Over at SearchSAP.com, we just published a series of articles dealing with the role that hardware plays in the SAP application infrastructure. These articles covered trends in hardware design and how more powerful hardware will affect software development and software performance; server virtualization to increase application performance through hardware strategies; how hardware can be mission-critical; and the role of hardware personnel in the SAP team.
One trend the series did not cover was the change in hardware buying patterns. More specifically, it didn’t Continued »
Well, the Business ByDesign news is in from a recent SAP event in London with members of SAP’s SME team and the most interesting thing about it is the lack of any new details – or a ship date – for the service analysts once touted as “most comprehensive SaaS ERP offering on the market.”
This is the same thing we’ve been hearing since SAP first announced its ambitious plans to develop and Continued »
A few months ago, I wrote about how some of the big vendors — SAP and IBM most notably — were selling software packages to help governments deal with the new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) reporting requirements.
I checked in with state of Pennsylvania Secretary of Administration Naomi Wyatt, who was planning to use some of the SAP BusinessObjects dashboards in the SAP package, to see how the tracking process was going there.
She said in an email interview that the process was going well. They built a database using SAP BusinessObjects and other SAP tools that will centrally collect all of the federal reporting requirements into a single report that will be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget.
“That we already have much of the required information in our central SAP system has given us a huge head start,” she wrote. “In addition, the Business Objects tool, which pulls information outside of SAP into a report with our SAP data, made building a comprehensive reporting solution straightforward and doable in the extremely tight timeframe we are facing.”
But in other state and local agencies, the process isn’t as advanced. And despite billions headed for states, cities and towns, the stimulus package so far doesn’t appear to be the boon to the software industry that many vendors counted on.
“We haven’t seen anybody buying any software,” said Ron Wince, CEO of Guidon Performance Solutions, a consulting firm that helps public sector agencies, among others, implement lean principles.
The ARRA sent $787 billion to U.S. state governments with the promise to its citizens that such spending would be transparent. To that end, the federal government has set up a website — Recovery.gov — that is supposed to provide up-to-date data on the expenditure of the funds.
Analysts have said software vendors were hoping some of this money would trickle down to software purchases – especially those aimed at helping ARRA compliance.
But in most cases, governments are using workarounds with what they already have, and relying on Excel for reporting, Wince said.
What’s worse, the amount of information they need to collect, and a lingering ambiguity about how exactly to do so, is leading to the development of a lot of bad processes, Wince said.
What’s a government to do?
Some are getting ahead of the problem. Guidon’s been getting a lot of requests from state agencies to assess where they are and put a roadmap in place for a better IT management system, Wince said. What they’re doing with many of their clients are three to four small, one week quick-hit projects on hot spots, and completing process redesign in four to five days.
Wyatt recommends nailing down all the data required as a first step, and determine what’s already in existing systems. Then fill in gaps using other tools.
If you work in government, how are you dealing with ARRA compliance? Have you had any challenges and how are you dealing with them?
Oracle’s demand for Rimini Street to give it information in its lawsuit against SAP wasn’t the only development in the SAP vs. Oracle saga last week.
Oracle also filed more allegations in the case – filing a fourth amended complaint that attempts to make Siebel and Oracle’s database technology part of the lawsuit.
Oracle now alleges that SAP extended TomorrowNow’s illegal business model to Siebel just days after Oracle completed the acquisition. It also says that TomorrowNow’s environments ran on copies of Oracle database software that weren’t licensed for commercial or production use, according to court documents. SAP refused to purchase Oracle database licenses for TomorrowNow’s use, “even though as an authorized Oracle database reseller, they knew full well the permissible uses of database copies,” the document states.
Oracle certainly hasn’t been shy about piling on the charges in this lawsuit – amending its original complaint four times over the past two years. One now has to wonder what this means for Rimini Street, and whether it will now be dragged into this lawsuit.
This week, Oracle took a step closer to offering the McDonald’s value meal of the tech world – the U.S. Justice Department giving the green light to a deal with Sun that will have Oracle selling “hamburger, fries and a soda” software/hardware packages to companies.
There’s still the matter of the European Union’s OK – which is being held up by concerns over Java, middleware and databases, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the WSJ also reports that the Justice Department’s OK is an encouraging sign that the EU’s approval isn’t far behind.
Meanwhile, SAP CEO Leo Apotheker has been making it very clear over the past few weeks, in interviews with the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, that SAP has no intention of following the Sun.
One of the more interesting questions during last week’s “Does IT Matter” forum in Boston came from AMR Research’s Bruce Richardson, who asked the panelists if they had a half an hour with SAP’s North American president Rob Enslin, what product or service would they ask for to make life easier?
Day & Zimmermann’s Anthony Bosco Jr. said he wanted more robust workforce planning capabilities. Raytheon’s Lesley Dickie said she needed a quicker turnaround on product development for her industry.
“I believe we still end up customizing and filling the gaps on our own,” she said.
Thomas Doyle of GT Solar, which manufactures materials used to make solar cells and panels, said he’d like more SaaS applications. It’s a way for his business to achieve a smaller application footprint, he said. He could envision launching applications such as human resources in this manner.
Doyle’s response was perhaps a signal that SAP’s approach to on-demand applications for the big guys may need to trickle down to the smaller ones too. GT Solar is an SAP Business All-in-One customer, SAP’s on-premise ERP for the midmarket.
A few months ago, SAP said it would develop on-demand applications for large enterprises that would integrate with and extend functionality in the on-premise SAP Business Suite.
And in the past few weeks, it’s been pushing SAP Business ByDesign - its SaaS ERP for the midmarket — highlighting an upgrade and some Web services integration that the 80 or so pilot customers are trying out.
But what’s SAP’s strategy for selling applications like HR, or line-of-business apps, to small and midsized companies? It seems to be companies like GT Solar will fall in the middle, leaving even more targets for companies like Salesforce.com, Workday and SuccessFactors.
What do you think? And what product or service from SAP would make your life easier?
SAP said this morning it’s aware of a slow-install issue with SAP BusinessObjects Service Pack 2 for Windows, but decided to release it anyhow to make its benefits available.
The problem will be fixed in Service Pack 3, according to SAP. SAP didn’t specify when the third service pack will be available.
PC World reported this morning that SAP BusinessObjects users are having a tough time deploying the new service pack, according to an independent BusinessObjects message board.
Users complained that it was taking too long – upwards of 18 hours — to install, one saying they had to stop the process because the downtime was too long.
SAP, when asked for comment, said that the install for Windows is very time-sensitive, but not for Linux or Unix.
“We were aware of this issue…but decided to go ahead and release it to make the benefits of the latest Service Pack immediately available to Windows platform customers as well,” Franz Aman, vice president of platform product marketing for SAP BusinessObjects said in a written statement. “The issue is documented in the release notes.”
Technically the slow install is caused by a Windows install routine that does dependency checking, he said. To avoid this in the future, SAP has an alternative approach that it will deploy in the next service pack release, Service Pack 3. Customers have the option of installing Service Pack 2 now if they have a compelling reason to do so, or they can move to Service Pack 3 when that becomes available.
One of the posts on the message board said that the new pack came with some nice goodies, but the install time was too long.
“Nice new features, another good step forward for WebI especially,” the poster wrote. “However, shame about the release build. It would be very difficult for my clients to negotiate sufficient downtime with the business to justify the install. Let alone change management testing for a back-out strategy.”
I’m curious whether there are other SAP BusinessObjects components that have proven particularly troublesome to install. Is installation more difficult on a Windows platform than Unix or Linux? How have you been overcoming issues? Please share.
SAP held a roundtable in Boston yesterday afternoon, which featured a good sampling of industries and a who’s who of some of SAP’s biggest, and soon to be biggest, customers – Raytheon, Day & Zimmermann, Boston University, and GT Solar.
With the exception of Boston University, which is about to embark on a massive SAP rollout, all of the panelists indicated that their IT budgets would remain flat over the year and for some, through 2010.
We’ve heard over and over again that to meet economic challenges, customers are choosing quick projects with near immediate ROI. And that’s the case at the majority of companies. But it was interesting to hear a different perspective yesterday from companies that aren’t focusing on immediate gratification at all.
This week’s big news was IBM’s SPSS acquisition. We’ve been assured by SAP that it won’t affect its partnership with SPSS. SAP BusinessObjects sells predictive analytics through an OEM agreement for the SPSS PASW Modeler.
“IBM’s a great partner,” SAP exec Bill McDermott said in an interview. “There’s no reason we wouldn’t continue to work with SPSS in those areas.”
Plus, in a statement released after the SPSS acquisition, SAP said it sells a number of predictive and statistical analytic tools, including Analysis Process Designer integrated in SAP Business Warehouse and CRM applications. It also pointed to its recent acquisition of SAF AG, which is helping retail customers improve forecasting and replenishment.
“I think SAP has the lead,” McDermott said. “Others are acquiring to play catch-up.”
But analysts like Forrester Research’s James Kobielus think that for SAP’s analytics stack to be “primo,” like IBM’s, SAP still has to acquire or develop its own predictive analytics software. Information Builders, MicroStrategy and even Microsoft will likely be looking to do the same, according to an article by my colleague Jeff Kelly on SearchDataManagement.com.
With 55 employees and light-manufacturing operations, NetSuite was an ideal enterprise software choice for GestureTek when it deployed the SaaS ERP application four years ago. But having worked with SAP at a previous employer, Gerry Sylvia, the production and logistics director, gladly would have thrown the vendor into the mix –if he knew they had a product.
“I had no idea what a NetSuite was from a hole in the ground,” said Sylvia, who was charged with picking new software. “But I’ve used Oracle, I’ve used SAP. If they had a similar product, I would have more than likely gone that way.”
The Tier 1 vendors still don’t have a true widely available SaaS ERP. SAP seems to be the closest — with Business ByDesign, the product it trotted out and then yanked from the market about two years ago, citing functionality concerns. It now says 40 customers have gone live with it, and another 40 will be online in the coming weeks.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the engineers at SAP can make, or even perhaps already have made, Business ByDesign work. The engineering prowess lies in making it as profitable as SAP wants, or needs, it to be. It’s something SAP itself admits.
The question of whether SaaS is a profitable business model seems largely to have been answered for the niche vendors. Salesforce.com achieved a profit margin of between 6% and 7% this year, up from 4% a year ago. NetSuite is also pulling in a profit, and today, NetSuite acquired QuickArrow to advance its creation a cloud-computing application suite for services-based companies.
But that question hasn’t faded for SAP, Oracle or Microsoft, which are used to margins up around the 30% mark.