Users talk about SAP

SAP co-CEOs this year at SapphireNOW, the annual user conference, continued to talk about the desire to rebuild the trust of its customers. It was a message that was well-received by a member of the board of directors of ASUG (America’s SAP Users’ Group), who in the past has witnessed SAP’s commitment wane.


Paul Kurchina, president of Calgary-based utilities consulting firm KurMeta Group and an SAP customer since 1993, said he sensed renewed excitement since Jim Hagemann-Snabe and Bill McDermott took their roles as co-CEOs in February. “I actually thought it really came out clearly with sincerity and passion for customers,” said Kurchina.


“SAP went through a period when they were very close to customers. In the last year or so, there wasn’t that closeness that there was in the past.


The Germany-based company’s annual conference took place this week where ComputerWorld Canada had the chance to connect with customers and get their views in the aftermath of the event.


Among the key messages heard, Kurchina said it was particularly “refreshing” to hear SAP relay its strategy of on-premise, on-demand and on-device product and how it will orchestrate across those channels. “It’s one of the more clear explanations I’ve head of an SAP strategy,” said Kurchina.


He agrees with SAP’s direction to continue specializing in the applications part of the technology stack and partnering with vendors who specialize in other niche areas because it’s not worth SAP’s time to try to focus on everything. “SAP strategy back in the 90s was ‘We were going to do it all.’ Now roll forward to the 2000s and … SAP realized they’re not going to do it all,” said Kurchina.

SapphireNOW: SAP execs talk Sybase, NetWeaver, Business ByDesign


As a customer, Kurchina said, he evaluates not just what SAP does but what its ecosystem partners provide.


Sina Moatamed, chief technology officer with Santa Paula, Calif.-based BendPak Inc., has been using Business ByDesign since January 2009 for its organization-wide operations. SAP plans to make generally available Business ByDesign in countries including U.S., U.K., China, India and France end of July after having taken time to properly build out the architecture.


Moatamed said the controversy surrounding Business ByDesign was not troubling to him because he saw it as SAP wanting to make sure early adopters’ concerns were first being addressed before broadening availability. “I saw it as a good strategic move and it gave it the proper focus,” said Moatamed. “I think for us that was required to make sure everything was intact.”

SapphireNOW: SAP won’t dominate the infrastructure stack


Moatamed said SAP’s vision of a real-time and unwired enterprise was interesting to hear at the conference because it’s precisely the thinking behind Business ByDesign. “They’re taking this in-memory and mobility concept and applying it to these large infrastructure build outs… to give the same accessibility to information on the fly,” said Moatamed.


For a customer that has been engrossed in Business ByDesign, Moatamed said seeing SAP now homogenizing that concept across its platforms is interesting to see.


SAP is planning a twice-a-year upgrade to Business ByDesign users in alignment with its commitment to provide non-disruptive enhancements to customers’ infrastructures. Moatamed thinks the approach is better than “balling out some gigantic set” but the downside is that the frequency of testing will have to keep up with these frequent iterations.

SapphireNOW: SAP unveils analytic engine software-hardware combo


“I wouldn’t say it’s less disruptive because it’s taking smaller chunks but at the same token there’s a greater due diligence that you’re going to have to take,” said Moatamed.


Tom Zavos, senior director of business intelligence information systems with Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods is in the process of deploying SAP technologies in all major processes including manufacturing, procurement, finance and sales. Zavos said SAP’s strategy of on-premise, on-demand and on-device is applicable to Kraft in that it will continue to use on-site software, and will explore hosted apps although the extent is yet to be determined. As for mobile, Zavos said employees at Kraft are continually making requests for mobile business intelligence. “On-mobile is definitely the direction in which we’re moving … I think moving forward it’s going to be expected,” said Zavos.


Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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