I recently attended the 25th SapphireNow conference, which was visited by approximately 20,000 people. This was a great place for customers to learn more around SAP's future direction and for SAP to showcase some of the new technology and functionality they have been working on.
Here are three key standouts for customers:
1) Easy migration to "Suite on HANA"
SAP's core customers have an ERP system to process and record day-to-day transactional processes. Some of these ERP systems are pretty mature and central to mission critical processes. Significant change here is normally frowned upon as a risk not worth taking. This may not be the case for a migration to Suite on HANA.
The message from the show floor was the migration is simple and now the product has moved into general availability (GA) SAP expects the number of customers who invest in Suite on HANA to really take off into 2014. Suite on HANA is now deemed (by SAP) to be robust enough to cope with business-as -usual scenarios.
It is clear that whilst the migration might be simple, there are questions and concerns around the actual cost. SAP HANA specific hardware is a must and this needs to be looked at when considering moving to the Suite on HANA. SAP has a pretty big target audience. Since ERP 6 (2005) SAP has used Enhancement Packages to drip feed new functionality to customers. Nearly 80% of SAPs ERP customer-base uses ERP 6 and over 70% of them have used an Enhancement Package. Suite on HANA is just the next Enhancement Package version (Enhancement Package 6H).
Take-away for customers
If you are looking at performing an SAP Enhancement Pack upgrade, look past Enhancement Pack 6 and go to 6H. You will benefit from out-of-the-box system performance improvements of a factor of 3 (without any tuning), but also be able to consume new SAP HANA specific apps, such as Working Capital Management or Receivables Manager. By performing this upgrade you can future-proof your organisation by enabling access to specific functionality within the Business Suite that is only available via HANA. Over time you could look to host your ERP instance(s) in the cloud to reduce that overhead further and reduce risk.
2) SAP is focusing on UI
OK we have heard this before. The NetWeaver Business Client was supposed to be the answer a few years back, as well as various portal solutions. None of these really kicked off due to the look and feel. SAP realised they should not look to try and match some of their smaller SaaS competitors. Instead, they need to overtake their competitors and define the future direction.
The conference saw the launch of SAP Fiori (Italian for flower). This generated a significant amount of attention in the keynotes and on the conference floor, where scores of attendees queued to have a look first hand at this new user interface.
This launch of the first release addresses 25 different user screens which can be consumed through a portal view via Chrome or mobile devices. These screens are used by 80% of frequent SAP's users and the changes address 45% of the key screens and processes used. None of the key (core) Finance transactions are included in the first wave, so expect some in the second wave.
Whilst this is great, is it just the start! There are many transactions that can be improved. Users who have worked with SAP Gui for many years are familiar with the screens, but the perception is that they are still clunky, slow, non-efficient and not as great an experience as many other software products.
Take-away for customers
Running SAP Fiori can add around an additional 10% of processing time, however by making the screens cleaner and fresher the user will have to enter less data and be able to navigate through their tasks in a more efficient manner. Customers should be able to offer a more customised SAP solution to tailor to their requirements, hiding data that has never been required. In turn this should improve the quality of data processing and should appease unhappy users.
3) SAP is going big on HANA
OK, nothing new here you might say. SAP HANA has been around for a while now. The key thing to me is that SAP HANA is just a brand and it is much more than just a product or a solution. Replace the word HANA with "in-memory computing" and it might become slightly more tangible!
The SAP HANA brand is a database, a platform, a data warehouse and more. Many customers are still confused by it and believe the branding and messaging to be poor and confusing. Having one name for some many different things confuses customers and they are often left feeling unsure what exactly people are referring to when they talk about SAP HANA. Using the same name dilutes the message - SAP HANA is not just about performance and technology. There is a distinct lack of key messaging and focus from SAP around the use cases and business scenarios.
Many customers still perceive SAP HANA to be expensive. A good example is the perception of what you need to purchase to make use of some SAP HANA technology. If the cost of investing in new SAP HANA certified hardware is seen as an issue SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud could be looked at to reduce the initial outlay for the new hardware.
It is evident SAP is investing heavily in "in memory computing". They seem to be ahead of the competition and have great success stories around performance and cost savings. Most of the current HANA customers are not part of the core ERP customer base that SAP has been built on. This is great for SAP as they are widening their appeal, but they have a massive market to crack being their core customers.
Take-away for customers
It is clear that the implementation of SAP HANA is not just an IT decision. Business stakeholders should really take the time to explore the relevant use cases and understand the true business value SAP HANA can deliver. With so many different HANA flavours 2013 feels like the time to research SAP HANA and how it can answer questions you have never considered.
With so many people and so much on show it is impossible to pick everything up during these events. There are plenty of videos and blogs that will be published that I would recommend you view. It is a shame that Sapphire is not coming to Europe this year and is replaced with a single day SAP Forum. Hopefully there will be more announcements there, focusing on customer success stories using the latest technology from SAP.