SAP Sapphire gets underway

This week I am in Atlanta for SAP's Sapphire conference, joined by a large international press contingent, the blogger corps and 15,000 partners and customers ready to hear the latest SAP revelations.

This week I am in Atlanta for SAP's Sapphire conference, joined by a large international press contingent, the blogger corps and 15,000 partners and customers ready to hear the latest SAP revelations. So far, not much news to report, but some details on the $500 million plus investment in new products, including the new A1S platform designed for the midmarket, will be dribbled out in keynotes from CEO Henning Kaggerman, Chairman of the Supervisory Board Hasso Plattner and Deputy CEO Leo Apotheker.  

Last night some of the Enterprise Irregular bloggers gathered with a handful of SAP execs. SAP graciously accomodates bloggers, along with press and analysts (I am the hybrid press/blogger). We have our own corner in the press room and group meetings with the top SAP executives lined up. Included among the eclectic Irregulars are bloggers who work at SAP as well as for other vendors, some analysts, consultants, software executives and traders who are considered influencers of public opinion.


Enterprise Irregulars: Mark Crofton (SAP), Dennis Howlett (AccMan) and Thomas Otter (SAP)

I met Doug Merritt, who is taking on some of former products and technology head Shai Agassi's duties. He is now executive vice president, Business User Development, and is responsible for Enterprise 2.0 infrastructure and 'next-generation' Web solutions. When SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner announced by SAP TV to the company the departure of Agassi, Merritt was standing by his side. Prior to SAP he ran PeopleSoft's Human Capital Management division.

I also caught up with Dennis Moore, who has been in charge of the Duet project, which integrates SAP business processes and Microsoft Office. Moore said the over 250 customers have licensed Duet, with over 400,000 users.

Speaking this morning, Moore said that working with Microsoft on Duet has been a challenge. "Our focus on the customer is somehow different from Microsoft's. We don't have a common understanding," Moore said. "A minority at Microsoft thought we could somehow control access to data by pulling it into a file and using Microsoft DRM." SAP's security is far too granular to support Microsft's idea, he said. "Microsoft's assumption is that software has to be capable of being installed and run without support. There are certainly areas where we are learning from each other."

Today, along with HP, Microsoft and SAP announced a new appliance to cut down on deployment time for Duet. Moore said that tomorrow SAP will announce an "increase" in the relationship with Microsoft around Duet. 

More to come from briefing with Merritt later today.


 Doug Merritt and Dennis Moore of SAP

We met with Uwe Hommel, SAP's executive vice president for Global Solution Operations Support, early this morning. He said that customers typically use 30 percent of functionality of SAP solutions. Dennis Howlett asked why SAP doesn't charge customers for just the percent of the product functionality they use. Hommel responded that the SAP support service is a good deal. The reality is that it's not a benefit to SAP's business model.

Regarding on demand applications, Hommel said that when a solution requires many integration points, software-as-a-service is less useful. "Our preferred model is that our customers don't outsource everything and keep core expertise in house. Then they have more control and can manage their own destiny. If completely outsourced, the relationship tends to be more complex," Hommel said. 

Oracle is present as well in Atlanta, blitzing SAP's customers with signage and schwag. As I got on a bus to head over the convention center, I was offered an Oracle bag, and the Ellison company is also advertising heavily in the Atlanta airport and MARTA public transportation system.


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