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SAP has some explaining to do at Sapphire

Chris Kanaracus | May 9, 2011
While SAP has spent the past year spinning a vision for on-premises, on-demand and on-device computing, its upcoming Sapphire conference is an opportunity for the vendor to lay out some important specifics on these plans for the thousands expected to attend.

What about the installed base?

As with any software vendor, sometimes it seems like user event keynotes, with their emphasis on new and upcoming products and strategies, resonate most with the media, analysts and the customers who are the most aggressive about new product adoption.

"There are a lot of SAP customers who are a lot more cautious about what they're rolling out, and they're not even on the latest release," Reed said. "Will they have news that speaks to the installed base, and that doesn't involve opening their wallet to a lot of new initiatives?"

This group is "sensitive to having hype-y stuff foisted on them, especially stuff that's not included in their licenses," he added.

Chambers echoed the idea.

"There's a place for all that," she said. "You've got to have a platform, a stage for telling people why you're going to be relevant tomorrow. But they've got customers that invest millions of dollars in their software. It's important that they balance it with a connection to today."

For one, SAP would be wise to give some attention to its enhancement pack strategy for the Business Suite, Reed said.

The packs were intended as a way for customers to get new functionality without the pain of a full upgrade, but in reality the process hasn't been smooth, and the packs themselves have experienced delays. Therefore, good news about the enhancement pack would likely go over well with the Sapphire crowd.

Meanwhile, uproar over SAP's controversial move a few years ago to raise support fees has largely died down thanks to the passage of time and some eventual concessions by the company, including the restoration of a standard support option.

But the trade-off was that SAP scrapped an initial plan to produce KPIs (key performance indicators) proving the value of its upgraded, more expensive Enterprise Support.

In January 2010, an SAP executive told IDG News Service that the goal was to "evolve" the KPI program into something useful but less time-consuming for customers involved in it. Sapphire may be a good place for SAP to update the crowd on where those plans lie today.

ASUG is planning to focus on core issues at Sapphire. The group is launching a new initiative at Sapphire aimed at helping customers get continual return on investment for their implementations.

"Many customers go through technical upgrades and don't adopt everything," said Chairman Anthony Bosco, who is also CIO of the services firm Day & Zimmerman. "If you were to implement your system today based on what you know now, you probably would have a lot more turned on."

 

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