Saturday, May 9, 2015

trip report (and some personal views) from SAPPHIRENOW, Orlando May 2015

This past week I attended SAPPHIRENOW and ASUG, SAPs annual users conference in Orlando, FL By now quite an impressive event, it used to be a much more subdued meeting place for customers, partners, users and consultants. I have no idea how many people were there this year but it must have been close to the record attendance of some 20,000 in 2013. That's in stark contrast to the 500 or so that I mingled with at the Embassy Suites in the early 90's.

SAPPHIRENOW is an absolute mega event with a humongous show floor, demo labs, larger than life video screens and a demo area within which you could see how an airport or a harbour will manage their traffic in the future. All with gadget gallore... Apple iWatch, multi touch screens, huge displays etc etc. There is an abundance on demo booths, partner displays and HANA, HANA, HANA and HANA. It seems like everything is possible with HANA. As most of you know HANA is in memory computing and makes everything much, much faster and therefore opens possibilities never thought of before.

To me it looks like SAP's strategy is to move everything (and every customer) to HANA so that everyone is equipped with a basis on which modern information technology is limitless.

I like it... but what's in it for YOU? the customer! Hasso's number one priority... remember that?

Yes, there is S/4 HANA, the new ERP. Bill McDermott tells every employee, every partner and every consultant that the customers need to go to S/4 HANA. The promise is great, but sofar S/4 HANA only includes Simple Finance. I can't tell my customers to go and do that. What will ABB do with Simple Finance? And yes again, there will be development and sooner than later S/4 HANA is supposed to completely replace ERP. However, SAP already claims that the functionality will not be the same as in ERP. Its limited and there is much less standard functionality. "Are we moving backwards?", I ask. "No", is the reply, "most of the functionality will be developed by third party consultancies who provide the customers with perfectly customized functionality and solutions.

SAP as a platform instead of a standard software package? Maybe so, but when I think about that I am wondering how expensive that is going to be for the end user, the ultimate client (or has that changed? is the ultimate client still the end user??). First you pay for the software (platform) license and then you have to pay for the development, customization, process engineering. "So what's different from paying for the costly implementation?", you might ask. Think about it... All these complex transactions, processes and routines are not there any more (or to a limited degree). Do you really think that all those third party consultants (who weren't able to perfectly implement SAP software during the past 30 years) will now develop better solutions for you than SAP has done in the past? You think that those people who never understood how takt-based scheduling works in ERP will come up with a leaner approach to your repetitive lines? Do you believe that technologists who understand HANA will be able to help a materials planner develop effective replenishment policies AND develop the transactions that are necessary to monitor exceptions?

Only time will tell, but what's worrying me is that the customer does not really have a lot of options to choose from and Bill McDermott has different priorities today than Hasso Plattner did have in the late 90s.

Maybe I am now one of those old people that I thought didn't understand what was happening when I was young... maybe those HANA people will change the world. I only hope its different from what facebook, uber, whatsapp and google glass or apple watch consider valuable and revolutionary.