July 27, 2012 2:10 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
SAP trumpeted its achievement when it surpassed the 1,000 customer mark last year, but is declining to shed more light on what those numbers might look like now, despite continued interest in the cloud ERP’s future, and whether or not it will ever hit a critical mass when it comes to adoption.
As analyst Jon Reed put it late last year, “I think this is sort of a make-or-break year for Business ByDesign.”
Even so, SAP is keeping those adoption numbers close to its chest, rather than make its case that it has grown those overall customer numbers in a significant way.
“We’re still referring to the number that we provided last November, more than one thousand users,” according to Astrid Poelchen, director of SAP product communications.
Still, there’s no sign that SAP is cooling its plans for ByDesign, either. This week SAP touted some good news, namely that the trade and industry department of the government of New South Wales in Australia is deploying the on-demand ERP as a part of a $14.5 million deal that also includes SAP payroll and cloud consulting services.
At the same time, the latest version Business ByDesign will be available in August, and newly available in Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. Business ByDesign 4.0 also includes a software localization kit for companies to create country-specific content, as well as an improved software development kit (SDK) that SAP says will allow for customers to create add-ons and integrate with third-party software more easily.
Jakob Jung, writing for ZDNet, outlines some of the new functionality being delivered in the new release:
Version 4.0 sees over 800 separate tweaks to functionality, including new elements for the service, manufacturing and distribution industries. For the latter, SAP has improved Business ByDesign’s ability to combine both products and services on projects, which links material in sales orders to project tasks, while enhancements for manufacturing and distribution include support for customers that manage and track onsite and in-house repair scenarios.
July 17, 2012 9:00 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
SAP made SAP BusinessObjects 4.0, Feature Pack 3 generally available today, claiming a raft of new bells and whistles when it comes to mobility, data integration and social media.
For starters, SAP claims Feature Pack 3 answers a growing demand to accommodate “big data” by adding support for HiveQL data sets.
“Now, within that same exact information design tool you’ve been using all along, we support HiveQL, so you can start to bring in, mash up, information from Hadoop to your BI environment,” according to Jason Rose, vice president of business intelligence marketing for SAP.
On the mobile front, SAP says tighter integration with SAP Business Explorer now lets users manipulate and drill down on data in ways they weren’t able to before using what it calls “exploration views.” SAP says the new BOBJ update is also more closely tied to the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP), given that so much of analytics is consumed on mobile devices.
Feature Pack 3 also lets users run operational reporting off of SAP ERP application and multi-source universes. SAP has also integrated its StreamWork social platform with Feature Pack 3, letting users collaborate on BI documents.
In other news, SAP announced that the new 1.0.1 version of SAP Visual Intelligence now supports Excel and .CSV files, whereas the initial release only worked with HANA data sources, a criticism of some analysts. SAP also said that Visual Intelligence is now integrated with SAP StreamWork, allowing users to collaborate on data visualizations.
July 17, 2012 2:44 AM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
A couple of years ago, SAP realized it had a problem when it came to public perception over its strategy for industries, according to Dr. Kerstin Geiger, SAP’s head of industry solutions. Few really understood what it was.
“I knew that we had an industry strategy [but] it obviously wasn’t communicated to the market. It wasn’t really perceived as an industry strategy.”
Geiger said that despite perceptions that SAP recently began refocusing on industries, it’s the same strategy SAP had in place for years. The difference is that people now have a better idea of what that strategy is: helping customers “run, grow and transform” their businesses in new and different ways using technologies that weren’t a part of the IT landscape until recently. That sounds fine – if not pretty broad – but what does it mean exactly?
The first part of the equation, run, focuses on the core ERP technologies SAP has developed over the decades, supplemented by newer technologies. The “grow” part of the equation is about helping businesses grow globally, which SAP says it’s uniquely suited to do.
“[Companies] might increase their volumes, but they’re also moving into other countries, for instance. We have the capability to support our customers going into China. We know how to run manufacturing in China, or we know how to run financials in China,” Geiger said. “Brazil is even more painful. You have double taxation, triple taxation. This is how we can help companies grow in various dimensions.”
SAP contends it has the know-how – and systems – to help companies transform from one type of business to another as they expand into new industries. Think of the oil and gas company whose locations now include a retail component.
“This is something we’ve seen happen over the last ten years, where we see companies crossing the border lines of their industry, and that means like Nike, for instance, they opened retail shops, so they’re no longer a CP and fashion company, they’re also a retailer,” Geiger said. “All of a sudden, you have different business processes that you need to support.”
One SAP customer, a commercial truck tire manufacturer has opened up a new line of business – handling the maintenance on rotating those tires. That involves heavy use of analytics, measuring things like miles travelled, road conditions, and other factors to predict when those tires need to be swapped out.
“This is where you need an IT landscape scalable and flexible enough to allow our customers to make those moves,” Geiger said.
July 3, 2012 1:47 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
Whether you see big data as a problem or an opportunity may depend on where you sit – literally.
In a survey SAP recently commissioned on perceptions around “big data,” roughly 76% of the 100 or so executives they polled said they see big data as an opportunity, not something to fear or wring their hands over.
David Yonker, director of product marketing for data management and analytics at SAP said he isn’t surprised.
“[Business executives] have seen how one company increased revenue by such an amount, or they increased the response rate of their marketing programs by such an amount. It’s generally related to big data,” Yonker said. “The executives tend to think, hey, this is an opportunity for us, how do we make this happen?”
Once again, there’s a split in how business and IT see things.
“Then you have the IT side of the house. They tend to look at data as a challenge,” Yonker said of the roughly 25% of respondents who had a slightly more pessimistic view of big data compared with their colleagues down the hall.
The view comes from the fact that a lot of the systems in place at most companies are running on technology that just wasn’t designed to deal with reams of information now flooding today’s businesses.
“[Most businesses’] database technology, at the end of the day, was a traditional relational database designed back in the ’80s. A lot of the challenge comes with the kind of infrastructure that’s been shoehorned into doing reporting,” Yonker said. “Now people want to figure out how to do big data analytics on it, and its just not cutting it.”
June 18, 2012 6:07 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
A lot of software vendors tout the benefits of analytics. But in a good reminder that business intelligence isn’t only limited to corporate types, SAP says it’s helping one non-profit foster the next generation of IT entrepreneurs in places like Argentina.
Endeavor Global, based in New York City, focuses on raising the standard of living in developing nations by helping promising young entrepreneurs grow their companies. They see innovative, cutting-edge companies as the best way to create jobs.
Earlier this year, Endeavor went to SAP, asking for help creating dashboards that could show how well the approach was working.
Endeavor combined data on a range of factors from how many jobs and revenue their entrepreneurs had created, the salaries of their employees, and other factors that help determine the social and economic effects they’re having, compared with data compiled by the World Bank which reflected broader averages in those countries.
Using customized SAP Crystal Dashboards, Endeavor found that the companies they were helping were typically outperforming the country averages, an obvious boon to the non-profit’s marketing and fundraising operations.
But it’s also shown Endeavor which of their sectors and clients are making the biggest difference, information which can be used in the creation and improvement of programs. For example, though Endeavor helps companies in a range of areas, from agriculture to retail and manufacturing, some of the more detailed analysis Endeavor did on its Argentine entrepreneurs found that IT companies there were having the largest impact.
“We’ve gone back into our selection process internally, and designed a whole new component of that to target the selection of these fast-growing tech entrepreneurs in every country,” said Erin Barringer, the Endeavor program manager who’s overseeing the analytics project.
“So we’ve taken what we’ve learned in Argentina, and we’re rolling that out [with] a fast track program, to catch technological entrepreneurs earlier in their growth.”
The next step, Barringer said, is looking at what companies benefit from most, and using that information to better help its companies, Barringer said. “Is it the talent that we’re providing, or is it the investment capital?”
June 1, 2012 2:35 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
SAP is betting that its Business One customers are eager to run the midsized ERP suite on its HANA in-memory platform when it becomes available later this year, a precursor to SAP eventually running the BusinessSuite on HANA. At least one Business One customer isn’t yet sold on the idea – although he’s listening.
Fremont, Calif.-based BigByte, is a tech support company that handles product repair and related services on things like optical disk drives and LCD panels for companies like Apple and Panasonic.
It’s COO, Mike Franklin said he considered getting in on SAP’s ramp-up program for running Business One on HANA, but had a number of concerns, from the cost to questions about how badly a company with $6 million in sales – but growing steadily — needs the extra transactional speed.
Putting his instance of Business One, which is now hosted by Virtustream, on HANA would require $50,000 for the hardware and licenses, Franklin said. Not a ton of money, perhaps, Franklin said, but by no means cheap, either.
Franklin wondered if it was better to wait until adoption grows and prices fall.
“Our position at this point is that we’re running so smoothly, I don’t know if we want to invest into going to HANA yet, whereas over time I think it’s all going to transition to HANA anyways,” Franklin said.
If BigByte went to HANA right now, it would be on their nickel, Franklin said, as opposed to taking advantage of Virtustream’s ability to cut costs by hosting multiple customers on the same instance of Business One.
“Everybody has to go to HANA, or you have to go on your own,” Franklin said. “If I can get into it for a fifth of that, then okay, that makes sense. It makes a lot of sense. But I need to spend my dollars on new equipment [for our repair lines].”
BigByte doesn’t have extensive reporting needs just yet, he said. Most of its reports are customer driven and are done weekly or monthly. One report takes 45 minutes to run, which is enough to be a problem, if not a big one.
“The issue is the impact that 45 minutes has on the server and the database,” Franklin said “It’s not so much what we could do, because we could run those reports after hours, [but] you just drain a lot of resources, and you find yourself having to plan around running that report as opposed to running reports on demand.”
In the end, Franklin is holding steady on his decision not to make the move, given that HANA is just a little too expensive, and BigByte’s reporting needs just aren’t quite big enough.
Computer Technology Solutions, where Franklin previously worked as COO, is a different story, he said. CTS, which does $135 million in sales annually, would be a perfect fit for something like SAP BusinessOne on HANA given its size and operational requirements.
“We can survive without HANA, we don’t have to have it,” he said. “CTS, I don’t think, can.”
May 16, 2012 6:50 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
David Kang learned one thing during his recent deployment of SAP software.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Kang said at the SAP SapphireNow conference in Orlando.
Kang is the chief financial officer for Landi Renzo US, the American subsidiary of the global company that engineers, installs, and services alternative fuel systems for automobiles so they can run on environmentally friendly fuels like natural gas. Pretty cool stuff.
The Torrance, Calif.-based subsidiary deployed Business ByDesign in 2011 for a number of reasons, one being that it can now hook into the corporate office, which is running SAP ERP. Overall, Kang said if they had to make the decision all over again, they’d still stick with ByDesign, despite minor flaws like losing some minor report customizations in the upgrade process — something other ByDesign customers have also run into.
Even so, he wishes they’d done a few things differently, he said. But he wishes SAP had done things a little differently, too.
While SAP has gotten a reputation for often trying to upsell customers in order to get the biggest deal possible, here’s a case where SAP seems to have low balled a bid, which created a whole set of different challenges for the customer.
Kang explained that when SAP sold him the package, it pushed a package that included minimal help with deployment, as opposed to having SAP or a partner do it.
“The sales personnel that sold me the package made it as cost effective as possible. They blew the competition out of the water, so to speak,” Kang said. If he had known a little more about his options, he likely would have paid more to have SAP be more involved in the process.
“I was unfortunately never given that option when the SAP sales rep offered the contract,” Kang said.
Kang said he complained to implementation partner Grant Thornton about needing more help. Luckily, Grant Thornton stepped up, Kang said, providing more help than the project originally called for in order to help get it back on track.
At the same time, Kang said he asked for too much functionality, which he said was a mistake. SAP obliged.
“When the sales person sat with me and asked me what my expectations are, what do I want, obviously I’m going to ask for the stars and want everything,” he said. “Kind of like when you buy a car, you want all the options.”
The sales rep released all the modules for Kang and his company. But when it came to fine tuning the on-demand ERP, Kang realized what he had amounted to overkill.
It’s a good lesson for any customer, especially those that haven’t dealt with SAP before, and may not know what kinds of questions to ask. As Kang put it, “I just didn’t know what I didn’t know at that time.”
May 14, 2012 7:58 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
ORLANDO, Fla. — SAP took the development of its Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) a step further today by unveiling a handful of new mobile applications at the kickoff of its annual SapphireNow conference.
Company officials said the new apps, developed by SAP and its business partners, are designed to help users in several areas, including human resources (HR), finance, sales, mobile commerce and sustainability.
More partner apps will be unveiled over the course of the conference from the vendors themselves, according to SAP. It’s all part of the business software giant’s plan to have partners develop and market the vast majority of SUP applications.
The new SAP apps may not be sexy, said Nicholas Brown, senior vice president of mobile strategy and market development, but they address some of the basic needs companies have when it comes to mobility.
“The beauty of mobile is that you can start simple,” Brown said. Companies can then expand on that basic functionality over time, based on the user feedback.
Many of the applications are optimized for mobile tablets, which allow users to view a greater amount of information at one time as compared with smartphones, Brown said.
SAP also announced updated versions of existing applications now compatible with the Android and Blackberry platforms.
The new applications announced today include the following:
SAP Travel Expense Report: Allows users to create expense reports from a mobile device;
SAP Learning Assistant: Lets customers access and download existing SAP e-learning functionality from their iPad tablets and allows them to manage course bookings, schedules and training deadlines;
SAP Customer Briefing: Pulls together information from a businesses’ existing CRM data and combines it with information from outside sources to help sales staff in the field prepare for client meetings; and
SAP EHS Safety Issue: Allows users to log issues from their mobile phones, including supporting information like photos and video, and send all of the data to a safety manager.
Banking and Finance:
Sybase 365 Mobile Banking: Lets subscribers to pay, buy, bank and remit money using a mobile device;
Sybase 365 Mobile Payments: Allows users already employing a “mobile wallet” application to pay bills and loans make domestic peer-to-peer payments to known and unknown beneficiaries, as well as remit money and pay for goods and services; and
Sybase 365 Mobile Money: Enables financial institutions to offer a “branchless” financial inclusion service so they can offer financial products to customers.
Retail and the insurance industry:
SAP In-Store Product Lookup: Lets store employees locate the availability of an item with current inventory information, all in near real time and from the store floor and
SAP Policy Holder Lookup: Gives insurance agents the ability to access policy and claim details of any policyholder.
New apps from ecosystem partners include:
Go Sell: Touted by maker Advent Global Solutions as a comprehensive sales force automation app that lets sales reps log calls, respond to leads and access a range of dashboards and other information across the order-to-cash process and
Project Manager: Created for workers who need to manage projects outside of the office, from updating schedules and other information to reviewing work-breakdown structures and assigning tasks to team members.
Updated existing SAP mobile applications:
SAP Customer Financial Fact Sheet: Lets sales staff check customers’ financial status — now available on the iPad and devices using the Android 2.2 or later operating system;
SAP Payment Approvals: Now available on Android 2.2 or later;
SAP Electronic Medical Record: Gives doctors the ability to review information at a patient’s bedside; now available on Android 3.2 devices and iPhone devices; and
SAP GRC Policy Survey: Allows employees to receive, complete and submit governance, risk and compliance policy surveys; now compatible with the iPad.
May 14, 2012 3:12 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
A new survey by the U.K. and Ireland SAP User Group finds some mixed news for SAP. The adoption rate for SAP BusinessObjects is on the rise – but a third of the entire user base isn’t happy with the technical support it’s getting.
In a survey of roughly 100 SAP BusinessObjects customers, nearly a third of all customers said they thought that the technical support provided to them wasn’t as great as what they get from other vendors.
When asked what specifically did they have problems with, the biggest complaints were about the quality of SAP’s online support. Roughly 57% said they had problems with using SAP’s Service Market Place support portal. A little over 60% said they had problems finding the support information they need.
Respondents cited other areas as well, though not the same levels of frustration. Roughly 11% said they were dissatisfied with the technical expertise of the support staff. Nearly 10% said they were unhappy with quality of engineer-based support.
While the survey didn’t get into what kinds of issues users needed help with, Craig Dale, chief executive, UK & Ireland SAP User Group, said at least some of the dissatisfaction may be coming from long-time BusinessObjects customers.
“One of the things that we’ve found is a common thread from the BusinessObjects user group, that they feel there’s been deterioration in the knowledge base that was there before,” Dale said.
The group has set up a working group to collaborate with SAP on ways BOBJ support can be improved, especially when it comes to the online portal.
“We’re working with SAP to ensure that knowledge base is back up to where it was before, and where it was perceived to be by BusinessObjects customers,” Dale said.
The good news for SAP is that the survey found an increase in the number of companies using SAP BusinessObjects. Roughly 22% of respondents said they were using the analytics software, compared with 7% about a year ago.
Dale said the increase is being driven by interest in BusinessObject 4.0, as well as by SAP shops that are upgrading their ERP system to ECC 6.0, which the survey also found is continuing to grow.
“The latest version of SAP has more integration with the BusinessObjects product set,” Dale said. Customers are looking at the latest technology, they’re looking at what’s out there for the whole landscape, and not the core suite.”