SAP Watch


April 13, 2006  9:57 AM

Podcast: SAP implementation challenges, potential pitfalls

ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

James Smith, IT director of dishware and stemware maker Rosenthal USA discusses the challenges and potential pitfalls of an SAP implementation.

Download the podcast here: This week we also discuss the latest SAP news including where SAP stands in the business process management market and SAP's march down into the midmarket.

  • (1:00) SAP, Oracle playing catch-up with BPM technologies: Large software vendors are 12 to 18 months away from catching up to the established pure-play business process management vendors, according to an analyst with Gartner Inc.
  • (2:40) SAP to revamp midmarket strategy: SAP is rethinking its small and midmarket strategy in 2006, with plans to launch a new selling model for its partners, implement new pricing and focus on microvertical industries.
  • (3:25) Rosenthal IT Director James Smith: Smith discusses how a company should conduct a proper vendor selection process.
  • (5:51) Rosenthal's decision to choose SAP Business One was driven by its parent company, which has an SAP commitment.
  • (6:14) The best case scenario for software vendor selection and implementation, according to Smith.
  • (7:19) Third Wave Business Systems: Smith discusses why Rosenthal selected Third Wave, a reseller, as an implementation partner.
  • (7:39) What is it like dealing with a value added reseller (VAR)?
  • (9:44) Is it easy to identify troubled VARs?
  • (10:47) What is something you don't like about SAP Business One?
  • (11:16) Have you been through an upgrade?
  • (11:57) Business One is not built on NetWeaver. Why wasn't that a factor for Rosenthal?
  • (12:46) How do you negotiate with a VAR?
  • (13:56) Is there a problem with scope creep in small business projects?
  • April 12, 2006  1:25 PM

    SAP turning up the heat on Oracle?

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    Is SAP planning a major offensive against archrival Oracle? It certainly seems to be the case, judging by a recent interview with SAP's Jeff Nolan. Veteran IT reporter and blogger Tom Foremski spoke to Nolan about a number of SAP-related issues, and one of the things that caught my eye was a reference to a new campaign aimed at the Redwood Shores giant.

    "Nolan's mission is to develop a strategy that will disrupt Oracle and also use blogging and the new media technologies such as wikis, in building an internal SAP blogosphere," the blog states. Foremski goes on to mention an external component to the strategy, aiming to get the SAP-centered discussion out there as broadly as possible.

    Few specifics were given about this new initiative, but with a name like "Attack Oracle" it seems like a fair bet SAP isn't planning to stand down anytime soon.

    One area to keep an eye on is the mid-market, where it seems SAP is planning a rather aggressive push in the years ahead. For starters, SAP's midmarket product All-in-One is headed for a more prominent spot in the SAP lineup. This year it will be fully service-enabled – moving onto NetWeaver across all industries – and next year it's due for getting onto the BPP (Business Process Platform). Secondly, SAP predict they'll to go from roughly 1/3 of revenue coming from the midmarket today to 40-45% in 2010. And that's a slice of a considerably larger pie; SAP expects to grow from today's 32,000 customers to 100,000 by 2010. Those customers will have to come from somewhere.

    One final observation: Kagermann spent a lot of time talking about All-in-One at the press event last week. Is he setting the stage for some kind of big announcement about All-in-One at Sapphire next month? Time will tell, but rest assured we'll watch this one closely.

    Matt Danielsson
    Editor


    April 11, 2006  5:27 PM

    Building a business case for SOA

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    What is service-oriented architecture (SOA)? If you can't answer this question — don't worry, you're in good company. And if you're scratching your head on how SAP's ESA vision fits in with SOA — once again, you are not alone. You're sure to hear more about SOA and ESA at Sapphire in Orlando next month. But if you want an overview ahead of time, check out our new ROI tip written by Axel Angeli, our NetWeaver, ESA and EAI expert. We just launched the tip, Building a business case for SOA today. It includes a valuable PowerPoint presentation accompanied by a plain-english explanation of SOA and ESA.    

    As Axel says in his presentation, to SOA or not SOA?, is not even a question. SOA will soon be a necessity, and that means that failing to implement the ESB in time could hurt your IT efficiency and business capabilities.

    SOA will not only eliminate redundancy but also dramatically enhance data quality, accelerate data discovery and allow for innovative customer services. By this standard, many CIOs will save money and get more sleep.

    Overall, the two main reasons to transform your IT for SOA are enhancing the reliability of work and erasing unnecessarily redundant technologies. Both goals are mainly achieved through establishing a common reusable infrastructure ("services") along with a flexible common interfacing standard.

    Want to learn how to prepare a business case for SOA? Check out our new tip by Axel Angeli, and then read more of his advice at his site, www.logosworld.com. Don't miss the others in this three part series: Building a business case for SAP: BW and Building a business case for SAP: NetWeaver.


    April 6, 2006  8:31 PM

    Continued organic growth for SAP

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    I had the opportunity to sit in on a press Q&A with SAP's executive team in Burlingame, Calif. this morning. One of the topics that came up was SAP's commitment to organic growth.

    SAP has long said it will rely on organic growth rather than acquisitions. So what about recent purchases such as compliance vendor Virsa? According to SAP CEO Henning Kagermann and board members Shai Agassi and Leo Apotheker, there's little risk SAP is about to turn down the same road as Oracle.

    This is not because SAP doesn’t have the option to do so, Kagermann said.

    "The second-best strategy is acquisition. The best is organic growth," Kagermann said. "We believe organic growth is a better strategy. Our pipeline of creativity is so high, there’s no need to reach out to other sources of innovation.”

    As the topic of vertical markets came up, Shai Agassi clarified SAP’s approach to acquisitions.

    “When we do acquisitions, we do it from the edges of the solutions,” Agassi said, pointing out the difference in complexity between integration of retail and ERP cores. “It’s hard to buy half a heart.”

    Hmm… Sounds like the SAP executive team is not impressed with Larry Ellison's two-year, $19 billion shopping spree. But then again, should they be considering that SAP has a product ready to install today, while Oracle has little more than PowerPoint slides?

    “We ship the Suite and others talk about it!” Kagermann quipped in an obvious jab at the database giant.

    Stay tuned for full coverage of this informative event. Not subscribing to the Daily News yet? Click here to sign up!

    Regards,
    Matt Danielsson
    Editor


    March 29, 2006  10:54 AM

    Podcast: The state of the SAP job market

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    Jon Reed, who serves as a site expert on SAP careers for SearchSAP.com, is interviewed about the state of the SAP job market. Reed is the author of the SAP Consultant Handbook and is the Vice President of SAPtips, an online publication and services firm that focuses on optimizing the SAP software investment.
    Download the podcast here.

    • (2:40) SearchSAP.com Site Expert Jon Reed: Reed handles career related questions from our readers. He has been publishing career related analysis for more than a decade.
    • (3:10) Reed provides an overview of the job market changes over the last five years.
    • (4:52) Reed outlines the latest trends driving the market.
    • (5:51) How are Web services and service oriented architectures driving the job market?
    • (7:40) The outsourcing of ABAP: The death of ABAP is premature, according to Reed.
    • (9:33) Regulatory compliance and security skills: Where do the skills fit into your resume?
    • (11:40) SAP CRM Ondemand and Software-as-a-service: Is it something to pay attention to?
    • (13:41) RFID, supply chain and sensor technology: Are companies holding back on investments?


    March 27, 2006  6:42 PM

    Special Report: Breaking into SAP consulting

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    Have you dreamt of becoming your own boss? Tempted by the fat rates a good independent consultant can command? You're not alone, that's for sure — consulting remains one of the hottest career-related topics on the site year after year. The most common question is the obvious one: "How do I break into consulting?", usually followed by: "How do I ensure success?"

    Well, we decided to address these questions once and for all. In these two new special reports, we get the advice from veteran SAP career guru Jon Reed from SAPtips.com as well as research analyst Bill Scheer from Kennedy Information, Inc.

    The topics of the first report, simply entitled: Breaking into SAP consulting, include:

    • How much experience you need before you're ready to make the leap.
    • Mapping your current skillset to your chosen niche.
    • Identifying and getting on track towards the Next Big Thing.
    • Dealing with offshore outsourcing.
    • How to best capitalize on the upcoming R/3 4.6C to mySAP ERP migration wave.

    Of course, there's more to successful consulting than this. That's why we have a companion piece entitled: Tips and tricks for SAP consulting success. This report covers issues like:

    • Picking the "right" projects — looking beyond monetary compensation.
    • Self-promotion and networking.
    • The pros and cons of getting gigs through intermediaries.
    • Recognizing your limitations and avoiding biting off more than you can chew.
    • The benefits of partnering with an offshore firm.

    Matt Danielsson
    Editor


    March 23, 2006  5:37 PM

    Food for thought on SAP vs. Oracle

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    SearchSAP.com reader Joe Yong submitted his comments on the SAP vs. Oracle feud and won our $100 Amazon gift certificate random prize. Here's his take on the SAP-Oracle issue.


    "Oracle is a database company that has been trying to be something else for the past decade," Joe said. "From tools to office productivity to one-stop-shop and more. SAP did a little tap dance around that a few years back and quickly pulled back to their core competence.

    At the end of the day, both will continue to exist but SAP will remain the leader and with a much stronger base.

    Oracle has the right vision with Fusion middleware. They also have a few independently great pieces of technologies and a few lemons. That's not the issue here. Getting these things to really work together seamlessly and then making them usable to the rest of the world is the issue. SAP has that locked down pat. Sure, they don't have be friendliest or nicest interfaces but SAP has had an incredible track record with their thoroughness in the integration interfaces with SAP applications. From BAPI to DCOM connectors to Web Services, SAP applications are very accessible and already have thousands of customers that integrate their SAP systems with other apps and platforms. Oracle has a long way to go here.

    I'm a database guy and have been working on databases for about 15 year, many of those spent along side ERP implementers (remember JBOPS?) Nobody has it figured out as well as SAP. After all, they were founded by a bunch of German, ex-IBMers. It isn't possible to have a more disciplined/structured combination than that."


    Food for thought indeed. Another reader had this to say:


    "My company has been using R/3 for seven years now in a manufacturing environment involving Make-To-Stock and Repetitive for Automotive," he said. "We use the full product from lead to cash and have implemented numerous modules in-house, along with an upgrade and opening a new company outside the U.S. We utilized almost no consulting to do it with total staff of 2 people assigned to SAP. Does this mean that Oracle would require 0.5 people? I think not. Yes, SAP is complicated, but I see this as a result of the flexibility available in the system."


    Not everyone was in favor of Greenbaum's pro-SAP column, however.


    "It appears Mr. Joshua Greenbaum is confused between Oracle Fusion Applications and Fusion Middleware," one reader said. "In his first point, he compared NetWeaver and Fusion stating 'SAP has been plugging away at its NetWeaver strategy for several years now, while Oracle recently updated analysts, the press, and some customers at a conference in San Francisco.'

    Mr. Greenbaum was wrong in comparing NetWeaver and Fusion Applications. He was comparing apples and oranges. The correct comparison should be between SAP NetWeaver and Oracle Fusion Middleware — the middleware and technology foundation for the next-generation SAP applications and Oracle applications, respectively.
     
    While NetWeaver is a reasonable default middleware stack for SAP customers, it is an inferior solution compared to the market leading middleware suites such as IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic and Oracle Fusion Middleware. Many of the NetWeaver components lag behind these market leading solutions, as rated by Gartner, Forrester Research, Burton Group, IDC and other industry analysts. According to these analysts, NetWeaver lags behind in integration, business process management, and master data management, etc. While IBM, BEA, and Oracle middleware suites are widely used in the SAP installed base, NetWeaver is rarely used, if at all, by non-SAP customers.

    The reason is primarily due to the immaturity of many NetWeaver components. Furthermore, NetWeaver has many gaping holes. For example, it does not have an Enterprise Service Bus, SOA / Web Services Management, Identity Management, Business Activity Monitoring, and Business Rules Engine.
     
    A house needs a strong foundation. Otherwise, it'll be toppled easily in a storm. It's same for the next-generation service-enabled applications. How can SAP win if it has a weak technology foundation, given the inferior SAP NetWeaver? In contrast, Oracle Fusion Middleware is rated leader in most major categories by Gartner and Forrester Research.
     
    I encourage Mr. Greenbaum to check his facts and correct me if I am wrong."

    Ouch. Fortunately, Josh had his share of fans too.


    "While Faun's column seems outdated, as comparing SAP's R/3 era from 3 years ago to that of Oracle, Joshua clearly evaluates the situation given the transition the business applications market is going through. In short, Faun's column is looks back. Joshua's looking ahead."

    Short and sweet. Here's a longer comment from another reader who found Josh's arguments to be solid.

    "Greenbaum seems to be balanced and based on fact. DeHenry seems to be extremely biased and starts from a 'ain't oracle great' perspective without having any true perspective.

    As to adaptability and flexibility, the goal of services over coding is rapid change WITHOUT coding. As DeHenry continues to misstate, the ability to code is NOT a business advantage if your competitor can rapidly assemble services faster from their ERP and other systems. That's WHY Oracle is re-architecting their system to match the services model that SAP has today in Netweaver. Oracle is changing and adapting to compete with SAP – not the other way around… Which kinda disproves the whole 'innovation free' statement. If SAP was adapting to make their architecture a database-coding effort, then it could be said the other way.

    Companies who write code in the future will be passed by those with industrialized, open services. Otherwise, why not just have folks in India write your ERP system from scratch? Sounds like Oracle's amazing 'flexibility' comes down to that. Give me a SOA approach instead. I am interested in Fusion, but the only SOA approach I can buy today from a proven vendor is SAP."


    These were just a handful of comments out of the big ol' SAP vs. Oracle mailbag that I and my SearchOracle editorial colleagues have received over the past couple weeks. Want to share your two cents? We're all ears — hit the 'comment' button on this post or submit them to me by e-mail at mdanielsson@techtarget.com.

    Matt Danielsson
    Editor


    March 23, 2006  4:33 PM

    SAP-Oracle battle to reach new heights

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    Forrester Research analyst Ray Wang spoke to Mark Brunelli of SearchOracle recently and sized up the past, present and future of Oracle and SAP's ongoing fight for business applications dominance. Wang said that Forrester will have a research paper out soon about the issue.

    “At the end of the day, Oracle was a technology database company trying to invest in applications and building on an applications road map over the last 10 years. SAP on the other hand is an applications company that can't depend on Oracle or Microsoft to build that technology layer, so they've had to go out and build NetWeaver,” Wang said.

    – Rob Westervelt, News Editor


    March 20, 2006  1:49 PM

    Choosing third party support

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    One of our sister sites, Search400.com ran a story about a company that is dropping vendor support of its JDE World applications. The firm is choosing a third party provider for support services. I’d like to hear your comments about this. What are the advantages and drawbacks of choosing a third party support provider? If a company isn’t going to upgrade, is there still a sense of comfort in keeping vendor support and maintenance?

    Oracle Corp. has a mantra about the associated risks of choosing a third party support provider. Information Week ran a story on third party application support providers. The story focuses on TomorrowNow, the PeopleSoft support provider that was later acquired by SAP.

    -Rob Westervelt, News Editor


    March 17, 2006  4:57 PM

    Need some SAP career advice?

    ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

    Jon Reed from SAPtips.com has been helping SAP professionals land jobs and advance their careers for more than 10 years. We are lucky to have him as a featured expert on SearchSAP.com.

    Jon's career column is chock-full of valuable advice for SAP professionals like you. Curious about job trends for 2006? Browse Jon's advice from the past few months. The column also addresses perpetual concerns, from outsourcing to consulting to hot new career areas.

    Did you know that we've gathered the most frequently-asked SAP career and certification questions into a FAQ section? Browse this first to see if your question has already been answered. Here Jon covers common inquiries like, "Is SAP for me?," and, "I have SAP experience and want to become an independent consultant. How do I go about it?"

    If you'd like personalized advice, submit your own question to Jon.

    Until next time,
    Lauren
    Assistant Editor


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