What’s Top of Mind for Techies in 2012/13? My Research Findings with SAP Customers
This is the first blog I’ve written on SCN so I would love your feedback. Firstly, I should introduce myself – I am no technologist and I’m actually pretty poor with computers! I work at The Eventful Group in Sydney, Australia where my role is to research the SAP community’s current challenges and interests. Using that information, I create conference agendas that meet the needs of that community and inspire them to take their next step in transforming the way their business uses SAP.
I am responsible for our Mastering SAP BusinessObjects event, our Mastering Supply Chain Management with SAP event and our Mastering SAP Technologies event. In this role, I have become very close with the fantastic SAP Mentors and a large number of SCN bloggers. I thought it was about time I shared some of my own insights!
My Latest Research
I’m currently putting together the conference agenda for our 2013 Mastering SAP Technologies event which will be taking place in March in Melbourne, Australia. I have spent the past two months running round table discussion groups in 6 major ANZ cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth and Auckland. I invited CIOs, Business Systems Managers, IT Managers, SAP Managers, Developers, Solution Architects and Basis Administrators along.
Each session is an environment of complete openness and honesty – there are no solutions providers and no SAP representatives present. The groups are about SAP customers sharing the challenges they are facing with their SAP systems and imparting ideas on how to overcome them. They tell us what issues they’d like to see covered in next year’s conference and what projects they are currently embarking on, or are about to embark on.
In running these research groups I managed to meet with over 100 SAP techies and IT team leads. I love the opportunity to catch up, meet new people in the community and discover what companies are up to in the SAP technology space. Each session is expertly run by someone who knows what they’re talking about – Graham Robinson (Yelcho), John Moy (MMG), Brent Talbot (Soltius) and Steve Silver (Think180) all did fantastic jobs this year!
What I Discovered
You can find a full run down of the results on this webpage www.masteringsap.com/tech/hottopics , but here I’d like to discuss some of the most interesting issues that arose in the discussions this year.
The most popular topic by far was Mobile SAP. Most organisations are serious about making their SAP system mobile, but I feel that they’re not sure where to start. Firstly, nobody seems quite sure how Sybase, Syclo, Mobi and third party solutions fit together and what tool you should use for which use case. They want clarification on SAP’s roadmap for these tools. Moreover, they want to know what’s possible with them. Then there are considerations on building apps vs. buying apps, integration, branding and security. There’s so much for an organisation to consider before they start a mobility project and so much information that needs to be covered in the conference! But one thing’s for sure – mobility is THE top priority for SAP customers in Australia and New Zealand.
The second most popular topic is User Interfaces. This is a very broad issue but one that is a continuous consideration for SAP customers. They want to be able to develop interfaces easily and develop ones that are appealing and functional for their users. One comment I’ve heard many times is “Why can’t my SAP system look like and feel as intuitive as my iPhone?!”. Well I personally have no idea but I do know that SAP has a number of new(ish) tools in this area – UI5, NWBC and FPM. We are very lucky as we’ve been able to have the extremely talented Thomas Jung out to present at the Mastering SAP Technologies conference every year since I have been involved. Thomas always rates as one of the best speakers at the conference and is viewed as a rockstar in Australia and I’m sure all around the world. As well as bringing Thomas back, customers want to know how other organisations have leveraged tools like NWBC and FPM and what their thoughts are on their efficacy.
To HANA or not to HANA?? At the research groups I met a number of people who were already embarking on HANA implementations or indeed had already implemented. The feedback from those who had already implemented was generally very positive – they had achieved the aims they were hoping for. All of these cases were BW on HANA of course. The greatest interest from customers however, comes from the implications of ERP on HANA, a currently unchartered territory. When should a company move to HANA? Is it ready yet? And how should you prepare your organisation for HANA? It became clear to me that SAP customers no longer wanted to hear the SAP marketing spiel on HANA; they want to hear from their fellow customers with their first-hand experiences. What went well? And what went wrong? What should your organisation be watching out for? HANA came third on the list of organisation’s priorities. I would say that although there are companies embarking on a HANA project currently, most see it on their 2+ year roadmap.
Next on the list is my old favourite – SAP Solution Manager. The great thing with Solution Manager is that there’s no extra cost to implement it as it comes in your standard package. The bad thing about Solution Manager is that very few people seem to know how to leverage the full suite of tools. Another rockstar that I’m privileged to know is Tony de Thomasis, whose SolMan presentations are also always received brilliantly. Customers are this year interested to know how they can get a business case up and running to undertake a full program of SolMan work. How do you get the business to spend money on a tool that is not considered to reap financial savings or improve front end business? Many organisations utilise SolMan for testing and as a document repository, but there’s so much more to be leveraged. How have other customers successfully used SolMan for CHaRM and Business Process Modelling? These are the customers I’ll have to find to present at next year’s conference!
Cloud and on-demand solutions came 9th on the list. Personally, I’m a little surprised this topic didn’t come higher considering the push that SAP has on these products (and the move to cloud in general) at the moment. The feeling I got from customers here in ANZ was if they’ve just put a huge investment into an on-premise solution, why would they then go out and purchase the on-demand solution? In addition, security seems to be a huge concern when it comes to putting data in the cloud, especially for public sector organisations. I’m almost certain that SAP have answers to these questions, but it doesn’t seem that the message has been filtered down to the customers here yet. Organisations know that SAP’s roadmap seems to be leaning towards the cloud, especially with the acquisition of SuccessFactors and Ariba. Once again, they want to know from companies who already have cloud applications to understand what their experiences have been with the products.
Here’s the full list of the topics that arose and their ranking:
- Mobile SAP
- User-Interface Technologies
- In-Memory Solutions and SAP HANA
- SAP Solution Manager
- System Integration
- Outsourcing IT
- Project Management
- Cloud and On-Demand Solutions
- Building a Technical Roadmap
- Test Automation
- Enhancement Packages
- SAP NetWeaver Portal
- Performance Tuning
- SAP BRF Plus
The Eventful Group has been running round table discussions for the Mastering SAP Technologies event every year since its inception in 2006. I’ve been involved personally in the research groups for the past 3 years. Some things have been consistently the same – Solution Manager is always in the top 5. I often ask myself, will SAP customers ever master SolMan?
This year I’m surprised (concerned) that organisations were not talking about people and training. In fact, as you will have seen, it didn’t make the Hotlist at all this year! Recruitment, training, business relationships and investing in people have always been top priorities for IT organisations. Is it a sign of the poor economic climate that it is invisible in this year’s discussions? Or is it merely a research anomaly?
For the most part, the topic of user interfaces has been consistently the most popular with SAP customers – but for this year it has been usurped by mobility. Mobility is a form of user interface and they are intrinsically linked, but there’s no doubt that mobile SAP seems to be seriously hot right now. It featured in the top 5 issues for the past few years, but is not until this year that it’s taken pride of place at the top.
Cloud and in-memory solutions were not even on customers’ radars back in 2010. In 2011 they certainly featured as areas of interest, but it has not been until this year that they have seriously dominated this research. Are we seeing a new era in IT where SAP transactions will take place 1000 times faster, in a system that is hosted in the cloud and consumed through a mobile device?
I’m in no way an expert on this stuff, so if some of my technical details were wrong, please forgive me. The issues I’ve outlined are by no means the issues I think SAP customers are facing, they are what they’ve told me they’re facing. Consequently they aren’t necessarily my opinions either, just some insights from having the opportunity to speak to over 100 SAP customers recently. I hope that you get some interest or value from what I’ve shared with you.
Now it’s my job to find global speaker experts who can address some of these issues and join us in Australia to present at the event in March!