SAP Watch

Jun 29 2010   8:09PM GMT

Can SAP innovate quickly and quietly?

CourtneyBjorlin Courtney Bjorlin Profile: CourtneyBjorlin

SAP CTO Vishal Sikka is big on the mantra “innovation without disruption.”

But in a recent research note, Gartner analysts make the case that while the “on-premise, on-demand, on-device, in-memory” vision that SAP proposes is innovative and exciting for its customers, it’s also potentially pretty disruptive. SAP still needs to prove to customers where, and how, it all fits in.

In particular, Gartner urges customers to press for clarity on:

  • Roadmaps and anticipated upgrade costs for the SAP Business Analytics? Engine before customers make any significant upgrades to BW
  • The impact of Project Gateway on NetWeaver portal deployments and user interface strategy
  • Future support for non-Sybase mobile products deployed once the Sybase acquisition settles
  • Line-of-business functionality plans plan for the Business Suite, as there was little talk about strategy for the Business Suite beyond Enhancement Package 5
  • SAP’s in a catch-22 nowadays. It needs to be loud about what it’s doing to innovate, in an attempt to reach new demographics and shed the image of stodgy SAP. But that means it’s often talking about initiatives long before they’re even close to ramp-up stage. Case in point “Elements,” a Web 2.0-ish project debuted to me at Enterprise 2.0 – may not even be productized.

    It’s not that it’s a bad thing; it’s actually a welcomed change. Customers want and need to know what’s coming. But that doesn’t come without challenges.

    What SAP’s doing is, well, hard. After Hasso Plattner’s Sapphire speech, I’ve had more than a few conversations with customers who told me “this in-memory thing they’re proposing is extremely difficult, if they can pull it off, they will really change the game.” We got some sense of just how difficult it’s going to be when we saw last week that SAP is hiring up to 300 application developers, project managers, cloud computing experts, mobile developers and those with deep partner experience for its SAP Lab in the US.

    Debuting so many innovative things at once, not detailing when they’ll be available or how they’ll be adopted, runs the risk of confusing customers, something Gartner points out in its Sapphire analysis.

    “SAP must get to the next level of communication clarity on how it will deliver its vision very quickly,” the note stated. “Without that clarity, it risks confusing customers and causing them to hold off on investments in current offerings.”

    UPDATE: My colleague Colin Steele, editor on, blogged about how the innovation race is affecting VMware. Check it out here.

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