This guest column was written by Axel Angeli, SearchSAP.com NetWeaver expert. Angeli runs Logosworld, a management consultancy that specializes in SAP project rescue and is next the the SAP headquarters in Bruehl, Germany. He has more than 20 years of industry experience and shares his knowledge as an author, conference speaker and analyst.
A German adage says: “Plenty of enemies, plenty of honors!” Maybe it was that dogma that drove Leo Apotheker. But in the end, Apotheker had plenty of enemies and was sacked without honors, leaving a trail of damage behind him. He shocked SAP clients with his new maintenance policy that did not come down as an offer but a dictate. Employees, especially the senior ones who helped build SAP from the early days, were extremely intimidated, fearing for their jobs both due to the unpredictability of Apotheker’s decisions and the risk that his business strategy would negatively impact the future success of SAP.
Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe may not be the first choice for the financial markets. The market sees a company like SAP not as an organization that is primarily dedicated to its clients, but as a play ball for its short term investments and chart betting games.
But McDermott and Snabe are the right people at the right time with the right vision. Both already have a positive image within the SAP organization. McDermott is the economical brain and the only one within the organization who occasionally criticized the previous CEO in public. Jim Hagemann Snabe was the technology lead and will most likely continue to be so. Both appear to be thoughtful, philosophical minds; both more scientists than Machiavellian business men. The team strategy is underlined in promoting the humble and always friendly CTO Vishal Sikka to the SAP Executive Board.
The new captains shall be seconded by SAP Co-founder Professor Hasso Plattner who currently chairs the Supervisory Board of SAP. Although he is certainly the technology driver behind the scenes, he is also responsible for his faltering crown prince and for inaugurating Apotheker while never really benefiting from the bright brain and visions of Henning Kagermann. He also allowed the cunning and superior ABAP technology to be watered down with an irritating Java adoption strategy that led apparently into nothing but annoyed and frustrated customers and high costs of maintenance and ownership.
Where shall SAP go from here?
The first steps will be a new embrace of customers by SAP marketing. That should be an easy game for the congenial McDermott who has a good standing in SAP’s biggest market in North America.
His work needs to go alongside a long overdue cleansing of SAP’s portfolio from true or alleged redundancies. This has already started in many areas. Core applications will go on top of reliable ABAP. New Java-based applications will only happen on the front end, and Java will be equal to modern scripting solutions based on Python, PHP. SAP Business Warehouse has already been renamed back to SAP BW, making clear that the analysis part is left to SAP Business Objects and BW stays as data staging tank, giving room to a best-of-breed thinking.
SAP will finally find its way to a real SOA approach after trying to promote the ability to generate Web service proxies as a full featured eSOA approach. With the clever but late acquisition of a true ESB vendor in December 2009, SOALogix, SAP enters the champion’s league for SOA. NetWeaver PI will be kept for quite some time, mainly as an adapter engine and web service shield around the ABAP farms. Although the most needed features of PI are built into SAP Web Application Server, there is some sense in using PI in terms of better monitoring and steady maintenance. SAP will continue to make enhancements to PI, but the strategic ESB product will naturally become SOALogix. It is clear that PI is not for strategic projects. No serious architect ever saw PI as a solution for mission critical projects; it is the cost-effective add-on for Web service enabling SAP landscapes under the existing licenses and a replacement for the former WebMethods SAP Business Connector.
The last task is transforming SAP into a SaaS and cloud-enabled solution. Many have understood that SAP ABAP is a perfect cloud platform allowing to size in large scale. Together with some new inventions like in-memory databases we can expect cloud offers of classical SAP in near future.
The future is bright; the new team spirit will succeed. SAP finally plays to win. All the best: Bill McDermott, Jim Hagemann Snabe and Vishal Sikha.