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SAP - the roadmap for simplicity

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy October 21, 2014
While SAP continues to develop HANA and broaden its reach, it needs to articulate a roadmap for simplicity. This will not be an easy task.

Björn Goerke
Björn Goerke

Björn Goerke, EVP and Corporate Officer, SAP Product & Innovation Technology was always going to have a tough time following Steve Lucas's upbeat opening keynote at SAP TechEd && d-code.

Even so, he delivered a keynote that was long on HANA technical topics and included a fresh diet of partners and examples of how the developer ecosystem - the new kingmakers as he called them - are delivering new value to SAP's customers.

It was a polished performance that, on a straw exit poll, satisfied the appetite of SAP technical people keen to know what is coming next. It was not without humour.

Like many SAPpers, Goerke is science fiction fan and drew upon examples from the past to paint a picture of SAP providing technology that allows customers to use their imaginations to dream of the impossible. Fanciful? Not so much given some of the great work we saw on display.

And the humorous noted continued. Goerke's statement that the next version of HANA:

...will be out in the [SAP] store in time for Christmas...

...set off a comical set of Tweets that talked to the upcoming US tradition of deep shopping discounts on Black Friday:

Great demos, solid announcements

gas industry events in Amsterdam
Comedy aside, there were some very good demonstrations illustrating for example how a mixture of technologies is helping Dutch energy company Alliander create maintenance work orders in a matter of seconds when there are at risk pipelines. The previous process took hours which, as the company said, is unacceptable.

Sprinkled  in and amongst were reminders of HANA's capabilities both now and into the immediate future.

One thing that caught my eye was the inclusion of support for ACID compliant graph databases. For those unfamiliar, a graph database is a relatively new entrant to the burgeoning database scene. Typically, they are used where related information is in unstructured form and where the application requires the discovery or use of data sets of similar attributes. Graph databases typically run super fast which make them an interesting candidate for inclusion in a HANA based landscape.

I was also impressed by SAP's continuing mention of competitor solutions as data sources (SugarCRM and Salesforce stick in the memory) and the notion that SAP has woken up to the fact that it operates in a heterogeneous world where it needs to attract non-SAP developers. As if to reinforce that message, Goerke brought Apigee on stage to talk about the latest partnership between the two companies which we recently analysed.

The roadmap for simplification

But it was in the post keynote session when Goerke was joined by Lucas, Irfan Khan, CTO for SAP Global Customer Operations and Jonathan Becher, CMO SAP where things got interesting. Albert Pang, CEO AppsRunTheWorld, Holger Mueller, Constellation Research and myself successively dug into the issue of simplification at SAP.

This is a critical question that was kicked into play by Bill McDermott, CEO SAP at SAPPHIRE Now but which has lacked clarity and detail. The questions started when Lucas admitted that the recent ASUG News customer survey results cause him a great deal of personal angst. He said:

I won't say I had sleepless nights but many restless nights...It's too hard to customise SAP...we've got to simplify that...We need to speak the language of value to the customer - we've got to do a better job of listening.

That's all very well but what does it mean. I asked:

Does this combination of announcements and partnerships finally signal the death knell for the 'not invented here' syndrome that has plagued so much potential progress for SAP and its customers?

The answer from both Lucas and Goerke was a simple: 'Yes.' But again - what does this mean? I offered up the example of ISVs who are faced with 120 pages of contract requiring 8 months of negotiation while at the same time being offered deals from other vendors on contracts they can sign in days? Guess where the deals go? Becher closed out with:

We know we have to do better and we will. It won't be overnight but you can call us out if we don't do what's needed.

I sincerely hope those words don't come back to haunt the company because the customers and ISVs I have spoken with are now making clear that SAP has to solve this problem.

We have heard similar talk before but the history of progress has been one of continuing battles where each victory for openness is hard won. What I think makes this time different was Gorke's assertion in a follow up meeting that the whole of SAP leadership is on board with the simplification story but that now it needs structure.

This is a many headed beast that has complexity baked in every step of the way. It means everything from customer interactions through to support through to partner on boarding, contracts, access to code, setting the boundaries between proprietary and open source. The list goes on.

What is now needed is a 'roadmap for simplicity' something that I've not seen but which would give everyone in the SAP ecosystem a sense of the imminent topics being addressed.

After the various meetings, John Appleby, Jon Reed and myself were invited to discuss what we see as top of mind topics for customers at this event. Our answers are set out below in the video shot with show host Thomas Wailgum, editor of ASUGNews. The roadmap for simplicity was our parting shot. Enjoy.

Disclosure: SAP is a premier partner at time of writing. SAP covered most of both Jon Reed and my travel expenses for the show and provided us with video recording facilities.

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