Friday, January 18, 2013

SAP Mobile - Quo Vadis?

Before we start, maybe some background music by Dire Straits? Guess Where Do You Think You're Going is quite applicable ;-)
I got a bit confused last week and I wanted to share my confusion with you and hope that my SAP mobile life gets demystified.

So, SAP Mobile - Quo Vadis?


SAP's three pillars 

Now we all know SAP's 3 main pillars:
  • Cloud
  • Mobile
  • HANA

Needless to say that SAP shares a lot of PowerPoint slides and stories around these topics at events like SAPphire NOW and SAP TechEd, at local events like SAP Forum, press conferences and here on SDN and other sites.
Last week SAP held a very important press conference, the announcement of #SAPonHANA. And to be honest - it made me feel a bit jealous. Great story telling, together with customers and partners SAP shows the added value of running SAP on HANA. There is plenty of training material to be found in the HANA academy, a developer license, contact persons, … bottom line: SAP is supporting you in adapting this new technology into your own business.
Now this blog is not about HANA, but about mobile. So why jealous? There is with a specificSAP mobile platform area and the possibility for developer licenses. (Do you still remember how long it took SAP to provide these developer licenses? OK, OK forget about that, as it is there yet. Stop whining.)

Why this blog? Let me try to explain as I got disappointed by SAP Product Management last week.

Do we need a strategy?

Enterprise Mobility is not about the app. It is about mobilizing your business process, bring enterprise functionality to the end user so that he or she can access it via a user friendly interface, at the right time, with the right information and on the device of choice.
SAP is doing a good job in explaining its mobile roadmap, as you definitely need a strategy to be successful in the mobile area. Mobile is the new desktop, tablets and smart phones will outnumber PC's quicker than we think. Roadmap presentations at SAP TechEd were clear. Talks by Ian Thain are very understandable and sharing a lot of enthusiasm (E.g. The state of the mobile union). It is clear that we need a platform for integration, synchronization and providing back end functionality to mobile devices. And when SAP buys the two market leaders in that area, Sybase and Syclo, that proves that you have a strategy.

Again, why this blog? Because the long (define long in the mobile world ;-) time strategy is clear, but what if we want to start with mobility tomorrow?

So here's the customer case

With my current customer I am trying to lay out the solution architecture to bring service management functionality to service engineers. In order for the service engineer to focus, it is important to have the right user experience, not only for service management functionality but for all relevant functionality. Unfortunately our case is not really a regular service management mobility use case as the engineers face security issues (you can’t always bring your own equipment), process issues (besides service management, custom functionality is to be available as well), connectivity issues (sometimes you have, sometimes not, but you still need to do your job), …


Our challenges

  • Is SAP Work Manager (the app formerly known as Syclo SMART work manager) sufficient for our service engineers?
  • Can we offer custom functionality via Syclo?
  • As the user experience is so important, is Sybase the preferred platform? But what about integrating SAP Work Manager?
  • Hey, SAP is integrating the two platforms into SAP Mobile Platform. What are the consequences?
  • Are there any references, in a comparable environment, and how are these questions answered?

Thanks to SAP NL we got an appointment with SAP Product Management in Walldorf. Or at least that's what we thought. We planned to visit SAP in Walldorf last Friday, but unfortunately our visit got cancelled two days before, as "Our road map for integrating the two platforms is not clear yet, please come visit us in about 4 weeks"... (speechless) ...

OK, I can understand that the road map might not be 100% crystal clear, then show us some disclaimers as we are already used to that. But please start supporting us in making the right decisions.

Do you understand my disappointment now?

SAP, what about executing your strategy?

Again the big picture is clear. But please SAP there are customers that can't wait for 2 different platforms to be integrated. Or wait for future companies and solutions that SAP might buy. We want to start today and need some expert advice from SAP to prevent to make decisions that we regret later. "If only we knew that 3 months ago …"

Please SAP, don't leave customers and partners in the mobile darkness. Mobile is one of your three pillars. If you have a strategy built on three pillars and one collapses, what would be the impact on the other two?


Just my 2 cents

Allow me to make some final remarks, tips if I may say so:

  • SAP don't try to sell technology or licenses. Show the added value, sell solutions to real life customer cases.
  • At DKOM I learned about the new SAP by Jim Hagemann Snabe. An SAP that collaborates with customers and partners. Unfortunately on the mobile area SAP is not showing this off. Be open and partner with customers and system integrators.
  • The customer case as I described in this blog is not by itself. There are multiple stories about SAP leaving customers in the dark in executing the mobile strategy.
  • We all understand that integrating two different platforms and repositioning is a difficult thing to do. But please SAP get out of the ivory tower. Listen to customer use cases and take them into account. Don't just sell apps, provide solutions!

Still with me? Recognizable? Please share your experiences and, hopefully, prove me wrong. If so, please connect me to your personal Yoda for "Answers you get".

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

SAP on HANA and why it matters

If you're doing any business with SAP, being SAP consultant or SAP user, you should not have missed last week's press conference where SAP announced SAP's business suite on HANA. A long expected message, but thrilling even so. It shows how serious SAP is taking In Memory technology. And even more, analyst Dennis Howlett, identified SAP's stepping stone into the cloud future, from #SAPonHANA into SAP's business suite in the cloud. Following the path so successfully set by Salesforce.

A lot can be found on SDN or other analyst sites. Please allow me to point out and summarize three blogs. My advice to you: start with reading, jump into other reading material, subscribe to developer licenses and start getting your hands dirty. And by that make up your mind. The SAP world is changing rapidly, important for System Integrator's as they have to change their business model accordingly. 2013 is the year of making choices.

Find out, as System Integrator, to which category you belong in the statement from Mary Kay Ash:
There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.

Image copied from

Dennis Howlett, SAP on HANA: where SAP wins and how it has missed the real goal

  • The analysts were surprisingly positive and pushing SAP towards new things. The SIs were less than enthusiastic.
  • First the good stuff. SAP is coming to market with beta customers. The product is available now. Development for Business Suite on HANA started in 2010 so to get this to the current state in less than 42 months is laudable by any standards.
  • SAP's stepping stone into the cloud future: Hence, while SAP does not say so in so many words, the company will have the BusinessSuite running on HANA in cloud environments in the not too distant future.
  • This is going to be very bad news for SIs who have been used to a diet of one, two and three year upgrades.
  • What's more, the new class of SI that HANA is attracting will outsmart and outpace the big boys very quickly. That will represent what today is an untold story but one that will bring into question the entrenched SI model.
  • So where did SAP miss? We are of the belief that SAP should bundle the database but charge more for the new applications and especially those that deliver quantum value.
  • However, HANA is a database and while speedy, it is in a class of technology that has become commoditized.
  • In my view SAP missed a unique opportunity to do something that would be truly disruptive and allow it to start getting serious scale for HANA adoption.
  • Let's not forget we are now seeing an SAP that is coming to market with new solutions and the first customers at the same time. That's something entirely new and should impress customers used to the yawning chasm that has previously existed between announcement and delivery, let alone implementation.

John Appleby, 2013 - the year of the SAP Database

  • This means that if you want to, you can run all of your SAP apps on a SAP database. I don't believe there is a current software revision that requires a non-SAP database.

Thorsten Franz, SAP on HANA, and Pushdown for All: News about ABAP's Adventurous Relationship with the Database

  • To sum it up briefly, in previous years, all ABAP programming against the database used a layer of abstraction that reduced the possibilities to the smallest common denominator – a very small subset of SQL features defined by those functions that were supported by all databases on which SAP runs.
  • In order to achieve the amazing performance HANA is capable of – executing queries and calculations hundreds or even thousands of times faster than other databases –, one has to  change the applications so that they let the database do the things it can perform much faster than the ABAP application server.
  • Fork for HANA:
    • For every optimization, introduce a fork (IF HANA … THEN … ELSE … ENDIF). The existing code remains unchanged, and new, incompatible code using HANA-specific artifacts, is added as the HANA branch of the fork.
  • Rewrite for all
    • For as many optimizations as possible, try to get away without a fork. Rewrite the code once, so that the new code is processed on systems with HANA and without HANA.
  • The smart solution is to combine the two approaches: Realize as much of the HANA optimization as possible with the “rewrite for all” approach, but don’t be shy to use “fork for HANA” when amazing factors or entirely new features are within reach
  • Stored Procedures would now be a used for HANA and other databases, too.
  • And some interesting comments:
    • Hasso was very clear - this is the beginning of the end for batch and ABAPers will find they have much less to do. The first thing ABAPers should do (as per Thomas Jung) is learn or brush up on SQL.
    • That's because this is only a stepping stone to SAP offering BusinessSuite on HANA in the some point in the not too distant future.