SAP is actively supporting a group of bloggers here at Sapphire in Vienna. Yesterday I engaged in a lengthy discussion between a half dozen bloggers and Pascal Brosset, Senior Vice President of Market Strategy for SAP.
The conversation was wide-ranging, with Pascal describing his overall goals and the mandate of his job. Fundamentally, Pascal is involved with helping SAP understand what customers will need and demand in the future. These anticipated customer requirements are used to guide SAP’s product strategy and the corresponding investment decisions required to build future products.
From the perspective of project success and failure, which is the focus of this blog, Pascal made a few important points:
- Simplification. The future holds smaller, increasingly well-defined products tailored to the needs of specific groups of companies and industries. The assumption here is that SAP software embodies a rich set of carefully-researched best practices, which the great majority of SAP customers will find very workable. These “prescriptive solutions” trade flexibility for simplicity, which SAP believes is in the best interests of it’s market. Basically, it’s the old 80/20 rule in action.
- “Custom code over my dead body.” Pascal believes strongly (I am definitely understating here) that SAP customers should virtually never write custom code. Custom code in a packaged solution creates a variety of evils, which taken together lead to cost and time over-runs downstream, aside from increased development costs and risks during the project. During the discussion of custom code, he asked the rhetorical question, “Would you customize your telephone?”. I understood this to mean that a well-defined solution, performing more or less as the user requires, should not need be redesigned by customers in the field. I do agree with this point, by the way.
Overall, my impression was quite positive. Much of what he said is logical, and corresponds to my own understanding of the real pains and experiences of customers. Clearly, Pascal is very serious about his mission and about charting a course that does the right thing for SAP customers.
Note to the naysayers: if all this sounds uncritically positive, well, I call it exactly as I see it.
Update 5/17/07: For more on the subject of simplification at SAP, see this posting: http://projectfailures.com/blog/2007/5/17/more-on-simplification-at-sap-sapphire-vienna.html