December 8, 2005

SAP — the Un-Oracle

I just spent a couple of days at the SAP Analyst “Summit.” And while all large software companies have quite a bit in common, I came away with the renewed feeling that SAP and Oracle are about as different as two huge, competitive software companies in similar businesses can be.

All process, all the time
If SAP has one theme and message, it’s “process.” They spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the business process of creating applications supporting the business processes of, among others, the process manufacturing industry. You hardly hear them talk about selling software or applications or infrastructure; much more commonly they talk about selling “processes.” As I’ve previously noted, this is exactly what Oracle still hasn’t really “gotten” about the apps area.

Another word SAP could rightfully hammer into the ground is “open.” The Analyst Summit had some decent sessions — and a few that were more than decent — but mainly seemed like an excuse to facilitate informal conversations between scads of SAP people and scads of analysts. Oracle, by way of contrast, hates unmonitored conversations between Oracle people and analysts; theoretically, my friends at that company could be fired for maintaining their friendships with me. (Admittedly, given who some of my friends there are, this is pure theory … but it’s still pretty ridiculous.)

SAP is also more committed to technological openness than Oracle. Yes, SAP is trying to create business process semantics that have little to do with BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) or similar open standards. But that’s the main blemish. And even there they’re more or less apologizing, making strong commitments to not change their APIs, etc., etc. Otherwise, they’re rabid about standards compliance. Oracle is not terrible in the area of opennness, but it’s no star either. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a category in which Oracle’s products don’t have significant nonstandard aspects. (The app server may be an exception, actually, but I don’t know for sure. Oracle tears up its app server and brings out an entirely new one more often than they brief me on their app server, so I have trouble keeping up in that area.)

Well, I guess this is as good a place as any to paraphrase a representative conversation with Oracle analyst relations:

Now, admittedly I drive large companies’ bureaucracies crazy because I’m an analyst who does his most widely-read publishing in Computerworld, and they have different ways of dealing with press and analysts. But Oracle is a breed apart. E.g., I know of at least three analysts who have been seriously and in my opinion unprofesssionally berated by Oracle for saying or writing true things that Oracle didn’t appreciate.

SAP, by way of contrast, is one of the most analyst-embracing firms in the industry.

Continuing in the general vicinity of the openness theme, you hear a lot about Oracle feuding with its user groups. I haven’t noticed any of the same type of issues arising between SAP and its users.

Customer care history
Go far enough back in time, and Oracle was one of the worst customer-mistreating vendors around. SAP got its foothold in the US by, in the estimation of its then-larger competitors, showering attention and care on its limited set of customers and prospects. True, their paths have converged since then. Many a customer felt burned by a failed or hyperexpensive R-3 implementation, and Ray Lane cleaned up a lot of Oracle’s customer relations behavior. Still, SAP has always seemed to me to be a customer-focused company, while Oracle has always seemed to be focused on building great technology and selling it to customers. Not the same thing at all …

Now, I must confess to being somewhat immune to Germanic arrogance. My whole family is German. I like Germans. But I’m also somewhat immune to Oracle’s arrogance, since I like so many individuals there. So I really think I’m making a somewhat balanced comparison here.

Anyhow, at the end of the day, I think Oracle is focused on helping computers do their jobs better, while SAP is focused on helping people do their jobs better. That may be the ultimate difference between the two companies.


15 Responses to “SAP — the Un-Oracle”

  1. Software Memories»Blog Archive » SAP Memories on December 11th, 2005 5:14 pm

    […] Until the past couple of years, I didn’t have a lot of dealings with SAP. (That has now changed significantly.) But it seems that the things I do recall aren’t that widely known anymore. […]

  2. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » SAP’s corporate blogging on December 14th, 2005 5:51 pm

    […] Jeff Nolan seems to be the head of blogging for SAP, or something like that. He’s a little concerned about SAP’s lack of openness. Meanwhile, I’m praising SAP for it’s openness. […]

  3. DBMS2 — DataBase Management System Services»Blog Archive » Business rules, business process on January 27th, 2006 5:21 pm

    […] What’s getting forgotten as usual in this debate, I think, is the direct automation of business processes. Business rules of the sort “No credit granted can exceed $10,000″ are silly whereever they’re put. Rather, the business rule should be something like “An attempt to grant credit in excess of $10,000 is not successful until it has been approved by a VP-level manager.” And the natural way to implement that kind of rule is NOT via database constraints (you need all sorts of other logic around it for usability). […]

  4. raghavendra on August 10th, 2006 7:12 am

    definitely ,these two ERP wizards are two ends .they cant be united .
    whichever path they are folowing is the right for their point of view and to sustain the com

  5. Santosh.D on August 14th, 2006 7:26 am

    Since i am working in SAP for past 2 years,i feel the
    power of SAP is its Architecure(the Basis layer), its
    scalability option has made it the market leader also the
    understanding of the business process of any kind of
    businesses across the globe(Bundling those things in a
    single package is really a miracle) and the client the
    concept in SAP made it soo powerfull, that no one could
    ever imagine such kind of a concept at all and about the
    new-dimensional products i need not comment at all, the
    ESA, Netweaver, …… and last but not the least ABAP(
    since i am Technical Consultant, i need to talk about this)
    ), the flexibility this language gives, i think no other
    language could stand next to it and the option of
    interfaces is really a good thing about this package(SAP).

  6. Jayanta Choudhuri on August 20th, 2006 12:54 pm

    SAP seems to know Oracle better than Oracle. I happened to work recently for 1 year in Apps 11.5.10 guiding people in Developer 2000 Forms Reports PL/SQL …

    Amazing thing was Oracle has NOTHING comparable to ST05 which is a amazing way to debug SQLs esp that hit un-buffered transparent tables. I was already accustomed to TKPROF and Oracle trace and had developed AWK scripts to filter out the mass of trace records generated. TKPROF does not see BIND variables. APPS ahas NOTHING comparable to ST05.

    This led me to conclude that SAP know Oracle better than Oracle!

    I may be out of touch for a few months but situation may not have changed.

    D2K compares very poorly with ABAP & SMARTFORMS etc. User-exits are by PLLs. There is no STMS for change management. APPS is 2-tier architecture with a thin frontend deployment. Remote printing is a pain. You need to know X-Windows inside out to be able to get bit-map printing. No version control.

    Oracle APPS works no doubt! BUT SAP is years ahead in technology and everything works like a dream!

    SAP gives users CCMS and so many things free that most users SAP is a complete product with no need for 3rd party add-ons.

    Only thing is Oracle seems to have stronger sales force. People buy SAP and SAP is not too good at selling!

    Having worked in BOTH I can say with full confidence that SAP is the safest bet!

  7. shine on August 23rd, 2006 10:39 am

    In my company,a lot of women and men can’t use soft expediently.It is
    important that a company of any soft company should supply complete sevice,
    especialy training,to its customer.

  8. Abdul Hakim on September 3rd, 2006 10:15 am

    Nothing can come closer to SAP.Oracle Apps is nothing infront of SAP….

  9. Andy Ross on September 4th, 2006 6:23 am

    Curt is kind to SAP, and as a SAPper I think he has good
    reasons for that, but I’d feel safer with a more clearly
    motivated position. Oracle got big on RDB, SAP got big
    on ERP, which sat on an RDB and hence was seen in Oracle
    as parasitic. So when RDB became a commodity, Oracle
    naturally tried to move into ERP and related apps. But
    the world moved on. SAP saw that customers want IT to
    help them with their business process, and all the rest
    is detail. Oracle are still stuck in the detail. Now I’m
    just agreeing with Curt, so time to stop.

  10. Kenny.Li on October 4th, 2006 3:33 am

    Recently,Barron’s Online announced the 2006 Annual List of the World’s most respected companies,and SAP ranked 39.

  11. PK Das Gupta on April 24th, 2007 2:32 am

    How migrating to SAP is helpful to a Oracle Developer 2000 professional.
    What I mean is the experience gained is useful or not?

  12. Application databases | Software Memories on August 7th, 2015 9:58 am

    […] PeopleTools) had strong application benefits.* Another and more important example was SAP weaving business process/workflow into the heart of its […]

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