Friday, May 23, 2008

SAP Sapphire: Orlando

The 2008 Sapphire event in Orlando opened up with less fanfare than in the past, despite the company reaching some technology achievements around SOA, as well as having the chance to introduce the Business Objects strategy as part of SAP. In general, while attendance was about the same as last year, there seemed to be a slightly more subdued feeling at event; perhaps due to the ASUG event's compression into 2 days, which may have pulled more SAP customers off of the expo floor, and perhaps due to the widely reported frictions / reorganization within SAP itself.

When thinking about past Sapphire's, I have always considered the 2003 event as a "sea change" for the company... Here's an excerpt of what I wrote then:

"... this event confirms something much broader about SAP. Whereas three years ago SAP could be described as a company that successfully road Y2K to ERP dominance (growing from a $1 billion company in 1994 to a $9 billion company today) by providing sufficient, standardized ERP software; the company couldn’t be described as leading edge (SAP was the last of major ERP vendors to move to the web) or aggressive in terms of entering new markets (SAP came much later to CRM market) or aggressive in terms of acquisitions (preferred growing organically)."

I went on to explain that a new, more aggressive and innovative SAP had arrived. And in part, while there was nothing too new at Sapphire 2008, the company focused (especially Henning Kagermann's presentations) on showing that they had delivered on what they promised years ago, and that is to have a viable SOA platform through Netweaver along with SOA-enable applications through SAP ERP 6.0. Whether is this is truly the case for many of SAP's industry solutions, as well as how soon customers will adopt and leverage this technology shift are separate questions...

So in a way, I saw Sapphire 2008 as another cross-roads for the company. In 2003, the company decided to become aggressive, and perhaps moved too fast for its customers and focused too much on the underlying technology, and not enough on direct business value.

When considering the delayed approach in delivering Business ByDesign to the full market; the integration of Business Objects products and culture into SAP; the imminent change of CEO leadership with Leo Apotheker, along with a shakier economic outlook, will SAP continue its more aggressive, leading style of the past 5 years? Or will it slightly retrench to its more comfortable, conservative self?

Check back next week for PAC's takeaways from Sapphire Berlin!