SAP APJ FKOM 2014 – Feedback


SAP FKOM field kick-off 2014I recently attended the 2014 SAP APJ (Asia-Pacific-Japan) Field Kick-Off conference in Singapore. It is an annual regional event held by SAP to kick-start the year for sales staff and partner channels combined. Other similar regional events are held in China (recently split off from APJ), Europe and the Americas. It is very interesting how the change in messaging reflects the organisation’s growth and progress from last year’s event to this year’s.

At last year’s event, most of the messaging was focused on the potential that the HANA in-memory database brings, at that time the new whizz kid on the block. There were introductions and overviews of a few other acquisitions made close to the time, but the all-encompassing message was “everything on HANA”, including the whole SAP ERP suite. That was all reported in last year’s FKOM review.

This year you clearly got the message that the whizz kid was well settled in, matured and now forms a key part of the full SAP application solution stack. The PowerPoint-based hype of the previous year that promoted that we should take notice of HANA’s existence has being replaced with real-world implementations, case studies, approaches to deploy and use it to gain business benefit and so forth. HANA is now even more positioned as the foundation of their technology strategy – rightly so, because it is such a disruptive technology, and because it brings all the mega-fold advantages of in-memory cost and time savings with it into the TCO equation. A lot of processing functions are being moved into HANA – in memory. There is now a whole functional and application stack being implemented on top of HANA as well. So the focus is not on the spoilt new whizz kid on its own anymore, but more on its role as a key team player in the whole SAP application portfolio strategy.

If I have to summarise SAP messaging at FKOM into one phrase, it would be something in the line of “integration, consolidation and simplification”. SAP knows that their portfolio of 3000 products and 200 websites are too complex to understand and navigate.  Their goal for this year is to have all products consolidated into one integrated offering – which could then be hosted on-premise or in the cloud, where it is so much simplified that at the end of the day there is only one solution per business problem. The organisation also wants to consolidate its 200 websites into one seamless and more contemporary experience for the customer. That would surely get rid of a lot of the navigational challenges of their current websites. As part of the consolidation and simplification drive they are also establishing a single support channel across all application portfolios and usage industries.

As a case in point about integration and simplification, by running the ERP suite on HANA, it is shrinking by more than 30 times. The duplication between CRM and ERP is also being removed. Even BW disappears in the HANA world. Everything shrinks and becomes faster and more efficient.

In the longer term, it is SAP’s goal to offer their entire integrated application stack as a service in the cloud. Now imagine for a start-up organisation how convenient that would be. No CAPEX costs required, no infrastructure to manage, no IT teams responsible for application development, installation and configuration, and what a blessing in disguise – no more responsibility for application upgrades! You merely “rent” what you need, set it up, populate it with your data and off you go. What this also brings to the table is a much tighter integration between the various line of business applications, which results in much better data integration and sharing and very high quality integrated information and business analytics. In fact, with it all running on HANA on a SAP-managed cloud, it reduces BI to a very small and highly streamlined footprint. Enterprise IT of the future!

They may have slowed down, but SAP hasn’t stopped acquiring either. The recently acquired KXEN is an analytical modeling tool, which fills a void they have always had in the space traditionally filled by competitors like SAS and SPSS. This was a very wise acquisition, because the analytical modeling space is becoming more and more important, and an analytical modeling tool is complex – it is better to buy a best-of-breed toolset than to try and develop it from scratch and implement it as HANA services. Personally, I would be very interested to see how KXEN works and how well it integrates with BI on HANA.

Other focus areas for SAP are the customer journey, the product journey, the consumer journey, and so on, making sure their application portfolios efficiently cater for these environments. As part of this drive, there is a new focus on the customer and end-user experience. SAP has traditionally been known as having the most configurable applications, with the lousiest user interfaces in the business. This is all changing through an increased focus on the user experience, implemented through an initiative to improve and standardise the user interfaces across all of their applications and toolsets. Through this initiative, organisations will get role-based personalised application interfaces, removing the latencies between applications and resulting in much better business integration.

All in all, SAP FKOM 2014 was a great event – in addition to stimulating content, it was extremely well organised, hosted in a modern, clean and efficient city, with gourmet catering, conducive networking opportunities and excellent entertainment. Just the thing to get the sales force and partner channel all fired up and motivated to attack the year with gusto. Watch the SAP space for some serious disruption this year.

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