December 2, 2007

Oracle is mixing its paradigms

In the past, I’ve drawn a clear distinction between an IBM/Oracle data-centric view of applications and SAP’s long-standing process-centric view. And I pooh-poohed the appearance that IBM was fuzzing things up a bit.

But as it self-identifies ever more as an application vendor, Oracle has also claimed to be more process-centric. And given the size of Oracle’s applications commitment, in this case I think the change, while not absolute, is at least in part pretty real.

November 20, 2007

I repeat — SaaS is not necessarily an indirect-channels business

From Salesforce.com’s latest 10-K:

We market our service to businesses on a subscription basis, primarily through our direct sales efforts and also indirectly through partners.

Looking back, I should have quoted that in support when I wrote:

By the way, I think the assumption SAP needs to sell ByDemand via indirect channels is an erroneous one. (Dennis Howlett seems to be at least partway to recognizing this. He also reports that SAP realizes that this is truly a sales issue.) Hence my stress on SAP’s internal sales management issues.

For 40+ years, application-oriented services have been sold in large part by direct sales forces. That goes back to the other payroll processors, and to time-sharing in general. Why would it change now?

October 8, 2007

Some quick thoughts on SAP acquiring Business Objects

1. SAP needed outside talent again. In March I wrote that Shai Agassi’s departure wasn’t as a big a deal as it seemed, because guys like Dennis Moore were still there. Well, by now Dennis Moore is NOT still there, and rumor had more of the good personnel acquisitions leaving as well. And unfortunately, my personal experience of some of those remaining is that they’re ethically unfit for their roles (and that’s putting it kindly).

2. The NetWeaver strategy has been failing. Does anybody care about NetWeaver any more? The whole thing includes some great ideas, but implementation has been lacking.

3. The Business Objects guys are proven successes at integrating disparate BI product suites. The Crystal Reports acquisition proved that.

Before writing more, I should check the extremely one-sided consulting contract I had with SAP, specifically for the expiration date of the NDA. How one-sided? Well, I naively agreed to a clause that I couldn’t sue them under the contract, expecting their concern about their reputation to keep them in line. Since then, they’ve cheated me out of considerable amounts of money that they owed. Arggh. Live and learn.

September 25, 2007

SAP ByDemand could work a lot better than critics think

As I explained in another post, it’s credible that SAP is very serious about its new ByDemand SaaS (Software as a Service) offering. While I haven’t been briefed on the product (er, service), I’m guessing ByDemand is pretty good, or soon will be. I have three major reasons for this opinion.

  1. SAP sure has a lot of resources to bring to bear – and as previously noted, I think the company is dead serious about this initiative.

  2. On the back end, the business-service granularity SAP has been implementing is well-suited to deal with the unique challenges of SaaS, both the very real (e.g., short upgrade cycles) and the largely imaginary (e.g., multi-tenancy).

  3. SAP recently hired Dan Rosenberg away from Oracle to head its UI efforts, and Release 1 of a Dan Rosenberg user interface is likely to be very good. I know Dennis Howlett has a contrary view, and he’s actually seen the product. Even so, I’m optimistic about SAP’s claims to have designed the UI with an open mind, for maximum ease and simplicity, and validated by many rounds of testing.

Read more

September 25, 2007

The unprofitability of the SaaS business is an illusion caused by growth

There’s a fallacy going around to the general effect:

Salesforce.com is the biggest SaaS company. Salesforce.com is making next to no profit. Therefore, SaaS is currently not a profitable business.

But that’s nonsense. Here’s why. Read more

September 20, 2007

Software Auf Probe

We all know insulting wordplay such as “Windoze,” deserved or otherwise. (Personally, I prefer the more subtle “Intel giveth and Microsoft taketh away.”) I just learned one in German, however, that I’m guessing is less familiar to English-speaking readers. “Software auf Probe” translates, roughly, as “Software in test.” Any resemblances to long SAP adoption cycles are purely intentional. :)

June 6, 2007

Don’t use Office 2007. But do steal its ideas.

You probably shouldn’t use Microsoft Office 2007. Even so, you probably should install and look at it, and then rip off its ideas. I’ll explain.

Microsoft Office Word 2007 is, so far as I can tell, seriously flawed. Specifically, it has been eating way too much of my work for me to happily keep using it. This has been going on long enough that I’m convinced the cause is not simple user error. The final straw yesterday was when changes I’d saved in a draft blog post (about Filemaker) weren’t there five hours later, with no intervening crashes, no messages about “Do you want to close w/ unsaved changes?”, and so on. Naturally, Microsoft (or rather the excellent consultant/expert they’ve provided me to talk with) has never heard of these problems before and is highly perplexed. Anyhow, I plan to keep using Word for highly formatted work – i.e., white papers and Monash Letters – but using it for general note-taking and blogging has turned out to be quite the mistake. (I guess I could go back to Word 2003, but now I’m intrigued by testing the cheaper alternative.)

But all glitches notwithstanding — Office 2007′s “ribbon” is one of the five greatest general UI advances in the past 10-15 years*. Just as the traditional Office menu/icon-row look-and-feel dominates business computing, the ribbon is likely to soon take its place. And deservedly so, at least in two broad classes of application: Analytic and composite. And those two, taken together, happen to comprise the vast majority of the innovation going on in enterprise applications today.

*Three of the other four, in my opinion, are:

  1. The screen-division aspect of dashboards and portals.
  2. Dynamic text-link navigation, also popularized via portals.
  3. Search boxes.

The last slot is left open for personal-taste additions to the list.

Read more

March 29, 2007

More on Shai Agassi and SAP

Sramana Mitra has a little bit of a different take on Shai Agassi’s departure than mine. At first blush, it’s a distinction almost without a difference. In essence, she argues that Shai was frustrated because he couldn’t make big needed changes fast enough. That’s pretty close to my view that change simply wasn’t happening quickly or completely enough.

But the thing is — I think SAP’s overall technology roadmap has remained too incomplete. In essence — and I know some of my friends there will dispute this — SAP is still too focused on delivering software for how people should work, and doesn’t properly support the way they actually do — or realistically would like to — work.

Yes, it’s great that Dennis Moore and Dan Rosenberg are at SAP. But nobody — and this includes Shai — seems to be driving a real software re-think down into the individual products. The move to portal-based technology needs to be the beginning of the software functionality redesign, not the end. Josh Greenbaum thinks that Duet is all that and more, but I don’t see it that way.

March 28, 2007

Shai Agassi – a contrarian view

Shai Agassi is leaving SAP because, in essence, the old guard didn’t want to turn over the reins to him as fast as he would have liked.* Often, this kind of departure is a bad thing (e.g., Ray Lane at Oracle). But I suspect that SAP may actually be improved by Shai’s leaving.

*His other stated reasons include two very good and highly admirable ones – working on energy technologies and improving matters in Israel.

SAP’s technical strategy has three core elements:

  1. Automate business processes.
  2. Provide the technical infrastructure for automating business processes.
  3. Encapsulate process and data at the object/process level.

This strategy has been heavily developed and refined on Shai’s watch, with major contributions from lots of other folks. The issue isn’t vision any more. What SAP needs to do better is execute on the vision.

Read more

March 23, 2007

Great news for Openwave

Dave Peterschmidt is out as CEO of Openwave, and this is a very good thing. Even better, the company is being shopped. Best news: Jerry Held is on the committee doing the shopping. Not that I agree with Jerry on everything, but on the whole he’s pretty astute.

Openwave will probably find a buyer at a decent price. Dave’s bad, but he doesn’t completely destroy companies; there should still be some value there.

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