I was invited to attend an SAP-Sybase executive briefing in downtown Boston today, and I’m glad I came.  Since SAP announced its intentions to acquire database technology provider Sybase at a price of $5.8 billion, there has been a lot of hallway speculation as to what value SAP gains from this acquisition.  Today’s briefing helped somewhat in filling-in the strategic intent and future joint development roadmap. It helped in providing a check-in to purpose and direction, and a lot of clarity has transpired since May.

I previously noted that I was especially interested in not only hearing the go-forward strategy, but more importantly the implications to business analytics or more enhanced supply chain business intelligence. To some extent, I now have a clearer sense on intent and direction for SAP’s direction in mobility applications and analytics, but this remains a work-in-progress.  The good news however is that eco-system partners may have more opportunities to collaborate on future mobile applications related to supply chain.

I finally heard an open acknowledgement that industrial or supply chain related mobile applications are far different in approach than the mobile user performing periodic inquiries or seeking ad-hoc analytical information.  I finally heard acknowledgement that you just can’t take a 20 screen SAP order entry application and send it to an iPhone or BlackBerry user and require them to navigate through all of these data inputs in a 3.5 inch screen.  I finally heard open acknowledgement that CIO’s have real issues in security of information on mobile devices, and that mobile applications remain uncharted territory. In my view, these open acknowledgements refreshing, since too many times I have witnessed briefings that completely gloss over realities or complexities of enterprise level systems.

During the broader briefing and more so in an intimate meeting among my fellow bloggers and Vishal Sikka, SAP Executive Board Member and CTO, there was a more refreshing sense of practicality and pragmatism.  When I attended the Sapphire conference in May, I noted that I felt a renewed sense of purpose and vision within SAP, and that again came forward today.  I specifically asked Vishal to articulate SAP’s approach in overcoming user reluctance of adopt supply chain mobile applications without some assurances of security and scalability.  His response was that SAP today more than ever, truly understands these realities, and that the management team has a renewed focus on internal and external innovation.

My sense is that the prior SAP that was driven purely by marketing and sales vision is attempting to change to one that is perhaps more customer driven.  A lot has transpired, and more actions will of course need to come forth in the coming months, but intent is certainly visible.  In the meantime, supply chain related users and IT professionals should keep a continuous eye toward the convergence of in-memory and mobile applications, since when it arrives mainstream, the benefits will be game-changing.

Bob Ferrari