I had an unusually busy day today, and consequently missed out “officially” congratulating my buddy Sameer Patel and SAP when he broke the news on twitter and on his blog http://www.pretzellogic.org/blog/2012/03/13/im-joining-sap-ag/. Of course I knew about it for a while since he and I had discussed this a few times as he was considering the job. And I am very happy for SAP- they have a prize catch.
Collaboration is not new at SAP – just that I never got the impression that they were serious about it. Of course they have Streamwork as a collaboration tool. I even crashed a dinner with that team and Sameer, Jon Reed and Dennis Howlett in Palo Alto few weeks ago. It is just that I never took it very seriously, despite Mark Finnern and the SAP Mentors using it extensively. To me – it just did not make sense that SAP developed a collaboration tool that primarily stood alone, without being in the context of the world of business. It especially looked silly to me what SAP has the best business suite application and a pretty good BI platform – and yet did not capitalize on the opportunity to put collaboration in context of those business processes.
Over the last few months – a few of my customers have started asking me about collaboration capabilities . Some of them had seen streamwork demos – especially the ones with SAP CRM. But as I dug in to it a little more – it was clear that this was not “out of the box” , but more of a services offering from SAP PSO. Every time SAP comes out with something that only their own services arm can implement, I get a little disheartened – primarily since it raises questions on the maturity of the product, and the ability of a customer to support it after go-live. But since customers had started asking – I was ready to start taking collaboration a little more seriously than before.
Sameer is amongst the handful of people I know in the whole Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration and social business world who have a sense of reality in terms of what is possible today and what is not. And he is very passionate about treating collaboration as a business problem, and less as a technical problem. This is EXACTLY what SAP needs in my opinion. As much as SAP likes to be a technology or a platform company – its strength and leadership is more on the application side. And with a guy like Sameer at the helm of the collaboration initiative – I am sure that team will find more focus in capitalizing on SAP’s traditional strengths in Business Suite and BI. And of course, I am not discounting mobile – it is after all 2012, and no one will collaborate without a mobile device today, will they?
I think Vishal’s goals on HANA will come to faster fruition if SAP’s collaboration solutions can act as the glue – as in, an enabler. HANA has proven that it is genuinely fast and real time. The only thing standing between Hana and its future glory is in tethering this speed to several business use cases. I think Collaboration has the potential to be that secret sauce. I am looking forward to see what Vishal and Sameer will tell us at SAPPHIRE. I will honestly be disappointed if I don’t hear anything about this.
I don’t think for a minute that Sameer is going to have an easy time at SAP. It is a large and complex organization – and he will have to quickly learn how to navigate there. Everything at SAP is all about HANA – which is good and bad. Good since as I mentioned above, HANA could use a hand from collaboration. Bad because HANA will probably suck all the O2 in the room . It is a great time for Sameer to be there though – Snabe already made it clear that Collaboration is high on SAP’s agenda. Something tells me that SAP might make an acquisition in this space – and of course I cannot resist restating my long held view that they should buy TIBCO , and solve multiple problems in one shot.
And then there is the SFSF angle. SFSF has Jam, and SAP has Streamwork. There is some overlap – and I am curious to see which one will survive. Other than for political reasons if any – I cannot imagine any good reason why customers will ever want to choose between two competing offerings from SAP. They already face that difficulty in SAP’s Planning solutions, and I am sure they don’t want an encore.
I am also not sure I understand Collaboration team falling under the Analytics organization, instead of applications organization under Sanjay. It probably does not matter – but just does not make sense to me at first sight. But an even bigger question for me is if there is an engineering organization under Vishal’s group that works on Collaboration technology. Given the nature of collaboration, I think it makes sense to treat it as a platform wide pervasive thing, rather than as a point solution. To say the least – I am super curious to get updates on how Vishal and Sethu are going to treat collaboration from the Technology & Platform POV.
Sameer, I wish you all the very best as you begin this new chapter of your career – and I am sure your leadership and passion will lead SAP to newer heights.