There was a lot of buzz about the upcoming NetWeaver 7.1 at Sapphire the other week. Releasing in Q3 this year, it’s positioned as the springboard for really getting into SOA in the real world. NetWeaver 7.1 is a major milestone for SAP that packs plenty of juice, with a full Enterprise Services Repository which enables users to dig into ES composite use and creation, as well as laying the groundwork for SAP’s business process initiative.
Simply put, SAP’s Enterprise SOA bandwagon is on the move. But at the same time, SAP’s A1S on-demand ERP solution was one of the other big stories of Sapphire. Given the luke-warm reception of SAP CRM on-demand last year, it may seem a bit puzzling why SAP would double down on both sides of the fence. That’s why it was interesting to read Brad Shimmin’s take on the SOA vs. SaaS debate.
Conflict entertains, he said, but the sensible thing is to use SOA as a foundation for SaaS.
“Using an Enterprise Service Bus, SOA solutions can transform disparate data formats, mediate different protocols, and orchestrate transactions. Imagine if an enterprise that employs SOA internally were also to use a SaaS application, say Salesforce.com. That enterprise could use its ESB to connect Salesforce.com to its ERP or CRM systems. Salesforce.com, of course, has been shooting for this goal since 2005. But the real bang won’t come until SaaS customers themselves maintain a SOA infrastructure internally.”
In other words, these concepts are hardly mutually exclusive. That’s certainly food for thought in light of SAP’s stated goal of chasing both rabbits simultaneously.
The natural high point of Sapphire 2007 was SAP CEO Henning Kagermann's keynote, and the message was clear: SAP is getting serious about this Web 2.0 business. Knowledge sharing, collaboration and self-service features are the tune of the future, which coincidentally goes hand in hand with the Harmony initiative we mentioned the other day. Social networking, wiki-style content building and similar user-driven activities are growing in popularity overall, so it's not surprising that SAP is embracing the Web 2.0 movement.
Basically, we're looking at a shift from a top-down, technically rigid structure to a more fluid, informal way of thinking with a certain trust in that people can find workable solutions to their problems. There are examples where this type of individual empowerment has worked out great, but it's not necessarily a given (browse a few controversial topics on Wikipedia for examples of information integrity breach). By and large, however, it makes a lot of sense and we'll be following this closely in the year ahead.
Kagermann also talked about the new Business Process Platform (BPP) and how they've now expanded it to the whole product portfolio (with Business One being the only exception.) That's in line with SAP's previously stated focus on business processes as well as Hasso Plattner's keynote presentation on Monday.
A1S, the new on demand ERP solution that has been hinted at for months, was finally unveiled. Scaled for customers with 50-500 users, the product bridges the gap between Business One and All-in-One. It is NetWeaver-based with the same underpinnings as All-in-One, making it a natural fit in SAP's next-gen product portfolio. Further, it has a "try it, then buy it" feature that gives potential customers a chance to see what A1S can do for them before cutting a sizable check. Stay tuned as news editor Jon Franke dives deeper into this topic next week.
Sapphire has been a little odd this year. Not just because Shai Agassi quit and left a sizable keynote spot open (since filled by Philip Lay, managing director of The Chasm Group Advisors,) but because of the uneven pacing. Rather than start with a big bang with all the key announcements on day one, most of the good stuff was withheld until the second day when Henning Kagermann finally took the stage.
But let's not complain too loudly; there were some interesting tidbits to be found. For example, Harmony is an internal collaboration tool that help SAP workers workdwide connect today. It's not unlike IBM's Lotus Connections, and Jeff Nolan said he covered Harmony last year, but we got a glimpse of what's in store for later this year when regular users get to play with these features… And judging by the application product demo, it's pretty darn slick. Assistant Editor Eric Samuels is on the case and hope to have more details on this shortly, so stay tuned.
Another point of interest was SAP and Microsoft's deepened partnership regarding Duet. We've long said Duet is promising, but a tad light on features. If the promises made here today hold water, that may soon not be the case as we look towards Duet 2.0 in 2008 and even Duet 3.0, slated for the next release of SAP's business suite (which will also include Microsoft's next gen Office, including Sharepoint). But for the more immediate future, Duet 1.5 and its Q4 2007 release seems to be the big game in town.
Speaking of Duet, one perhaps less than earth-shattering but notable announcement was the inclusion of Duet as a pre-loaded feature on HP ProLiant servers. There are no new features or clever synergies in play, but it seems like a case where ease of use and availability could make a big difference in helping Duet dig its heels in over time.
Read Sapphire 2007 quick takes, part 2 here.
Veteran site expert Axel Angeli isn't known for shying away from controversy, most recently proven in his guest column "Shai is gone — Hurray!". Needless to say, this controversial entry into the Shai Agassi resignation aftermath has sparked quite a bit of debate and more than one set of raised hackles in the SAP world.
Naeem Hashmi, CRO of Information Frameworks, is another veteran expert with a few things to say about Shai debacle. His verdict is perhaps a bit less abrasive than Axel's, but there are certain similarities. Here's his guest column:
Tribute to Shai – Psychology of a Visionary
Almost two years back at the Sapphire '05, a few colleagues asked me: How were the keynotes? My reply: Most keynotes were as usual, but Shai Agassi's keynote was a 'recital'. I sensed then that the euphoria of NetWeaver implementation is wearing down the 'Mind of a Visionary.' Real implementation of NetWeaver, though will be a success, is a long proposition and the visionary mind of Shai just could not recite the same slides over and over, year after year to almost the very same crowd.
Visionaries starve for new food for thought. Visionaries have a very small 'digestive' tract. They are eager to 'chew' the next unknown 'food for thought' even when present food is still being swallowed, so to speak. That's really my comment meant about Shai's Keynote at the Sapphire '05… The energy, the excitement on Shai's face was not coming naturally from inside but was much like a directed recital.
A full scale Services Oriented SAP implementation will span several years of hard work with many years of co-existence with good, ol' R/3 modules. This long path was just too much of ESA regurgitation for a visionary mind. SAP now has a good platform and a solid module-oriented 'German-disciplined-team' that will provide rock solid SAP/ESA solutions in the years to come.
And for now, the 'Mind of a Visionary' is getting ready for his next swim in the uncharted waters of a more pressing challenge facing the world, the energy and climate change. And I am sure the 'Mind of a Visionary' will be back in full speed and ready to 'chew' long new 'foods for thought' and the outcome will make significant difference for the generations to come, much more than the ESOA.
Much as Shai is a likeable guy in person, perhaps it is best for SAP and its customers that things played out the way they did? Or will his departure mean that SAP's innovative streak has come to an end, to the joy and delight of the competition? You be the judge. Sound off below or send us an email — we're always interested to hear from you.
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"I remember five years ago, on the day I joined the SAP board, one of you asked me in a town hall meeting 'why am I at SAP?' The answer I gave was that 'I came to SAP to work and fell in love with the company'."
"I will now move on to my next challenge in life, hoping to apply what I have learned at SAP to create solutions for various problems that affect us all as a global tribe. I truly hope that my next set of challenges will be able to match the immense experience I gathered through my years at SAP. I leave the company with a heavy heart, feeling that I leave a home, yet I also feel that I am not leaving the family SAP has become for me. I hope to play some role in our community, and stay close to all of you – I am now your biggest fan."
We will continue to update you on related news as it unfolds.
SAP just released a statement confirming that Shai Agassi will resign, effective April 1, 2007. Hasso Plattner, chairman of the SAP Supervisory Board and company founder, had this to say:
"While we regret Shai's decision to leave, we congratulate him on his record of achievement at SAP. Shai drove the company's successful platform strategy, led innovation that helped SAP grow and continue market leadership, as well as set the stage for the future of business software. I had shared with Shai my plan that he should become successor to Henning Kagermann as a co-CEO for SAP. With the extension of Henning's contract to 2009, it became apparent that Shai was not comfortable committing to a 10- to 15-year period, which was not in keeping with his personal career timeline. Given this, I made the recommendation to the Supervisory Board that we change our plans and now adjust SAP's executive management team responsibilities."
We'll keep you updated as this story develops, and will have something for tomorrow on SearchSAP.com.Jon Franke News Editor
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Shai Agassi, president of SAP’s product and technology group and heir apparent to CEO Henning Kagermann, is set to resign from the company. SAP is refusing to comment on the report, according to Forbes.com.
According to the Wall Street Journal report:
“[…] in a move that could preface a management shuffle at the German software giant.
Shai Agassi, president of SAP’s product and technology group and architect of SAP’s Netweaver software, is leaving the company to pursue interests in alternative energy and climate change, says a person familiar with the move.”
If true, SAP is obviously in for a huge shake-up in its management team and probably needs to rewrite Kagermann’s succession plans. I wonder how Léo Apotheker feels right now…
Check back here and on SearchSAP.com for more information as this story develops.Jon Franke News Editor
SAP consultants are experiencing a boom… or slow and painful demise. It all depends on what particular niche you're focused in on and the skills you've acquired. Most SearchSAP.com members are familiar with SAP jobs expert Jon Reed's excellent career advice, but this time he took it one step further with this in-depth report:
SAP consulting trends: Revenge of the core consultant and other new developments.
Some issues that are explored in the report:
- What are the "winner" vs. "loser" areas of SAP consulting?
- Why experience isn't enough and why some consultants can, once again, get gigs with just a certification
- How to cash in on the upgrade push to ECC 6.0
- How NetWeaver is changing the required skillsets
- How to tweak your current skill set to hit the profitable niches in the years ahead
It's a massive report featuring interviews with Brian Trout, SAP Practice Manager for B2B Workforce, Jerry Walter, owner of staffing firm Walter and Associates and Michael Doane, chief intelligence officer for Performance Monitor and author of the recently updated SAP Blue Book, among others. Check it out today!