At the Sapphire user conference in Atlanta, SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner and CEO Henning Kagermann used their respective keynotes last night and this morning to echo themes that I’ve been hearing from other high-level SAP executives here. Everyone, so far, has been “on message.” The high-level concept that’s coming through loud and clear is that SAP has transformed itself, its products and how it works with its customers and partners. The terms that I’ve been hearing are: SOA, collaboration, innovation, SOA, flexibility, change and SOA. I’m kidding a bit, but the recent transformation of how SAP thinks and deals with its customer base is predicated on its enterprise SOA strategy. And, according to the SAP executives, customers have surprised the top execs in how fast they’ve lined up for enterprise software, based on SOA, transformations. Kagermann called it “the fastest transition in our history.”
Jim Hagemann Snabe, who’s a corporate officer at SAP AG and directs the company’s product development, also addressed the “historic” change at SAP during the last 10 years. He talked about what CIOs and other IT execs who populate the industry advisory councils have been telling SAP about what they need from its products. Snabe told me that customers wanted innovation to their enterprise systems but not disruption to those enterprise systems. And they didn’t want to have to buy the next upgrade to get new functionalities. In essence, they wanted more choice from SAP.
Over the last couple of years, it seems like SAP has listened, learned and given the people what they want. Enterprise SOA technology from SAP, Snabe says, will provide the “innovation” while also limiting the amount of “disruption” to CIOs’ enterprise architecture plans and systems. He also mentioned that SAP wants to “co-innovate” with its customers, which is quite a sea change from SAP of the past. In addition, the next big base change upgrade to SAP enterprise systems will be in 2010 (the last one was 2005).
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Tomorrow Now is a company that’s providing a real interesting play in the enterprise systems space. I met with CEO Andrew Nelson yesterday and was impressed. Tomorrow Now offers choice (another buzzword from the event) to owners of enterprise software systems by providing support services at 50 percent less than the enterprise vendors’ annual maintenance and support fees. The result, according to
Tomorrow Now, is that its customers “regain control of their IT strategies, gain an increased return on investment from enterprise software applications, and are able to redeploy resources to implement innovative projects that improve their own bottom lines.” Nelson says a passion for customer service and a deep bench of enterprise systems talent to provide that service is what has enabled a huge market share and more than 300 customers.
What’s interesting to note is that SAP owns Tomorrow Now — 100 percent. I probed Nelson about this apparent conflict between his business model (cutting the huge enterprise software vendor fees in half) and the business model of the company that owns him. He didn’t seem to worry too much about it. Tomorrow Now was a “sweetener” to SAP’s coffers, he said. But he was at least up front about the relationship. “We are not independent,” he said. “But we are vendor-neutral.”
I’ll be writing more about Tomorrow Now later.
Other posts from Sapphire:
A Rare Look Inside Coca-Cola’s IT
Questions as SAP Users Conference Starts