Doug Henschen's cover story of InformationWeek's lead article in the current issue boldly proclaims that "ERP's Cool Again." While that might be a generous use of the word "cool," the story conveys a lot of recent survey findings that show the general direction of the industry.
It debunks some stereotypical thoughts about IT groups -- if you're expecting them to only be concerned with flashy technology and increased budgets for implementations, you'll be disappointed (or perhaps pleased). (It also covers some interesting BI, CRM, and EPM issues, though I won't touch on those here.)
While I was reading it, I couldn't help but think back to SAP president of global solutions Sanjay Poonen's short video presentation (which I blogged about two weeks ago [link includes video], and colleague Dave Hannon blogged about last week). In it, Sanjay described SAP's strategy and product vision going forward as clearly as can be done for such a giant company with such a grand scheme.
The InformationWeek piece confirmed some of Sanjay's key points. Obviously, SAP's k
ey strategic ventures have been the development of HANA and the buildup of mobility (signified by the acquisition of Sybase and the flurry of attention mobility has received in subsequent SAP presentations).
The mobility piece is front and center in IW's findings. Mobile applications came in first in survey questions about imminent (12-24 months) on-premises and SaaS implementations. One survey finding also reinforced SAP's purchase of Sybase in the first place. The ability to integrate with existing systems and infrastructure came in as the top response (64%) to the question "What do you look for in an enterprise applications provider?"; the next highest response (responsive service and support) was just 38%. While Henschen went on to mention that using the same company for multiple applications produced only slightly better results, if companies are this passionate about the ease of integration, it seems likely that they will take any gain they can.
The theme of the piece was that more and more business users expect to have access to up-to-date information in informative, user-friendly screens. IT groups are on board with this; to quote Henschen directly:
What IT organizations want most is more engagement and support from business leaders and colleagues. Bigger IT budgets and better training are farther down their priority lists.
More engagement means better information presented in user-friendly ways, and accessible in the form that the users want it (which, increasingly, is via mobile devices). Now let's look back at how I summarized Sanjay's video about SAP's strategy:
The SAP focus going forward is on speed (especially influenced by the foundational "innovation vector," in-memory computing), mobility, and analytics -- with the customer at the center. It's clear
that ease-of-use and attractiveness of user interface are front and center -- while also keeping integration as easy as possible to keep IT teams from having to "duct tape" solutions.
Sounds to me like SAP's research was on point with IW's findings. It will be interesting to see how ERP customers act going forward -- to see if they follow the comments of these survey respondents. If they do, SAP appears ready.