February 2, 2006

SAP On-Demand — some key points

Here are some of my quick thoughts on SAP’s CRM On-Demand announcement:

1. One of the biggest barriers to SaaS (Software as a Service) growth in my opinion has been the question of data integration. Some of my data is at a service provider. Some is inhouse. How do I integrate it? How do I analyze it? SAP has provided a very good but still partial answer to those concerns by ensuring that its hosted and onsite versions of an app have the same APIs.

2. I say “partial” only because I’m having trouble envisioning many scenarios in which a customer would really want to have some of its data inhouse, some outsourced. It seems like the main benefit would almost always be as a transition strategy.

3. That said, sales automation can be one of the exceptions. The distributed computing problem for serving sales offices around the world may be much greater than that for the rest of one’s apps, so outsourcing that aspect of network management is not totally ridiculous.

4. Anyhow, this was obviously the way the software industry was headed. Indeed, it’s the way a lot of the industry did business until the first half of the 1980s. There were timeshared and onsite versions of the same products, in many cases. That strategy only died out completely when DBMS replaced file managers as the standard underpinnings to packaged apps, and that didn’t happen until the rise of relational DBMS in the second half of the 1980s.

5. I’m sure there will be issues with functionality, pricing, service responsiveness, and similar aspects of nimbleness. There’s no guarantee that SAP will establish and commit to a viable sales model for this service; it may always remain an afterthought. Even so, it could be enough to slow the penetration of Salesforce.com et al. into large enterprises.

6. To succeed in a big way, SAP has to establish a separate sales force, with a separate marketing budget. It also has to cross-commission between packaged product and SaaS sales. Those sound like slightly contradictory strategies, so there’s no assurance they’ll do both. Mark Benioff doesn’t have to panic quite yet.

7. The other non-trivial organizational problem SAP needs to solve is having one product development organization serve two sales force/marketing group masters. The closest thing they’ve done in the past to that is with NetWeaver, which is both a key technology for other SAP products and an important product in its own right. Their answer has been impressive fundamental engineering, but perhaps less “sizzle” on the surface of the product than it needs for maximum success. E.g., the BI products are significantly held back by their UIs, and serious attempts to fix that in my opinion just started last year — no offense intended to those hard-working people who might suspect I’m implicitly calling them “unserious” with that judgment.

Bottom line: Like most cases in which a huge and hugely successful company invades the core market of a rival, this effort will need to be judged several years and releases down the road. And the most important deciding factor will be whether or not there’s ongoing commitment to succeed in this new market, on a level comparable to the commitment with which the company pursues its much large core businesses. SAP has already shown such a commitment once this century, in NetWeaver. It’s too early to tell whether they’ll do so a second time, in SaaS.

January 13, 2006

Hear Curt Monash online – three times!

The world has hardly suffered from a lack of opportunities to hear me speak. I first appeared on radio and TV in 1973, first taught a college course in 1977, and have rarely shut up ever since. But until recently, I hadn’t gotten involved with the various forms of Web broadcasting. Well, that suddenly changed, and this month alone you have three different opportunities to hear me hold forth.

1. John Gallant put me on “The Hot Seat” at Network World’s offices, discussing a few provocative questions about the direction of the software industry. The video/audio may now be found on their site. Sadly, while I could quibble and say the camera angle was a bit unflattering, in essence that is what I really look like these days.

2. I participated in a Webinar for SAP called “Beyond Transactions: The Power of Portals.” The theme was that if you want to build or buy an app that’s mainly about data flowing back and forth between parts of the computer system, traditional technologies are fine. But if you want an app that has rich human contact with information, portals are often a superior technology.

I am told a link will be available within the week. Watch this blog for details.

3. On Wednesday, January 25, at 11 am EST, I am participating in – indeed, doing most of the talking for – a Webinar on Memory-Centric Data Management. The host is Applix. The focus will naturally be on the part they care most about (in-memory MOLAP), but it will also be the first time I speak about an area on which I’ve done a considerable amount of recent writing and research.

You can register for this Webinar here.

December 9, 2005

SAP’s technical strategy

I just posted an extensive discussion of SAP’s technical strategy over on the DBMS2 blog. Key takeaways include:

1. SAP is serious about SOAs and, in most regards, openness.
2. SAP’s strategy does not gladden the hearts of top-tier DBMS vendors.

I also dinged them for being clueless about how to succeed in text search, but hey — nobody’s perfect, and there’s still time for them to fix the problem.

One interesting aspect of their strategy that did not fit into the above-mentioned server-oriented post is their take on UI. They said again and again and again that it is important to provide a high degree of UI freedom in accessing the same underlying application services. (Except that they usually referred to the services as — no surprise here — “business processes.”) This is a reversal from their prior belief that a transactional screen — or a portal page — was sufficient for everybody.

In general, the enterprise software industry is getting a lot more sophisticated about and competitive in it’s work on UI. I should post about that soon. (The point has come up repeatedly in my work on BI, with SAP, Business Objects, and others.)

← Previous Page

Feed including blog about enterprise technology strategy and public policy Subscribe to the Monash Research feed via RSS or email:


Search our blogs and white papers

Monash Research blogs

User consulting

Building a short list? Refining your strategic plan? We can help.

Vendor advisory

We tell vendors what's happening -- and, more important, what they should do about it.

Monash Research highlights

Learn about white papers, webcasts, and blog highlights, by RSS or email.