August 19, 2011 8:08 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
, private cloud
, SAP Business ByDesign
, SAP cloud computing
, SAP public sector
Like many businesses, the U.S. government sees cloud computing as the future. As Vivek Kundra, the former U.S. CIO recently put it, “the movement to the cloud is a one-way street.”
As part of that strategy – which includes a new mandate that any agency considering new computer systems look at cloud technology first — the government recently called on more than 70 industry experts to deliver their recommendations on how cloud computing adoption can be accelerated in both the public and private arenas.
Besides some accompanying case studies on how different organizations are using the cloud, the report raises a number of issues that businesses considering cloud technology might want to think about, including data security and privacy needs.
Acknowledging that data security is one of the central challenges with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models, the report calls on industry and government to do more to create common frameworks, best practices and metrics to help organizations decide what kind of security they need for their data.
Data security is one of the key reasons why SAP runs its on-demand ERP suite Business ByDesign on its own private cloud, and not on Amazon’s EC2 cloud, where it runs SAP Carbon Impact, which is less mission-critical.
When I asked Rainer Zinow, senior vice president of SAP Business ByDesign last year if they’d ever consider moving ByDesign to Amazon, given that some think Amazon could do it more cheaply and efficiently than SAP can, he said data security trumps other cost advantages.
“We have said that our Business ByDesign customers have specific requirements regarding security, data privacy, regulations and other aspects. So for them, it is very important that we run Business ByDesign on a highly secured private cloud,” Zinow told me.
While SAP has relatively few online applications at this point, the number will only grow in the future. If you’re one of those companies that are considering running more of your operations in the cloud, how much of an issue is data security in your decision? Do you agree with the federal government that industry standards and benchmarks would help, or is do you already have the same degree of confidence in cloud security that such standards might provide?
July 27, 2011 1:41 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
, SAP BusinessObjects
As if Google wasn’t already everywhere in our lives, the omnipresent tech company has found another inroad, this time with some pretty interesting use cases for businesses.
SAP has embedded Google’s mapping APIs – the same ones from Google Maps and Google Earth — within BusinessObjects, which allows companies lay their data over maps for a more visual interpretation of the data with a kind of geospatial dashboard. The idea is not a new one, however. “Mash-ups” have been around in the consumer space for years, just not with enterprise applications. Not only are they looking at their own data, but companies can also upload their own maps as well.
As SAP put it, customers can now understand the “where” of their information, as well as global, regional, and local trends affecting their businesses.
That means that a cell phone service provider could lay reams of user call data over a map of the company’s cell phone towers and zones of service, determining usage patterns and looking at where calls were getting dropped. That might help them determine whether it’s a matter of not having a strong enough signal, or whether a cell phone tower is simply taxed beyond capacity.
Additionally, given that home foreclosures happen in some neighborhoods more than others – and can spread like a bad rash – banks can look at the data to help stem their losses, according to Jonathan Becher, executive vice president of marketing at SAP. They might drop interest rates in those areas most likely to be hit next, losing a bit of money in the short term, but saving money overall by keeping paying customers in their homes.
While the Google APIs will be available as a part of SAP BusinessObjects BI/EIM 4.1 later this year, it will also become part of Sales OnDemand in the near future, Becher said. Since the application is mobile-friendly, sales reps with 10 locations to visit in an area could look at a map on a tablet combining sales data and the locations of the accounts, in order to help the rep prioritize which locations to visit.
And, since the application is married to BusinessObjects, maps can be used in conjunction with real-time data being processed by SAP HANA and in-memory applications.
SAP’s relationship with Google has in the past yielded things like Google making SAP StreamWork available in their marketplace. Not a huge deal. To me, this seems like something so beneficial to companies that it begs the question: why didn’t they think of this before?
July 25, 2011 2:58 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
, ECC 6.0
, SAP support
SAP shops in the UK are for the most part on board with SAP ECC 6.0. It’s SAP BusinessObjects they’re not quite sure about.
According to a new survey by the UK and Ireland SAP User Group, two-thirds of the 204 respondents said they’re now using ECC 6.0, up from 35% in 2009, according to Alan Bowling, the group’s chairman. About 22% of those polled are still sticking with the older R3 4.7 platform.
So what’s the reason for the jump?
For one, the user group and its members that upgraded have worked to convince hesitant users of 6.0′s benefits. Additionally, upgrading is no longer the “tortuous path” it has been in the past due to SAP’s efforts to simplify the process, Bowling said.
In the past, upgrading meant a day or so in downtime. Now, it’s more like a few hours, he said.
The same poll found only 7% of SAP shops are using BusinessObjects. “We’re kind of scratching our heads a bit about that one,” Bowling said.
It’s not a total surprise, however, given that it’s only been a few years since SAP acquired BusinessObjects and many companies invested time and money in SAP BI, and may be slow to change direction. The buzz over SAP’s in-memory technology and its HANA appliance, which work in conjunction with BusinessObjects, may spur higher adoption rates, he said.
The survey found that 67% of respondents are on Enterprise Support, almost the same number of those that are on ECC 6.0. It seems safe to assume those are largely the same companies in both groups, though it’s not totally clear. Still, Bowling wondered if that number might drop as Enterprise Support gets more expensive in the future, beginning with an increase in January.
Where does your company fall compared with these responses? Have you moved to ECC 6.0, or are you perfectly set with an earlier release? Are you on Enterprise Support, at least for the time being, or sticking with Standard Support?
July 22, 2011 2:26 PM
Posted by: Jacquelyn Howard
Our sister site, SearchManufacturingERP.com, is currently running a survey to discover trends in supply chain management (SCM), manufacturing execution systems (MES) and product lifecycle management (PLM). As this includes those with SAP ERP, I thought the survey might be of interest to our SearchSAP.com audience.
Those who complete the survey can choose to be entered into a drawing for an Amazon.com gift card. That could come in handy for those who have their eye on the Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) Blu-ray – just sayin’.
In addition, you can opt to receive the results of the survey so you can see how your company’s objectives line up with others in your industry.
Both IT people and business users are welcome (and encouraged!) to participate. And don’t worry – the questions are brief with multiple choice answers (no essay questions here!) so the survey won’t take long to complete.
Up to the challenge and want to see how you are doing compared to your peers? Then start here!
Please note: We value your privacy. As such, the survey results will only be published in the aggregate and made available to respondents. Individual survey responses will not be shared with advertisers or other third parties.
July 15, 2011 2:48 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
Now that many companies are mobilizing their applications and access to important data, the U.S. federal government is following suit.
I had the chance to talk to Ramani Vaidyanathan, one of SAP’s head marketing guys for its public sector division in D.C. SAP was recently enlisted to mobilize the government’s stimulus spending data, currently housed on Amazon’s cloud and available on www.recovery.gov.
You may have heard Vice-president Biden talking about the site over the years as a part of the Obama administration’s efforts to make the stimulus spending transparent, as well as hold the program accountable. Citizens can go to the site and see how much stimulus funding has been spent so far by each federal agency, and how many jobs it has created, at the state, local, and congressional district level.
SAP is rolling out a version of the BusinessObjects Explorer dashboard that allows government officials – and anyone else who’s interested – to view the data on iPads and iPhones. Blackberry support for the dashboard, called Recovery Explorer, is also on its way. Government officials will soon have access to the same kind of mobile analytics being used by businesses in this country.
It’s great start, but small-bore compared to how it could be used perhaps. In the age of ever-increasing analytics and in-memory technology, dashboards like the Recovery Explorer could be used to track spending by government departments and agencies if not the entire federal government itself, Vaidyanathan said. No doubt the technology could be used at the state level as well.
That might really create an interesting conversation around how our government can spend money as efficiently as possible – just like a business.
July 7, 2011 1:37 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
, SAP maintenance
, Solution Manager
by Todd Morrison, News and Features Editor
This past week I caught Ray Wang’s webinar about optimizing SAP systems and reducing cost through things like proper test data management. Getting a handle on those systems is increasingly important due to the explosion in the size and scope of today’s test environments, Wang noted.
The aim of the IBM-sponsored webinar was to tout IBM’s Infosphere Optim application for test data management, so it’s no huge surprise that third-party vendors like IBM were touted as having advantages over SAP’s Solution Manager.
A lot of users feel compelled to use Solution Manager because it’s free, Wang said, and that’s a mistake. Third-party applications are typically easier to customize and integrate, and can be a better overall approach given that companies need test data management for both SAP and non-SAP systems.
“Go ahead, use it, and see what you like about it,” Wang said. “I guarantee in six months you’ll be using something else.”
Companies can have it both ways, according to Tony De Thomasis, an SAP Mentor who specializes in Solution Manager.
As SAP itself has pointed out, Solution Manager 7.1 includes tighter integration with third-party testing tools. That gives customers the chance to use Solution Manager testing capabilities, or use third party tools to address testing functionality gaps in Solution Manager, De Thomasis told me.
“Those customers with basic requirements can go with standard Solution Manager,” De Thomasis said. “Customers with existing alliances with third party solutions or more sophisticated requirements can integrate best of breed tools into the IT solution.”
It’s an interesting debate. What are you using at your company for test data management? Is Solution Manager working for you – or have you gone with a third-party tool – or do you use both?
June 28, 2011 3:26 PM
Posted by: Jacquelyn Howard
I recently decided that SAP’s updated StreamWork app for the iPhone was just the kick I needed to try out SAP’s collaborative platform again. Yes, my name is Jackie and I am an app addict, with a side habit of organizing (just ask my local Container Store).
I had tried StreamWork when it was in beta, then known as 12sprints. My manager at the time thought it would be a good way to collaborate on articles. However, we found that we kept working around the system and soon abandoned it.
The 2011 version is much slicker than the beta I tried, so I’ve roped a couple of my colleagues into testing it out on a survey project we have due this summer. In the past, we used Google Docs and wrote comments in the document. This time, we’ll see how we do with places for comments, assigned tasks and timelines. SAP StreamWork integrates with Google Docs (as well as Evernote, Scribd, WebEx and email), so we shouldn’t be too far out of our element.
In the meantime, I asked several folks in the SAP community what they think about StreamWork. The majority of people I asked weren’t too familiar with it:
- “I’ve never heard of StreamWork”
- “I haven’t actually had a chance to use StreamWork at all yet. I do plan to, just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
- “I don’t have any knowledge of the product.”
However, Jim Brogden, a senior consultant with Daugherty Business Solutions, had good things to say.
“My experience with StreamWork was behind the scenes last year during Reportapalooza. We used it to collaborate on ideas around Xcelsius, Crystal Reports, and Interactive Analysis (WebI). It served as a forum for us to communicate effectively while working in different time zones and with different scheduling conflicts.”
David Fox, a principal consultant at Claricent Inc., echoed the benefits of online collaboration.
“There are common threads … on why someone would want to use an online collaboration tool. The big selling point to me is the online presence feature. Regardless of the technology being able to ‘see’ across the population who is available in a distributed environment is of tremendous benefit.”
Fox went on to say that “as in a real-world physical office, ideally, a ‘space’ needs to be able to offer three things in balance
- 1. Privacy
- 2. Permission
- 3. Proximity
Even in the virtual world, folks need the ability to discuss freely in an ‘alcove’ or connect with someone in open communication.”
We’ll see how this initial project goes for the SearchSAP.com team. Right now we’re using the free basic version, which allows each user five activities, 250 MB of storage (for sharing docs) and the ability to save activities for one year. Other plans include a professional version for $9/month per user (100 activities, 5 GB storage, and two-year storage of activities) and an enterprise version ($16/month per user (200 activities, 10 GB storage and three-year storage of activities).
Have you tried SAP StreamWork? If so, what did you think? If you are interested, SAP has a case study with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers up on the StreamWork blog that has screenshots from the desktop and iPhone app versions.
June 24, 2011 8:04 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
WL Plastics and Virtual Graffiti are two companies that started in similar spots with similar problems but ended up in different places.
For years, both used QuickBooks for their back office functions until it creaked so badly they had to find something that would accommodate their growth. For WL Plastics, a Texas-based manufacturer of polyethylene pipe, that time came when the company had to do a significant amount of work in Excel spreadsheets outside of QuickBooks. That created a lot of problems with data consistency, according to Neil Briggs, WL Plastic’s CFO.
Outgrowing QuickBooks brought up different issues for Virtual Graffiti, a California-based provider of software applications and consulting services that specializes in network security.
Although QuickBooks allows roughly 25 users on the system, the system began slowing down to a point where it was hard to get anything done with 20 users, according to Hillel Sackstein, Virtual Graffiti’s president.
“It was hardly usable,” he said.
Virtual Graffiti needed something that could be extended and modified to meet the demands of the company, which grew 30% over last year and now brings in over $23 million in revenue.
But where WL Plastics chose Business ByDesign because it comes closest to matching the functionality of the Business Suite in an on-demand environment, Sackstein went with the on-premises Business One application for small to medium sized businesses because he felt it was more flexible.
“I have previous experience using the NetSuite product and found that it was extremely limiting when it comes to integration and customization,” Sackstein said. Business ByDesign had the same kind of issues, he concluded.
SAP contends that it’s no longer just for large enterprises anymore. Now that SAP can claim they have a variety of applications that cater to the SMB market, each with a different set of advantages and benefits that businesses are responding to, is the claim finally valid?
June 20, 2011 2:31 PM
Posted by: Todd Morrison
At the recent Sapphire Now conference I met Mike O’Dell, a man with story to tell, about how he was saving money on IT by sharing his staff with other companies.
O’Dell is the CIO for Pacific Coast Companies, Inc., which makes and sells a range of home building products.
As I wrote earlier this week, O’Dell “shares” his SAP IT resources with other companies that have the same kind of environments – but which aren’t competitors of his -through a kind of informal “co-op” arrangement. Pacific Coast lets the companies use his IT staff at about 25% less than they’d typically have to pay a consulting firm, and Pacific Coast in turn saves money. Both sides win.
Additional cost savings come from Pacific Coast only working on an “as-needed” basis, even if comes down to thirty minutes during the day on a particular project.
Despite the success of the program so far, O’Dell is looking for more of a real co-op, in which companies are able to share resources interchangeably and outside consultants are unnecessary. He’s getting there, as he recently began helping one company, Idaho-based Woodgrain Millwork, which not only needs Pacific Coast’s SAP expertise, but has some resources around virtualization and VMWare that Pacific Coast wants.
When I spoke to O’Dell, he talked a lot about helping companies out with Basis support, routine SAP kind of stuff, as well as helping share his non-SAP IT staff around things like SharePoint.
But O’Dell was only telling part of the story.