We received a tremendous amount of reader feedback on veteran site expert Axel Angeli’s recent guest editorial SAP under fire: Axel Angeli on why 2007 will be tough for SAP. Here are some of the reader comments and Axel’s responses.
“I agree with Axel’s assessment that Microsoft Sharepoint will give SAP KM and EP a run for its money. I, with a group of other ‘pioneers’, have started an ASUG Special Interest Group to investigate and influence the interoperability of Sharepoint and the SAP Enterprise Portal. Many SAP customers will license the Sharepoint MOSS solution over the next few years because it certainly wins the ‘beauty contest’ and gives SAP a run for its money on robust search functionality.
Where Sharepoint is falling short is tying document management to business process via workflow and transactions. This is where you use Sharepoint for the user interface and document repository, but you run SAP workflow to handle the business processes, like approving documents based on document type and user hierarchies from HR organizational structures. I do not tout myself an expert in this area as we have just begun our journey down the path of interoperability, but I do see this being a relevant space within the SAP-Microsoft ecosystem.
— Name withheld, SAP Business Analyst, Longmont, Colo.”
Axel: I am happy to read this comment. I am convinced that something needed to be done in this areas. SAP has all the necessary features including a basic WEBDAV support, allowing one to map any SAP repository data source as a network drive. One should maybe make clear to the Sharepoint newcomers that Sharepoint stands for two completely different elements: the Sharepoint Services and Sharepoint Portal Server. The Sharepoint Services allow reading and writing back documents to a Sharepoint enabled server, while the Sharepoint Portal is a content management system that makes use of Sharepoint Services but otherwise is just another “Portal” and competes with SAP EP in this respect. We integrated Sharepoint Services successfully to open source CMS like Joomla or DRUPAL, hence I don’t see a reason why it should not comply with EP as well.
I would love to eventually read more on the progress of your ASUG SIG project and maybe participate on a blog on this.
“First of all, I think SAP didn’t drop the ball. I think SAP is doing very good job. SAP has already released its major version ECC 6.0 in 2006. No major releases are due until 2010. So SAP is up to date in all areas of ERP. SAP is ready to complete enterprise SOA technology. More enterprise SOA implementation projects and SAP upgrade projects will be implemented in 2007. As a result, more XI projects will be implemented in 2007 and demand for XI skills increases. Microsoft cannot compete with SAP in the ERP marketplace. They are still far away from SAP’s level. Microsoft enters every niche market. That doesn’t mean they can compete with SAP in the ERP market.
— Sobhan Annepu, Sr. Programming Analyst at Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Birmingham, Ala.”
Axel: Saying that SAP didn’t drop the ball may certainly be a matter of how you interpret the situation. I would say that SAP exactly DID drop the ball by putting a moratorium on release upgrades for four years and hence leaving ERP in the current state. It feels like leaving the dish in the kitchen sink after an opulent dinner. A moratorium will exactly be the kind of advantage that the competition is waiting for to dash into the gap.
When it comes to the mid-sized markets, SAP ERP won’t win the beauty contest. ECC is strong in features but weak when it comes to agility. For small and diversified production sites, the Microsoft AX “Hub and Spoke” concept appears to be more convincing. If I am asked to give a proper advice in strategy to SAP product life cycle management, I would opt for efforts to break down the SD/MM/PP complex into small objects that can be decorated by the customer at discretion if production is concerned that might be done on the basis of an “APO light”.
The weakness of Microsoft is currently the fact that AX (formerly: Axapta) still falls out of the Office licensing scheme and the frightening low number of developers that are familiar with the software. However, the latest release of AX sports a virtual machine and a script-like programming language that speaks for a serious effort to attack the markets of SAP. It might be a correct perception that Microsoft is ready to enter every niche market, but so does SAP.
I acknowledge that there will be an XI boom in 2007 and I already have predicted a shortage in skilled XI technical people. However, I stand firm to my belief that SAP has not yet reached a practical SOA, although I am certain that they are on track and will take over leadership in less than three years from now.
As always, we welcome your input. Reply to this post or send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.