At yesterday’s SAP Community Meet-up in Walldorf, there was a great discussion triggered by Dr. Christian Baader of SAP, who works with partners and tries to create conditions under which the partner ecosystem can thrive. The discussion revolved around the question: “What would it take for more individual developers to create real apps on HANA Cloud Platform, and market them through channels such as SAP’s app store?” I threw some ideas into the discussion, and today I decided to write them down and put them out for discussion with the wider community. I’m interested in your ideas, preferably if you come up with suggestions on how to close feasibility gaps.
SAP wants to enable a thriving ecosystem around its technology platforms, specifically HANA Cloud Platform and HANA.
There is a large number of individual developers and small firms (1-4 employees/co-owners) for whom it is difficult to go to market with HCP-based apps for various reasons. With the right enablement, this could evolve into a thriving ecosystem that would increase the attractiveness of HCP, similar to the way competing platforms gain values when third-party apps are abdundant.
This potential is currently hindered by the following factors:
- There is a high cost involved for individual developers to acquire developer license, join partner program, get access to “proper” development systems without the major limitations built into the HCP trial landscape.
- The lack of a larger support organization creates dependency from one individual, which is not acceptable for enterprise customers.
In the worst case scenario, a micro-ISV is no longer able to support their solution (company shuts down, developer dies, etc.) and a backup support organization needs to be able to take over and fix the issue.
What if SAP could provide this support organization and thus enable a large number of developers to go to market with solutions that are otherwise perfectly viable?
Set up a process and documentation standards that enables offshore support teams to quickly support a solution.
The support organization needs what they always need (same as with SAP’s support infrastructure):
- App must be coded according to guidelines.
- Comprehensive documentation is required.
- Use of SAP HCP infrastructure is required to ensure that support personnel has full access to source code repository as well as the ability to make changes and produce a new build anytime.
- Fulfillment of these requirements needs to be ensured with reviews and final supportability approval.
(Please note that supportability approval is not the same as quality approval. SAP does not assert that the app is good and works properly, it merely asserts that SAP is able to provide support personnel in case a small partner ceases operations temporarily or permanently.)
This would result in the ability of support personnel to offer AGS-type support to apps they haven’t built themselves and have no prior familiarity with, similar to the way support and maintenance teams are today taking over internal applications that were built elsewhere.
The review process especially is going to be a cost-driver, so it’s clear that the “Backed by SAP” programm comes with a price tag. This means that it will not automatically be economically viable for very low-volume or low-price apps but focus on apps for which sufficient revenue through volume or price can be expected.
This is perfectly reasonable, because the programm would add great value to micro-ISVs, customers, and SAP.
Other contributing factors
- Demo Cloud as part of the development platform: A major contributing factor to the success of SAP Fiori has been the easily available “SAP Fiori, Demo Cloud Edition” at http://www.sapfioritrial.com/. No enterprise buyer buys an app from an SAP app store they haven’t experienced and tried out. For small vendors to be successful, an infrastructure similar to the SAP Fiori, Demo Cloud Edition is required that gives potential buyers easy access to demo and exploration versions of apps in the app store.
This should be integrated with the HCP development environment, so that developers can easily deploy a demo version of their app into a demo cloud; this demo version would then be easy to launch from the app store.
- Demo cloud enables lead generation: Vendors are interested in sales leads. They want to know how has looked at their app, and start a dialog with potential customers. This should be integrated in the app store, for example vendors could make a setting that the demo version of the app is available to anyone who has shared their contact information and agreed that the vendor reach out to them.
- Beyond hello world: As mentioned earlier, the current HCP trial is somewhat limited in that it doesn’t allow developers to explore the entire lifecycle of a cloud-based app; you can explore the coding aspect but not the interplay between, say, a development version and a currently productive version, go through the patch process, how to prevent data loss when productive table structures are changed in the development version, and so on. It would be helpful if there was a trial landscape that is basically identical to the productive landscape, except for support and legal aspects.
Do you think such measures could enable individual developers and small companies to release and market real HCP-based apps? Is this something you have been waiting for? Personally, I think it would help a lot of people become product companies who are today limited to working as consultants. Let me know!