This is our fourth in a series of Supply Chain Matters commentaries regarding attendance at this year’s SAP Sapphire Now and ASUG conferences being held in Orlando.  Readers can reference our previous three commentaries at the following links;

Commentary One

Commentary Two

Commentary Three

As we write, day three is winding down with the final concluding evening concert headlined by Sting, yet to come.  As with previous Sapphires, this being our tenth, activities have been a blur.

In this commentary, we will touch upon two other topical areas we outlined in our prelude posting last week.  The First is the SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions (RDS) program and specifically its applicability in the supply chain, manufacturing, supplier relationship management and procurement areas.  Noted in earlier commentaries was the explanation that RDS were designed to help SAP customers get up and running in a major quicker manner, and include fixed cost and fixed scope parameters.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Stefan Haenisch, senior vise president of solution assembly and packaging who has leadership responsibility for all of RDS deployment programs for SAP.  There are currently 230 RDS programs underway with 30 percent managed by SAP partners.  We learned that many of the components and elements of RDS come from SAP’s All-In-One programs which helped to develop many of the solution accelerators, best practices and tools that now make-up this new ongoing RDS effort.  We were also pleased to hear that SAP is committed to bring in more partner resources to support these programs, and that partners are bringing new ideas and innovation ideas with their involvement.

For the supply chain area specifically, 3 RDS offerings are in release status (Customer Collaboration, Extended Warehouse Management, and a basic S&OP application. Expected for release later this year are Global Available to Promise and Service Parts Management We were somewhat disappointed to be informed that Supplier Network collaboration (SNC) has slipped into early 2012.  Apparently there are concerns among SAP SCM management teams that there are too many RDS program efforts occurring at the same time. In the procurement area, there is an RDS for Procurement, and judging from an eight deep crowd I observed in a specific microforum dedicated to this subject, there appears to be lots of pent-up interest.

Another goal for us in exploring this year’s conference was the opportunity to view the long anticipated Sales and Operations planning prototype built on the HANA platform.  We were informed that demos were being run on the show floor, but to our chagrin, neither the Business Analytics Theatre nor the Advanced Technology Theatre could accommodate our request. We suspect that this application is still “in the oven’ as it were, since in his technology keynote, Vishal Sikka noted that S&OP would be coming later as a component of the Data Warehousing aspects of HANA.  We believe that this is unfortunate because SAP customers probably are confused as to existence of two separate and different S&OP application initiatives for this area, and which best meets business process needs.  We further suspect that SAP wants to make a big statement in this critical process area, but is trading off valuable time for the most elegant technology approach.  A less onerous application supporting the S&OP process is long overdue.

On the subject of business analytics, we participated in a highly informative interview with Steve Lucas, global senior executive leading SAP’s business analytics business strategies.  Steve acknowledged that this year, every individual SAP analytics product was involved with some major product upgrade or initiative, and that may be overwhelming in terms of customer understanding.  His organization has produced a two-sided visual that provided what we believe is the best high level explanation of the various architectural implications of HANA and business analytics, as well as a methodology for how customers can evaluate their roadmaps and direction toward HANA.  This visual was obviously being test run for customer briefings at Sapphire.  It provided for us, the best visual tool thus far to help understand the true implications of SAP’s direction for HANA and business analytics. Participants in our global blogger briefing all unanimously urged Steve to make this visual more visible for SAP customers as a whole.  Over the coming weeks, we will explore the implications of this direction on analytical capabilities applied to supply chain business processes.

We have to close out this commentary but we leave you with an important and meaningful statement from Steve Lucas.  HANA at the end of the day is a database, a dramatically different form of database that can perform its own calculations and analysis at a far more rapid rate than anyone believed.  That is the game-changing aspect of this direction and it comes with many challenges for SAP and its customers. Its also presents many opportunities for how we can better sense, respond, and adjust global supply chain processes.  Technology marches on, regardless of whether we are ready.

Bob Ferrari