Road Ahead for SAP Consultants : 2013


For the last few years, I have tried to offer my views on what is the road ahead for SAP consultants in the next year. All the past episodes have been on SCN, but SCN is not letting me log on to the site today. So I am posting it here this time on my personal blog. My 2012 predictions can be found
here .

Usual disclaimers apply – these are just my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. And of course none of this is based on any scientific study – just my observations dealing with my clients, fellow consultants and many friends in SAP ecosystem.

1. BW on HANA : 2013 will be the year of BW on HANA. The groundwork has been done perfectly well in 2012. This should be good for many consultants – BW, BOBJ, Basis etc to ride the wave. If you are not up to speed on 7.3 version of BW, you might want to get spun up on that. This should also have a positive effect in increasing the demand for BPC 10 upgrades for BPC on HANA.

2. Combo innovations : None of the newer stuff from SAP might give full business value to customers when they stand alone. But they have awesome potential when used in combination. There aren’t a lot of consultants out there who can articulate and implement combination of new technologies ( say HANA and CEP, BPC and Mobility etc) to solve existing problems in completely new ways.

3. Upgrades : Many customers have not made use of cool new functionality offered by Enhancement packs. But I do know first hand – especially from SAPPHIRE and TECHED conversations with customers, that several of them want to start using them in 2013.  This should be good not just for technical experts – but also for functional experts whose knowledge is needed to pick what functionality needs to be switched on.

4. Visual Intelligence :  This needs me to go out on a limb – but everyone whom I have shown the tool has liked it. It is much more user friendly than most other SAP reporting tools. I have a strong hunch that 2013 will see a lot of traction in the market.

5. SuccessFactors + SAP HR : I understand that the integration needs more work – but there is tremendous interest from On premises SAP HR customers to start using SFSF. SAP definitely is doing the right thing in sales and marketing already in 2012 – and customers should be able to start seeing work in this area in 2013.

6. Automated Testing : I have lost count of how many customers have asked me about automated testing for SAP solutions. If you are an expert in testing, 2013 might be a great year for you. Whether it is done using SAP tools, or will third party tools win the race remains to be seen, especially when it comes to automated testing of interfaces.

7. Enterprise Information Management : Data continues to be vitally important at SAP shops. I expect MDG and Data services to be in hot demand in 2013, probably followed by MDM. The big issue I see is that very few consultants have the ability to explain the cost of bad data to business stakeholders. Just profiling data and saying 70% of customer data is bad is not helpful. If you can then use that analysis and say ” 23% of your shipments will be returned” , will get some one’s attention in a hurry.
That is it this time – let me know what you think. And hope everyone had a great thanks giving

SAPPHIRENOW 2012, Madrid – Keynote Expectations


This year, I am not going to Madrid to attend SAPPHIRENOW  and SAPTECHED 2012, due to some scheduling conflicts on work front. I will be following the event online as much as I can. My JD-OD friends will surely do their excellent wrap up videos, and I can’t wait to watch them. Also, a shameless plug for my IBM team at Madrid . Please go visit them at the IBM booth, and ask for Gagan Reen, and watch the retail application we built on HANA, specifically on XS engine.

I am not sure if there is a lot of new news that SAP has to share with the world this time. Not a lot of time has passed after SAPTECHED 2012 in Vegas. I am a big fan of keeping SAPPHIRENOW and SAPTECHED together as one event.  And having events so close to each other serves very little purpose to SAP and its ecosystem. I hope SAP does it in US too – and a change of venue from Orlando and Vegas couldn’t hurt.

I am sure the keynotes from Bill McDermott, Jim Snabe and Vishal Sikka will be awesome, as they usually are. What do I expect from each ?

From Bill McDermott, I expect to hear some color on why an amazing innovation like HANA only has about 650 (probably some more now, since 650 was what we heard in Vegas at Teched) customers. More importantly – what are his plans for 2013 .  APAC is where the action is for a lot of enterprise software. I would love to hear what Bill has to say about unique solutions for APAC companies. Of particular interest to me is what he plans to do to capitalize the mobility market there. It is ripe for the plucking . Checkout what I wrote last week on my way back from India. https://andvijaysays.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/mobility-in-india-reminds-me-of-a-boneym-song-bahama-mama/ 

Maybe Bill will let Sanjay Poonen to do a short section of his keynote to explain the mobility strategy in more detail.  Another thing I expect Bill to go into is the convergence of mobility, hana , analytics and cloud . In past keynotes, he has articulated what each bring to the table. But the business value for customers clearly is in the intersection of all (or some) of it.

From Jim Snabe, I expect to hear the business side of SAP’s cloud story – with emphasis on the Ariba acquisition and Collaboration. I am sure several SAP customers will be excited to hear about how SAP is planning to give them extra value on Ariba’s vast business network. And collaboration plays a key role – since none of SAP’s competitors in collaboration space has the advantage of tight integration to the context of business processes.  An interesting side question to SAP cloud strategy is how SAP’s investment in HANA as the DB for ERP, CRM etc ties with the fact that new innovation in business processes from most of their competitors like SFDC, WorkDay etc are on cloud.  So why is SAP choosing to invest in On-premises HANA enablement, when the world is generally moving to cloud?  I hope Jim addresses that question. If I was in Madrid, I would have asked this in person to Jim.

There is no denying that my favorite part of any SAP event is Vishal’s keynote.  From Vishal, I expect to hear the next level of detail on SAP’s platform story. Platform is the future, and SAP’s platform is evolving rapidly. Maybe he will finally announce the sunset of the beloved Netweaver brand for cloud. What would be a really good thing for Vishal to explain is what is the next thing that the millions of ABAP programmers in the ecosystem to do in near future to keep themselves relevant.  It is a captive audience that is extremely loyal to SAP. It would be a crying shame if they are not shown a clear path forward on skills they need for the new-SAP.

Alright then – I am ready to kick back, and watch the virtual event. Good luck SAP .

Strategy Based On Data – Will What Worked For The Campaign Work For Governance Too?


So President Obama won a second term. Congratulations to POTUS and all my friends who supported him.  And I do feel bad for several friends who genuinely feel bad that Romney did not win . I didn’t think either candidate had it in them to help this country prosper.  The ideal candidate in my mind needed more Obama like stances on social issues, and a mix of Obama and Romney stances on economic issues.  But that is not going to happen any time soon I guess.

What fascinated me most in this election was the use of quantitative methods in Obama campaign. At a high level, there are 3 things campaigns need to know

1. Who to target to secure enough votes  ?

2. Who to target to get funding  ?

3. What to tell these 2 groups, and using which media ?

And one way or other, the Obama campaign seem to have succeeded on all three, and hence Obama gets to be President for 4 more years. So far so good – but that is not the part that fascinates me.

Now, with the elections behind them – will the administration still invest in big data analytics to govern better? That is the possibility that fascinates me. I sure hope the answer is YES (Not YES WE CAN, but YES WE WILL 🙂 )

Now, the administration does not create laws – Congress does. And given the control of house and senate are not changing according to latest poll results- the chance of a different type of law making is pretty low if nothing changes. But things could change – and if all arms of government can use a little more of decisions based on data, and a little less of “political gut” based decisions – maybe this country can start prospering again. The type of analytics needed for policy making is not exactly the same as the narrow objectives of campaigning – but I would argue that similar principles apply. And just like in enterprise software projects, I suspect that the hard work is less of tech work, its probably change management.

Second presidential terms are all about leaving a legacy, I am told – I would love to remember Obama as the president who used data effectively to win 2 elections, and then used data to effectively govern this great country. Probably wishful thinking on my part – but hey, I make a living doing BI work for my clients, AND I am jet lagged as I am typing this at 2 AM 🙂

I am also rather curious now on whether Indian politicians will use big data analytics in their campaigns. If they do, India might see some interesting times.

Mobility In India – Reminds Me of A BoneyM Song Bahama Mama


Last time I went to India was in May of this year. And I came back totally convinced that Mobility and Cloud have tremendous potential there. As I am flying back home to Phoenix now, after a whirlwind trip to India, I have a better perspective of opportunities and challenges.

I know BoneyM might not be popular with some of the readers – so check this video out. When I think of mobility in India , the lyrics of the song that goes “…6 beautiful roses, and no body to pluck them..” come to mind.

First, some observations from last week when I was in India.

Internet speed in India has increased by leaps and bounds, but hotels surely have ways to go in terms of bandwidth they provide their guests. I spoke to the staff at both Windsor and Leela Palace in Bangalore, both amazing hotels – and was told I will be pleasantly surprised if I visit a year from now. I will take them for their word since I know first hand over the years that they take customer service more seriously than almost any other hotel I have stayed in.

Mobile phone bandwidth on the other hand is a different story. I had poor up-time even with international roaming for data and voice. Voice surely was better than data by a long margin.

Device diversity is probably bigger in India than in US – and I found everything from iPhones, iPads, Androids of all form factors, Nokia phones and several blackberry PDAs. Email and Facebook are probably the most used apps from what I could see.
But almost every person I met is an expert in SMS messages. India runs on SMS (and missed calls – no voicemails, people just leave a “missed” call as an indication that they expect a call back).

Mobile banking continues to be a big hit with even the “tech averse” older generation taking an active interest now. I was pleasantly surprised to see many elderly folks take internet connections to just read news on internet, and do internet banking and save trips to the bank.

Mobile users in India seem to have lower expectations of functionality and performance than those in US and Western Europe. However, they do expect extreme simplicity. Given a choice, they would like to live in a world of SMS alone.

With these observations, I have to believe there is tremendous opportunity for someone to take that market by storm. Volume is not a problem in India – there are a billion people, and vast majority seem to have a mobile device of some sort. However – I think a mobile solution for India should have some common aspects to succeed.

1. It should be inexpensive

India needs a volume pricing – and buyers are price concious. And this would mean whatever solution is put in place needs a solid platform to go with it that gives economies of scale.

2. It should work in any device

There is no one favorite device.  It is a gadget friendly nation

3. Wherever possible, use SMS

The country practically runs on SMS. It will take time to change to something else. But if SMS can solve an issue today, there will be lot of people who will buy. This is also good from a multilanguage support point of view. It will be an expensive undertaking to build apps for each Indian language.

4. Offline capabilities is a must

Given high availablity of bandwidth is a pipe dream in several parts of India, some offline capability is a must for any mobile app

5. Government, banks, construction and transportation are easy pickings

Forget your political leanings – India is all about big government, and people look at government for all kinds of things. Vendors should embrace this and not fight it. On bright side, there is plenty of interest from government to IT enable everything. Banks are already on forefront of mobility initiatives, but the opportunity is huge. Construction is probably where the biggest bang for the buck is – there is a high rise coming up anywhere you look. And I am yet to see engineers use a mobile device to do their work in those. Public and private transportation companies are used by everyone, yet hardly make use of mobility. These are the no-brainer type opportunities. I can think of another two dozen or so avenues for mobility initiatives

6. India needs local talent to develop and sell mobile solutions

This is applicable not for just mobile – but ANY solution really. It is a unique place, that many from outside India will find hard to figure out at a level needed to succeed in business. It is not a big deal for vendors since India has amazing talent locally, and a large expat community that can bridge any gaps. It will be a very strategic investment to utilize this talent pool and invest in it now.

7. Extensibility, multi language support can wait a bit

On first impression – it looks like several users in India can live for some time with out of the box functionality. From a good design perspective, of course it is better to build things with extensibility and multi-language support in mind. But it can wait for a bit – I think a profitable business model can be built for short to mid-term without needing a lot of enhancements and multi-language support. Of course I will gladly stand corrected if people who live in India point me in another direction. I am basing this on my short visits, and I am fully aware that I might not have picked up on the nuances.

The question in my mind is – who will seize the first mover advantage in India? Will it be SAP? IBM? Startups? By first mover – I mean the first to try to solve the problem in large scale. I am well aware that this is happening already in a low scale fragmented mode. I must admit I am quite tempted to give it a go myself.