As is customary this time of year, we have had a plethora of “lists” either of nostalgia (looking back at 2011) or with anticipation (looking ahead to 2012). Prominent on these lists for SAP are: HANA, mobility, Bob J, and Solution Manager (the four horsemen of the Sapocalypse). I fully expect SAP to keep the horns blowing hard for these subjects, though I would truly welcome something new that isn’t techy-wonkish.
In that light, I continue to believe that neither The Cloud nor SaaS are particularly relevant to SAP clients in the installed base with revenues > $500M. No client of major size is going to use cloud in more than a lab environment as they will be loath to consign the heart of their IP to a cloud environment. And although SaaS solutions continue to evolve, they do not lend themselves to continuous business process improvement (to say the least).
The trends that I list here (in no particular order) are clearly not part of the mainstream with analysts whose eyes are turned to the technology but should be trends that clients themselves will follow.
Shadow IT is on the Rise: While I do not have any primary research in this regard, I have noted a serious increase in the frequency of IT systems and solutions used outside of official IT and without official approval. The vast majority of shadow IT is business intelligence (with a concentration upon executive dashboards). This rise is probably due to a) IT leadership not tuned to business needs and/or b) corporate dictates to IT to reduce costs, leaving IT unable to serve business.
The dwindling of the SAP consulting eco-system gives clients less choice than ever: Twelve years ago, there were 300 North American SAP practices. The large practices, often referred to as ‘the usual suspects’ included Price Waterhouse, Coopers & Lybrand, Anderson Consulting (later Accenture), CSC, Deloitte, KPMG (later BearingPoint) , Ernst & Young, IBM, and SAP Consulting. That’s nine firms. Today, we are down to SAP Consulting, IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, and CSC. That’s six firms. And the count of North American SAP practices is less than 100 with almost no second tier. This is the result of aggressive provider consolidation, vastly increased global delivery, and mass growth of SAP Consulting and the IBM and Accenture SAP practices.
Centers of Expertise will continue to give way to Centers of Excellence. Centers of Expertise are intended to get the most out of SAP software. Lots of clients have them. Centers of Excellence are intended to drive continuous measurable business improvements. Few clients have them. So what’s the trend? 2010 and 2011 saw a rise in client maturity regarding the distinction between the two CoE meanings and substance. A rise, I said, not a tsunami. The vast majority of firms with SAP will still be looking in the wrong direction (towards technology) to improve their maturity.
Marc Benioff, CEO of SalesForcedotcom (that’s right, they are still mis-named and still use dotcom in the moniker) will continue to embarrass himself with loudmouth declarations about his firm toppling SAP, Oracle, et al. He’s been doing so for about five years now and should be getting hoarse even as the vision of “toppling” grows ever distant. Waves of analysts, however, will buy in to this delusion.
The definition of a business process expert will continue to be refined. To date, the definers have come from the ranks of IT (read=techie) analysts and more technical-minded consultants. If you go to the BPX Community pages at SDN, you get the impression that business process expertise is about “tools” and “modeling” and, oh my, SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration. Just as construction is not defined by hammers and nails, we need to remember that business process expertise is supposed to be the nexus between business and IT. The blur. BizIT. Fellow definition refiners are welcome here.
Super user networks will be more common and more effective. 2010 heralded the beginning of the end of the dreadful neglect of SAP end users as we continue to find ways to prove the cost of such neglect and thus gain client mindshare around the issues.