Before 25,000 reported attendees, SAP today kicked-off its portion of the 2008 annual Sapphire and ASUG (SAP U.S. User Group) conferences.  I had the opportunity to view all three of the keynotes, from both Co-CEO’s Henning Kagermann and Leo Apotheker, as well as John Schwarz, the CEO of Business Objects.  Having been a Sapphire attendee and observer for many years, I will share some of my observations regarding today’s presentations.

  • In the previous three Sapphires, Mr. Kagermann had provided his audience specific development and application release timetables, but today, they were missing. No doubt the recent announced 12-15 month delay in the long hyped Business by Design suite for SMB customers may well have contributed. More importantly I believe, these timetables not only provided SAP customers with clarity and direction for their own systems planning, but also a timetable motivation to internal SAP groups who actually develop these systems. Both Mr. Kagermann and Mr. Apotheker had multiple customer testimonials as part of their keynotes. These testimonials included a stellar list to include BASF, Coca Cola, Harley Davidson, Mahindra, Procter and Gamble, and Valero. The coolest event of all was the CIO of Harley Davidson enter the stage on a Harley, reportedly a down payment on a new SAP application. But with the SAP marketing theme “SAP for Great Companies, Not Just Big Companies”, I wonder why they could not parade one SMB company to be part of a keynote. Also missing was a consistent strong endorsement of the broader SAP partner community, although Mr. Apotheker did make one mention of the SAP development and industry eco-system.
  • It was again good to see that supply chain business scenarios were once again recognized in the executive keynotes. Mr. Kagermann’s presentation included a demonstration of the future Collaborative Supplier Management application. This demo was a walk-through of an on-boarding of new suppliers, as existing supplier contracts come-up for renewal. It was unfortunate that the demo script included an unrealistic drill-down scenario utilizing Alibaba. For further details, you can read Jason Busch’s Spend Matters post- Sapphire Dispatch 5. Mr. Apotheker’s keynote included also included a warehouse pick automation scenario from Coca Cola, which featured wireless transmission and integration capabilities.
  • Today’s final keynote was the premiering of SAP’s largest acquisition, business intelligence vendor Business Objects. CEO John Swartz talk outlined how Business Objects will fit in the overall SAP strategy of intelligent information across business networks. This presentation really impressed me in bringing forth the real requirements for analytical and business intelligence applications, and the need to bring together all forms of data, structured and unstructured, not just transactional data. Rather than dashboards or collections of data that indicate what had happened, business intelligence is really about assimilating key information that can best determine what will happen, and how to best mitigate business decisions. Also brought out was Business Objects use of SAP BI Accelerator to springboard data integration plans. BI Accelerator, and in-memory data technology, originated from the earlier needs of SAP’s Advanced Planning application (APO) to consume large amounts of data and any given time. The use of this technology in Business Objects may at some point be of benefit to large APO users. Other observations from my perspective was the implication that SAP Global Risk and Compliance (GRC) and Master Data Management (MDM) applications will be eventually supported by the Business Objects platform.

Overall it was an interesting but not profound day of keynotes. The themes were those orchestrated to SAP product strategies. The Supply Chain Matters community can again take notice that while SAP continues to understand the importance of supply chain capabilities in business enterprise strategy enablement, overall implementation timetables will need to be understood and factored by the SAP supply chain community at large.

Bob Ferrari