Today, SUGEN announced that it’ll work with BusinessObjects customers — both SAP and non-SAP shops – to give them a stronger voice with SAP on product roadmaps.
SUGEN is made up of representatives of SAP user groups worldwide.
“There’s a great thirst for knowledge not only of the BusinessObjects portfolio, but also on the integration roadmap,” said Craig Dale, chief executive of the UK and Ireland SAP User Group, which is leading the charge. “We’ve seen a vast rise in special interest groups dealing with BI.”
To that end, SUGEN sent a survey to every BusinessObjects user to determine what they want and how the user group can support them better. The organization is asking questions like — what are their requirements? What are they looking for from a user group around education, networking? What do they want from SAP? How do they see SAP? The survey closes at the end of June, and SUGEN expects to have the results by August, Dale said.
“We can probably offer them a lot of benefits they don’t understand yet,” he said.
From what SUGEN has learned so far, customers’ main questions are around product roadmaps, Dale said. So BusinessObjects users aren’t clear on where BusinessObjects is going. And having just completed a survey of our own readership on SearchSAP.com, the same is true for SAP shops – folks are still contemplating where BusinessObjects fits into their BI plans and where.
In this sense, bringing the two user groups together is a win-win. It may prove especially valuable for SAP shops that haven’t yet deployed BusinessObjects and are looking for an SAP BI roadmap.
SAP BusinessObjects BI tools will replace SAP’s BI products going forward, yet SAP customers are still confused on where BusinessObjects will fit into their landscapes and how to adopt them. Networking with BusinessObjects users will give SAP customers real examples of the good, the bad and the ugly on how these tools work in practice.
In turn, SUGEN’s hope is to give BusinessObjects customers a stronger voice on product development. SUGEN has a good track record of getting its point across. With more clout, BusinessObjects customers can call out what they don’t like about the tools, what needs to be fixed, and influence future produce development – providing a stronger product for SAP customers.
The key challenge will be reconciling the heterogeneous customer base – BusinessObjects users on different data warehousing platforms, different ERP and software backends – and ensuring that product improvements useful to not only the largest and most strategic customers make their way through.
Over the past couple of weeks, a pretty major lawsuit involving a so-called failed SAP implementation has been unfolding. Marin County California is suing Deloitte Consulting. What’s most interesting is the chief complaint of the claim – that Deloitte misrepresented its skills and experience, according to an excellent blog post on the topic by Michael Krigsman, who studies IT project failures.
The fact that a customer is suing the systems integrator, not the vendor, is interesting. The adage that it’s not the software’s fault you didn’t put it in right is coming into play. But, as Krigsman points out, there is obviously a certain level of guilt by association here. The question remains – what’s SAP doing to ensure that people know how to implement its software in the first place?
Last year, former SAP CEO Leo Apotheker made headlines when he suggested that more of the SIs should hire certified consultants. To be precise, here’s the quote from “Between the Lines” ZDNet bloggers.
“I don’t give a s**t if it’s Accenture or IBM. I care about the customer. I find it shocking people are walking around talking to customers and have no experience on [SAP]. [Consultants] get hired [sic]of people and have no clue. It’s annoying but that’s a fact. Let’s start by certifying people,” said Apotheker.
In that vein, Jon Reed of JonERP.com and a team of SAP mentors dubbed the Certification 5 — Reed, Martin Gillet, Michael Koch, Leonardo De Araujo, and Dennis Howlett -recently completed a thoughtful analysis of the certification quandary. They challenge SAP to look at some of the issues surrounding certification, and its perception. They contend, among other things, that certification is perceived to bring little value to the hiring process and is not as trusted.
“As such we believe that being an SAP certified engineer should be viewed in the same way you might view a qualified doctor, dentist, lawyer or accountant. It should be a mark of quality, reliability and assurance that implementations are in safe hands,” the report reads.
It’s well-known that some of the biggest systems integrators don’t certify their consultants.
And certification seems to rarely factor into hiring decisions, according to Reed.
He recently ran some numbers on the IT-jobs website Dice to see what percentage of jobs require certification. Of the 1,700 SAP-related jobs listed that particular day, only 24 had SAP certification in the job description and only seven listed SAP certification as a requirements (five were SAP software partners).
“To me, that’s the bottom line. It’s just rarely a factor in hiring,” he said.
The Certification 5 recommends to SAP, for starters:
- Tie certification more closely to relevant field experience and problem solving skills, especially at the professional level
- Establish a certification ‘influence council’ of customers, partners, and community leaders
- Provide a timetable for the now-postponed Master level certification
- Help customers by educating them on how to evaluate and hire SAP professionals
Certification is always a touchy topic, and there are plenty of amazing uncertified SAP consultants to be sure.
But the issues that Marin County allegedly had with Deloitte aren’t going to go away. At Sapphire, my colleague Barney Beal pointed out that SAP’s pushing all of these new initiatives around mobile and in-memory. Are the corresponding skills of its workforce going to be there to keep up with SAP’s vision? What can it do to make it so?
At the “new SAP,” Reed hopes there is at least room to talk about how to ensure that.
“It kind of seems like right now, with Snabe and McDemott talking about the new SAP, a new approach to certification fits in,” Reed said. “More transparent. More responsive. More in tune with customer needs.”
During his keynote at Sapphire Now this year, Hasso Plattner discussed plans to fit in-memory databases into customers’ existing landscapes. He referred to the initiative as “Enterprise 2.0″ and even went as far as to make the claim that it would be bigger than the release of SAP R/3.
Anyone who attended Sapphire this year saw the iPad everywhere. From Hasso Plattner’s keynote to the booths of vendors on the show floor, everyone wanted to demo their products on Apple’s newest gadget.
So I wasn’t surprised to see a gentleman who looked to be in his late 20’s in the row over from me using one on the plane ride home from Orlando. He showed his colleague and my boss some of its features. His colleague remarked, “I think this is the future. You’ll go into your boss’s office with one of these.” The iPad owner answered, “Ya, this is really game changing.”
I thought, did Bill McDermott plant this guy on the plane next to me? “Game changing” was a phrase he used over and over again at Sapphire, and has used in the months leading up to SAP’s big show. Mobility has changed the game, he told us. The new worker wants this. Enterprises need this.
And that’s exactly what those folks sitting on the plane were saying.
Much of SAP’s customer base is just starting to wrap their heads around the types of “knowledge worker” applications SAP’s talking about now mobilizing. Sure, pretty much everyone has their email on their BlackBerry, iPhone or Droid. And there are plenty of organizations that are doing very innovative things with mobile devices and have been doing so for years. But many are still trying to figure out how and why they would run ERP-related, SCM-related, etc… applications on a mobile device.
A conversation I had with a reporter on the bus to a Sapphire event backed up my hypothesis. She covers mobile exclusively, and therefore, goes to a lot of mobile-focused user conferences. She said she was somewhat surprised at how few people at this conference were mobilizing enterprise applications. Sure it’s cool, she said they told her, they just needed to figure out how it would work in practice.
The iPad could truly be where the rubber meets the road with this stuff.
My colleagues are I remarked several times this week about how the iPad is the perfect device for a lot of these functions. The size, weight, and user interfaces all lend itself well to mobilizing applications that are harder to manuever on a smartphone.
SAP’s faced a lot of criticism for being too late to the game with a lot of things – mobile applications among them.
But maybe it’s arriving just in time.
Overheard at EMC World this week — CEO Joe Tucci mentioned they’ll make some kind of Vblock/SAP announcement at Sapphire next week.
Sources say the Virtual Computing Environment Coalition (EMC, VMware and Cisco) will make an announcement about running SAP on its Vblock Infrastructure Packages. Vblocks are preconfigured bundles of servers, virtualization, networking and storage for enterprises that want to build private clouds.
There’s no point in moving to a private cloud if you can’t bring your applications with you, the sources said. This partnership is supposed to make it easier to run SAP applications on Vblocks.
I asked SAP about this, they told me to wait until next week for more information.
Yet, we can surmise that this is an effort to coax more customers into running private clouds, and a way for SAP to sell its Business Suite software in a “cloudier” model.
We learned this week that SuccessFactors landed a huge deal with Walmart for human resources-related applications.
First Siemens, now Walmart, who’s next, Oprah?
When SuccessFactors went public three years ago, it boasted two million users and 1,400 customers. The largest deployment was 85,000 seats, according to numbers provided by the company.
In three years, SuccessFactors now counts more than 8 million users, 3,300 customers and, with the Walmart deal, its largest implementation yet of 2.1 million users.
We all know the advantages of SaaS — low upfront costs, ongoing operating versus capital expense, ease of deployment, ease of use, lower administrative expenses, etc., etc., etc.
But something in particular stood out from my conversation with Success Factors CMO Paul Albright the other day. He said the company’s customers are negotiating discounts on the maintenance and support deals from their primary on-premise vendors, and spending the savings with SuccessFactors.
“Siemens renegotiated on maintenance, got that down substantially, and standardized its operating platform on SuccessFactors,” he said.
Those maintenance bills are supposed to be down payments on future product innovation. We know some customers aren’t buying that, or at least don’t think it’s worth the price SAP and Oracle are putting on it.
What’s more, they aren’t waiting around to see if it eventually will pay off.
SuccessFactors is riding this wave of dissatisfied customers who are looking to get more from their expensive enterprise applications. A growing majority of its deployments aren’t rip and replace deals of SAP HCM, or related modules in ERP, or PeopleSoft, Albright said. Customers integrate the software to aggregate the data in those systems and present it an interface that people want to use.
“We don’t see SAP as a competitor,” he said. “We see ourselves a complementary approach, extending the value of [the applications} and getting the data in those systems unlocked.”
SAP is working on loads of on-demand initiatives. And to be fair, its application portfolio promises to cover far more ground than SuccessFactors.
But you can’t buy what isn’t there, and the Walmarts of the world are less and less willing to wait.
When it comes to deploying cloud-based applications, security is often cited as one of the chief concerns.
But there may be one area in which deploying SaaS applications actually brings peace of mind when it comes to security – deploying applications on mobile devices.
Allowing employees to use mobile devices for work presents the very likely scenario that they will lose them, and the subsequent data breaches that could occur.
But with SaaS, data isn’t stored on the device.
SAP made another move aimed at bolstering its position in the sustainability software market today – announcing plans to acquire TechniData.
SAP was already partnering with TechniData to deliver a line of environment, health and safety applications. For instance, it sells an application for REACH compliance, a set of European Union regulations around the use of hazardous chemicals in the manufacturing processes.
Which makes the TechniData acquisition somewhat of a surprising move, according to Ray Wang, a partner with the Altimeter Group. SAP didn’t really need to buy TechniData – it already had an OEM partnership, he said.
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been coming up with plenty of digs against SAP lately — saying that the only place SAP’s beating them has been in the number of CEOs.
“Every quarter we grab huge chunks of market share from SAP,” Ellison said, according to StreetInsider.com. “SAP’s most recent quarter was the best quarter of their year, only down 15%, while Oracle’s application sales were up 21%. But SAP is well ahead of us in the number of CEOs for this year, announcing their third and fourth, while we only had one.”
But when it comes to customer engagement, SAP seems to have the upper hand.
You’ve likely seen or at least heard about this Suitemates ad campaign from Kinaxis – an on-demand supply chain software vendor. The premise is that the two big ERP vendors merge and then their CEOs wind up in jail. They’re called out for high maintenance fees and support issues. It’s evident that the vendor spent some money on these things — even hiring some name-brand actors and actually shooting some quality video to push these out on YouTube.
“Down with big” is a theme that’s playing out well with the public this year. Down with big government. Down with big bonuses. Why not, down with Big ERP?
In fact, Infor started running a campaign called just that in December – “Down with Big ERP.”
It’s a good time to carry that torch. There is growing evidence that single instance ERP is “no longer the holy grail” it was once, and the shift is on to a two-tier ERP strategy for some organizations, according to a blog post by Ray Wang.