November 13, 2012 7:35 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
As reported this morning, SAP took the stage at the combined TechEd/Sapphire Now conference in Madrid to announce it is finally rolling out SAP Financials OnDemand. While the news wasn’t totally unexpected, the move represents a pretty large jump forward for SAP’s portfolio of cloud-based applications.
At the same time, SAP also announced the SAP 360 Customer package, basically a hyped-up version of SAP CRM that runs on SAP HANA, the company’s in-memory database platform. The product is the first to fulfill SAP’s promise to start running ERP transactional processes on HANA.
Nick Heath spells out some of the benefits of SAP 360 Customer:
SAP 360 Customer will offer real-time text, transaction and analytics processing to generate immediate insights into customer preferences and behavior, he said. Analysis can be carried out on both on internal company data and external data, such as posts on social networks, and results can be delivered to a range of mobile devices.
At the same time, Doug Henschen sounds a note of caution as the HANA road map continues to play out:
SAP has long promised that running both transactional and analytical workloads on a single database would drive “dramatic simplification” by eliminating layers of complexity and data redundancy built into conventional architectures.
With applications like CRM and analytics like data marts, warehouses and analytic apps running on a single database, SAP says HANA will consolidate the database layer. That’s the vision, but with just one major core app now supported (with CRM now moving into beta on HANA), customers will still need a separate database(s) for all their other transactional applications.
SAP is also releasing Service Pack Stack 5 (SPS 5) for HANA, which includes support for real-time streamed data processing, embedded analytics, and enhanced text analytics that give customers the ability to filter files, identify entities and do sentiment analysis in 31 languages — all within HANA, according to SAP. SPS5 is intended to help developers build applications to run on HANA more easily and add business rules to those applications.
SAP also announced several new Rapid Deployment Solution (RDS) packages for helping customers connect to its Ariba Network, including product catalog integration between components of the SAP Business Suite, such as logistics material management and supplier relationship management and the network. SAP also announced another package for purchase order and invoice automation that allows automated exchange of documents in the procure-to-pay and order-to-cash processes.
October 9, 2012 2:58 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
What if workforce analytics software were not only about crunching numbers and providing dashboards, but actually telling you what was important?
That’s the idea behind the new Headlines analytics software that SuccessFactors announced Monday at the HR Technology Conference and Expo going on in Chicago. SAP acquired SuccessFactors, a maker of on-demand HR software, early this year.
The idea is a pretty good one, if it works as SuccessFactors claims it does. According to the company, SuccessFactors Headlines acts as an “automated data analyst,” combing through reams of data, and pushing out alerts in newspaper headline format based on identifiable trends in the data — information that the user should be paying attention to. Users can get the alerts via a range of avenues, such as email, or Jam, SuccessFactors’ online collaboration tool.
Folia Grace, vice president of product marketing for SuccessFactors, explained why this is good news for business users.
“Most managers don’t have time, or the skill set sometimes, to really make the data useful. Even though companies have had lots of investments in analytic systems over the years, typically it sits in another system, it’s difficult to log on when you get there, you may not know how to navigate it, or interpret the data,” Grace said.
“So what happens [with Headlines] is you end up getting the data-driven organization that you’re looking for,” she said.
In one example cited by the company, one alert might say “Your team is losing high potential employees. Sixty-six exited this month, double last month’s count.” At that point you could drill down into the data for more information, and find out who’s at risk of leaving, based on the profiles of those who left.
Headlines also bases recommendations and alerts on baked-in workforce averages and metrics, as well as industry benchmark standards. SuccessFactors claims that the software is also able to predict future problems and areas of risk based on the data.
According to Grace, the software is in ramp-up, being used by Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, who are helping SuccessFactors develop additional uses cases before it’s made available.
At the same time, SuccessFactors also announced a raft of other enhancements, including a new user interface for SuccessFactors Employee Central and across the company’s BizX Suite, the ability to handle all aspects of payroll administration within Employee Central, and tighter integration with third-party HR software vendors like Benefitfocus, for benefits administration, and Workforce Software for workforce management. Because of the integration, users can access all apps by logging into Employee Central once.
At least one attendee at the conference was listening – and looking.
David Adrian, Walmart’s senior director of global talent management said he had seen demos of the new user interface and Headlines feature but is taking a wait and see approach, though he expects to get them when SuccessFactors makes the upgrades available.
“We’ve been on SuccessFactors for three years. There’s nothing that’s going to change that for the near term,” Adrian said.
October 2, 2012 7:07 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
, Hardware for SAP
, SAP HANA
, SAP vs. Oracle
Can’t they all just get along? As anyone who follows enterprise computing knows, SAP and Oracle have a long history of going at it, which certainly won’t end anytime soon, especially as the two continue to fight over competing visions of in-memory technology.
Months after sparring over SAP HANA and Oracle Exalytics, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison reportedly couldn’t keep from referring to SAP’s marquee in-memory product as if it were actually an unthreatening nine-year-old in a frilly pink dress compared to Oracle’s new Exadata X3. Ellison took his shots at SAP during the Oracle OpenWorld user conference now underway in San Francisco.
Business Insider’s Julie Bort recounts Ellison’s comments:
“SAP has an in-memory database that’s a little smaller than what we offer,” Ellison said. “I think her name is Hana. I promised Mark [Hurd] that I would not mention them [SAP]. I’m glad to keep my promise.”
Steve Lucas, who oversees business analytics and database technologies at SAP, answered that HANA is different, in that it spans everything from traditional to predictive analytics to sentiment analysis:
Making an old-school database faster by putting it in a superfast piece of hardware is not going to hurt Hana, Lucas says.
“You’ve got a company with a $10 billion database albatross around their neck, and a multibillion hardware albatross around their neck, so their solution is to throw more hardware at the same old tired software. It’s a myopic view that what companies need is a faster database,” Lucas said. “It absolutely fries my brain.”
On a separate note, Computerworld’s Chris Kanaracus outlines some of the economics around Oracle Exadata:
Exadata machines are big money-makers for Oracle because they also run a lot of separately licensed database software, which provides steady annual maintenance payments. The combination has meant that a fully-loaded Exadata box tends to require a significant investment from customers.
But Ellison seems keen on getting midsized customers into the Exadata market. He announced a new “eighth-rack” X3 edition that has a list price of $200,000. It is faster than larger Exadata configurations released in 2010 and 2008, according to a slide.
** UPDATE: SAP CTO Vishal Sikka weighed in on the Experience SAP HANA site, saying Oracle’s customers and shareholders deserve more honesty from Ellison:
The statement Mr Ellison made about HANA, when talking about the release of a new Exadata machine, that has 4TB of DRAM and 22TB of SSD, is false. He referred to HANA being “a small machine” with 0.5TB of memory. He said his machine has 26TB of memory, which is also wrong (SSD is not DRAM and does not count as memory, HANA servers also use SSDs for persistence).
Read Sikka’s full response here.
September 27, 2012 8:55 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
SAP this week rolled out a new “cockpit” mobile app geared especially for sales teams looking to have a greater range of customer and sales data before they meet with customers.
SAP Customer Insight is part of the broader Sales OnDemand software, and was created to make sales team members’ lives a little easier by grouping sales and account information with news about the customer itself, rendered in a visual “tile” format, according to SAP.
Rolf Schumann-Rieber, a general manager with Rieber, a German manufacturer of kitchen fixtures and other products, said is has been using the application since July and found it helpful. In particular, he said having historical data combined with sales pipeline information helps different sales teams – which may share a single client – to stay on the same page when it comes to that customer’s account.
“I call it information at your fingertips,” said Schumann-Rieber. “It means the sales team is better informed.”
September 24, 2012 8:25 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
Business Information Warehouse
Looking to give businesses a way to tackle BI and “big data” in one fell swoop – with packages suited to their size and needs – SAP today announced four new analytics packages that combine SAP BusinessObjects BI, Crystal Reports, Sybase IQ, and SAP Data Integrator software.
“What we’ve done here is brought together best practices, industry, and line-of-business content with our BI solutions, Sybase IQ and data integration into a complete package, at a very compelling price point, so that customers have everything they need to start to get going with analytics, and do so in a way that it’s a high performance solution,” SAP said in a statement.
ZDNet’s Rachel King gets to the packages’ nexus of analytics and big data:
Specifically, that means accessing and analyzing transactional data across enterprise systems and the web, including social networks, to get a better grasp in real-time about what consumers are thinking about products and brands.
SAP asserted that the infusion of analytics technologies will enable business of all sizes to be able to manage big data with advanced business intelligence capabilities for solving specific business problems with this consumption model.
SAP also boasted about the bundles’ discount price, noting that for just 20% more than the price of BusinessObjects alone, customers get the rest of the software included.
Jayne Landry, a vice president of solution marketing at SAP charged with overseeing the new products, said including best-practice content tailored for key industries and lines of business with database and integration software will help companies deploy the applications in a faster, more comprehensive way.
“What we’ve been hearing from IT is ‘we know about the tools, but we don’t know about the use cases.’ And the line-of-business users are saying ‘we know we want to take advantage of analytics, but we’re not sure about what’s possible,’” Landry said.
“By developing this solution, and focusing on delivering those use cases and content, it enables line of business and IT to come together and have a conversation about what’s possible, and then rapidly put that into action.”
The four packages are:
September 21, 2012 5:31 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
This week, SAP announced the opening of its new SAP Mobility Design Center, aimed at helping its customers build custom mobile applications.
The center, based at the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., is intended to be a “one-stop shop” for building custom apps — in as short of time as possible — for the Sybase Unwired Platform.
But a big part of what will happen at the center is education, according to Richard Campitelli, who oversees the design center and is the head of mobile services for SAP.
Customers, especially those new to mobility, will start with a two-day “discovery” workshop to begin laying out their vision and the use cases for their ideal mobile application.
That’s often when their plans first hit a snag, Campitelli said.
“They want to build an application they’ve been thinking about for their PC on their mobile device, which isn’t really practical,” Campitelli said. “So you have to focus on what are the core experiences or transactions that they really need to execute, and then [look at] what are the best ways to enable that on a mobile device — given the restrictions like the amount of screen space on a phone or tablet.”
Often, customers want to emulate the consumer applications they see on the marketplace or they’ve used themselves, but are unaware of other considerations that go into building an app, he said.
“They have a sense that the application should work just like [those they download off of] iTunes. It should be simple, easy to access,” Campitelli said. “[But] they really aren’t aware of the contingent issues like security, data integrity, or all the components of running a world-class ERP-style application in an enterprise framework. Customers are really confused about what they should do.”
When it comes to building the app, Campitelli said they first construct wireframe designs based on how the application will be accessed and used according to the company’s own processes. Once that’s nailed down, SAP helps the customers design how the back end of the application will work.
“It’s a little different approach. Instead of process design, and then systems design, it starts at the experience first and works backwards.”
August 27, 2012 4:02 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
The article I recently wrote on SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions drew some interesting comments about the potential impact and benefits of RDS applications as well as the potential pitfalls related to scope creep.
In the article, Dominick Beck, an IT manager with Papyrus, a midsize vendor of wholesale commercial paper and cleaning products based in Göteborg, Sweden, spoke about his company’s experience deploying the RDS version of SAP Extended Warehouse Management. According to Beck, the RDS templates had provided about 60% or so of what they needed, and Papyrus did the rest.
“When we started with this RDS, [it gave us] a system where one warehouse number was fully set up,” Beck told me. “Then we copied from this warehouse number all the settings to our own warehouse number, and [went through the] customizing process where our processes were different compared with the original template,”
Scott Priest at SAP Experts writes that this could be the way of on-premises apps in the future — or not:
That might be where on-premise software is heading. Think of it like the way personal computers used to be: You’d get a giant package from Gateway or IBM or whomever with scores of discs to run, that took a bunch of time and left the possibility that you’d make a mistake. Nowadays you buy a computer and it’s ready to go from the start. The battery’s usually fully charged, too.
So maybe what will happen with enterprise solutions is a shift to RDS-like packages that are easier to implement, with experienced shops having an advantage on customization due to their own resources.
Or maybe RDS will prove a failure. It’s certainly possible. Due to the ever-changing nature of many of these applications, it’s difficult to be comfortable that your in-house resources will know the software inside and out, where a consultant might be able to provide more value.
At the same time, other folks weighed in with some thoughts of their own on independent SAP analyst Jon Reed’s Google Plus page. Reed, who noted that SAP created the RDS line in part to compete against SaaS-based applications, writes about scope creep, the tendency of some IT projects to grow out of control:
The catch is that RDS approaches are intended to be out-of-the-box. SAP has also said in conversations about this topic that change requests after RDS installs can be the biggest threat to success. In other words, the danger is scope creep. If a customer misunderstands what the RDS can and can’t do, or if an overzealous salesperson pushes it too hard, you have a bad fit, ergo change requests. I want to talk to more RDS customers, my views on this are still in flux.
Reed said afterward that scope creep is a danger to any project, but it could be especially toxic to RDS projects given that the whole point is to get something up and running in a matter of weeks.
“A lot times, say with an ERP upgrade, [you will] allow nine months for a project. If you go over a month because of scope issues, [it's likely not a huge problem given] you probably allocated a year because you knew it was going to be a big deal,” Reed said. “With RDS, if you go over a month, and it was only supposed to take six weeks to begin with, you’re not very happy.”
Jarret Pazahanick, an SAP HCM consultant with EIC Experts, a Houston-based IT consulting firm, echoed Reed’s concern, stating that many systems integrators love RDS is because it helps them get their foot in the door, after which they can sell pricey add-ons for the RDS software.
Pazahanick also wondered if some of the “best practices” that SAP claims are baked into RDS applications are really just basic functionality.
Those are good questions. And I’m not sure of all the answers, either. Like Reed, I look forward to talking to more customers about their experiences with RDS. RDS was designed to be as simple as possible. But as many IT professionals can attest, enterprise software rarely turns out to be as straightforward as it might seem.
August 23, 2012 2:47 AM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
SAP customers currently on extended maintenance may not realize that they have until the end of September to let SAP know they don’t want to move on to customer-specific maintenance now that extended maintenance is ending in March 2013.
According to industry analyst Ray Wang of Constellation Research, the deadline applies to the following applications:
- SAP ERP 2004
- SAP NetWeaver 7.0
- SAP CRM 6.0
- SAP SCM 5.1
- SAP SRM 6.0
- SAP SRM 5.0
- SAP CRM 5.0
- SAP SCM 5.0
- SAP ERP 2004
- SAP Netweaver 2004
- SAP SRM 4.0
- SAP SCM 4.1
- SAP R/3 Enterprise
- SAP R/3 4.6C
SAP has taken a tough stance in the past when it comes to deadlines, so SAP customers need to avoid letting the September 30 deadline get away from them in order to take advantage of other support options, according to Wang.
Wang writes that apart from any advantages that SAP may claim, customers can likely expect an increase of up to 22% in support fees, no new tax and regulatory updates, and no new fixes, among other downers.
SAP customers should instead give notice to SAP and keep their options open, Wang writes. In the meantime, they should explore third party maintenance options, using giving notice and the possibility of moving to a third-party maintenance provider as leverage for any 2013 maintenance contracts, and resist any overtures by SAP to bundle existing contracts, which locks contracts in as a block and prevents customers from renegotiating them separately.
Rimini Street, one of two third-party maintenance vendors that focus on the SAP market, has heard from hundreds of SAP customers interested in possibly moving to third-party support, according to Dave Rowe, the company’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer.
“Even if SAP extends the support window, many customers just want to quit playing the support window game,” Rowe said.
August 6, 2012 2:42 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
Running the SAP HANA in-memory database effectively requires a lot of things –the right use case, the technical expertise, and of course, the financial resources to deploy and maintain it.
But that’s not all, explains Sean Moore, who leads Capgemini’s North American business analytics practice. Enterprises must also have the correct organizational structure in place — something that not every company can boast.
Capgemini offers a strategic assessment for companies seeking to deploy HANA, Moore explained. The assessment looks at an organization’s readiness for HANA from a cultural, political and technological perspective. They often find that firms are not ready for HANA at all.
It comes down to an issue of people and how they use data, according to Moore.
With HANA, “you’re changing the way that people are accessing information,” Moore said. “They’re not running a report at 9 a.m. and going off to get a cup of coffee, and then printing the report and going into a meeting to discuss what to do next.”
Instead, HANA users must be ready to analyze data and make decisions in near real-time.
“If you have an organization that is resistant to very quick decision making, or if have a lot of red tape or an inability to act quickly, then it doesn’t matter how fast the information comes to you,” Moore said.
There has to be someone in each business area — whether it’s manufacturing, supply chain, procurement or what have you — with the authority to make decisions on the spot based on the data that’s coming in, according to Moore. And some companies may need to restructure their IT landscape as well.
Capgemini recently worked with Provimi, a Dutch manufacturer of animal feed products, to deploy the HANA profitability analysis accelerator application, or CO-PA, which runs on the HANA in-memory database.
“That required quite a bit of work up front,” Moore said, explaining that the company first had to consolidate roughly 28 different ERP platforms the company had across its landscape, something that was hindering their growth and [taking] up a significant amount of the IT department’s time. Having that many ERP instances also meant that it took a long time to close their financial books each month.
“They realized before they went to HANA that they really had some work to do to get ready for financial close and financial reporting,” Moore said. “So they spent time consolidating their instances of ERP, reorganized their structure from an overall maintenance [perspective], and then started down the path of HANA.”