SAP TechEd 2012 Las Vegas: Things I’ve learned so far
- SAP purchased Ariba.
I know I’ve been a little distracted lately, but, seriously, how did I miss this? This is HUGE! As far as I can tell Ariba is the last of the SAP-killers to fall, and to have SAP buy them is a bit of delicious irony. In case you’ve come in to this movie late, in the early 2000’s (00’s? oughts? I never know how to refer to 2000 to 2010), a series of SAP-killers were born: PeopleSoft, Siebel, Commerce One, Ariba, etc. They got a HUGE amount of press and there was story after story about how the huge dinosaur SAP couldn’t compete with these more nimble and focused competitors and would end up drying up and being consumed by these new more nimble upstarts. Even though SAP had solid (and often dominant) entrants into each of these “New Dimension” areas (as SAP liked to call them), SAP couldn’t BUY press.
What the press didn’t realize at the time is that these were niche products and, in the long run, it’s very difficult to remain relevant when you only solve a small portion of your customer’s problems. SAP’s ERP and Oracle’s Oracle Apps both offer the core business functionality that ALL companies need and then offer niche products for those companies whose needs are more extreme in one specific area (e.g. power companies need SAP CRM due to the high touch nature of their business and the need to keep track of every interaction with the customer, automobile manufacturers need SAP SCM in order to manage their highly complex supply chains and just-in-time manufacturing requirements). Integration requirements lead customers to naturally favor buying their niche products from the same vendor that is responsible for the core of their business.
I sense that SAP’s “on-premise” (aka traditional ERP and specialty components that are typically run in a company’s own or outsourced datacenter) are in a similar situation today. I’ve seen a lot of hype about how cloud based applications are going to kill the old dinosaur on-premise apps, but I am certain that this is just like the whole hoohah that surrounded the upstarts in the oughts. When the dust settles, cloud based “software as a service” ERP solutions are going to be niche players (eventually consumed by Oracle and SAP) while on-premise ERPS will still be standing and functioning as the on-premise or outsourced backbone of the organization. (Final note: I need to publish a blog and start a discussion on this topic elsewhere, but while folks like to lump outsourced infrastructure under the “cloud” umbrella, cloud and outsourced applications have fundamentally different characteristics and should NOT be lumped together.
- SAP has put a HANA instance on Amazon Web Services so that anyone can stand up an instance quickly and cheaply.
http://cloud.saphana.com This should make kicking the tires relatively easy. There’s a FAQ available at http://www.experiencesaphana.com/docs/DOC-2482. Like everyone else, I’ve been interested in checking out HANA first hand but don’t have any extra hardware sitting around and also not a TON of time to work my way through installation issues and the like. SAP and Amazon have effectively solved those issues and the price is quite reasonable ($0.99/hour). Can’t beat that!
- SAP is putting free mobile apps out for anyone to use.
I have to admit that I’ve been consciously ignoring the mobile space for the last year or so. My current customer doesn’t have any funded mobile initiatives and the last time I looked into it, SAP had just purchased Sybase and I wanted to let the dust settle a bit before I invested too much into getting ramped up on the SAP offerings. (And, to be honest, I was kind of fond of SAP’s mobile infrastructure pre-Sybase and was kind of hoping that the existing solution would win. It had a lot going for it. Based on what I’m seeing here at the show, the old solution didn’t win, but the Sybase solution has been/is being integrated fairly seamlessly into standard SAP environments.)
Having said that, I’ve been very impressed with SAP’s mobile offerings and I’m pretty excited to see SAP app’s in the Google Play store. They’re all free to check out with demo data, but of course you have to set up the proper infrastructure to get them to work with your own data. I think it’s a clever approach to let customers see the solutions with demo data so you can get a feel for how these apps might fit into existing environments. I’m definitely going to spend some time exploring the various SAP apps just so that I have a feel for what’s available.
- SAP has a sense of humor.
I’ve always been a proponent of finding humor and fun in whatever you’re doing day to day. Life’s to short to take everything so seriously. This is why it’s so refreshing to see the Clubhouse area at TechEd. While some of the more “traditional” business folks may harumph when they see “Rockem Sockem Robots”, Jenga, Legos, and RC race cars in a business setting, I personally think pretty much everyone can benefit from taking a few minutes to reconnect with their inner child every once in a while. I do it often, but having kids of my own helps too.
SAP even put together a little game to quiz you on your Solution Manager knowledge. I’m happy to say the little Solution Manager piece (which only moves around the board if you get a question wrong) never got off the start square when I played. Take that, little-blue-SolMan-token-guy! Crowing over imaginary achievements aside, I’m a big fan of integrating play into instruction/education, so kudos to SAP for putting this together. I hope they offer it to everyone who takes the SolMan classes. (or perhaps they can just release it for everyone!) Also, in the Google Play store, I found a little app they put together to celebrate 40 years of SAP. It looks like a simple Mario-like platformer, but still. Fun!
- SolMan 7.1 is not your father’s SolMan
I think I mentioned this in yesterday’s blog, but it bears repeating. I’ve used every version of SolMan since it’s original introduction. Each version built incrementally on the past and things generally got better from release to release. The jump from SolMan 7.0 to SolMan 7.1 is significantly larger than the .1 increase implies. Not only the interface but the infrastructure beneath has been significantly improved. SolMan 7.0 leveraged a very old version of CRM to handle Service Desk and other tasks. The new SolMan 7.1 uses the latest, greatest CRM as an engine, which provides incredible user interface and usability improvements. BW has been fully integrated into SolMan. Cubes for monitoring statistics are delivered and provide out of the box reporting that is vastly improved compared to 7.0 reporting. CCMS, while still supported, has been supplanted by a rewritten from scratch, new and improved monitoring infrastructure. While I’m sad to see CCMS go, the new solution is similar enough to get up and running quickly and contains welcome interface and usability improvements.
I can’t tell you how excited I am now to get started with the new SolMan 7.1. I’ll be blogging my customer’s efforts in this area over the next few months as we stand up a new SolMan infrastructure from scratch to support a new effort. Very exciting!!