Yesterday SAP announced a major update to SAP Business ByDesign, the centerpiece of its portfolio of on-demand solutions. Feature pack 2.6 has been generally available since February 1, 2011, offering several news-worthy new features and capabilities. On-demand computing itself is one of SAP’s three pillars for growth… the other two being mobility and in memory computing. FP 2.6 touches on all three and more.
So what’s new? First of all there is a brand new SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) that plays two roles in making ByDesign more appealing. It provides some added incentives to its ecosystem of partners not only to jump on board but also to add their own value. And secondly, it begins to allay the fears of those resistant to a SaaS delivery model which is often viewed (sometimes erroneously) as “configurable” but not ”customizable.”
Secondly there is added support for additional mobile devices (the iPad and RIM BlackBerry smartphones).
Mobility came to the forefront of SAP’s strategy last May with its announcement that it would acquire Sybase and its mobility platform. The goals and objectives of implementing an integrated suite such as Business ByDesign always include efficiency, productivity and visibility. Yet few exec’s today, whether sitting behind their desks, traveling around the world or attending a child’s soccer game, have easy and direct access to the data needed to make decisions, keeping all three goals just out of their reach. Sure, they may get an urgent email on their smart phone at any hour of the day or night, but then what do they do? Most likely they will use that same device to place a phone call or multiple calls, searching for more information.
SAP’s goal instead is to turn that device into a real tool to manage the business. Of course much of the technology needed to do this has been around for more than a decade, but full visibility and direct access anytime, anywhere has still been an elusive goal for the vast majority. I’ve been predicting for a while that this level of alerting and investigation is going to skip the laptop and go directly to these mobile devices. As more and better devices become available, this could finally be a reality in 2011.
The third new capability gets at what SAP calls “orchestration” across any number of delivery platforms (on demand, on device, on-premise) and also the reality of distributed enterprises and the need for consolidation and communication between headquarters and business units or subsidiaries. With Feature Pack 2.6, SAP offers an integration scenario for financial consolidation to help companies deal with the diversity of global financial reporting standards such as GAAP and IFRS, multiple currencies particularly at the subsidiary and transaction currency level, as well as different tax jurisdictions. Further integration scenarios for sales and distribution are planned for the next release.
SAP is not alone in promoting a two tier strategy for large corporations and their subsidiaries, recognizing the complexities of a solution like SAP Business Suite may be out of reach or overkill for satellite or subsidiary business units. Other ERP solution vendors talk about the same, sometimes calling it hub and spoke, sometimes two tier or even distinguishing between administrative and operational ERP. But often they are also talking about interoperability with SAP – either the Business Suite or R/3.
One element of supporting any kind of multinational scenario is making ByDesign available all over the world. Up until now it was available in 6 countries, which together presented tremendous opportunity for SAP (US, UK, China, France, India and Germany). So far they have about 250 customers and now are expanding to include Canada, Austria and Switzerland.
And finally… the in-memory connection. FP 2.6 adds sales and financial planning scenarios powered by in-memory technology, providing added speed and the ability to process huge data volumes in real time. There is also a dashboard app so ByDesign customers can access and consume complete analytical business information. Within the dashboard app users can arrange worksheets and organize reports annotations, notes, e-mail and voice notes for collaboration with partners and coworkers. The dashboard app will be free to download from the Apple iTunes store and available in demo mode for non-SAP Business ByDesign customers.
And Sap is not done yet. Peter Lorenz, executive vice president, On Demand, and corporate officer, SAP AG said, “As we have now moved to a cycle of delivering a new feature pack every six months, the next big step in our SAP Business ByDesign roadmap will be the general availability of feature pack 3.0 in August.”