Axel Angeli is a veteran SAP guru with a reputation for brutal honesty about the ERP market. You probably saw his predictions for SAP trends 2007 the other week. Well, Axel had more insights to share about what’s going on in the SAP world, so we gave him the opportunity to write a guest editorial! Also don’t miss the follow-up columns SAP under fire: Axel responds and SAP under fire: Axel speaks out on what SAP should do next.
The broad strokes
For SAP AG, the year 2007 will be the most critical one in the recent history. While the company is still working on revamping its product line, the competitors are preparing to attack. While the ABAP engine makes slight progress, the ERP components still wait for many enhancements requested by customers. This negligence will play well into the hands of SAP challengers, mainly Microsoft with its Dynamics AX, the latest version of AXAPTA.
Not surprisingly, SOA will continue to be the driving subject in IT as companies begin to have a clearer vision of SOA benefits and governance and they start XI implementations in masses, driving the market into a proper shortage in XI consultants.
CRM and BW are fairly saturated so the business is ready to concentrate on another trend topic: the Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) field.
Looking beyond SAP, we see a steep incline in interest for Knowledge Management (Content Management Systems, CMS) and collaboration tools for project management, appliances and Open Source Public License solutions.
2007 will be the year of the practical break-through of the Service Oriented Architecture. While 2006 was governed by SOA governance concerns, I expect a great number of real life implementations to take place. SAP marketing did too good work here. The number of companies that have scheduled XI implementations is rapidly growing — a development that might bring SAP into trouble when it comes to support them all. XI is still not mature enough to be an out-of-the-box solution. The product kernel is widely stable but there are still missing precautions to cope with data affluence and adapter misbehavior.
These problems can now be circumvented by using safe implementation practices and sober asynchronous architecture, but the number of experienced XI architectures is extremely sparse and education in best practices of SOA has hardly started. Given that middleware XI projects are likely to be mission critical, this situation will mean heavy sea for SAP and give a chance to competitors to step into the gap. As of today, XI implementations are fine but in heavy-duty solutions an architecture is good advice if XI is complemented with some best of breed tools like IBM MQ as message store, Seeburger or SmartEDI for any EDI solution and relying on Windows framework as an adapter engine for everything beyond ODBC/jDBC.
ERP status quo
In the ERP area, there won’t be tremendous changes this year because companies are mainly occopied with SOA issues or with upgrading and consolidating their current installations. Nevertheless, SAP will see its first serious challenges. Microsoft AXAPTA has loaded their arsenal to attack the market shares of SAP in the higher end of the SMB market benefiting widely from the intransparent pricing policy of SAP’s SMB approach.
Content Management gaining importance
Content and knowledge management has been neglected for a long time.
With the growing number of Internet literates, there will be an increasing insight that Google-like search engines, agile document management systems like Wikipedia, blogs and shared data repositories are precious tools for project management as well.
When you look for any kind of information today, you look it up in the Internet via Google, Yahoo, A9 or Wikipedia — and in most cases, you find a satisfying solution. The document management within companies, however, still takes place in the file system. Documents are distributed via email and finding back information is normally a nightmare. But now Internet technology reaches the intranet as well.
Google gave it a start with its enterprise version of the search engine. It comes preinstalled and configured in a hardware blade server that simply needs to be connected to power and a network and it starts spidering the documents within the reach in the intranet. From there on you have Google search functionality on the internal documents. SAP will use its advantage that its software is already ubiquitous in enterprises to present the solution manager and its knowledge management as an alternative. But the appeal of the plug-and-play offer of the Google appliance will be hard to beat. From the pure software side, Microsoft SharePoint will be an honest contender to SAP KM and EP.
Do you agree with Axel’s assessment? Did SAP drop the ERP ball? Is Microsoft poised to give SAP a hard time? Are we at the beginning of a CMS boom? Will there be happy days for XI consultants this year? Sound off on these issues to win a book bundle:
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UPDATE: Rob Ericsson from L10 Systems is the lucky winner of the book bundle. The raffle is over, but we’re always interested to hear your opinion so feel free to keep sending additional comments.