Notes From SAPPHIRE

SAP's annual Americas user conference was held last week (April 23-25), with impressive attendance of approximately 14,000. The abrupt departure of Shai Agassi a few weeks prior to the event was well covered, as Hasso Plattner stepped in to handle the technical vision keynote slot. A key message of the event was progress in adoption of SAP's NetWeaver platform and the latest release of the ERP suite, renamed ERP 6.0 from mySAP ERP 2005. ERP 6.0 adoption was announced to be approximately 2,600 to date, but upgrades from the older 4.6C and 4.7 versions continue to be a challenge for customers. SAP is looking to have 75% of its ERP base upgraded by mid-2008. Besides relief from rising support costs under the 5-1-2 maintenance plan, customers who upgrade to 6.0 can take advantage of a series of forthcoming enhancement packs as incremental add-ons (a strategy reminiscent of Oracle's family pack releases).

The event did not offer any significant directional changes or major product announcements, although some were noteworthy. SAP re-committed to its Duet road map and partnership with Microsoft, a relationship that appeared under duress as Microsoft positions its own ERP applications business to compete more with SAP. SAP also announced a directional focus on the office of the CFO, as a theme for tying together initiatives with governance, risk and compliance (GRC) and corporate performance management.

From my perspective, the most innovative thing SAP is up to is A1S, which was kept mostly under wraps at SAPPHIRE, since the product will not be available (or properly named) until the second half of 2007. A1S is a midmarket-focused ERP offering, which will be offered under a SaaS (hosted, subscription) model. The A1S solution features a rapid configuration UI as well as enhanced usability, and should enable SAP to gain some traction down-market.

Paul Hamerman

VP, Enterprise Applications