Ahmad Ludin

3 Comets: One Industry! SAP, Oracle, Lawson

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2010 at 5:06 AM

It has been a while since I last blogged; my blogging was out and it has returned today for better or worse! I am comparing the positions that three companies (SAP, Oracle and Lawson) are taking in respect to their product availability & development strategy for small to mid size customers.

Let’s start with SAP

SAP AG:

SAP is putting a lot of emphasis on the small to midsize market (77% of their customers are according to SAP mid size!) and giving them the option of using SAP in the cloud. It seems to be evident in the product line ups they have been working on and the partnerships they have been investing in. Here is the list of  products release or updates for the later part of 2010 and onwards into 2011:

(1) Business All in One: This product is targeted for mid size customers with relatively complex business processes. It is akin to the SAP R/3 (ERP). SAP All in One with an intuitive web 2.0 interface will get more partner hosting of its Fast track (fixed scope, fixed fee) program in 2011

(2) SAP Business By Design (ByD): This is SAP’s SaaS attempt with a few bumps along the way. Multi tenancy is one of the most important aspects of SaaS model; SAP learned this the hard way by trying the “unitenancy” model first. But ByD is now offered in both uni and the multi model with new feature pack to come in later on 2010. You can read about it here.

(3)Business One: it is SAP for small businesses; Business one recently got huge update visible in both code base and the user interface. SAP now has a single code base for all the countries. The UI is much easier on the eyes but with the same blue and gray theme of SAP. Business one can be integrated with partner SaaS applications in the back end.

Conclusion:

SAP believes the SaaS and on Demand is the next big thing and the philopophy of timeless software, they are adjusting the products and service offerings. 2011 will be the year where SAP will execute more visibly in SaaS model. The challenge is for partners who made the existing SAP SaaS compliant or somewhat as in the near future, SAP offerings will compete against the partners SaaS models.

Now to Lawson:

Lawson has publicly stated the SaaS/On Demand model is a sham and “it will die soon”. A direct quote from Lawson Website “If SaaS were truly the Next Big Thing – you’d think the market would treat SaaS companies a bit better”.

Lawson tries to convince customers and partners that SaaS model of delivery is akin to renting as opposed to owning or getting a financing option on your software. You can read about Lawson’s verdict here and here (lawson CEO’s interview)

Conclusion:

Unlike SAP, Lawson does not see SaaS and on Demand the next big thing and has no immediate plans to respond to the wall street darling SaaS model of software delivery. The Software vendor will choose the traditional approach of on premise software delivery for small to midsize companies. It will be interesting to see how long before Lawson also provides the On Demand alternatives along side.

And now to Oracle:

Oracle believes the future is the integration of the best of bread applications and the platforms that will support them. Oracle is pushing Fusion in the market as an alternative to SAP netweaver, with one difference, that best of bread applications integrator. While at the same time, Oracle is supporting individual software line ups, such as PeopleSoft. Oracle seems to believe in SaaS and On Demand but not as much as SAP and more than Lawson.

Conclusion:

Oracle has a clear vision for the future: One vendor providing platforms and Integration of different application for customers smaller to large. The question for Oracle is not how tightly integrated your system is, but what is integrated with what in seamless manner. And this is what oracle thinks the smaller to mid size market will choose Oracle for their businesses. In the future, this may prove to be a better foundation for SaaS delivery from one Vendor.  The challenge for Oracle is not the ability to acquire and stabilize different applications under the hood but to convert the best of bread apps to talk in universal standards with each other and be delivered in the cloud. It will be interesting how oracle ties Hyperion with PeopleSoft in the cloud for midsize customers!

Google Wave and SAP 12Sprint- Part 2 (the Trend)

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2010 at 1:00 AM

In part 1, I tried to demystify what google wave is. In this part, I will do the same and try to explain what SAP 12Sprint is.

SAP understands the need for environment that reflect business reality; today’s business reality includes the three key artifacts I talked about in part 1; Data, Collaboration and Messaging- all three in social environment. In response, SAP created a web based application platform that is code named “12 sprint”. What this means is SAP will call 12sprint something else after it is finalized; it is likely that it will remain in somewhat semifinal state or beta for a while to exploit the opportunity to add new features/development; similar to Google’s  Gmail beta phenomenon.

So what is SAP 12Sprint:

SAP defines 12sprint as “a collaborative environment for people to make better decisions based on data”. You can read more here, and here

As google wave is about waves, 12 sprint is built around Activities. It makes distinction between different types of activities in the enterprise. Each activity has a different template or page with specific features. here is the list of Activity types or templates you can pick when creating a new Activity:

  • Blank Activity. An open/blank page for collaborative activities.
  • Prioritization Activity. Create shared goals/objectives, rank them, and capture the final outcome
  • Project Planning Activity. Define a timeline, project objectives and goals
  • Decision Activity Full. Define a situation, set options, gather consensus, reach a final decision, obtain sign off
  • Decision Activity Basic. Define a situation, define a final decision, obtain sign off
  • Discussion Activity. Define a topic for discussion, build a threaded discussion, capture the results
  • Meeting Activity. Arrange a meeting, record notes, capture decisions and action items, and define next steps
  • Research Activity. Define a research topic, collect and share relevant artifacts

As you can see 12sprint is trying to give structure to the collaborative activities you may engage in the enterprise. This approach is not new to the way SAP develops business software. Giving structure has its advantages and not so good things about it; for instance, structure can make things transparent while the many options provided along the path of structure can make things confusing for the users (at least initially).For instance, when creating a decision activity, you may wonder if the Basic option will be enough or choose the Full option.  In comparison, google wave is more of a blank activity that you can give structure to using gadgets and robots. A less structured approach on Google’s part.

Comments, notes, tools catalog and extensions are available for all of the activities;

SAP has not sacrificed the form for function or vice versa; in fact, 12sprint is a very rich web application that is easy on the eyes and easy to work with. It is open in nature, meaning it can be connected with partner applications using extensions; You can easily turn on or off applications – at least with Admin rights. The Outlook extension makes it possible to start an activity from your outlook email. Activity can be forwarded to using email to participants. The Scribd extension allows commonly used document formats(pdf, excel, word, powerpoint etc) to be viewed within an Activity without any download. Tools Catalog is a set of tools available for Activities; these tools such as Agenda, Responsibility Matrix can enhance the relevance and usability of an Activity.

The tools catalog can be made like iphone app store, new tools are added to the catalog and readily available for the enterprises, making it a cloud based platform as well.

12 sprint does a great job in addressing the data and collaboration artifacts I talked about in part 1 of this post, it however is lacking in a built in realtime messaging functionality; 12 sprint, however, is leveraging outlook as the primary messaging tool; This causes some information related to an activity to be left out and be tossed around between participants in emails alone. Perhaps, 12sprint can learn from wave, and include a built in chat tool. This is not the only difference between 12 sprint and wave; wave is primarily designed for the consumers; the same way as google maps is; wave can be used for businesses as well. Unlike 12sprint, wave is open source , less structured tool available that users/enterprises can twist and adjust for their own collaborative activities and enterprises can make use of the huge open source community for Robots and gadgets; where 12Sprint as it stands will be SAP product with some sort of licensing options. In addition, 12Sprint will have to take on MS Sharepoint and convince the enterprises to move away from the popular content management and collaboration tool. This may be its biggest challenge. It is logical that 12Sprint be available through smart phones.

Google and SAP are not alone:

Next-Generation Enterprise Social Collaboration Solutions

SAP and Google are not alone in understanding the need for environment where social media is tightly integrated with business application to help the knowledge workers do their job more efficiently; The business/economic value generated from social application is too significant to be ignored. Microsoft Sharepoint was initially designed to be a content management tool; giving structure to the documents of an enterprise; it now is a collaborative portal also; IBM’s Project Vulcan and Chatter by Salesforce.com are other examples of the social collaborative application.

The Trend:

Outlook Social Connector is another example that software vendors are making application social and in near future all business application developed will have a built in social/collaborative component and there will not be a need for a delayed release of “social connectors”.

Provider extensibility platform diagram

You can read more about the Outlook Social Connector here and here.

Google Wave and SAP 12Sprint- Part 1

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2010 at 3:58 AM

Social media is talked about everywhere; in fact, the topic is on the agenda of  employee, management meetings within enterprises; I am not sure if all the employees and or the management fully understand the impact of the social media on their daily work. Is it complimentary or interruptive to their activities? I believe there are good arguments for using it. Andrew McAfee makes a very convincing case for the social media; I would suggest that you go and have a read. Another great source is Thomas Otter’s and James Holincheck research : The Business Impact of Social Computing on HR data

Daily work for an employee; let’s say in information management industry, comprises of emails, projects, meetings in the form of conference calls with colleagues in different countries with different native languages, decision making to acquire or not, and even where to go for lunch as a team on Friday!

There is a common set of artifacts in the knowledge workers daily working life: Data, Collaboration, and Messaging

  • Data can be sourced from any number of places; it can be input by user; i.e typed; it can be derived from another set of data;  profit/loss is derived from Revenue after expenses are deducted or net payroll results from gross payroll after some sort of statutory deductions are taken; and data can be sent from another system/places using interfaces.
  • Collaboration is working with others to complete an activity or a task by sharing knowledge.
  • Messaging is interaction between the knowledge workers using technology that enables electronic communication. Chat, forums, Wikis, microbloging are all forms of messaging.

So what is all that got to do with Google and SAP you may ask; Well both google and SAP launched collaboration and communication platforms to address how we work and communicate within enterprises. Google announced  Google Wave, a new way to communicate and collaborate. You can read about it here, here, here and here

So what is Google Wave?

Let’s see, When email is sent to a group of people, it appears in each of their inboxes, a wave is similar to email but sent once and shared with the people. People can be added to the wave or removed from it and all the collaborators or wavers can edit or respond to it. A history is kept and if someone joins at a later point, they can “Play back” and can visually see the history of the wave or communication or document.

you can use the ping functionality to chat with others as well.

Documents, such as status reports, meeting minutes, project plans can be shared with the “wavers” and can be edited in real time; participation/voting, such and Yes, No, May be gadgets can be added to the wave to see who is going to the Indian for lunch. Enterprise specific gadgets can be developed and incorporated in the waves to address company specific communications and decision making criteria.

Data can be retrieved from any other place that has API and placed right into a wave using Robots. Data from your CRM system can be integrated into a wave to make decision on different marketing segmentation strategies; or data from Business Intelligence can be brought to display the time lost due to different absences.

In addition to all the features, here are some of other aspects of google wave

  • It is open source
  • It is extendable and new gadgets and robots can be developed for it
  • it can be implemented as a client or server
  • it can be accessed using mobile phone (smart phones)

With all the above advantages, there are a few things that are not so good about it:

  • You can’t really learn or pick it up in an hour because there are so many things embedded in it. Also you need other people or a group of people to wave with!
  • It is sometimes called email clone; but it is really much more than that.
  • Wave cannot be used in the current version of Internet Explorer because  HTML 5 is not available.

So google wave is really addressing the data, messaging and collaboration artifiacts of today’s  working environment. One area that jumps right out is google wave can be used  in project management or implementation of an SAP project.

to be continued to part 2…