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jon.reed

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The latest installment in my SCN podcast series is a videocast. Taped via Adobe Connect, I had a lively conversation with SAP's Sanjay Poonen and Mark Finnern on culture change at SAP and Sanjay's views on the SAP Mentor Initiative. Culture change at SAP is a topic all three of us are invested in, though we come at it from different angles. This video was an opportunity to get Sanjay's candid views on his experience with SAP Mentors and whether the Mentors "move the needle" at SAP.

During this 19 minute video, there were a few topics that stood out for me:

- Mark Finnern's views on "culture jamming at SAP". Mark makes the case that the sense of fun and creativity Mentors often bring to what they do (think "Find the Snabe" or "Culture Jamming SAP") is not a frivolous thing, but a way of jamming culture and blurring boundaries, for example between "suits and geeks."

- Specific examples from Sanjay on what he has taken from his Mentor meetings, including a discussion at the 15:00 mark about how SAP has changed its approach to mobility and is in the process of making developing mobile apps more accessible - as a direct result of conversations with Mentors. 

- An important talk about the dangers of "elitism" and how if the Mentors are not accessible to the community, then the "Mentor mission" is a fail. Along those lines, you don't need to be a Mentor to "culture jam" - all you need is a laptop, as I joked, or maybe not even that. Take the raigns for yourself and don't be shy about giving feedback to Sanjay or anyone else on his team.

Here's the video:

(note you can also download the optimized audio file by clicking on the "download media" button on the top right, or pick it up on JonERP.com).

Video Highlights

42: Jon to Sanjay: Why do we need culture change at SAP? Sanjay: Culture change at SAP is one of my favorite topics. In the past, we weren't necessarily aligned, from the board level on down. That's changing now.

 

3:07 Mark to Sanjay: You have worked together with the SAP Mentors for a while now - tell us about your first interactions and what happened? Sanjay: I came into the first meeting with an open mind. I was amazed with the types of questions people were asking me  I felt there were things that Mentors could teach us about what we could continue to improve.

5:30 Mark to Sanjay: To me, where the Mentors can have impact is not only the technical and content level, but also on a fun level. I call it culture jamming SAP, and bringing a element of fun into the work can make a huge difference. 

7:15 Sanjay: I agree. One of the things I like about SAP is that we're a global company, and probably more of a global company that many. I'm an Indian working in a German company, and there is a tremendous willingness, sometimes a bit to a fault, to lean on the side of the culture of consensus. There is not much tolerance for an autocratic style here. 

9:20 Sanjay: The Mentors want SAP to succeed, because that is their success too, and that trust comes across. You have great access to our internal people, and that's a special relationship. It's an elite group of people from within the community.

10:30 Jon to Sanjay: The SAP Mentors discuss this issue a lot because if we aren't raising other people up in the community, we are essentially failing. What would you say to those who aren't Mentors in the community who want to be a part of this?

15:00 Mark: from a Mentor point if view, if you're not a Mentor, you can still run with the Mentors. Join the Inside Tracks that others are organizing, invite the mentors and things will happen.

15:50 Sanjay: Just as an example, one piece of feedback I got from the Mentors on mobility has had an impact. The last time I got together with Jon, Dennis, Vijay, and John Appleby, a key part of the feedback from them was, "Listen, you need to take the developer a lot more seriously in the context of mobility." On the inside, we have a plan of how we are going to address that we are putting into motion. For us to win in the mobile game, it's not going to be 8 or 9 developers, it's going to be millions of developers. That's a very tangible example of when you take feedback well and can act on it, and you're going to see action on this issue.

In closing, I thought SAP Mentor Jarret Pazahanick's comments on this video were relevant: "I have said it before, but SAP is really listening to individuals and groups outside of the SAP walls and that is impressive. Culture changes take time and is a work in progress, but it starts with senior leadership and you can tell Sanjay is passionate about this."

Culture change isn't easy and it's definitely a messy process along the way. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on where SAP stands on this issue and I'm sure Sanjay and Mark would too.

For my last blog (sniff) on the "old" SCN platform, I have an SAP Community Network podcast I did on an interesting topic: the "suggest mobile apps" area on SAP Idea Place. I'm pretty new to Idea Place myself, though we did use it to get Natascha Thomson to TechEd last year. :)

At any rate, what I found interesting about the "suggest mobile apps" area on Idea Place was the chance to provide visibility into the demand and interest in different kinds of mobile apps. If SAP is to make good on its vow to have partners develop upwards of 80% of mobile apps (Jim Snabe said 90% in Madrid), that means partners will need a clear idea of what kinds of apps are needed.

Enter this podcast. To find out what inspired the "suggest mobile apps" section on Idea Place and how it fits into SAP's mobility strategy, I talked with SAP's Nick Brown and Clemens Suter-Crazzolara.  Since the new section launched six weeks ago, there have been more than 150 ideas from 50 contributors, making it one of the fastest growing areas within Idea Place to this point. But there are still many community members who don't yet know about this project - thus this blog and podcast.

During the thirteen minute podcast, Nick shares SAP's mobility strategy and his vision for how Idea Place can help pull the ecosystem into a crowdsourced approach to suggesting and prioritizing mobility app development. Clemens, who has been driving the project, explains how those who haven't used Idea Place before can get started suggesting their mobility ideas. 

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).



(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.

Podcast Highlights

:54 SAP's mobility strategy in a nutshell and what inspired the "suggest mobile apps" area on Idea Place. Nick:  I hope Idea Place becomes a vibrant, innovative knowledge sharing area, where SAP and its partners can deliver lots of mobile apps into out customers.

4:02 Clemens: Idea Place is a unique opportunity in the SAP ecosystem for customers, partners, and any other stakeholders to take part in defining the apps portfolio for the mobility apps that will be built out on the Sybase Unwired Platform. Everyone can chime in and have input directly. The threshold is very low, there are no restrictions, and anyone can join in. We have requests from many partners and customers when we started on this journey to offer more transparency in this process. For the first time, we are exposing the requirements gathering to the outside world -  it's quite revolutionary.

5:28 Clemens: To get started, just go to the Idea Place web site (you have to be registered with SCN), within 5 to 10 minutes you can post an idea. You only have to come up with a good app name, but don't use the word "mobile" or "app" in the name. Add in as much info into the description as possible. Then you have to activate your personal ecosystem, email the idea to everyone you know and get them to comment. That's the key to crowdsourcing- get as many votes as possible, and let folks know on Twitter, LinkedIn, or SCN. We'll look very carefully at the top ideas and pass these on to SAP development or to our partners,

7:25 Clemens: We have been live for six weeks, have done limited advertising on some social media and drawn attention to the site.  A couple ideas have gotten interesting traction, for example: a sales incentive app, where a salesperson can see on the mobile device where they stand with incentive payments each month.

8:46 Nick: Partners can use this project to get a clear picture of the kinds of apps of what the ecosystem wants, find out what the customers are looking for, what people in SAP's solution management product team are seeing momentum wise.

11:10 The best way to get started? Go to Idea Place for the SUP group called "Suggest Mobile Apps" and start suggesting and voting on ideas.

Relevant links: In addition to the SAP mobility apps ideas section on Idea Place, you can also check out Clemens Suter-Crazzolara's blog updates about the project on SCN. Also check out the mobility section on SCN.

Best laid plans can come apart at the seams, and video shoots are no exception. I had lined up a "HANA at TechEd" preview video taping for JD-OD.com with two HANA rock stars (a technical term for guys I trust for their expertise and fairness, far better than "gurus"), but the Skype video session borked (borked being another highly technical term for miscellaneous Skype failures). Fortunately I had a decent backup plan with an audio dial in. It may be that it worked out for the best: what we got instead was not only good banter about HANA TechEd themes but an in-depth HANA skills discussion, something I for one have been looking for.

So what we have here is a 50 minute podcast to get you geared up for HANA at TechEd and beyond, with fellow SAP Mentors Vijay Vijayasankar and Harald Reiter. Make sure to stay tuned to the end for some joking around about "gurus" and why none of us wants to be one. This is Harald's first time on a JonERP podcast (I'm sure there will be more), and the skills discussion is inspired in part by Harald's excellent SCN blog post, SAP HANA Skills Trap

A couple thoughts on the skills discussion: of particular interest were Harald and Vijay's comments about future roles for ABAP developers on HANA projects. There's no perfect answer to this question yet, but it's an important topic. I also really enjoyed honing in on the data modeling and SQL scripting skill set that is vital to these first wave HANA Proof of Concept (POC) projects these guys have been involved with.

Note that you can look up Vijay and Harald's SAP TechEd Vegas sessions in a couple of ways: 1. check out their speaker biographies, and also go through all the HANA sessions (keyword search: HANA)  to find the expert lounge and hands-on sessions they are involved with.

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).



(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime. This podcast is also available on the JonERP iTunes feed.)

Ordinarily in include in-depth text highlights from the podcasts, but in the interests of time I am skipping those to get this out to you prior to the show. But I will include a few basic timestamps and topics below to give you a flavor in case you want to skim.

I. TechEd Preview, HANA News Stories Rehash, TechEd Burning HANA Questions (00:00 - 20:30)

II. HANA Skills discussion and breakdown (20:30 -  46:40)

(with some bonus discussion of BI 4.0 and HANA)

III. parting shots and jokin' around about gurus and "thought leaders" or lack thereof (46:40 -50:00)

Plenty of interesting questions came up during the podcast, including but not limited to: 

- Whether the HANA cloud is relevant to customers now

- The impact of BW running on HANA in future releases

- The relative importance of HANA apps and what we're expecting there

Skills: 

- Why data modeling skills are so important

- Whether outside HANA experts are needed on HANA projects

- Will ABAP developers have a role in the HANA world? 

Final note: usually I add music and some finishing touches to my podcasts. I'm skipping those this time in the interests of timely content. I think you'll find the discussion worthwhile.

Funny how things work. Technical frustration led to one of my favorite podcasts of the year. Thanks to Harald and Vijay for such a great discussion.

Useful podcast links: You can look up Vijay and Harald's SAP TechEd Vegas sessions in a couple of ways: 1. check out their speaker biographies, and also go through all the HANA sessions (keyword search: HANA)  to find the expert lounge and hands-on sessions the guys are involved with. Other links: SAP Mentor Initiative. You can also check out SAP's In-Memory Home Page on SCN. Vijay Vijayasankar has been blogging in detail on HANA. Also recommended: the HANA posts of fellow SAP Mentors Vitaily Rudnytskiy and John Appleby, who has blogged in detail on HANA on his Bluefin Solutions blog and also on his blog on SCN. Fellow SAP Mentor Dick Hirsch's forward-thinking SCN post on The specified item was not found. also comes up in the podcast discussion.

Look forward to seeing many of you in Vegas! If you're looking for me there and can't find me, pinging me on Twitter might be best.

Heading into SAP TechEd season, one of the greatest areas of anticipation is around HANA - both the hands-on exposure and the potential new announcements. To get us primed for the TechEd season, I have a new installment in my SAP Community Network podcast series: a HANA podcast with SAP's Thomas Torf. The focus of the podcast? Lessons learned from HANA customer engagements.

As the Vice President, Customer Engagements & Business Development at SAP Labs, Torf has a great deal of customer-facing HANA experience to share with SCN listeners. During the twenty minute podcast, we focus on customer stories and also get the scoop on Torf and his team's plans for SAP TechEd Las Vegas. Christopher Kim of SAP also joins the podcast, talking with Torf about HANA and mobility and sharing the latest on in-memory on SCN.

If all goes well, I'll have one more HANA-related piece to share before we get to TechEd, so watch this space in about a week. As usual, I'm including a number of podcast highlights below if you'd like to skim through and get some key points quickly.

This podcast references the SAP HANA and In-Memory Home Page on SCN. Also check out the In-Memory blog category on SCN and the SAP HANA and In-Memory Computing. You can check out the 28 TechEd Las Vegas sessions that relate to HANA in the SAP TechEd session directory.

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).



(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.

Podcast Highlights

1:10 Thomas' role at SAP and how he is engaging with SAP customers on HANA.

2:50 Why does HANA and in-memory change the game for SAP customers? Thomas: What we explained to customers is that today, most of the time you have only a subset of information available that you can do BI on. With HANA, the change is that you can have one year, two years, five years of information in-memory and you can slice and dice the data back and forwards in ways not seen before.

4:25 Let's get into some customer examples. How does your typical process of engaging with a customer around HANA work? Thomas: we have mapped out a typical implementation which starts with the setup of the machine and software which is part of the component with HANA. We are part of the design services organization, so our approach is to help customers identify pain points they have today that most of the time aren't even fixable for them. We helped one customer deal with complex information on the customer and product side they couldn't analyze on ECC, but in HANA we could bring them together and combine the data. We did this and went a step further: when we did the demo, we used the sheer speed of the system with an iPad as the front end. That's our typical approach: first we tackle the design problem, set up in the system, model the environment, do a few iterations and get an end result. In that case it took 3-4 weeks from first date to end date, and we did this on 280 million records with a performance of 4.6 seconds.

6:20 One underreported aspect of HANA is the connection to SAP BI 4.0. Can you tell us more about how the two products are linked and how customers are taking advantage of that? Thomas: there are a lot of benefits you get with BI 4.0: one is Data Services, the other is you can model inside HANA and you just pass it through to the Business Objects stack, which gives you an incredible performance while you model close to the engine.

8:30 Is there an SAP customer that is the best fit for HANA right now, or is it that all SAP customers have some processes that are ideal for HANA? How should SAP customers go about evaluating HANA as a fit for their own use cases? Thomas: We have a lot of pilots and implementations with multiple customers and there isn't really one key similarity between them. One example is that we had a customer who had to run a very complex process at the end of their work cycle. When they hit the return on the keyboard it took 47 minutes on process. Now its 2 seconds- that makes the previous process obsolete.

10:30 What is the process like moving from HANA proof of concept to business case to production?

12:30 Is there one misconception about HANA you'd like to clear up for our listeners?

14:00 What are you looking ahead to in future releases? Thomas: Across the globe with our development teams, more simplicity and ease of use is the main mantra. The founder (Haaso) is behind the system and the CTO is pushing us to make it better, and the performance ratios are ahead of the competition. 

15:15 What kinds of HANA-based activities can we expect to see at TechEd? Thomas: We'll be at TechEd and participating in a three day HANA session. My team is doing "the screwdriver session," the nuts and bolts, tips and tricks. My team is on the ground in Vegas and I hope a lot of people will join us so we can tell you what we've been through and how we can help.

16:35 Chris to Thomas: You've mentioned mobile devices a couple of times and iPad - how often does mobility come up in HANA engagements? Thomas: 100 percent of the time. When the customers realize what you can do with the data and the sheer speed we can give them, then the next question is "why do I have to use the desktop when I can get the info in 4 to 8 seconds?" We have done the first run ups on Androids, and we have tested it on tablets here. When you see the performance on explorer on the iPad, it's amazing. When we did the first implementation for Bill McDermott's presentation, he never gave back the iPad.

18:20 Chris on HANA at SCN: we do have a dedicated HANA community on SCN in SDN under technology innovation, and that's where you'll find the latest and greatest in forums, blogs, and tech documentation, there's tons of information and all the SAP TechEd content will go there too.

For my SCN podcast series this year, the SCN team has taken a collective challenge to come up with the most compelling topics we can. SAP Business ByDesign for subsidiaries certainly fits into that category for me. There's a good amount of information about SAP Business ByDesign now, but not as much about the subsidiaries angle. This topic speaks to how large enterprises are becoming more networked with their subsidiary divisions. This is where the notion of a "two tiered ERP strategy" comes into play (see what analyst Ray Wang had to say on two-tiered ERP).

It makes sense that for subsidiaries, especially for growth-oriented divisions or those who do not want to invest in an internal IT competency, that cloud ERP would be a serious consideration. But there are also questions about how a smaller division with a need for more flexibility could co-exist with larger enterprises that live and breath on standards and compliance.

To get at those questions, and to understand how SAP Business ByDesign fits into the picture. we've got a very interesting podcast with Claus Gruenewald and Siva Darivemula of SAP. As the Vice President of SAP Business ByDesign, Claus has been heavily involved in ByDesign for subsidiaries, and Siva has been leading up the ByDesign community on the SAP Community Network.

During the 30 minute podcast, we explore the issues of cloud ERP for subsidiaries before digging into SAP's ByDesign plans at TechEd and how to get involved in the ByDesign discussions on SCN. One high point of the podcast? Claus had several customer examples to share that provide a practical view of how ByDesign for subsidiaries works in action rather than just in theory. As usual I'll include some bullet point highlights from the podcast below.

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).



(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.

Podcast Highlights

1:00
Jon to Claus: Many of our listeners want to learn what large enterprise networks are all about and how cloud ERP fits in. Claus: Large scale ERP is just too big for them, which is not good for speed of deployment and it's not good for the user in the end.

The smaller businesses, if you look at them, they are going into their business network very agile, and as a result, they are looking for something flexible to grow their business. They use IT, but in a different way.

4:10 Jon to Claus: With the potential for standardization to kill innovation, it sounds like a conflict between large and small divisions, so how do you deal with that? Claus: I recommend a two tier ERP strategy, which allows CIOs to approach this issue in an intelligent way.  So why not combine on-premise solution with an on-demand solution that can be easily deployed? If you look at an SAP Business ByDesign solution which is an end-to-end suite, much more than CRM or purchasing, it's end to end, order to cash, the complete business processes including reporting and analytics.

8:10 Jon to Claus: Can you give us some customer examples of ByDesign in subsidiaries? Claus: Nokia equipped their Indian sales offices with ERP in the cloud, in this case ByD. This is more than CRM: they run orders, they have the financials on the back end. One after another, they equipped their sales offices where they were up and running every few weeks. On premise is not that fast and agile in rollout. Another example: Dow Chemicals used ByD for their two tier strategy with their R and D shops in the US, which go into niche markets and then develop the niche. Those companies also need to consume software out of the cloud.

12:00 Jon to Claus: Let's talk ByD deployment - cloud ERP may be faster, but you don't snap your fingers, what is deployment like? Claus: with the usual deployment of ERP on-premise, you start with the blueprint and put industry requirements in there as well. The blueprint is a long phase and you go through customization of that blueprint, which makes a lot of sense if you want to model a very large organization's requirements into one cohesive blueprint. But with smaller organizations, we interviewed many of them to understand the 20-25 percent that all companies need. That's what we call the core ByD system, this is basically pre-configured.

Then you have a role and a work center aspect. This is how a given person actually works. With that in place, you can actually speed up the implementation. If you make the infrastructure available to many customers, you can deploy it and bring it up quickly. In two hours we can have a new tenant available, and a ByD project runs between one week and twelve weeks depending on the scope. If it's just CRM it's very quick. If it's the whole business process, CRM, HR, Financials and purchasing plus project systems, it can be three months, but in that time frame, they are totally up and running.

14:30 Jon to Claus: For large enterprises evaluating the cloud, issues include speed of deployment, flexibility, and security - what are the other decision factors? Claus: I see two more for large organizations: one is integration. If you have loosely coupled systems in a large network, integration aspects are required. You always try to have mapping tables in between, which gets very costly and takes much more time. Then there is financial consolidation, which means at the subsidiary level, once a week, or once a quarter, you have to consolidate it back to headquarters in some fashion. The standard integration aspect is a key decision factor for many enterprises.

20:05 Siva to Claus: Do you see geographical differences in Europe, US, Asia? Claus: there are some. The biggest difference I see is the countries where large enterprises have their network and look for support. In North America, that means Middle America, Latin America and China. So they want to support in China, Mexico, and sometimes India. By contrast, European companies do a lot of business in eastern Europe including Poland and Russia, this is where their fast growing startups are and their fast growing sales organizations are, so that's a major difference, in terms of where the businesses make their money and achieve their growth.

23:15 Siva to Claus: As traditional businesses expand to on-demand, are there any organizational competencies or skills needed to get the most out of cloud ERP? Claus: it's not so much about the skills, it's about trust in on-demand. Put yourself in the shoes of the large enterprise customer: they run their own data centers, if something goes wrong, they think they know who is responsible.

25:30 Siva on ByD Community plans - For those of you who haven't been on the SAP Business ByDesign, it's on the BPX community on SCN, in a section called cloud and on-demand solutions, and there's a lot going on there. You can get hands-on experience to get a handle on how these solutions fit together; there's blogs and a ton of information we are adding to on a regular basis. The best place to ask questions and get them addressed is on the forums. If you go to the community page, you can see what's going on there and you can join the forums there as well. Also, we are getting close to TechEd, there's a ton of stuff folks can expect from SAP there, including many hands-on workshops and sessions. We hope to see you there.

This podcast references the SAP Business ByDesign at BPX.SAP.com. Also check out the ByDesign and On Demand blog categories on SCN. You can check out the 28 TechEd Las Vegas sessions that relate to Business ByDesign in the SAP TechEd session directory.

There was no doubt to anyone who attended Sapphire Now 2011 of the central importance of HANA to SAP's business strategy going forward. The problem for many of us has been that the HANA information shared by SAP has been high on "game changing" ideas but not always deep in specifics. There are plenty of practical questions that need more detailed answers. In fairness to SAP, HANA development has been moving rapidly and there is a lot of ground to cover. Still, big questions on HANA remain, and you can see that on Twitter just about every day.

In fact, it was Twitter that sparked this podcast. Two fellow SAP Mentors, John Appleby and Ethan Jewett, were tweeting HANA questions and looking for some answers. The SAP Blogger Relations team proposed the idea of doing a HANA podcast with me as the moderator and referree, with John and Ethan posing questions to the HANA SAP team, and I agreed. The result was this 40 minute podcast.

As I reflect on the recording while writing up the SCN version of this podcast, I can see both it flaws and its merits. The merits? We were able to get past sound bites and into some deeper clarifications on HANA, in particular around how HANA fits into SAP's future data warehousing strategy. I also liked that Jake Klein and Thomas Zurek of SAP were honest about what HANA can and can't do currently. We need more of that kind of talk, clearly identifying the pros and cons of the current use cases. This doesn't take away from the visionary stuff about HANA and what it might be able to do for the integration of OLTP and OLAP and the reduction of SAP Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) either. Both kinds of discussions are needed.

I jump in once or twice with thoughts of my own - otherwise, after my intro, this is a free-flowing discussion with SAP's Jake Klein and Thomas Zurek fielding questions from John and Ethan. Topics such as the future of BW and data warehousing at SAP, the need for HANA benchmarking, and the reality of current HANA use cases are covered at length. Klein also explains what they are doing to bring SAP customers from Proof of Concept (POC) to Go-Live.  No, we didn't get all our HANA questions answered - time ran out on the taping first - but here's what twe did learn. 

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime).

Podcast Highlights

1:46 John Appleby to Jake/Thomas: What are the great use cases for HANA, and what are some use cases where HANA isn't the most appropriate and BW and/or Sybase IQ might be better? Jake: HANA is not just an application or a capability; it's the kernel of SAP's next generation platform to deliver many of our applications in the future, built around in-memory technology. HANA itself is the in-memory engine, which includes in-memory database capability as well as an integrated calculation and aggregation engine.

In the 1.0 GA version, HANA is targeted for operational data mart capabilities primarily; those are scenarios where customers would like to run analytics on top of data that is sourced from their SAP or non-SAP ERP systems, and do those analytics in real time. It scales extremely well, customers can ask whatever they want without having to worry about the impact on core ERP systems databases. With HANA, they don't have to aggregate data and do database tuning, etc for operational BI to work effectively.

So how does HANA relate to BW and to Sybase IQ and other data warehousing technology? The way SAP views BW is as an application that sits on top of the database. The plan with BW is to, over time, deliver BW on top of HANA and to selectively and progressively move and shift the performance intensive parts of BW into the HANA in memory engine starting in Q4 this year.

In its current version, HANA is a data mart, not yet a data warehouse system. It's not designed for a large scale EDW with content lifecycle management, data management, object management and other robust EDW capabilities - those will be moved from the BW app layer into the HANA engine over time, and we'll see the first in-memory data warehousing offering later this year: BW 7.30 that is running and optimized for HANA.

8:00 Addressing BW confusion -Ethan: what does this do to customers' overall perception of the BW/BI architecture? How will HANA fit in? What is the end game?

12:15 Jake: One primary reason customers have built these EDW tools on top of their OLTP systems is to avoid a performance hit, so the data is replicated, transformed, and moved out. Over time, individual lines of business need to be agile and respond to changes in their business quickly. A lot of times it takes too long for IT to update this line of business information, so they end up with data marts that are geographically or line of business focus. You can have 15 EDWs and dozens if not hundreds data marts. With HANA, there is no need to move the data our of the OLTP system for performance reasons, you can simply apply the analytics tools/views on top of the operational data once that data is in-memory, and performance is not an issue. This should lead to significant data infrastructure consolidation.

15:30 John to Jake: For customers that have deployed large scale BW without the BW Accelerator - some of those data mart scenarios might be applied via HANA instead. However, there are some scenarios where HANA does provide performance problems, especially with large scale ad hoc scenarios using the BusinessObjects suite. What is the team doing to work on that? Jake: full transparency: the product is in ramp up - we have made a lot of progress in the last seven months. There are situations where customers look at HANA and see that they can deploy apps on top of an in-memory app. But the primary use case today is not to replace the database options that customers can use today; it's also not an open database platform for all kinds of database application development. We haven't optimized all those query scenarios yet.

18:30 John to Jake: But from what I can see, the problems occur when customers ask ad hoc questions. Other data warehousing vendors have similar issues, and they seem to be investing in map reduction algorithms to enhance performance and other ways of addressing spanning tree problems, what is SAP doing? Jake: The answer is yes. We do have algorithms to distribute queries across multiple nodes. That's one of HANA's strengths - to scale across deployment. For exploration and ad-hoc queries, we're investing heavily in that area and we see that as an important area for us to excel in.

20:28 Ethan to the guys: What kinds of actions are you taking to help customers optimize their applications for HANA as you go into GA, to work with customers who aren't part of the ramp-up program?

24:00 John to the guys: The HANA mid-term strategy looks to me like it's away from the data warehouse. You are building out data services which will allow loading from ERP to any database within reason; you are building out HANA apps with very specific use cases. So is BW and data warehousing as a concept dead? Jake: DW is not dead from an SAP perspective at all. DW is a best practice and a set of capabilities that you need to have on top of your data layer. Our strategy is to continue to enable the best practices in the BW product today, running on top of HANA as an app with all the performance intensive aspects moved into HANA. Starting in Q4 this year, BW will be one of the apps that run on the in-memory platform as well as other apps such as Strategic Workforce Planning.

30:26 Jon to the guys: I had a reporter ask me at Sapphire Now, "Wait - are you trying to tell me that these customers aren't live yet?" I explained many of them were in the proof of concept (POC) phase. I talked to customers about proof of concept - one was looking at HANA to apply to a high sales volume area where the BW latency issues were hurting their sales opportunities. What is SAP doing to work with customers to move them from proof of concept to go-live?

34:10 Ethan to the guys: A couple months ago, there was a release of an internal benchmark SAP did with an independent auditor to verify the benchmark findings. The idea was that the internal benchmark was very impressive. But it's difficult to get a handle on what that means for individual customers without getting a handle on that benchmark. Is SAP issuing a recreatable benchmark that gives customers the data set and queries that were run so that it can be verified on a customer site? Jake: We're in the process of moving the "H" benchmark through the process, before we do that we can't openly share it or have third parties test against it. It's something we've spent a lot of time defining, and it is something that is based on the TPC-H queries, however the data models and data sets have been greatly extended to reflect realistic customer use cases.

Ethan to the guys: Will it be possible to use that on another database, such as Max DB and Oracle? Jake: Once it's approved, we would define this as a new business intelligence benchmark, and all our OEM partners would have an opportunity to executive the tests and submit the results. That's exactly what we did internally.

38:13 Jon to the guys: Want to turn the tables and give you a chance to sound off - are there any misconceptions you've seen about HANA that drive you a little crazy?

Podcast links: SAP's In-Memory Home Page on SCN. Thomas Zurek is one of the most active SAP internal voices blogging on HANA themes. You can view the Hasso Plattner and Vishal Sikka Sapphire Now keynotes, both of which were heavily centered on HANA, with a free log in. John Appleby has blogged in detail on HANA on his Bluefin Solutions blog and also on his blog on SCN. Ethan Jewett has done the same with his own blog as well as his SCN blog. I also cover the range of reaction to HANA at Sapphire Now in his Enterprise Irregular blog post: Analyzing the Real News Stories of Sapphire Now 2011, Part One: The Impact of HANA. Other links: SAP Mentor Initiative. Also recommended: SAP Mentors Vijay Vijayasankar and Vitaily Rudnytskiy have both been blogging in detail on HANA. Special thanks to Craig Cmehil of SAP Blogger Relations and the other influencer relations folks at SAP who helped make this podcast happen.

For my SCN podcast series this year, the SCN team has asked me to concentrate on customer stories. That's fine by me. Customer stories are where the real action is. In this case, the always-plugged-into-something-interesting Ginger Gatling sent me a tweet asking if I'd like to do a piece on EIM. EIM is something I am always up for, because EIM gets to the gritty issues that drive business intelligence: data quality and integration. If you can make one generalization about ERP customers, it would be that they all struggle with data integrity and information architectures.

The right people came together and soon I was taping a podcast with SAP customer National Vision. Since National Vision has worked on EIM projects for a number of years now, this was a great chance to see how the scope of EIM projects can evolve as you build momentum. Along the way, there were challenges such as rethinking IT from a skills perspective (moving from coding to integration), as well as how to consistently involve business users.

During this Business Analytics Community podcast, I talk with Louann Seguin, VP of Information Technology and Strategy at National Vision, about their journey with SAP Enterprise Information Management (EIM). From those early data warehousing efforts to a new, cutting edge point of sale project, Seguin tells the story of how National Vision expanded their use of Data Services from a data warehousing focus to a complete information architecture.

During the 20 minute podcast, Seguin also shares how they involved their business users in the process, enabling business users to access customer data from a centralized location. National Vision's use of EIM tools for real-time data cleansing and access shows how they are shifting their IT focus from custom development to strategic integration. In the second section of the podcast, SAP's Mike Keilin joins the discussion, asking Seguin about how IT involves business users. Jon then gets the latest info from Keilin about EIM resources on SCN and how to continue the EIM conversation there.

SAP EIM links of interest mentioned in the podcast: EIM landing page on SCN, EIM Use Case Wiki, Data Services Wiki, EIM e-learning, Business Intelligence Old Forum (Read Only Archive) . Also follow the SAP EIM team on Twitter.

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime).

Podcast Highlights

1:00 Louann's background and her role at National Vision. Louann: I'm in IT, but I come from a business background, so that has helped me to bring the best of business into IT, and to serve as the connection between IT and business here.

1:20 National Vision has been on an "EIM journey" for several years now - how did that journey get started? Louann: A number of years ago, we determined we needed a better information retrieval and storage system so we embarked on a data warehousing project. At the time, we settled on BusinessObjects data services. This created an audit trail from the source systems to the data warehouse to the Business Objects universes to the reports themselves. It gave us a lot of visibility along that journey.

2:48 You've talked about several phases in your EIM process - can you tell us about each of these three phases? Louann: As we were using the Data Services tool, it dawned on us we could use it for many areas beyond the data warehouse. So we embarked on an enterprise information planning and architecture process.

5:20 Now you're talking about point of sale integration. What will the process of implementing SAP EIM at the point of sale look like? Louann: Before I get into that, one key point to set up the point of sale. We moved into a data quality initiative to address data quality across a range of customer data sources. All of our customers from our various source systems are linked together form a single global ID. That gives us the ability to see a customer across the various touch points and across the lifecycle. 

We'll use web services from the point of sales to move retail orders to our labs to start working on it right away, and then into our ERP systems for real-time visibility and reporting. Another point of sale example: as an employee enters customer information, they will use a real time web services call to do an address cleanse on the fly. This makes it easier to link point of sale information to the rest of the data for that customer.

10:10 What kinds of lessons from your SAP EIM projects would you share with other SAP customers? Louann: start small, develop internal skills, and use your imagination. If you just think of EIM as a tool to use in business intelligence scenarios, you're missing out on other ways of using it within the enterprise.

10:44 What kinds of skills should be cultivated for this kind of project? Louann: even with my main programmers, I'm moving them into more data integration skills. As IT is evolving, we are doing less development. My IT staff is changing more from developers to integrators and stitching all these systems together. So it's about database skills and integration efforts, understanding how data moves through your system.

11:50 What further improvements would you like to see from SAP with the EIM solutions? Louann: I would like to see more change management best practices incorporate into the tool, such as change management with data flows and jobs, and versioning to move jobs from test to development to production.

12:30 Mike to Louann: How did you approach your interaction with business colleagues in each phase of the project? Louann: We worked with our business users very, very closely. Our IT team members were present at all strategy sessions and even at process engineering meetings. In modern enterprises, IT is everywhere. If you just keep IT in the background, you're ignoring a strategic direction your company needs to consider.

16:15 Mike to Louann: With EIM projects, there are always data issues. Since National Vision doesn't have a formal data governance group, how do you interact with the business on this? Louann: at the beginning of the EIM projects, we initiated some basic Master Data Management guidelines. One rule was: if there is an error with the data, clean it up at the source, don't wait to fix it after the transforms. We also worked with the business to come up with agreed upon metrics and definitions and how data relates to that.

17:45 Jon to Mike: For our listeners who want to get more involved in with EIM conversations on SCN, what are the opportunities to get involved?

Mike: The SAP Community Network is very important to our EIM community, and it's growing quickly. From an EIM perspective, there's a lot to talk about besides simply ETL data and movement as Louann has described. We are always working to ensure we have the latest and greatest information. Our EIM forums have over 500,000 messages, we have blogs, wikis, e-learnings. We also just launched an EIM use case wiki. This is a place for our customers and partners to learn more about EIM use case scenarios, and it's organized by topic and by forthcoming releases. You can check out these resources on the SAP EIM landing page.

I've been a bit out of my podcast rhythm, partially because of the effort with Dennis Howlett launching JD-OD.com, our new video commentary site with an on-demand theme. There are things I still love about podcasting though, so I will still continue in this medium also. One of the best things about podcasting for me is to get into an informal, in-depth group conversation where you get into the nitty gritty of topics that were driving you a bit crazy because you didn't get the chance to explore them adequately.

When I was taking a bit of a podcasting break, I came back to the question of "why do I do this in the first place?" It isn't something I did for money, in fact I love giving the end product away for free. There are several motivations, but one of them is that I always loved talk radio. Not the strident and divisive political talk radio we have today, or the angry sports radio where callers dial in and holler about their teams from the arm chair manager perspective. No, I'm thinking more about those nuanced discussions where you really learn all sides of an issue. Talk with people who are willing to question assumptions and who bring in the field-tested knowledge.

Sometimes I think we get too wrapped up in brevity. Heck, I tweet a lot so I have no choice but to learn how to communicate in 140 characters or so. SAP's Jonathan Becher just wrote a good piece on the virtues of brevity, aptly titled, "be brief." There's no denying that knowing how to sum up an issue quickly and memorably, and most of all, knowing when to shut up and listen, are critical skills in our time-starved era. But I would also argue that our cultural discourse suffers from the fact that we walk around intensely debating issues and offering opinions on topics we have no in-depth understanding in. You have to work hard to find the time for those deep dives these days, but I think those deep dives enrich our character. There's a reason why Harry Potter wasn't published as a short story. That kind of thinking is what motivates my podcasts.

The fact is there is a ton of great content out there, certainly in SAP BI that is true. The BAC is chock full of it, some of my favorites include SAP Mentor Ingo Hilgefort's insanely rich resources of BI topics. Which brings me to my latest podcast. There are many great things coming out in SAP BI 4.0, but there are also some questions that have been bothering me, unanswered issues about the integration of analytics and operational data, predictive analytics, SAP's approach to business rules, whether the Semantic Layer is as big a deal as SAP says. Heck, most of the phrases I just used could stand for some clear definitions.

For that reason, on the week before SAPPHIRE NOW I went after these questions and more with my semi-regular SAP BI podcast co-host Vijay Vijayasankar. To spice things up, we brought in special guest James Taylor of Decision Management Solutions. I had met James at the SAP BI 4.0 launch and was impressed by his breadth of thinking, his strong informed views, and his satirical sense of humor. The end result was a 50 minute podcast that was great fun for someone like me that obasesses on the unanswered questions. I know I have peppered SAP with these questions more than once, so it was nice to give them a break and bat them around for ourselves.

Hopefully there are others out there who wanted to hear some debate about tough BI topics like harnessing the value of unstructured data and whether SAP needs to consolidate its business rules engine. For that matter, why do business rules even matter? Why do vendors struggle with delivering predictive analytics solutions? If you have any further questions after listening to the "thorny SAP BI questions" podcast, don't hesitate to post them, I'll try to get to them in future media content.

Podcast links: Vijay's SCN blog has many topics pertianing to this podcast, as does James Taylor' own blog. Vijay's personal blog, "Vijay's Thoughts on All Things Big and Small," also has some relevant BI content. Also note: I had a minor static issue on the taping during the first 11 minutes of the podcast. That has largely been fixed in production, but the sound quality improves further at the 11 minute mark.

(If for any reason the embedded player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side). 



(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime, or on my JonERP iTunes feed).

Podcast Highlights

0:00 - Jon back in the podcast saddle (with semi-regular co-host Vijay Vijayasankar) - Jon's been busy with JD-OD.com, but glad to be back on the podcast airwaves. Special guest James Taylor of Decision Management Solutions joins us.

2:10 Jon to Vijay: We're waiting on BI 4.0, we expect GA announcement soon, what can we expect? Vijay: I'm excited - we've been playing with the rampup version of SAP BI 4.0 for a while, and I'm excited. There is better integration, and SAP has pulled some much-requested features from 4.1 right into 4.0.

4:00 Jon to James: Semantic Layer - BS or important evolution? James: I think it is important. There is a lot of BS around semantics, but I do think semantics matter. From a business rules perspective, my question would be, "Well this is great, but when will there a semantic layer where you can use all the development tools SAP has against it, not just the BI tools?"

6:42 Jon to James: You focus heavily on business rules - why is this area worth blogging about? James: My focus is on decision making, which brings me into contact with a lot of BI people. So how do you help an organization take control of their decision making process? Business rules are a great tool for that, because they are much more transparent and easy to change than code.

8:50 Jon to James: So we're trying to take the human element out where we feel we can take it out? James: To some extent, yes, but I prefer to say, "We're trying to help the right person make the decision." Do you want a new call center person to make the decision on how to retain your best customer?

10:00 Vijay to James: I'm really curious to hear how you see SAP's business rules functionality. SAP launched BRM a few years ago, but we don't hear too much about it anymore. James: when most people talk about business rules in SAP, they're talking about NetWeaver Business Rules Management (BRM), which is integrated with NetWeaver Business Process Management (BPM). In my mind, the more interesting of the two products is BRF Plus, which is an ABAP-based rules framework that allows you to manage your business rules in a repository and then deploy it as ABAP code. For a lot of SAP customers, that's crucial. You can go to TechEd and see the popularity of ABAP over Java for SAP customer.

13:20 Vijay to James: I completely agree. How do you see NLP (Natural Language Processing) playing into this? If a system can figure out a rule, can it learn a new rule on the fly without a human maintaining a decision tree? Do you see a need for that? James: I'm a bit of a cynic on NLP, because of the question of whose natural language you are talking about.

15:30 Jon to Viyay: That's a pretty challenging area for SAP to deal with in terms of three different rules areas. Is this ok to have different engines or do they need to be united?

17:30 Jon to James: Let's venture into predictive analytics. SAP is sick of me asking them about it, so let me ask you guys instead. Why does predictive analytics matter to enterprises? James:  Predictive analytics help you to predict which claims might be fraudulent. Using those rules, you can predict possible outcomes. Predictive analytics are embedded in a way that data visualizations are not. Machines can't look at visualizations, they can only look at mass, so predictive analytics can be embedded - that is tremendously powerful.

20:50 Vijay: I couldn't agree more. It's not even a new technology itself - the statistical methods on which predictive analytics are based have been around for many years. But: only a small percentage of SAP shops are using this technology. The companies that are using it are not shouting it from the rooftops because they don't necessarily want to clue in others on what they are doing, for example in fraud detection.

23:40 Jon: I'm going to try to explain SAP's predictive analytics strategy and you guys can comment on it: SAP has said they have two major activity threads. One is they are working on some HANA-based scenarios (though they will not be limited to HANA), where they will use the R open source statistical language, and they are also looking at using fuzzy logic and IQ to expose predictive analytics via in-memory. The other approach is one using a process-driven approach with a new tool called the Predictive Process Designer that they should be showing off at Sapphire Now this year. They are targeting Predictive Process Designer for release at the end of the year, but they are looking at embedding it into SAP BI rather than using it as a standalone workbench, though that scenario may be possible also.

25:05 James: Embedding R into HANA is a perfectly acceptable approach. There are companies out there who have embedded R for a while, and it's not a small amount of work to do it. The danger is producing predictive analytic models that don't go anywhere. Vijay: combining predictive analytics with HANA is a neat thing to do. In terms of use cases, I haven't heard a lot from SAP personally on this yet.

30:00 Jon to James: You're not going to be at Sapphire this year, but let's say that you were: what would you want to ask SAP BI executives and product leads?

32:10 Jon to Vijay: Without stealing your Sapphire thunder, what kinds of SAP BI questions are on your mind this year? Vijay: in the context of predictive analytics, I think this would be a good thing to do with customers who have been asking me, "Where are the innovations from on-premise solutions?" A lot of good stuff is going on with on-demand and on-device, but what about on-premise?"

35:10 Vijay: I have a similar question on the HANA side - most SAP shops were sold R/3 with a promise that you never have to worry about table and field level information because it's all shielded from you. With HANA, you do have to know about tables and fields, and you have to know that at the database level, not the Data Dictionary level, so you have practically no abstraction. This is not the long term vision, it will change over time. But wouldn't it have been more value-added if HANA already supported ABAP?

37:56: Jon: While we're on the thorny questions themes, what about the struggle with unstructured information?  Vijay: If SAP has solved this issue, the world needs to know about it. There's a lot more to explore there.

41:04 James: I'm a bit fed up with this issue because I'm sick of hearing that 80 percent of the value of a company's information is tied up in unstructured data. If that was true, a database would have been created for it. The vast majority of companies are not taking advantage of the structured data they already have.

Jon makes his case for the value of unstructured information - he doesn't want to let the vendors off the hook on this issue. James: I do see some use cases for it, but you need to be at a level of sophisticated analytics to get there, and customers are getting distracted by social media and mobile analytics. Helping companies make better decisions with their existing enterprise reporting tools is much harder.

48:00 James: Companies like SAP should invest in this problem of how to help operational systems integrate more effectively with analytics systems. A typical CRM system is as dumb today as when you put it in. Vijay: SAP is probably doing the right thing about how to solve LOB (Line of Business) problems like the large enterprise on-demand team that was under Wookey is doing. If you ask a business user the right questions, in terms of what happens with the reporting result down the line - I'm not sure any vendor is asking that question.

52:00 Jon and Vijay wrap.

For the latest podcast in my "SAP Community Network Podcast Series Moch II," we have a dandy with Sina Moatamed, the former CIO of an early SAP Business ByDesign customer. SAP's Greg Chase was instrumental in lining this one up, so if you like this one, let Greg hear about it.

This 24 minute podcast starts out with a discussion between myself and Sina, who shares the lessons he has learned grappling with the role of SaaS ERP for SMEs. Sina has developed a clear case for how "the cloud" helps SMEs become more agile - perhaps even giving them a leg up on large enterprises that must contend with their legacy IT systems.

During the last section of the podcast, SAP's Siva Darivemula joins the discussion and shares the latest news about SAP Business ByDesign. What I found most compelling about this podcast was the discussion of how SaaS ERP can help SMEs move ERP from an IT undertaking to a business-driven exercise. Sina thinks this trend is the future for large enterprises as well. One line from Sina that stood out for me: "Now my engineer isn't an engineer, it's an attorney." (Meaning that the business user is driving the service at the point of business impact, without the need for IT customization).

Other highlights of the podcast include what Sina is looking forward to in ByD 2.6 and beyond (hint: apps store!), and an example of how ByD allowed his company to improve their "business agility."

Reference links: this podcast references the new SAP Business ByDesign at BPX.SAP.com. Also check out the ByDesign and On Demand blog categories on SCN. During the podcast, Moatamed makes several references to SLAs (Service Level Agreements). For those new to the term, here's a definition.

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).

 

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.

Podcast Highlights

1:!5 How Sina ended up as a CIO of an SME: Sina already had a large enterprise CIO background and had a clear sense of how enterprises could scale.

2:30 What Sina learned by "walking around" when he started at BendPak: there were a lot of disjointed systems, a lack of master date BendPak could rely on for comprehensive analytics - they needed a better sense of how to move the company forward strategically, based on really solid information.

4:00 Sina: For the SME, the real challenge is how do you bring in a suite model that will tie those processes together in a financially responsible way for the long run, so IT isn't a roadblock but a place of enablement for the business itself.

5:52 Jon to Sina: How could ByD help address those issues? Sina: what was fascinating about the ByD platform is that it was a suite, and it could be delivered as an on-demand model. in a traditional model, you're focused on the components of a service, but the business experience is around the service itself. Now you're buying the service at the place the business is consuming it. That's the essence of the shift of cloud technology. now you can be less concerned with the anatomy and more on the service itself. Now my engineer isn't an engineer, it's an attorney. You can also configure your processes without any programming using ByD's business configuration, so that lends itself to business agility.

8:45 Sina: This whole idea of self-service is really the innovation of cloud technology is providing. It's a self-service to derive what you need for the business, and that's a big shift, and that's what we accomplished at BendPak.

10:30 Sina on why SMEs have an advantage moving from infrastructure focus on business enablement focus. SMEs are paving the way for this new model of IT management, you're moving away from infrastructure management to business consulting and enablement, and that's the role of the new CIO and the IT in general.

13:30 ByD 2.0 to ByD 2.6 - what features is Sina looking forward to? Sina: I'm not sure what the name is yet, but this idea of an application store and an open architecture for integration is extremely appealing. This new architecture that's coming is something I'm really looking forward to, primarily greater automation between applications and services.

14:45 Jon to Sina: You've talked about using ByDesign for business agility, but what does it mean? Sina: Here's an example: we had a strategic change and we wanted to create a whole new distribution location for the company internationally. We discussed it in December, and instead of it being a long drawn out process, we went live with it January 2011.

17:15 Siva to Sina: Let's say I'm not as knowledgeable as you are, what should I do? Sina: where you need to begin is with your processes, so you could look a lead-to-cash from a continuity perspective. You could ask: do we have the master data, analytics, and structure and controls to get consistent information about business performance? And if there are gaps, you can see which cloud offering can fill the gaps. You really need to start, it's an outside-in exercise, it's not an IT focused perspective.

19:45 Siva to Sina: So what's the path to cloud from there? Sina: There's different cloud offerings and approaches. With any leadership role, the goal is to reduce constraints in your business and get rid of them. So, you review the process, to say, identify your constraints, and it will start to become very evident. Identity the core requirements and see how you're going to execute, and cloud will present itself when you look at solutions.

21:35: Jon to Siva: What's the latest on ByD on SCN? Siva: There will be a lot with ByD on SCN this year. the SAP Business ByDesign, and many resources will be added there. There will be plenty of news coming out at Sapphire as well, between now and Sapphire and after Sapphire as well.

Update: Technical NetWeaver consultant Chris Kernaghan has published a good response to this post that goes into how these trends My thoughts on the “Road ahead for SAP Consultant” from a technical point of view.

I don't know about you, but every year I look forward to Vijay Vijayasankar's Road Ahead for SAP Consultants - 2011 blog post. This year, I thought it would be fun to get Vijay together on a podcast to talk about some of the trends in his blog post and justify some of his skills rankings and omissions. Even better, we pulled fellow SAP Mentor Leonardo De Araujo onto the call to share his take on the hot SAP skills of 2011 as well. The result was one of my favorite podcasts of the last couple of years.

The podcast runs a bit more than an hour in length, partially because while we were wrapping up, Vijay asked Leo and I for a "Certification Five" update. Once you hit the hour length, you might as well keep going! To make it a bit easier for you to navigate, I'll include some text highlights with time stamps below. Key skill areas that we dug into in the podcast included: HANA/in-memory, Business Intelligence, Business ByDesign, as well as good old bread-and-butter ABAP development.

We also talked about some trends that didn't live up to Vijay's expectations from the Road Ahead for SAP Consultants - 2010, including SAP upgrades. Another controversial topic? Why Vijay left mobility off the 2011 hot skills list. As an incentive to make it to the end of the podcast, the last fifteen minutes include both the C5 update and some interesting discussion about how community recognition plays into SAP success, and how true accomplishment is more than points accumulation.

One more quick thing: if you want some more bonus content besides this podcast, you may want to check out Vijay's classic "HANA versus Watson" interview with Vishal Sikka that we posted on JD-OD.com, the new on-demand video and commentary site launched with my partner-in-video-crime Dennis Howlett. More content: during an attempt to tape this three Mentor podcast that didn't work out, Leo and I ended up taping an "Informal SAP SME chat" podcast, a 20 minute talk that included more ByD talk, as well as All-in-One and general SME trends. Without further ado, the "Road Ahead 2011" podcast:

(If for any reason the embedded player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).  

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime, or on my JonERP iTunes feed).

Podcast Highlights

1:28 Vijay on the origins of the "Road Ahead for SAP Consultants" blog post series on SCN.

3:30 #1: "BusinessObjects tools will get significant traction in SAP shops." Vijay: This was the strongest theme I heard in 2010: A lot of BW shops held off on moving to BusinessObjects, but in Q3 in TechEd, I saw a lot of excitement about moving into TechEd. The one issue we continue to face is: what happens to BEx? But in 2011 we should see a lot of traction on the BusinessObjects side.

7:00 Leo's take on #1: It belongs in number one - SAP has sold a lot of BusinessObjects licenses and it has a lot of traction. Many customers have BO licenses and have yet to install it. But: what about folks on the classical BW releases? How much of them are going to get involved with dashboards? How much should old school hands-on consultants get hands-on in these areas? Jon: BI is becoming a skills that all SAP consultants are going to need in their tool kit, but timing that is tricky if you're a consultant.

10:26 Leo: I really believe all the functional consultants should understand BI and how it fits into the skill set. But I have a practical concern: how many of my teams should actually be trained in using dashboard? How many should I send to training?

12:00 Vijay: the technical roadmap is extremely important. But there's a big problem with SAP customers, they will buy things for a better bill of materials or pricing and they get another item thrown in - there's a lot of shelfware around BI that people don't use, and they are paying maintenance for it, why not use it?

15:02 #2 "More clients will move from EC-CS and BPS/IP to BPC, GL migrations will keep consultants busy." Vijay: to clarify, it's 7.5 for BPC. NetWeaver numbering is not my favorite topic.

18:26 #4: Learn what is possible with HANA and what is not? Vijay: I have a HANA bias, which is why it ended up so high on this list. Almost all the clients I've spoken to in my current role, where I work on in-memory, they are all convinced HANA is the next big thing. By that I mean HANA in its final look and feel, not 1.0.

21:00 Jon: Assuming HANA gets traction, a couple years from now, how will consulting work change? Vijay: How did we start with BW a few years ago? In hindsight, BW was a compromise. You have to get data out of SAP and put it in different format to get something out of it. More servers, people, consulting, time delays to get information to business. If we could report straight out of the original OLTP system, a lot of this grief wouldn't have been there in the first place, we'd have near real-time information. HANA totally revolutionizes that.
24:12 Leo: I see HANA changing things for customers a lot. BW cubes require a lot of work around extraction - all that goes away, that's a significant chunk of work, creating InfoCubes, and with less data replication. Simpler and quicker BI reporting with access to live transactional data, this should be an explosion of BI and reporting work.

25:00 Leo: We can talk about all these amazing new technologies, but the Business Suite still runs on ABAP. Yes, things are moving fast, ABAP today looks very different than it was in the 90s, so today it's a liablity if you don't understand object oriented ABAP, Switch Frameworks, web services.

29:45 Jon: breezing through 6, 7, 8. Leo: one comment on virtualization: I really believe the moving beyond VM Ware and AWS and virtualizing SAP is going to have an impact. Vijay: Data federation is a big deal now, and I could have easily put that higher on the list.

#9: "Wait and watch for Business ByDesign." Vijay: creating add-ons could be the opportunity. C# and ABAP both have entry points, but I put the advantage on the C#. Is it "wait and watch for 2010?" Leo: I agree...I believe this is a significant year for ByD, with customers running and a mature version and an SDK, as a result I think there will be a big number of customers signing on.

Vijay: The one ByD question I have is: is 1,000 customers worth someone trying to write apps and add-ons for? What's the long term plan for? Salesforce probably has more than 50,000 customers, so that kind of volume I can see people spending time on add-ons, but with a smaller base, I doubt it. Getting people out of QuickBooks into ByD, I can see some value but is that a big deal? I'm still not too sure about the future of this product and how much it will scale.

Leo: I would add that the traction will happen, but it will be a lot about deploying the standard without much add-ons from the SDK. But it is important to keep in mind this is a completely different ball game, you can't share the same resources from ByD to SAP ERP - it's very different skills. Jon: Another big change: a ByD consultant might have 6-10 assignments simultaneously. Vijay: the question is timing: when do you catch up with your competition? If you take a lot of time to hit 10,000 users, the world will have moved a lot farther by then.

39:50 #10: SAP job growth in other parts of the world. Vijay: This is in response to a lot of my friends who lost their jobs. What some of them did, and others did not do - they actually left the US market and went and capitalized on the booming SAP markets elsewhere in the world. There are opportunities there if you really want to work in SAP. Go where the opportunity is.

41:05 Jon to Leo: Any thoughts on the SME space? You're watching that market closely. Leo: for SAP to work in SME, you have to have a smart "All in One" implementation plan. You can't approach it in a large company consulting model. Another topic: for functional folks, one thing to capitalize on is that there is a need to understand what is going on with Enhancement Packs and SAP technology.

45:30 Discussion of the comment thread to the post: leaving out mobility was the most controversial decision.
NetWeaver BPM? Haven't seen the adoption yet.

50:50 Discussion of Vijay's last year's "Road Ahead" blog post. Jon to Vijay: #2 on last year's was upgrade projects will pick up? Vijay: I didn't actually see a lot of people in a hurry to upgrade towards the end of last year...there was no visible trend unlike the previous year.

54:40 Vijay on not listing community participation on this year's list. I got a lot out of it personally, I seem to get a lot of unsolicited job offers. I think that's a good sign of community participation, and these job offers aren't based on a close look at my resume. It's based on community participation. Vijay: I'm dead opposed to points. IBM has four Mentors, and I can think of two cases, we did get some recognition within IBM for being a Mentor. So community work can impact our employers as well.

1:00 Vijay to Jon and Leo: Give us a quick update on SAP Certification. Jon: Executive reorg at SAP has impacted our project, because some advocates of our certification work moved on. The new executives may be even more enthusiastic but it's made things pretty slow, and SAP wasn't moving fast to begin with. There should be the first meeting of the Certification Influence Council (CIC) this spring. But, the slow pace is a concern. Leo: I agree completely. I'm betting the first CIC meeting will happen in May at Sapphire.

For the SAP blogger/analyst/dude on the ground, there's nothing more frustrating than a content backlog. I'm hoping to play catch up the next few months and share a few crucial ditties on this blog, but bigger promises have been broken, so one blog at a time. This one is our first installment of the semi-regular "Sol Bros" Solution Manager podcast series. The SolBros came about simply because I wanted to do a podcast on Solution Manager that took an honest look at the pros and cons of this important but controversial SAP product. So I pulled in some of the most frequent tweeters on the topic. The guys got along, so we continued to tape.

Each time, a different person from the group plays "point," and organizes the podcast and the content. This time it was my turn, which was great because for almost a year now I've been hearing analysts hammer Solution Manager for being "a mile wide and an inch deep." I don't happen to think that's the best way to criticism SolMan, but I really wanted to find out what the other "bros" though about this topic.

So I got my chance to ask, and we covered that and quite a bit more in an hourlong session for the real SolMan gearheads - if there is such a thing. And yes, we answered listener questions so that's incentive for you to post a comment to this blog because we WILL definitely dig into it the next time we tape.

We tape our calls in a variety of formats, usually connected to a WebEx session, and the logistics of the taping usually involve an evening call for Phil/Jim/myself, which is the next morning for Tony. In this case, it was Friday night on the east coast and Saturday morning for Tony, so there's a Friday night party theme on this one - as much as talking about SolMan on a Friday night can be called a party.

Here's the basics:

The "Sol Bros" are: Jim Spath, Tony de Thomasis, Phil Avelar and Jon Reed
Previous "Sol Bros" podcasts: Episode 1, Episode 2 , Episode 3, Solution Manager chatter - SolBros Episode 4.

Music: For this Friday night taping (except for Tony who was already on Saturday morning), I selected a live Friday night jam: "Runnin" from Massachusetts' own Longview Gunslingers.

Podcast links: SAP Press SolMan System Monitoring, Solution Manager Service Desk - Change Management Integration by Tammy Powlas, SAUG Summit 2011, SAP Service Marketplace SolMan Info (log-in required), ASUG Annual Conference (Orlando)

Podcast Structure: I. Intro chatter, II. (2:40) SolBros reader questions, III. (21:55) SolMan - "A mile wide and an inch deep?" - discuss! IV. (36:05) Individual updates: Jim Spath - SolMan and ASUG, Phil Avelar - CHARM lessons learned, Tony D - SolMan consulting, customer value and learning tools.

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).

 

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.

Usually when I post a podcast on SCN, I include a summary version of the detailed notes I post on JonERP.com. In this case, I'm going to do something different, so you can go to my site if you want to skim the detailed SolMan 5 show notes

However, since we had two reader questions from SCN, here's that section's notes in its entirety:

Part II. (2:40) Reader Questions

Question #1: From Arundeep Singh

"Hi Tony and other SolBros,

Thanks for reflection on agent and plug-in maintenance. If would eagerly accept the eating habits as a trade-off to clone Tony :)

I have read about Landscape verification. It is a new and seems good tool. But this is to find and correct the wrong configuration. My question was on a regular maintenance to keep it up-to-date. It becomes a big effort and especially with Wily agents the application systems needs restart and it is not easy to get agreement for downtime for multiple systems. And with unavailability of non-cloned Tony, it becomes even more challenging :). Just as an example a team took about a year to configure agents for MDM system and it is still not generating EWA. Imagine when the whole infrastructure calls for maintenance!!! Anyhow, my belief is that without good people no strategy/tools/processes can work."

Tony: Every company should have a release strategy that they should agree on - breaking a year into quarters to apply maintenance across a landscape and minimize disruption. Being pro-active tends to work better than waiting till an OSS note problem hits you.

Jim: I see this question as similar to questions of the timing of patching core systems like routers or network switches. Any kind of control system that you depend on for the rest of your environment, you have to approach very gingerly, and patch it off cycle from the rest of your landscape.

Phil: When it comes to the production box, a quarterly schedule for Solution Manager updates would be ideal, but I find most companies aren't able to make that happen and a yearly update schedule might be more realistic for them.

(Discussion of pros and cons of Solution Manager patch scheduling versus other landscape management priorities).

Tony: Patching Solution Manager is never done in isolation, so if you patch Solution Manager frequently, you'll have to patch your satellite systems more frequently as well. A decent testing strategy with proper tools and documentation is essential. Phil: ASUG has valuable content when it comes to planning upgrades and patches and managing release schedules. Jon: "Isn't the bottom line that support packs are kind of a pain in the *ss? I talk to customers that have trouble getting them in once a year."

Tony: "If you're not on top of support packs by now, when are you going to get on top of it? We've been used to applying support packs since the R/2 days...Welcome to IT, guys - this is what we live and breath."

Phil: It's the testing that's the challenge - sometimes you don't have the manpower. I have customers who haven't applied support packs since they went to ECC.

Jim: getting permission to make patches and changes is non-trivial but it needs to be done...Let's go on to the next question.

15:15 Reader Question #2 - emailed to Jim Spath (looong question).

Jim: question was inspired by a wiki page I put up to get Central Performance History running which has not been completed yet. The question is almost identical to the snag I ran into where the BI portion of the CPH looks like it was set up, but it isn't really functional. I thought it was indicative of the complexity and the layering of products like SolMan as they have evolved. Problems can be difficult to resolve with so many layers in the mix. Post it was a a reply on the wiki or the blog so that it isn't just me trying to solve it. Or, open a ticket with SAP.

Tony: if he's a BI guy, generally these things can be fixed by running the SolMan setup again. Or looks through the RSA1 logs in SolMan. Search SCN forums. Check the SAP Press books on SolMan also a "TDT approved method."

Jim: By talking about this I often get questions directed to me - restate them and put them in a public forum so the next person can find it also. Warning: "AskJim.com", Tony's suggested site for SolMan questions, doesn't really exist.

Phil Avelar has the point role for the next SolBros podcast, so Phil, here's the baton.

In the second podcast of my SAP Community Network podcast "series reboot," I talked with Christopher Kim and SAP Mentor Ingo Hilgefort of SAP about the pending BusinessObjects 4.0 release and how to upskill yourself or your project team on SCN to be on track with the new functionality.

With the BusinessObjects release event right around the corner on February 23 (Register for the SAP BO 4.0 February 23rd virtual release event here), now was a good time to ask Ingo what the hype is about with 4.0 and how the SAP BI skill set it changing. I also find it fascinating how online networking on SCN and elsewhere can lead to further offline adventures and collaborations, so that was another key point I wanted Ingo to touch on.  One of the highlights of the 20 minute podcast is Ingo's explanation about why BI is shifting from an IT to a business focus. Clearly that discussion is critically important to anyone looking to stay relevant in the SAP BI space.

I'm not sure I can think of anyone who gives more to the SAP community than Ingo when it comes to original how-to content, so it was neat to have the chance to put him in the spotlight and get a better sense of his view of 4.0. I definitely plan to attend the 4.0 launch event, either virtually on in-person, and I still have a number of questions I want to get answered for myself about whether the new release is going to live up to the hype. But this podcast was a good start. Thanks to Christopher Kim for making it happen. As usual, I'll include some podcast text highlights below if you're in a rush to get to the key points.

SAP BOC podcast links: BO Solution Architecture, Official Product Tutorials – SAP BO Suite , Dear aBI: Scheduling Reports and Real World BI Stories: Upgrade or Else. Other podcast links: SAP Mentors Tammy Powlas, Jamie Oswald, and Greg Myers. (If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.

1:10 Jon to Chris: can you tell us about your vision for the Business Objects Community and what inspired you to ask Ingo in particular to join us for this podcast?

2:20 Jon to Ingo: we've all heard the hype about BusinessObjects 4.0 - is there substance to the hype? Ingo: 4.0 is the first complete suite release of BusinessObjects after SAP acquired the software - not just BI, but EIM and all the other parts. After SAP acquired BusinessObjects, there was a very careful decision to spell out a roadmap and not just incorporate features into an existing product. For example, we made a quick decision to combine Voyager from the BusinessObjects side with BEx Analyzer and BEx Web Reporting and combine into a new product called Analysis, which has now has been released, and there's the Web and the Office versions.

When we showed the roadmap to customers at conferences, some of them wondered what would happen to the BEx tools after 2011. BEx is still there and we'll support customers in BEx. Now the successor is there and customers can consolidate all BI tools onto the BusinessObjects stack.

7:40 Jon to Ingo: Just about all of us are looking to improve our SAP BI skills, for ourselves or our project teams. What kinds of resources on BOC can help us there? Ingo: SAP Education posted a lot of e-learnings on 4.0, so there's a lot of step-by-step guides on SCN already. There are close to 100 videos on the new features, and then after the live launch event in February, you'll see even more. And you'll also see blogs from other SAP Mentors like Jamie Oswald, Greg Myers, and Tammy Powlas blogging about 4.0 as they are getting some preview access to it. Soon you'll see more about BW, HANA, and BWA play together in BO 4.0 as part of solutions architecture environment.

9:05 Jon to Ingo: What do you see in terms of SAP BO/BI consulting trends? Ingo: As soon as SAP BO was acquired, a discussion broke out. A lot of folks thought BO replaced all the knowledge they had gained in BW over the years, and that was a mistaken assumption. BO does not replace BW, and much of that BW knowledge is very relevant to BusinessObjects. People are starting to slowly see that it's more to BI than building nice chartsin Xcelsius. The consulting trend for the six months is around a complete understanding of BI strategically and how to approach it, so it's not just about the technical angle of learning the actual product, but understanding the roadmap and strategy. It's not just IT in the BI project now, the business users are actually important to BI projects as well now. The soft skills discussions you have had on your web site has become very important.

13:05 Jon to Ingo: You tend to work closely with SAP customers you meet in the community. Can you give us an example of how you have met and helped customers who have been a part of the activities on BOC?

15:10 Jon to Ingo: Can you tell us about how your connections at BOC have led you into other events as a Mentor and what you gained from those experiences? Ingo: the best example would be me getting to know Paul Hawking, who is part of the Australian SAP user group. He reached out to me to present around the integration, and a year later, he became a Mentor as well. He's teaching BusinessObjects in the university and he's part of the University Alliance program, and I might do an offline program with his class in Australia.

16:38 Jon to Chris: What are you taking away from this conversation? Chris: The point on how the BI conversation is shifting from strictly a technical one that's more of a business focus or strategic conversation - we see that every day on BOC, especially as business analytics get more pervasive in organizations, and we're going to get more involved in these issues on the community as well.

18:17: Jon to Chris: As we wrap up the podcast, what would you say to listeners who are interested in getting more involved in the BusinessObjects community, or who are looking for a way to get started? Chris: There are so many entry points in the community - if you're new, just go towards the areas of your greatest interest and focus on solving problems or addressing pain points for your organization. Reach out to the experts posting - most of them are very accessible. One more comment: there's a virtual launch on February 23, so feel free to register for that.

This year marks a reboot in the podcast series I have been doing with the SAP Community Network since 2007. I have previously done more than 20 podcasts on different aspects of SCN working with Natascha Thomson, who has now moved onto a social media focused role at SAP. But the series lives on - in fact, it looks like future plans will involve an even wider and more interesting range of podcast guests.

For starters, we have this new podcast with John Wookey, EVP of Large Enterprise OnDemand at SAP. Organized by Michele Rodman-Bilafer Siva Darivemula of SAP, this podcast discussion with John gets into the design process behind SAP's Sales OnDemand application, the first Line of Business (LOB) application built on the Business ByDesign architecture.

During the twenty minutes podcast, John also explains why the upcoming ByD 2.6 release has significance not just for SME ByD customers, but for large enterprise SAP customers as well. Siva joins John and I on the podcast to talk about the next steps for on-demand on SCN and how listeners can get involved.

So check out the podcast, and I'll include some text highlights below the embedded player. If you have requests for future podcast topics in on-demand or other areas, please post them below.

(If for any reason the player doesn't work, you can download the podcast using the "download media" link on the right hand side).

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it's not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.

Podcast Highlights

1:20 Jon to Siva: What's the inspiration for this podcast? Siva: One of the things we are trying to do at SAP is to get our expertise more out in the community. SAP benefits from the unvarnished feedback. This podcast is part of a series of thought leadership podcasts and webcasts that we plan to get out into the community.

2:15 Jon to John: Sales OnDemand marks a whole new era of Line of Business OnDemand for SAP. Can you tell us what is different about this product and what went into designing it?

John: We started with a different design philosophy. Today's employee is much more technically sophisticated and is conversant using technology not only in their company but in the personal life. For them to be effective, they need software that anticipates how they want to work. The principle for our OnDemand LOB group is about how we allow people to work more effectively towards the accomplishment of their business objectives, versus how to manage someone through a static business process. People are surprised when they see the screens because it looks a whole lot more like a piece of social networking software than it does an enterprise business system, and that's the point.

5:50 Jon to John: You've had a chance to show off this product to the community - what kinds of responses are you getting? John: First, off, they have a similar reaction you did: "This doesn't look anything like enterprise software from SAP or anyone - this is more similar to the software I use in my personal life." What we've done is given them a system that understands they are trying to close a deal, but if they can manage their communication around customers and partners, in the end, they have something that's a very powerful tool.

7:50 Jon to John:  Is there a particular kind of customer that are best suited for these SAP LOB OnDemand apps - subsidiaries, industries? John: in terms of design approach, it's not limited on any customer size or industry, but within our group, we're focused on the large enterprise marketplace, that's where our large SAP Business Suite customer base in located.

10:20 Jon to John: As we speak, we're getting closer to the much-anticipated Business ByDesign 2.6 release, which includes the SDK for partner development. Why is this release so closely watched? John: Our group was really the first, staring almost a year ago now, that started building a different type of application. Our use of 2.6 in developing the LOB OnDemand apps will pave the way for our partners, using the partner tool kit, to extend the ByDesign suite or build new apps on the ByD platform. Our entire development cycle building Sales OnDemand was a bit more than six months, and we launch in two months, and that was with developers who had no experience using this different design principle.

12:50 Jon to John: Clarifying from the influencer Summit: ByD is now part of a "unified" on-demand platform SAP is calling Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Sales OnDemand is the first LOB app built on this new platform using ByD (core) technology. John: that's an important point, correct. We believe on-demand is a crucial part of the tech industry for the foreseeable future, and we're investing in all areas: the cloud infrastructure layer, the full suite, and the LOB apps.

13:55: Jon to John: How do you envision the partner involvement? What is the best case scenario, in terms of a balance between SAP internally versus partners rounding out SAP's solutions? John: it tends to fall where the classic domain expertise falls. The pharma industry is a a good example of an industry where a partner, or a couple partners, could take a platform we have built and our tech and build specific solutions.

16:05 John's closing comment: SAP recognized very clearly that on-demand is not as simple as taking simple apps and hosting them. I still hear people talk about that in the marketplace and I think some larger vendors will look at that as on-demand grows much more quickly. If you're going to build an on-demand solution, you have to make the investment with the new design approaches - that's what's required to build an on-demand solution.

SAP is unique in that to build on-demand right, you have to do it from the ground up. That's what we've done with ByD and LOB on-demand. I think that's something important for people to be aware of. When I talk with customers, I say, that what we did was really built that way from the beginning, it's a very different approach. Jon to John: So we can put to rest that SAP is going to put the entire Business Suite in the cloud, line by line of ABAP code? John: Yes, I think we can put that to rest.

18:25 Jon to Siva: How can listeners get involved with the on-demand conversation on the SAP Community Network? Siva: We are launching a community that should be available to the broader public in a few months or so, and we want the community to share their opinions. We want to know if what we're doing is on the mark and what they want to learn more about. From blogs or discussions, we want to hear from the community, we want these resources to be valuable to the community. 

With the holidays right around the corner, I'm running out of time to finish posting my SAP Influencer Summit video series - especially because this one, my talk with SAP's Peter Lorenz, features a Christmas tree in the background.

If you missed the previous two video blogs, here are the links:

Vishal Sikka: Video Blog: Interview with Vishal Sikka at the SAP Influencer Summit

Rainer Zinow: Video Blog: Talking Business ByDesign and On-Demand Strategy  with SAP's Rainer Zinow

Those who have seen my videos know that I prefer informal takes where hopefully good information is easily shared. The only problem with the quick take is sometimes sound isn't the best. In the case of this video with Peter Lorenz, Executive Vice President, On-Demand Solutions and Small and Midsize Enterprises and corporate officer, the best semi-quiet spot was at a restaurant with Christmas decor in the background. The sound quality wasn't bad, but I'll include some summary notes underneath the video if you missed a key point or want to quickly skim.

This video was taped on December 7, 2010, the day before Peter delivered his keynote to kick off the dedicated On-Demand day on December 8. The eight minute video captures some of the key points in the keynote, including the distinction between "core" and "edge" with SAP's new "unified" on-demand platform. Peter also discusses the Business ByDesign go-to-market strategy and how the ByDesign artchitecture will be utilized by Line of Business On-Demand applications.

Some video text highlights:

- SAP is now building on-demand solutions on a unified architecture. Peter: "We are converging more and more onto one platform."

- The difference between on-demand "core" and "edge"? Edge applications are different in their nature - they are not necessarily transactional, and often they have a collaborative or social component.

- What we call "core" is the classic on-demand application platform, it's part of Business ByDesign as well - SAP intends to approach "core" apps in an innovative way as well, but core apps are often transactional in nature.

- "Edge" is different - edge could be people-driven, analytic, informational, and those applications have different requirements. The extreme of that is the analytical apps tied directly to data, such as in HANA. This is very different than building a major app like CRM or SRM.

- SME customers are the market focus ByDesign. But large enterprise customers can also benefit from ByDesign applications using ByD in subsidiaries in the larger companies. Next year, with 2.6, SAP will introduce ByD to subsidiaries of large customers. In 2.6, ByD will include some out-of-the-box integration between ByD for subsidiaries and the respective SAP ERP back end. Eventually SAP will integrate ByD to older releases as well.

- Peter: "There are customers out there who have 300 subsidiaries and 200 software solutions I couldn't believe it. In these times of TCO pressures and complexity issues, there's a huge incentive on the customer side to clean this up and get more flexibility."

- How can ByD be leveraged beyond the SME platform large enterprise customers in their line of business (LOB)? The first LOB app using the ByD platform is Sales OnDemand. SAP's OnDemand architecture makes it possible to build a solution on the same stack, grabbing those pieces of the application platform you want - your own analytics, your own forms, your own mobile, your own UI, and ship it as a separate product.

- Peter "You can say we are experimenting internally with the extensibility tools we have created for the ByD platform, by using it ourselves first. Our colleagues for Sales OnDemand have used that stack to build their solution...in 2011, we'll roll that our to our partners as well...when you want to get to volume and really play the OnDemand game, you have to involve partners. Therefore, we will leave a lot of white space open and share that toolkit outside the company." 

Note: if you want to see the slide that Peter presented unveiling SAP's "unified" on-demand stack, check out the Video Blog: Interview with Vishal Sikka at the SAP Influencer Summit where I included the slide. You may also want to check out the Jargon Buster piece I did for ERP Executive on "Answering the Questions about SAP's OnDemand Applications," where I break down the latest announcements in the simplest terms I can muster.

OK, that's a wrap for my SAP Summit video series. Several people inside SAP were instrumental in making these videos happen, including Aiaz Kazi, but a particularly big holiday shoutout must go to Stacey Fish, who not only believes in this work and made sure these videos happened, but who made the whole program tick for the bloggers and Mentors who were there. If you're like me and appreciate no-frills back and forth dialogue with executives and the information that comes back from that, then you should know that the blogger relations team at SAP (Stacey Fish, Mike Prosceno, Craig Cmehil, Andrea Kaufmann, Amisha Gandhi) work extremely hard to make that happen. Whatever we call "transparency" is more of an end goal than something that is easily achieved. But these folks challenge themselves, SAP, and, yes, us to change the conversation.

"Transparency" isn't all fun and games. It brings a new level of accountability on all sides. Not just to talk-the-talk, but to follow through in responsible ways. For bloggers, I personally think that means sharing access instead of hoarding it, and aspiring to be what I call "ruthlessly fair" and worrying less about page views and sensational story angles. Easier said than done, as there is a connection between page views and putting food on the table that cannot be denied. So none of this stuff is easy in the least - but it's a conversation that is changing what "Influencer" means. I expect the definition of "Influencer" to be hotly debated in the years to come, and that should keep things interesting!

Finally, I intentionally left my own opinions out of these video blogs, but if you want to know exactly what I thought, I gave my own detailed view on the PAC blog, "Making Sense of the SAP Influencer Summit 2010."

During this year's Influencer Summit, the days were jam-packed with content. Those who needed a smoke or restroom break really had their work cut out for them. It wasn't easy to work even a short video shoot into the schedule, but I was determined to do it. I think these on-site videos, even if they are seat-of-the-pants, give a flavor for the event for those who weren't able to attend.

One such opportunity was grabbing a moment with Rainer Zinow, SVP, On-Demand Strategy for SAP. We hunted down a quiet space - an empty lunch room looked promising until the crashing of silverware picked up. So we grabbed a corner of a hallway to talk about two important topics: SAP's new OnDemand platform and the SAP Business ByDesign 2.6 release coming out in January 2011.

The hallway corner didn't end up being the quiet spot I was hoping, so I did some text summaries of the videos as well. In this blog, I'll include the videos and then some text bullets to hit some high points for you. Rainer is one of the best at SAP in breaking down the OnDemand and ByD developments, and there are a number of them to wrap our heads around.

In this first video, Rainer shares the highlights of his talk on SAP's new Platform as a Service (PaaS) strategy. He explains how SAP's "core" (ByDesign) and "edge" ("River") platforms have been united on one platform:

A few key points from the video:

- What SAP disclosed for the first time at the Influencer Summit is the overall platform strategy - everything SAP is doing is built on NetWeaver 8.0, which is optimized specifically for on-demand use cases.

- SAP has two "OnDemand workhorses" - one, based on Business ByDesign's architecture, is   built to meet all the requirements when it comes to heavy transaction processing, using a big part of SAP's existing ABAP infrastructure. The second part, often called "River," is for lightweight Java extensions. 

- The two OnDemand options share an integrated lifecycle management system, with a unified repository on top of that. The goal is to reduce TCO but making sure the bits and pieces fit together.

(For more on SAP's OnDemand strategy, see the "Jargon Buster" piece I wrote for ERP Executive, "Answering the Questions about SAP's OnDemand Strategy).

The second short video I did with Rainer covers some highlights of the Business ByDesign 2.6 release. He also shared a bit on version 3.0 (slated for summer 2011 release) and weighed in on recent ByDesign pricing controversies:

A couple video highlights:

- In addition to the much-anticipated SDK, version 2.6 also includes many functional enhancements. These changes were the result of analyzing every implementation project to date and documenting all of the ByD project activities. SAP's mission: 80 percent of these activities should be doable by the key ByD users without any programming.

- Version 2.6 adds ByD availability 3 new countries, Austria, Switzerland, Canada. With 3.0: Mexico and Australia. 3.0 development is well underway and a long list of customer requirements are being incorporated.

If you're looking for more on the Summit, I did a monster take for PAC, "Making Sense of the SAP Influencer Summit 2010," which will take up a decent chunk of your lunch break to read but has a lot of detail on SAP's strategy and challenges ahead. I have also posted on SCN my Video Blog: Interview with Vishal Sikka at the SAP Influencer Summit and some notes on that conversation, as well as a slide that illustrates some of the points Rainer referred to in this shoot.

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