SAPPHIRE this year is in the historic city of Vienna, famous, among other things, for waltzes, psychoanalysis and Orson Welles’ classic film. The film is actually showing at the local cinema, in a double bill with “Mr. Bean’s holiday,” which makes you wonder exactly what market they are targeting. Next week Ingmar Bergman and “Are You Being Served?”

Sometimes A Cigar Is Only A Cigar

The key theme, as it was a couple of weeks ago at SAPPHIRE US in Atlanta, is the Business Process Platform, SAP’s positioning of NetWeaver as the basis for their customers’ IT architecture. Leo Apotheker echoed our Business Technology concept with his keynote statement that “IT is All About Business”, as described in their press release “SAP’s Apotheker Puts Crowing Touch on Customer Conferences”. Well, this is where they invented the Freudian slip!

In a session with press and analysts, Henning Kagerman discussed the cause of past failed SAP projects. Partly it was the customer’s fault, he said, but admitted SAP had placed too much focus on internal BPR and left customers with a “B2B nightmare”. SAP is convinced that their Business Process Platform will provide a common basis for both B2B and A2A integration.

A Viennese Waltz

A related benefit of their Enterprise SOA approach is their ability to deliver vertical extenders and future enhancements discretely, avoiding many of the past challenges of superset code bases & invasive customization. This is evidenced by the large number and diversity of ecosystem partners selling vertical-specific solutions. They are very happy to be SAP dance partners, although some are concerned about increasing “co-opetition” in overlap areas. Most of them dance with Oracle too. One said “we want SAP to remain proud, but not become arrogant”.

A1S, The “Third Man” In SAP’s SME Strategy

In another special briefing, on SAP’s SME strategy, SAP tried to explain how the new A1S product would fit in between the basic Business One and the current pre-configured ERP product called All-in-one. I think that A1S has exciting potential for SAP, due to its SOA by design paradigm and its SaaS delivery model. Everyone here is keen to know more about its capabilities, positioning and pricing, but no-one will say clearly what those are. It’s the Third Man of this product set, talked about a lot, but hiding in the shadows like Harry Lime.

In the film, it’s a cat that gives the game away and forces Harry to reveal himself, and in this case it was financial market reporting rules that forced A1S into the light prematurely. But now it’s too late to get this cat back into the bag. Herr Kagerman admits that it has development problems, but says that this is only to be expected with a new product, which is true. “There are no unexpected problems” he assures us.

A1S is at the leading edge of the NetWeaver roadmap, driving a lot of the BPP strategy. B2B integration is a key challenge for most so-called ‘small’ enterprises, so SAP are clearly confident that A1S will drive a lot of revenue growth in markets they haven’t addressed before (in their words). Should an SME considering SAP buy All-in-one now or wait for A1S? Unfortunately we can’t answer that until we know more about A1S’s real capabilities and target markets.

Duncan Jones, Senior Analyst
Forrester Research