The one Sapphire keynote you will never get to see...will be my 2007 Sapphire keynote.
Next week is Sapphire, the first one in years that I do not attend (I have been going to every one of them since 1999 – even when I couldn’t get good seats in the concert). There was a presentation I was about to share with all of you about our strategy, but it is pretty understood that once you are not accountable for the strategy’s execution you should not decide on the strategy either. In any case, I thought this one presentation should see the light of day – especially in light of some comments made over the last few weeks about the strategic direction for SAP in the post-shai era. My intent this year is to share with you all the 3 axis (plus the x-factor) of thinking we have applied to SAP over the last few years, and since the information in this presentation is not a secret, I figured you can enjoy getting a written version without the big lights, and larger than life screen behind me.
First of all let me comment on some comments I have been hearing recently – most of all about the new “back to basics” approach SAP should take. It is important, in my humble opinion, that SAP does not go back to anything – the path forward that the company had taken over the last 4 years was the right path, and if SAP needs anything at all it is acceleration not an about face. At the macro level the decisions taken, such opening up to web services standards and the great support for Java in NetWeaver (as Dennis described in remarks this week) were essential for the continuous success of the company. Imagine today an enterprise software company fighting at account level to justify why “Java is bad and SOA is a fad” and you can understand that the position would have been ridiculed across the industry. The fact that Oracle had followed every step of our path including the recent announcement of Project X (come on, at least pick another letter when you build an xApps-like strategy) in the place of Project Fusion shows that the technology strategy was the right one, and shaped the entire market. But, since I keep getting many talkbacks from you all, I will leave you for the final verdict.
So what were those three axis of innovation?
- The first and most fundamental one is the functionality axis – the one which SAP was built around for the better part of its first 30 years. SAP programmers define themselves by the transactional modules they have built over the years, and they continue to evolve and drive those modules from the key genome of transactional process understanding so unique to SAP.
- The second axis introduced a few years ago around the formation of NetWeaver is that of openness or platform. We had to make two key decisions around the platform-ing of the mySAP suite – one around the technology infrastructure (in particular should we buy from someone or should we build our own), and the other (much tougher) one – should we document our engines through Web-Services in ways that will enable smaller ISVs build solutions that target our core Suite accounts
- The last one, a fairly new effort that started a couple of years ago, revolved around the simplification of SAP. That whole effort revolved around simplifying the consumption of our solutions in ways that would eliminate waste, or as I called it “SAP Tax”. The thought process was fairly simple – find places where people had to perform tasks that did not provide direct business value and eliminate them through better design or better packaging of the products.
- The x-factor was the eco-system effort that we drove in earnest since 2004. The thought process was one rooted in the conviction that if we get a great collection of enterprise applications around SAP that can bring value to the customer, plug to the platform, complete the processes that were in the long tail of processes for each enterprise, without adding complexity we will get a true win-win-win relationship and all boats will rise with the rising tide. We saw that happening at a much faster speed than we originally hoped.
In the next few days I will dig deeper into each segment of these axis, as you go through your real sapphire, you can read here your “virtual presentation” – hopefully they will match. The team at SAP has been doing a great job, and will continue down that path. I can tell you that the work that the entire product teams had embarked on will continue and the path is the right one. We were getting the products like CRM to not only cover more functionality – but more importantly I also saw them getting simpler to deploy improved usability and opening up through a multitude of web services. That story cannot be turned around, nor will it be – SAP is marching forward to success.
ps. This is the one year which the entertainment was my first choice...and I don't get the tickets anymore. if you get to go, get me the autographed disc.