It is some time since I reviewed the world of SAP Business ByDesign. That's hardly surprising since ByDesign has often been characterized as the red headed bastard child. Even so, and as has become a tradition at this time of year, Rainer Zinow, SVP product management for SAP mid-market solutions recently pushed out a video detailing progress in 2019 and roadmap information for 2020.
Zinow is a rare constant at ByDesign that is unusual in the public face of SAP. As such, he speaks with confidence but without the arrogance so often seen among enterprise vendors. Throughout his remarkably concise 20 minute video presentation, Zinow kept coming back to the partnership he believes SAP holds with its customers, demonstrating it with vignettes and roadmap pointers. But how well has ByDesign performed this year. Check out this slide.
For the observant in the crowd, I had a similar slide in my 2018 report which, if you compare with this one has some calculation issues. Fear not. The comparison being made now relates to figures drawn in October 2019. The 2018 figures were drawn later in the year.
The key point that Zinow mentions is that ByDesign is now profitable for SAP. It's been a long time and a huge investment but there is profit. Another key point comes in a discussion about deployment methods. As far as I know, Zinow is the only SAP executive to publicly and unequivocally acknowledge that on-premises is going away, albeit slowly in many business processes. I suspect that is because so much of SAP's marketing attention is thrown at S/4HANA, where SAP is working to cement its future with G2000 companies who, by and large, are continuing with on-premises deployments for core ERP processes. At least for the time being. See slide below to get a sense of how this plays out for SAP customers.
Zinow understands only too well that attempting to reach every market is not something SAP (or anyone else for that matter) can do. Instead, he characterizes ByDesign, and in another video BusinessOne, as representing a Lego baseplate to which SAP has attached certain Lego building blocks (think CRM, Finance etc) and onto which both partners and customers want to add business specific functionality.
Enter SAP Cloud Platform where the intent in 2020 is to ensure that partners developing for SAP solutions only have to do so once and then map to BusinessOne, ByDesign or S/4. This is what co-CEO Christian Klein means when he talks about a unified data model.
Enter also Fiori, SAP's Version of a modern UI which is used for any deployment method, whether that is desktop or mobile. From SAP's perspective, this means that users don't ned to learn different UIs, a significant issue when thinking about mobile versus desktop.
As might be expected, SAP continues to invest heavily in legs and regs compliance. This has been a key differentiator for SAP over the years but it does represent an investment rabbit hole that consumes a LOT of the development budget, especially in HR related applications and payroll.
This is a huge investment for us and our customers, IFRS 16 and Europe's GDPR data privacy regulation. That thing was heavy lifting but we have done it...it's all about how you manage data.
In the video, Zinow shows how this is accomplished using a graphical point and click method. From what I saw, the means by which data privacy officers can respond to data requests is easy and intuitive, allowing them to show what data must be kept and which can be deleted.
For developers, SAP has been opening up access to web services and, according to Zinow:
You can reach all of the business critical capabilities ByDesign brings to the table, also by web services. And I can tell you the web service consumption of that platform grew by a factor of 20 over the last two years.
SAP has published the ByDesign roadmap for 2020. It can be find here but you may need to register to gain access. Here is an example from the Business Scenarios slide:
Key highlights are not very astonishing. We will continue to invest in legal compliance, there are some rounds offs for IFRS16, we will consume more of our intelligent capabilities...you can also see that many of the influence requests that were recorded in the influence portal made it into the roadmap...one of may asks to you, I always prefer to build something where I find an entry in the influence portal with a relatively high vote count rather than thinking about new capabilities where I'm not sure if anyone needs it.
Finally, Zinow talked to the topic of the role of the SAP Cloud Platform, The slide below gives you a good idea of the direction in which SAP is traveling but the key point to bear in mind is that SAP is moving away from ABAP as the preferred language, talking up Node.js for server side operations and TypeScript as its preferred language. This is predicated on Zinow's acknowledgement that JS is what young people learn.
This was an interesting presentation at multiple levels.
The video format used by Zinow is concise, sticks to what customers want to hear and doesn't make outlandish promises. For this observer, it is the way to go.
You can argue that ByDesign is a relatively 'simple' ERP solution and that it is therefore easy to communicate a coherent message. That would seriously underestimate what ByDesign delivers. It is clear that ByDesign is taking advantage of the much larger engineering challenges such as ML, IIoT, cloud platform and business intelligence efforts that SAP is putting into S/4HANA. That is not dissimilar to the manner in which NetSuite takes advantage of Oracle developments and to which Brian Sommer recently referred.
After 12 years of work and precious little marketing support, I am constantly amazed at Zinow's boundless enthusiasm for a solution that at times has seemed in danger of being rendered extinct. The way it is now positioned, the enhancements both made and envisioned and the commonality of both process and UI make it a natural on-ramp for customers who may grow into S/4 at a later date. Whereas in the past, customers might have to take R/3-ECC (and now S/4) as their only choices, ByDesign is emerging as a highly credible tier two proposition at a price point that works for the mid-market.
The only question in my mind for 2020 is whether it will receive its earned share of marketing support and attention.