SAP Watch


October 10, 2011  7:15 PM

SAP StreamWork: Collaboration in the cloud

Jacquelyn Howard Jacquelyn Howard Profile: Jacquelyn Howard

At the 2011 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference, I had the chance to talk with Holly Simmons, senior director of marketing, SAP BusinessObjects OnDemand, about the upcoming integration with SAP StreamWork with Feature Pack 3 for SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 (more to come on Feature Pack 3 soon).

Although you might not be aware, SAP’s online collaboration tool is already integrated with a number of applications, including CRM (market planning), product lifecycle management (PLM) and strategy management (to capture the up-front planning process among a team). In addition, in Feature Pack 3, open APIs allow companies to develop more integration if they want – for example, to create templates for commonly used documents.

With the upcoming BI integration, users will be able to send documents directly between SAP StreamWork and the BI LaunchPad. For instance, a team leader can send a report on how certain tee shirt colors are doing in the market and solicit feedback from the team about which colors should stay – without leaving the BI application.

“It allows more people to participate in the collaboration,” said Simmons. “StreamWork captures the BI social structure.”

Role-based access helps users keep documents secure – for example, users can opt to allow anyone to invite others to share the documents or set it so only the users can initiate sharing. SAP has partnered with Novel to provide the security component of StreamWork. “It’s the second thing people usually ask about StreamWork, after asking what it does,” said Simmons.

According to Simmons, a good use case for using StreamWork is in sales and operations planning. Companies can invite vendors (outside of the company) to view documents as needed to help shorten the decision-making process. StreamWork keeps a record of comments and correspondence to refer to later if needed,

Other use cases Simmons described included consultancies sharing documents with clients and non-profits managing volunteer activity and events. In fact, Simmons noted that SAP itself used StreamWork to keep track of the merger and acquisitions activities with the Sybase acquisition.

“SAP is looking at collaboration differently,” explained Simmons. “StreamWork becomes the foundation across silos.”

Simmons also gave me a sneak peek at the upcoming iPad and iPhone apps for StreamWork, which lets users to manage feeds and activities on the go. Speaking of future updates to StreamWork, Simmons mention that it’s a bit of a “cluttered roadmap.” Upcoming SAP integration applications include SAP ERP HCM — for employee on boarding and skill matrixes — and SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management (BPM) — for creating “gravity” maps that can be imported directly from StreamWork in to BPM.

 “[StreamWork is the] social foundation for everything we do,” said Simmons.

October 6, 2011  5:24 PM

When it comes to HANA-powered ERP, will SMEs get there first?

Todd Morrison Todd Morrison Profile: Todd Morrison

Last week, I listened to a SAP webinar ostensibly about the benefits that HANA and in-memory technology holds for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

The webinar offered a fairly thorough of HANA and in-memory technology, but SAP didn’t really spend much time on how SMEs will use the technology in the future – and the role SMEs will play in HANA’s overall roadmap.  And that’s part of the problem – it really isn’t saying much.

Right now, HANA and in-memory technology is discussed in primarily large enterprise terms, because they’re the ones that benefit most of all from HANA’s ability to crunch large sets of data in real-time.  And they’re also the ones who can pay for the hardware that HANA now demands, something few SMEs may be will to afford at this point.

“I don’t expect [those hardware] costs to go down anytime soon,” Forrester analyst Boris Evelson told me.

But what’s interesting is that, unlike in the past, SMEs will get first crack at in-memory technology when it comes to transactional processing, given that SAP’s been running both Business One and Business ByDesign in SAP’s labs for some time now. Part of the logic is that it’s far easier to experiment with HANA on a smaller ERP system than more complicated Business Suite software as analyst Jon Reed, one of the panelists in the webinar, noted after the session.

So what might this look like in the coming months?

Laurie McCabe notes some of the possible cost benefits for SMEs when it comes to adopting in-memory technology:

The good news here for SMBs is that while SAP Business Suite customers will pay extra for high-test HANA performance, customers using SAP’s SMB-centric solutions will get at least some of this added horsepower as part of the normal upgrade cycle, at no additional charge. However, at this stage, it’s still fuzzy as to exactly how SAP will embed and deliver HANA in its SMB portfolio, what will be included, and what will be priced separately.

Fuzzy, indeed.

Regardless, SMEs in the past have gotten SAP’s more cutting edge technology only after it’s trickled down from their big-enterprise brethren.  But when it comes to HANA’s perceived ability to speed transactional processing, being smaller isn’t a bad thing.


September 21, 2011  1:42 PM

SAP change management strategy: Super users

Todd Morrison Todd Morrison Profile: Todd Morrison

One company’s recent deployment of SAP for Banking is a good reminder that in the end, change management is all about “people strategies.”

As a part of its SAP deployment, Home Trust, a mortgage lender in Canada, identified people throughout the company who would have a key role in propelling the project forward at the employee level, and then gave those key adopters additional, specialized training so that they could answer fellow employees’ questions about the new system. Home Trust identified roughly 35 people out of its 500 employees to become super users.

Some were directly involved with the project from the very beginning, according to Home Trust CEO Martin Reid.  In many cases, the super users already had higher technical skills than many of their employees and were therefore good candidates to become experts on how the new ERP functioned, and its benefits.

“They were the key people to talk to for information before go live, and definitely after go live,” Reid said. “They were the first line of questioning if anyone needed any help.  That proved very successful.”

Using super users isn’t a new idea, of course, just a good one. Loads of others have written about it, and consultant Christian Matz recommended the practice in this piece I wrote this past spring.

Joe Dollries, a consultant with itelligence consulting in Cincinnati, Ohio, writes that super users also help take the heat off of precious IT personnel. Effective super users, he goes on to say, need to care about the process team’s success and love learning in general.  But they also need to be good problem solvers and good communicators, as well as adapt to change easily.

There are other advantages to using super users, too, beyond making the transition smoother for business users.  As has been noted, it’s also a lot cheaper to use employees as trainers than consultants.


September 15, 2011  12:02 AM

Are customers getting more than basic monitoring out of SAP Solution Manager?

Todd Morrison Todd Morrison Profile: Todd Morrison

Here in Las Vegas for the annual SAP TechEd conference, I ran into Tim Smoker, a Basis administrator for the High Company, a construction company out of Lancaster, Pa.

Like just about everyone here, Smoker is here on a mission. While many are asking questions around Solution Manager 7.1 which SAP announced on Monday is now generally available, Smoker is more interested in getting more out of version 4.0 version his the company has been using since it deployed SAP ERP five years ago. It hasn’t been using the application lifecycle management tool as much as it could or should, he told me.  A lot of that is because the company didn’t have time – or didn’t plan for – getting beyond basic functionality when it got the system up and running.

Smoker guessed the company is only using roughly half of Solution Manager’s functionality, mostly for basic monitoring and issue tracking. Smoker is most interested in Solution Manager functionality that can help with overall system performance.

By the end of the first day, Smoker hadn’t found many of the answers he’s looking for, except for determining that he’d probably be consulting with SAP support after the conference.  Until then, Smoker said he would be attending some of the sessions around Solution Manager, including some of the hands-on workshops. “It’s still early,” he told me.

As analyst Ray Wang has noted before, some customers opt for third-party tools rather than go with Solution Manager.  But for those that have opted to stay with SAP, how many are getting the most out of the application?


September 5, 2011  4:37 PM

SAP wins the latest round in Oracle court fight

Todd Morrison Todd Morrison Profile: Todd Morrison

What is it with the Oracle-SAP legal battles and holidays?

Last year, just before Thanksgiving, a jury in California delivered a whopping $1.3 billion verdict in favor of Oracle in its IP theft lawsuit against SAP and its former subsidiary TomorrowNow.  That immediately set in motion a lot of tongue-wagging over whether the damages awarded were excessive.

Last week, just before the start of Labor Day weekend, the same judge in the case sided with SAP’s appeal that the figure wasn’t based on actual damages, calling it “grossly excessive” and “contrary to the weight of evidence.”

As you can imagine, SAP applauded the judge’s decision.  Oracle, not so much.

“There was voluminous evidence regarding the massive scope of the theft, clear involvement of SAP management in the misconduct and the tremendous value of the IP stolen. We believe the jury got it right and we intend to pursue the full measure of damages that we believe are owed to Oracle,” the company said in a statement.

So what now?  The judge instead knocked the judgment way down to $272 million, a far cry from the original $1.7 billion Oracle thought it was due, and closer to the $40 million SAP said was fair compensation for TomorrowNow’s actions. Oracle can either let the judgment stand – which seems unlikely given their statement yesterday – or request a new trial.

Given all that it has on its plate, Rachel King thinks Oracle might just want to call it a day.


August 19, 2011  8:08 PM

How secure is data in the cloud?

Todd Morrison Todd Morrison Profile: Todd Morrison

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

SAP, Google and geospatial analytics

Todd Morrison Todd Morrison Profile: Todd Morrison

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

Adoption of SAP ECC 6.0 surges in the UK

Todd Morrison Todd Morrison Profile: Todd Morrison

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

How do your SCM, MES and PLM initiatives compare to that of your peers?

Jacquelyn Howard Jacquelyn Howard Profile: 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

Is the U.S. government going SAP mobile?

Todd Morrison Todd Morrison Profile: 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.


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