tried to address all these concerns not through rhetoric but through high quality engineering.
- XML5 and other UI related initiatives eminently address usability needs
- HANA disruptively addresses performance needs. It is important to note that most analytics innovations
- Sybase and its tools are best in class mobility solutions. With Syclo in the bag as well, SAP has become the undisputed market leader in mobility.
- Shorter software releases significantly transforms software upgrade and maintenance processes
- And now RDS…
This note might come across as a bit biased in favor of SAP and its solutions. Actually, that is not the intention. It is more an acknowledgement of various strategic initiatives that SAP is taking.
Framework – For eons now service providers have constantly claimed to possess just the right best practice template that the customer is looking for during a sales cycle. And yes, many service providers have indeed built some of these templates on their test & demo servers. However, these attempts never attained critical mass and they were not backed by a framework. That made the attempts very sporadic and inconsistent. On the other hand, RDS has a framework for ensuring that the templates have a mass replicability attribute and also ensure that they have a life of their own. Every implementation might bring with it nuances that help improve the template. The RDS framework has the capability of doing that.
Use cases – RDS in its original avatar was launched as a tool to accelerate LoB implementations. But over the last many months SAP seems to have really thought through a broad applicability of RDS. It cuts across Line of Business processes, industry vertical specific processes and cutting edge technology (Sybase, HANA, Crossgate) oriented usages.
To conclude, I think RDS might end up changing the way SAP and other tier 1 applications gets implemented in the future. The day might not be far where the classical SAP implementation methodology – ASAP- gets re-written to orient itself to a RDS based implementation methodology. I realize that this might sound a bit precipitous. But, just watch out…