by Thomas Wailgum

CIO Panel at SAP Conference: All Together Now

Apr 23, 20073 mins
Enterprise Applications

The question: What do you get when you put five CIOs in a room? Very little disagreement, and not a heck of a lot of debate, shocking revelations or inside scoops. Either CIOs all have the same problems, or they abhor disagreeing with each other in public. (I’m

thinking it’s a little bit of both.)

For me anyway, that’s what happened when SAP had five CIOs (SAP users, of course) come up and talk about their challenges in front of the hundred or so media types assembled here at Sapphire. The CIOs are: Daniel Lubin of Abiomed, Paul Gross of Brown Forman, Alejandro Bombaci of Empresas Polar, Steven Strout of Morris Communications and Hal Zesch of Valero.

It’s interesting, of course, to see CIOs gather, but at this panel they all tended to talk about the same things no matter what the questions: the importance of alignment and business-IT steering committees, and their integration woes (and the promise of SOA, for example).

So far, one thing that came out that might be a theme of the conference is that many CIOs feel perfectly comfortable “locking themselves” in to SAP. (Again, getting back to the point from the previous Coca-Cola entry.) The goal, these CIOs say, is to eliminate the headaches of trying to cobble together different systems — a prominent chore on the top of CIOs’ minds these days — by going with one vendor’s system.

Zesch, the CIO of Valero, said he is buying SAP whole hog because it will allow him to have “one company,

one team, one language,” he said. “SAP is basically our language.” That’s a lot of faith in SAP.

I asked Zesch about this and he said that “there’s a limit to the number of choices we have,” and added that “we’ve made our choice and we feel pretty comfortable with it.”

So I’m guessing that there’s just not a lot of options these days for enterprise systems, and SAP seems the right one for many CIOs. Is there a new maxim for IT? “No one ever got fired for  buying SAP” for enterprise systems?

Speaking of choice, I had a wonderful, insightful and frank meeting with Tomorrow Now CEO Andrew Nelson. If you’ve never heard of Tomorrow Now, you’re not alone. But you’re going to be hearing a lot

more about them in the near future. More on that later. (SAP’s co-founder, Hasso Plattner, is about to speak.)

-Thomas Wailgum