SAP Watch

Apr 14 2008   9:54AM GMT

Clouding the issue: Google and partner

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

Fresh off a throwdown with former SAP CEO Hasso Plattner, Marc Benioff, CEO of, has hooked up with Google. Going forward, Google Apps (including Gmail and Google Talk) will integrate seamlessly with the platform. For sales reps working in both Google and environments, this integration greatly simplifies work processes. However, early media coverage of the partnership goes much further, claiming that cloud computing is finally about to take off in the enterprise environment. In order to evaluate that claim, it’s a good idea to look at what enterprises can actually do in Google Apps:

  • Google site search
  • Google internal search
  • Google Earth and maps
  • Existing Google tools (including Gmail, Google Talk, Google Docs, intranet functionality)

All of these are popular and important online tools, but it isn’t clear why their integration with represents any kind of forward leap for cloud computing. To relate this back to the Plattner-Benioff debate, one has to ask if online calendar syncing and email integration is the future of software. Whether you call it Software as a Service (SaaS), on demand, or cloud computing, can it: Calculate the profit margins on products based on changing inputs and production activities? Create flow-through, executable production plans for manufacturing? Segment suppliers based on their profitability to a buyer? Prevent stock-outs? Speed up the order-to-cash cycle? No one’s arguing that it’s impossible for SaaS to address some of these business needs, but it’s telling that two companies the size and prominence of Google and are still trumpeting calendar syncing as some kind of killer business app.

Enterprise applications already address the core issues and challenges of business, which are not likely to change. In order to prove Benioff’s debate point against Plattner, SaaS companies have to do what companies such as SAP do, only cheaper. For SaaS to try to convince businesses that what they actually need is not a suite of applications but a handful of productivity tools is condescending to the complexity faced by business.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

2  Comments on this Post

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  • Bryan B.
    Demir, you make some good points, but I find other comments to be almost belittling to customers of Google or Salesforce, which include plenty of "enterprises" and SAP customers. (I'm a customer of all three.) Sure, Salesforce and Google are experts at hype, but isn't the media's job to sort through it and put it in context? I agree with you that this announcement isn't a leap for cloud computing -- a step, maybe. I sure hope calendar syncing and email integration ARE the future of software, because I can't do it now (at least not very easily). Clearly though, this new integration is about more than that. Microsoft's Office suite is a multi-billion dollar product line -- Google wants a part of that market. Integration with Salesforce increases their value proposition. For me, Salesforce (and others) already does what SAP could do -- SFA and CRM -- and for MUCH cheaper. So I'm anxious for more!
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  • Demir Barlas
    Hi Bryan, Thanks for your comment. Here are my responses: "Microsoft’s Office suite is a multi-billion dollar product line — Google wants a part of that market. Integration with Salesforce increases their value proposition." Interestingly, this is the past of (B2C) computing, not the future of B2B computing! It's almost 2010, and instead of moon tourism we have calendar syncing. I suppose I expected more of enterprise software in general, and am dismayed that the entire industry has offered little or no new compelling functionality in years. Of course, the counter-argument is that core business processes are boring, predictable stuff, and so B2B software will follow suit. "For me, Salesforce (and others) already does what SAP could do — SFA and CRM — and for MUCH cheaper." SAP has never made a serious commitment to CRM. SAP's crown jewels are back-end enterprise applications, not front-office applications. SAP should worry when the back-end stuff becomes available on demand, and with 80% of traditional functionality. Right now, on demand ERP is hardly worth the name. There's a report circulating out there from a boutique firm that suggests that on demand CRM growth in the U.S. and Western Europe is slowing down, because just about everyone who wants to be on board is already on board. This market has been aggressively built and exploited over the past ten years but, again, it's the boring, predictable stuff (like data management, for example, or compliance-friendly financials) that may ultimately have the legs. All food for thought, of course. Best, Demir Barlas Site Editor
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