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…