Tag Archives: sap

The SAP Reverse Dichotomy

When I was a Gartner analyst I owned the eService magic quadrant.  The process was quite arduous; worse part was listening to vendors hype their offerings.  No vendor was quite good at it, but SAP did a poor job of explaining and showcasing what they had and their marketing message was a mess, often failed to cover what I was evaluating.

I still remember the time we had a heated exchange on Knowledge Management (me: you don’t have it, them: we are the best).  I challenged them to produce either a client or an internal resource that could convince me.  SAP came back with PhD in Linguistics that worked in their lab, with extensive academic and commercial experience in knowledge, knowledge management, natural language processing, linguistics and related fields.  I was overpowered and became a lot smarter about opening my mouth to challenge vendors (i.e. only when I knew I would win) and was introduced to the SAP Reverse Dichotomy: our technology is better than what we tell you we have.

Most vendors say one thing, usually over-hyped, and the product delivers something different, not so advanced.  While marketing usually wins at most vendors, SAP suffers from the opposite: they often have more in their labs and in their products than what they sell.

And the next generation of applications, based on what I saw the Influencer Summit, is no exception.

Their message talked about retaining the in-premise core product, using NetWeaver for integration to other systems, embracing non-TLA end-to-end processes as the core, and using analytics (present everywhere).  They expanded their message with the old-tried-and-failed approach of pre-packaged end-to-end processes (which I would have never recommended),and  a poorly-worded conflict between private, public, and hybrid clouds as the main excuse for not going in that direction.

The demos showed a very different product from the one being discussed in PowerPoint .  They showed use of REST interfaces, mobile platforms, incredible speed through the use of in-memory analytics and data manipulation, complex transactions and integration, and even support for the cloud.  They showed embedded analytics being a critical part of everything they did.  It was a competitive product.

Of course, this was my interpretation – not their exact words.  I did not attend the entire summit, just the keynote presentations via the virtual summit  which had the main message.  It is my understanding, by following some of the other sessions via Twitter that they went into deep details into Small and Medium Business Strategy, Use of Embedded in-Memory Analytics, and different delivery platforms – including onDemand.  I don’t have details on any of those, but the following reviewers can provide more details:

  • Paul Greenberg has not yet published his review as of this writing.  But being Paul Greenberg, you know it is going to be good.  Look for it later today (Thursday) at his ZDNet blog.
  • Jesus Hoyos did a quick review via Radian6
  • Dennis Pombriant talked in more detail about the cloud and SaaS versus on-premise
  • Excellent summary of their message via Ventana Research

Bottom Line SAP has a good chance to become a competitive force if their marketing messaging does not get in the way (and don’t forget execution — even on reduced expectations you still have to deliver).  Having a strong product with good features, and bad messaging, is the opposite of what you see in this market.  SAP has been working on fixing their engineering-as-lead-feature core message and hopefully they will get better during 2010 at presenting their product.  Then we will have fun next year at the Influencer Summit (which I hope to attend in person).

What do you think of SAP? Did you evaluate, test, or implement it and found it to be different from their promises (better, actually)?  Would love to hear your thoughts…

Why Chatter Matters

Well, as usual I am late to break the news.

Salesforce introduced Chatter with great fanfare — and most everyone covered it in detail and analyzed it (Dion Hinchcliffe, Sameer Patel, and Michael Krigsman provided some of  my favorite coverage).

I am going to tell you what I think most people are missing and the reason it really matters.

Chatter is not Salesforce’s response to the social prowess of Microsoft, Yammer, Sharepoint and friends.  Yes, I know that Marc Benioff said that — but he always goes after Microsoft.  It is also not a leap-frog to get ahead of SAP and Oracle in social functionality.  That would be short-sighted and naive, as either one of them can then do pretty much anything they want  to get ahead in turn.

The key to understanding the value that Chatter brings to the table was evident on the second-day keynote, when we talked about platforms.  Deep within the many amazing demos we saw from customers was the answer of why Chatter matters:

It is part of the platform.

It is not a feature or a function that becomes part of an application, it is part of the basic infrastructure that Force.com provides.

I have been saying from the very beginning that you won’t be able to prove ROI for your investment in a social network if you try to get beyond the initial listening and reacting.  This is one of the main reasons why organizations have not gotten past this point: they are being asked for a return on investment that is not there, cannot be calculated.  You can do some calculations for basic functions you will perform – but there is nothing really that talks to the infrastructure investment.

My answer has always been: you won’t get an ROI, but you need to invest on it as if it was infrastructure.  Who computes an ROI for more storage? or an additional laptop? a printer?  Those are infrastructure components that your organization must have and you just invest in them without expecting a specific return on the investment.

Back to Chatter.  By integrating it into the Force.com platform Salesforce accomplished three things:

  1. It changed the conversation from reacting to social events to making social part of the architecture.  We have advanced from trying to figure what to do to making the people and the applications within the organization become social.  When applications and systems can talk for themselves (as they can with Chatter) the conversation changes.
  2. They have shown that the cloud is indeed in progress, and that they are no longer just a SaaS or on-demand vendor with a cool marketing term.  The cloud is a series of interconnected platforms, and Salesforce has gotten closer to it with this move than ever before.
  3. It has essentially changed the game for all the feature vendors with social tools. No, they won’t put them out of business — to the contrary, they have enhanced their chances for survival (if they are smart).  They no longer have to worry about the underlying architecture and infrastructure of their product, they can ride on the cloud and just focus on the features and improving them.  This is the true meaning of working on the cloud – not worrying about the technology underneath but actually being able to focus on improving the Experience Continuum.

I know there are at least two to three years before we actually see this implemented and see more details (Chatter is not expected until late 2010 to begin with).  I know that it may not happen (yes, I read the Beta Agreement — sorry, Safe Harbor statement that Marc displayed on screen as well as everybody else).  And, yes, I will be disappointed if it does not happen — but even if that is the case, the milk has been spilled.  The path to the cloud has been uncovered.

I have sustained for some time that Salesforce was focusing on the applications too much and not enough on the infrastructure, and I finally got the sense that they are turning that around (of course, they will continue to make applications and sell them).  I see them as a platform provider with some decent to good applications.

Alas, by making the cloud matter they are not merely catching up to their competitors — they may even be leaping ahead… stay tuned!

So, what do YOU think of chatter?  Is it really a revolution in the basic infrastructure? Or an underwhelming set of social tools that are not even up to par with the market?  Please let me know your thoughts…

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Final Musings, Thoughts, and What to Do Next from OpenWorld

Instead of doing mini posts for the rest of the CRM-world related news from Oracle OpenWorld, I am going to summarize them in a  few bullet points.  These are the not-worthy-of-an-entire-post-yet-interesting-nevertheless-news:

  • Fusion Hype: Probably the most over-hyped item in the show, and the most expected.  If you add to that the presence the Governator (man, he is funny… and a good speaker), the final keynote was one one of the most insane scenes I have ever experienced in Technology (and I used to go to Comdex to see Bill Gates speak in the heyday).  Was the hype about Fusion Apps worth it?  We don’t know yet.  They demo good, they look interesting, but they are not going to be GA until next year.  As my life as an analyst taught me, there is not app until it GAs.  More waiting, but sneak peek is good.  Ray Wang at Altimeter Group has a good post of where they stand now.
  • Hardware Hype: To those that sneered at Larry for gushing over the Exadata machine and the 5100 Flash Card (and made fun of me for talking about them), your lack of understanding of the world we are moving into is astonishing.  This “stuff” is what we are going to need in the very near future to tackle the analytics work necessary for Social Businesses to become effective. Yes, they are technology in a world of strategy, but this is the technology we need.  This is the first attempt to filtering the fire-hose of real time.  We are not even started in how to handle being social, and what we need to do about it.  As Larry Ellison said during his final keynote: all applications are BI (what he calls analytics for reasons known only to him and his marketing team) ready and can run with Exadata machines.
  • Firehose Hype: the entertainment for the last night in the hotel was a massive fire in an office building half-a-block away.  Next time you talk about firehoses, I have seen one in action.  Not pretty trying to drink of that…
  • On Demand Hype: Is On Demand CRM real? Yes.  I saw it, it works, it does the basic job, Oracle delivered what they promised.  Now they can go back to focusing in On Premise.  Truly? On Demand is no more than a delivery platform that is, in spite of the Cloud Hype, still not necessary.  Oracle has time to do it right (which I hope they use wisely to revamp what they have done).  On Demand is, as it was two and five years ago under other names, not-yet-ready-for-enterprise-primetime.  And I mean everyone, not just Oracle.
  • Cloud Hype: To paraphrase Scott McNealy, the cloud does not exist, get over it.  Salesforce tried their best hand at a demo of Service 2 and to hype the “cloud”.  It was a good demo, some people or others got a Flip camera out of it, and most others got drenched.  Larry Ellison had made some disparaging remarks before the conference about the cloud, Marc Benioff tried to prove him wrong: zero sum game.  My opinion: as a long-time student of distributed architectures and technologies for the enterprise, calling it a cloud if overhyping, by a lot, a delivery mechanism.  We don’t have a cloud yet, although we may in the future.  Don’t know yet, but I am certain it is still not here.  There is no cloud at this point, move on.  Denis Pombriant, an excellent analyst at Beagle Research, thinks differently and you should read his analysis and make your own conclusions.
  • CRM Hype: Leaving everything else aside, and to rehash what smarter analysts have said, tip-of-the-hat and warm applause to Anthony Lye and his CRM Team.  I had not been to the Oracle show in a couple of years (did keep track of the work being done through interactions with Anthony and his team – Mark Woollen, Christine Viera, Melissa Boxer and Adam May ) on their recommendation.  I have to say that after two-plus years of work they have finally delivered the work promised after the acquisitions of PeopleSoft and Siebel.  A mature set of applications that work, with a good solid framework that is adaptable, flexible, and useful.  Oracle does CRM the way they have always done things: focus on the needs of their customers and deliver against them.  It may not be the most good-looking set of functions, but it works. It integrates. It delivers.  Good job in getting us here (see my deeper review of the CRM applications in yesterday’s post).  Yes, I know the people in the team, some of them are friends, but that does not change my comments: the applications and the framework on which they rely works well now.
  • Logistics Hype:  AT&T failed miserably the test for massive use of their network.  Miserably.  Verizon fell apart during the final keynote. Wi-fi still needs some time to get better with heavy use (maybe they should tie them to an Exadata machine).  Twitter is… let’s just say that I am glad I never bought into the hype of using it for Customer Service or any other missions critical function — AT&T fared better than Twitter, and that is all I am going to say.  If I ever need to organize an event for any size larger than 5,000 people I am definitely going to call the Oracle team.  Forget tip-of-the-hat, moving 25,000 people from downtown SFO to Treasure Island (middle of the bay, accessible via the Bay Bridge), feed them, give them a concert, and bringing them back to their hotels — within four hours is… no words to describe them.  In addition, they were exceedingly good to all attendants, and amazingly responsive to the needs of analysts, press, and bloggers.  Amazing team, incredible results.
  • “Soccer” Hype:  As Ross Mayfield said (right at the end of the conference) “Must have been the hand of God…”  Argentina qualified for the World Cup next year.  If you don’t understand that reference (Wikipedia, Video), you don’t know about Football (the real one, not the pads-laden one).  In either case, I now have a reason to look forward to 2010.

So, where to now?  Oracle has some work left to do in CRM, OnDemand, and definitely on Fusion Apps.  I can see the starting lineup and it is pretty good.  I am eagerly awaiting to see the progress in the next few months.  Next few weeks will bring different perspectives (SalesForce.com, RightNow, SAP) and I will be able to bring a more complete picture of where the CRM world stands.

Is it all about Social CRM? It never was.  It is all about CRM – the next generation.

Disclaimer: I did not take a payment for writing this review, nor is Oracle a client.  I don’t expect them to become a client based on this review, nor do I expect any compensation or revenue to be generated from my review.
I do have a relationship with Oracle as an analyst and blogger that brings me certain perks.  I was allowed access to the Conference, some of my expenses were paid, and I was able to talk and discuss the product with different people in the organization in great detail based on that relationship.  Those perks do not influence my opinion on the product, nor do they improve the chances that the review will be better.  It is what it is, and I saw what I saw.
The views expressed in this review are mine and only mine, and they are my understanding based on the long exposure I had to Oracle, Siebel, PeopleSoft and the industry.  Any errors are also mine, and will be corrected if pointed out.  This is my understanding of where Oracle’s position is today in the CRM market, and no one else but me is responsible for these views.  My  recommendation to clients, prospects, and anyone interested remain the same: this is just an opinion and you are admonished to do your own Due Diligence before committing to this or any other vendor.  I am not responsible for your decisions, and even if you hire me to help you select the best solution for your organization, it is still YOUR decision.