One of the most prominent themes being delivered at this year’s Sapphire is the SAP messaging that there is a growing desire among businesses within multiple industries to seek more clarity in information to overcome what is sure to be continued constant uncertainties in business.  For SAP customers who have both built their enterprise systems backbone around SAP applications, and along the way, have invested lots of money in this effort, the notion is that these customers can turn data and information into more insights for the business.  Who can really argue with that vision, especially if you have responsibility for managing the extended supply chain network?

A strategy briefing with Jonathan Becher, SAP’s Senior Vice-President of Marketing, helped to clarify some of the implications of this direction that SAP has embarked upon.  One of the software demonstrations in this morning’s keynote teased the audience to think about a new era where enterprise software meets the new world of social media.  Users value an interactive experience, and information from multiple sources that can lead to prediction of what may happen.  Mr. Becher astutely pointed out the cultural clash that this strategy can introduce.  Enterprise software has always been about managing and control, as well as strong security in data.  In essence, the strategy has been built on a foundation of restricting users to certain information.  In SAP shops, keeping users restricted translates a lot of information requests to the IT function, or business super-user, where the BW based data warehouse is queried for information or a custom report, a process that can take lots of precious time.

Social media, on the other hand, is all about letting people in, and syndication of information.  Think of an network of people residing in an extended supply chain network, sharing critical and insightful information that can support more insightful decision-making.

Let’s ponder for a moment the implications if this vision of a more predictive SAP information backbone:

  • Even more criticality on the importance of having clean data- a state of “great data hygiene” as termed by one SAP executive
  • Governance and stewardship of data more in the hands of the business domain.  Specifically that SAP end users would have more control over master data management
  • End users having a much deeper understanding of his/her business domain.  This I might add is a particularly important challenge for the managing the extended supply chain management.
  • The ability to integrate information from not only SAP, but other enterprise and best-of-breed vendor environments.

My sense is that when these messages sink in among the broader SAP community, there is certainly going to be some interesting discussions around water coolers.

In later posts, perhaps after this conference, I will share other thoughts regarding my thoughts on the implications of clarity in enterprise.  Tomorrow”s posts will also focus on SAP specific supply chain management updates.

Bob Ferrari