If SAP has its way, its software will reach one billion and one users by 2015. The first billion is SAP’s stated goal, the superfluous but no less important singular user is my addition. Whether it succeeds or not, SAP’s future is at stake.
Before the goal can be reached, SAP, whose software has already been in use by 109,000 customers and hundreds of millions of people, has laid out a series of measures to prepare for and capitalize on the onslaught of new and existing users.
That was evident at the recent SAPPHIRE NOW held at the Orlando Conventional Center, which was configured as a trade show, dedicated theaters, group discussions around conference tables, and new media experiences on a global scale all rolled into one.
One of the narratives of the theme-infused SAPPHIRE NOW was the rise of mobile applications. Sybase, following its acquisition by SAP for $5.8 billion, was spotlighted as the key enabler with the rollout of Unwired Platform 2.0 and the primary mobile applications developer.
Other recurring themes included combining Rapid Deployment solutions with in-memory computing to boost reporting capabilities; leveraging AWS and Azure Cloud Computing platforms under expanded alliances with Amazon and Microsoft, respectively; as well as sustaining customer interest with both on-premise and on-demand offerings including the latest business analytics applications for line of business executives and the revamped Business ByDesign for midmarket businesses.
A Touch of Mobility
Dozens of mobile applications from Sybase, which has become one of the biggest SMS messaging backbones responsible for processing 1.5 billion text messages per day, will start hitting the market in the coming months capable of automating such tasks as workflow approvals for HR processes like employee profile lookup, vacation request and scheduling and time capture. Other mobile apps Sybase plans to release are designed for customer relationship management, travel and expense management and industry-specific functions. A healthcare mobile application on iPad, for example, allows doctors to access records from patient history to medical images.
The quasi-electronic health record application from Sybase, which does not have full-blown scheduling and specialty features like oncology treatment plan, comes amid the EHR push by the US government to help providers defray the costs of incorporating such systems into meaningful use of their daily practices through billions of dollars of subsidized programs that aim to boost quality of care as well as eliminate medical errors and bloated expenses associated with manual systems.
Altogether it represents SAP’s first major foray into developing hundreds, if not thousands with the help of other ISVs, mobile applications that could unite businesses and their customers all revving to tap into the wonders of mobility with easy access to mountains of information at their fingertips.
With sales of smart phones approaching 100 million every quarter(Apple alone shipped nearly 19 million iPhones in the first three months of this year), such mobile applications will become the impetus behind SAP’s ambitious goal of reaching one billion users.
A Momentous Event
Unlike previous SAPPHIRE events where much of the action either took place on the show floor or behind the doors of private meeting rooms, the conference has taken on an added dimension by infusing new media including social networking and live webcasting into everything about the show. Blogs, tweets and Facebook posts about the event reached untold millions of people around the world as they happened.
The command center of the new media strategy sat next to Studio 3 where the Sybase announcement was made. With an air of a NASA control room, hundreds of video servers, laptops and LCD monitors were stacked from floor to ceiling transmitting TV production-quality images to a global audience. The Orlando show was connected simultaneously to four regional events in Europe.
Suffice it to say that the vendor’s positioning SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 to break last year’s record of reaching more than 50,000 people onsite and online was to surpass Oracle Open World, the competing event that drew 41,000 attendees in 2010.
There are legions of customers and buyers who would attend both events and compare their strategies before making their final decisions. Thus the bragging right of who holds a bigger event is symbolically important in an age where the actual number may carry less significance than its underlying implications.
Given the outsized presence of both in the enterprise(what’s at stake is at least 30% shares of the $34-billion worldwide ERP market between them and the future leadership), any purchase decision underscores how enterprises view the future of computing in general.
Oracle, in trumpeting its Exadata database machine, favors high-volume data-processing(we’re talking about petabytes of data here) in a box approach, while SAP gravitates toward in-memory computing, which foresakes reading of data from disks or flash storage and instead keeps the processing tasks, including calculation and planning and data management within the main memory, thus rendering a dedicated database like Oracle obsolete.
Both claim to deliver superior performance. SAP cited an example of pairing its in-memory computing engine with SAP Business ByDesign to handle what used to be considered batch processing of dunning analysis of outstanding account receivable items. Using the in-memory system, the task takes 13 seconds, compared with 77 minutes previously.
Power of A Single User
Which brings us back to the superfluous user, who could be the CFO or CEO needing to pick up a real-time sales report before a board meeting. In fact there are no shortages of executives who would prefer accessing a report on the fly on their mobile devices, rather than asking someone else to generate it for them, let alone waiting 77 minutes for that to happen.
Hence in an age where there is an unlimited amount of information anyone can access, what a useful piece of technology is supposed to do is to help furnish a timely report that is relevant, accurate and in the right context.
Indeed the future of SAP, or any technology vendor for that matter, may ride on that individual who feels empowered by the promise of the technology to help fulfill his/her version.
After all, SAP’s target of reaching 1000000001 users is as symmetrical and symbolically important as factoring in that single user who could make the whole difference in the world.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me what you think of SAP, future of computing, or for that matter power of the individual in the digital age.