SAP's annual Influencer Summit, being held this week in Boston, brings together about 250 customers, bloggers, analysts, journalists, and others who affect customer buying decisions in the SAP market.
Based on conversations with SAP executives, analysts, and bloggers, here are several initial impressions of the event. These are preliminary comments based on presentations that are in progress.
Business byDesign remains a top focus. Executive Board member, Jim Hagemann Snabe, said that SAP plans to deliver a general release version during 2010 that meets the company's TCO targets.
"If BBD goes to volume distro in 2010 I expect it will move to top of list for SaaS ERP based on functional footprint."
Social computing matters. SAP spoke about "tools that are not prescriptive, but opportunistic." This description, and accompanying presentation diagrams, suggest that SAP continues to give deep thought to integrating unstructured data into the enterprise. In other words, SAP recognizes the growing, and inevitable, importance of social networking among its customers. The company is taking a long view and I suspect is planting deep roots in this domain. However, only time will tell whether those roots grow fruit that customers find valuable.
Cloud matters (a whole heck of a lot) to SAP. Chief Technology Officer, Vishal Sikka, took pains to explain that SAP is already cloud-oriented. He used the example of SAP's role supporting iTunes store transactions, which uses a cloud-based architecture. SAP's enterprise DNA necessarily leads to complexity, a problem that the company seems to recognize. I think SAP is likely to focus on simpler, more consumer-oriented messages to help the market better understand what it is trying to achieve. Of course, the market demands simplicity and SAP has work to do in this area.
I asked Altimeter group analyst, Ray Wang, for his thoughts on the event so far:
It's apparent SAP now has a better understanding of the market pressures facing customers. Customers need innovation even though the pace of innovation runs faster than the pace of adoption. Customers want a road map from SAP to helps them get from point A to B with good ROI and that meets their industry's specific needs. The messages have improved. Now SAP must put strategy to execution in order to achieve their goal of clarity.
Top independent CRM analyst, Denis Pombriant, also shared his first impressions of the event. Denis wants SAP to further address points related to business risk and uncertainty, especially given the current difficult economy:
SAP has accurately identified most of the business drivers of the near future including economic uncertainty, time to value, changing customers and sustainability. I think they need to do more to tease apart risk and uncertainty. Much of what we currently think of as risk is really uncertainty and they need to be treated differently in business.
SAP faces perception issues, which Executive Board member, John Schwarz, seemed to acknowledge by saying, "We are not your grandmother's SAP." The technology, business, and enterprise software landscape is changing rapidly in today's economy. SAP faces challenges, but is definitely pushing forward on many fronts.
These are a few quick impressions of the SAP Influencer event. Even though the conference is in progress, I wanted to get something to you right away.