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SAP Trends

What SAP Trends Should IT Services Firms Pursue?

In the SAP services world, there is always the danger of getting too far ahead of the market. That’s why we are always working the phones to get at one fundamental question – across the SAP roadmap, what are customers actually buying? Formal surveys have their place, but so does the “backchannel.” In a recent backchannel conversation, a colleague told me about a firm that had spoken to 100 customers about their SAP priorities. The five most frequently mentioned? Upgrades and Enhancement Packs, Solution Manager, Mobility, Security, and Development/UI Technologies.
For this mid-summer blog post, I’ll do my own analysis of each of these areas, providing a reason for investment, some trends to monitor, and some resources that can further the understanding in each of these five trends.
  1. Development/UI Technologies
    Reason for investment: Users are looking for an intuitive UI experience that more closely resembles socialized “Web 2.0” environments. Also, light UIs can help to extend SAP to a broader user base beyond the heavy financial users who are way more comfortable in Excel than everyone else.
    Trends to monitor: Increased use of dashboarding, either through SAP Crystal Dashboard Design (formerly Xcelsius), or other tools. There's a new UI emphasis on integration with the UI environments users prefer, such as Microsoft SharePoint.

    Resources:
    SAP User Interface Technology home page on SDN; theEnterprise Geeks frequently cover SAP UI trends in their podcasts, including excellent content on Web Dynpro ABAP on their ABAP Freak Show, which is increasingly becoming a customer favorite for SAP UI design.

  2. Solution Manager
    Reason for investment: SAP Solution Manager is mandatory only for certain functions such as ERP 6.0 system upgrades, but companies are finding themselves more familiar with the SAP “SolMan” tool set due to its positioning by SAP as the key to deriving value from Enterprise Support. The technical administration capabilities of Solution Manager, such as Central System Administration and System Monitoring.

    Trends to monitor:
    Firms that can help companies integrate Solution Manager into Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) methodologies and understand SolMan’s process monitoring capabilities can deliver a greater value to end users than those who approach SolMan as simply “technical tools expertise.”
    Resources: SAP’s Application Lifecycle Management home page on SDN, SAP Solution Manager blog category on SCN, Panaya’s recent survey on SAP Solution Manager adoption.

  3. Upgrades and Enhancement Packs
    Reason for investment: SAP upgrades are still driven by the carrot and the stick – the carrot being the advanced capabilities of ERP 6.0, the stick being the extended maintenance burdens. However, the rush to upgrade can be overestimated. Companies are taking their time, building their business case, and upgrading when there is more than just the “stick” of extended maintenance to push them forward. Those companies running ERP 6.0 are looking for a better understanding of what they can get out of Enhancement Packs and examining the most relevant EhP functionality for their projects. Enhancement Packs are better understood by customers than they were a year ago, but understanding how EhPs impact different functional areas of SAP continues to separate the best consultants from the rest.

    Trends to monitor:
    “Big bang” upgrades are a rarity. Streamlined technical upgrades, followed by focused business-cases-driven functional enhancements are now the norm. Tools that streamline testing and pre-upgrade development chores are gaining real traction.
    Resources: SAP's upgrade resource library, SAP upgrade forum on SCN, SearchSAP.com piece on third party SAP upgrade tools.

  4. Mobility
    Reason for investment: The newcomer to this list, mobility is clearly not an SAP-fantasized trend but one with customer traction. Perhaps the biggest change in the SAP mobility space is the shift from talk of “point solutions” to the need for an Enterprise Mobility strategy that gives structure and central management of the surge in point solutions for different focused applications like field service or e-procurement. With the Sybase acquisition not yet complete, there are legitimate customer questions around the best SAP mobility strategy, spawning a need for consultants who can not only implement solutions but validate roadmaps.

    Trends to monitor:
    In addition from the shift from point solutions to Enterprise Mobility, another trend is clearly the movement of iPhones and soon Androids into the BlackBerry-dominated corporate smart phone environment. Companies are also expanding mobility business cases into management line use with business cases that empower busy managers to approve workflow steps on the fly.
    Resources: Mobile technology area on SDN, Mobility blog categoryon the SAP Community Network, SAP Mobility trends podcast I conducted with two fellow SAP Mentors Kevin Benedict and John Appleby.

  5. Security
    SAP security is a steady concern for companies. But as SAP environments become more complex, security issues do too. BI security, mobile security, and the morphing of security into Identity Management are all areas to pursue. There is now a separation between consultants who understand security from solely a technical angle and those who guide SAP customers through the creation of a modern SAP security strategy.

    Trends to monitor:
    Governance, Risk and Compliance also includes security-related issues in terms of access and process controls. Expertise in SAP's GRC components and how they tie into overall security management can be a differentiator.
    Resources: Security and Identity Management home page on SDN, SCN blogs on Security and Identity Mangement.

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