(mid-press conference post - subject to update)
SAP today announced its Business Suite 7 today. Here’s a set of capabilities that extend the core ERP solution set. Specifically, what BS7 does apparently, is to take some the lessons SAP learned from the expensive development of its Business ByDesign (BBD) SaaS product line and apply these to its other application suites. Additionally, SAP is adding in new Business Objects (BOBJ) capabilities to its new segmented, process-based solutions.
What SAP is announcing is that they have:
- discovered that customers want immediate value from IT investments
- learned that customers expect new functionality to be activated in 1-3 months and not require complete re-installs of the software
- the ability to add external data into the decision making processes of their customers
While it wasn’t explicitly stated, it would appear that SAP is re-purposing parts of BBD and Business Objects products to create this sort of new suite. My suspicion is that SAP found out with its SaaS product that updating their software is hard work. These upgrades are costly and time-consuming. Only when SAP themselves felt the pain their customers encounter could they see a way to change the way they offer up new functionality and upgrades. SAP customers may want to see more proof of the new, chastened SAP before accepting the marketing hype of BS7 at face value. Personally, I’d wait until SAP makes the upgrade process so easy, so cheap and so fast that it decides to fully release its BBD SaaS product into the wild. To date, BBD is still in a very limited rollout status. That suggests that SAP is still improving its release and upgrade processes.
SOA figures in a big way with this release. SAP is positioning BS7 as a toolset to empower process excellence. For SAP and its customers to plug in external data, third party applications, etc. into their solutions, SOA is needed to make these connections occur quickly and cheaply. SOA abilities are part of the NetWeaver architectures and, as such, are not totally new to this release.
BOBJ functionality is featured heavily here, too. The new process orientation mandates that users have access to a lot of internal and external data. BOBJ capabilities enable this.
What a customer gets out of BS7 is this:
- users can go to a menu and ‘activate’ new process functionality within the SAP ERP 6.0 product line and for non-ERP 6.0 users there is a BS7 add-on platform
- the new processes utilize a combination of traditional SAP application functionality, SAP SOA platform and BOBJ decision support/analytics
- a faster way to add new process capabilities to their SAP installation
SAP is positioning this offering as a solution for companies facing tough economic times but looking for ways to improve their IT/business capabilities in an incremental, fast manner. From my perspective, SAP is really late getting the new ‘less is more’ religion. They are also late:
- discovering process excellence. Systems integrators and Michael Hammer were all over this in the early 1990s. SOA may enable BS7 today but it’s not a new concept either.
- learning that users are fee-fatigued from integrators and costly SAP installs/upgrades. Why did it take a bad economic recession to get SAP to change its ways?
Prospective users might want to verify:
- That the new solutions can be activated in-flight without any disruption of the existing system. I have my doubts that this will always work as some data may need to be created/converted prior to activation. A lot of testing may be required prior to activation. We heard nothing about SAP establishing test environments, etc. for these activations.
- The viability of these new process additions. As many of these are industry-specific, these canned process enhancements may only permit a user to achieve competitive parity as all of their competitors will have the same capability available to them as well. If customers expect these new capabilities to deliver strategic advantage, they may not get it or get it for long.
- That their system integration partner is truly versed on the BS7 solutions and is comfortable accepting much lower fees.
- How will SAP’s billing of these new process services work with your old contract? Could BS7 become an expensive proposition for your firm in this tough economy?