Overall, Sapphire 2013 for me was a “coming out” party for SAP Hana. She is a debutante and now seeking dance partners. The event did not introduce any new step change in technology or SAP future. Overall the event seemed to be a call to action for the market to get into SAP Hana.
As an old Supply Chain Management business use, I can appreciate the value and promise of what SAP Hana could bring to the market. There were several examples of innovations coming to market. In a past life I tried to bring to market an innovative solution to a problem that required a calculation that had not been previously been adopted in the market. It failed; turns out some organizations do’nt actually want to know the true cost of some activities. And I remember the days of Fast MRP. Many factories cannot change their schedules minute by minute due to physical constraints. So while I was generally excited, the real world has some very real constraints – as well as political challenges – that will slow adoption of SAP Hana. For industries that have information as their product (insurance, banking, financial services) and those other industries that have elements of information-rich processes (parts of healthcare), SAP Hana has some great promise.
Here are some other observations:
- There was continued focus on expanding the ecosystem of partners and opportunities for SAP Hana
- Cloud and SAP Hana – this was, for me, a bit of non event. It was hyped quite a bit for it seemed the main benefits are related to lower TCO for IT. There was some talk of improved access to innovation for the business, but this seemed to me to be part of the SAP Hana message, not the cloud message. I may have missed something, but for me, SAP Hana is the main message here – not cloud
- Cloud, SAP Hana and business transformation. what SAP did NOT do was explore or talk about what SAP Hana and cloud, coupled with Ariba’s business network, could do. And I mean with innovation. Just connecting a network is not different; designing and developing new processes (multienterprise apps) that replace processes (apps) behind the firewall, now that is disruptive. But this was not the message. I guess that innovation will remain with smaller firms that SAP has yet to acquire – if they ever well. Why would you eat your own children?
- Zero latency between OLTP and OLAP – clearly a pending, near future for us. Very exciting. Could eradicate the need for any kind of data warehouse. Could help unify analytics with the business processes – thus killing of BI as we know it. And making “process is king” dominant, over the BI world. Of course I am ahead of myself. Big Data will drive demand for more data warehousing – even if the DW is no in SAP Hana….. so perhaps its the on-premise, on disk data warehouse that will lose its primacy…..
SAP Information Steward, SAP MDG, and information governance. Some information on a new release of SAP Information Steward (in ramp up) that attempts to put a financial face on the impact on business of poor/bad data. Could be very interesting, and innovative. We wait to see more.
User Experience is top priority. Well, this has happened before. I forget the catchy name for the last effort. However, SAP Fiori does look promising. The demo was not that useful -but hte idea of a unified platform for UI development on HTML 5, even using Chrome, sounds promising. We just don’t want too many enthusiastic (or citizen) developers going crazy. We need smart artists to get involved.
Finally, my college Nigel Rayner asked of Hasso and Vishal, as part of the Executive Q&A, “When and how will SAP support real time analytics across its various business applications (come built, some acquired) and analytic data warehouses?” The answer given was “today”. There was a little give and take, along the lines of “So does that mean there is a logical data model?” that attracted a, “yes”.
This topic is a kind of holy grail conversation. In fact only just the other week I was party to one of those massive email chains at work where analysts chime in to discuss how process, analytics and data are fighting for ownership and hegemony over each other. We should have explored the issue with Hasso and Vishal. The answer was not really targeted at the question really being asked. Of course, any vendor can build an integration for a range of given applications. We have been doing that for years. But:
a) How and when will SAP provide the tools and capability to support operational data governance and stewardship across heterogeneous applications and warehouses, even if they all exist in SAP Hana – and more importantly, when there is a hybrid model? This is required to assure the integrity of any real time analytics platform or solution.
b) How will current customers that have invested in current technology migrate (and pay for it, willingly)?
Both these questions are not easy to answer. In the first case, no vendor has yet solved this. There are numerous attempts going on in the industry. Master Data Management as a discipline is part of this dialog. As is semantic discover and modeling. As is business glossary. As is logical data warehouse and logical operational data store. As is data quality. The fact is even SAP would struggle to demonstrate this. SAP is, in this regard, like many other vendors. Well aware of the issue and complexity; but has built a successful business without having the need to solve this Holy Grail.
The second question adds the dimension of revenue to the same topic. I meet with SAP customers each week that tell me, “We are on a 3 (or 5) year program to consolidate x ERP systems (many are not SAP) to one (of a few) SAP ERP systems.” There is virtually no appetite to invest significantly in any game changing technologies. Investments with SAP Hana will therefore likely be opportunistic at best. The point is that the current investment has to yield some value. Now business executives will hope that their returns will not get eaten up by aggressive competitors that were late to the ECC on premise argument, and who jump early onto SAP Hana. SAP wins both times of course – so it’s all revenue to them J
All in all this event was well worth the time investment. Good exposure to customers; access to some executives; and even a couple of detailed demos. But what comes next? How can Oracle come up with the SAP Hana killer?
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