SAP Roadmap: Unanswered Questions for CIOs
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Three months after announcing its buyout of Sybase, a 26-year-old producer of relational database software and mobile data management products, SAP brought together customers, industry analysts and media in Boston on Aug. 19 to discuss how the two companies will work together.
While SAP and Sybase executives talked expansively about what the future will bring, analysts said that the Aug. 19 briefing was long on promises and short on explicit statements about how the two companies will integrate their product lines.
SAP is promising that its $5.8 billion acquisition of Sybase will start to return tangible benefits for customers within the next nine months, when the two companies deliver a mobile business applications platform based on open standards that will run on many different mobile devices and operating systems.
What SAP presented was "some directional announcements but not any clear road maps. It's more about vision and strategy In terms of Sybase technologies, and how SAP will integrate them," said Paul Hamerman vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research. "What they're saying is they have to work to do put this together."
At the same time, it's clear that "SAP sees a big future in mobile applications, in terms of the user experiences that they offer, as well as the freedom that they offer [for users to] move throughout the country [while] accelerating business processes," Hamerman said.
Mobile business applications and mobile data analysis technologies are worthy of research and investment, Hamerman said, because "there will be some potentially break-through improvements in terms of using the capabilities of the device as well as the ability to be in touch with business processes any time or anywhere."
As a result, Hamerman believes that "CIOs and business people will start to consider the potential of mobile applications going forward. But I also think that the market has to mature in terms of being able to deliver standardized, off-the-shelf types of applications." It isn't clear yet what SAP and other venders will eventually deliver, says Hamerman.
For Albert Pang, president of the software industry research firm, Apps Run the World, the question is whether SAP and Sybase can move quickly enough to keep up with the rapid global move to mobile applications. In the near term, SAP's mobile application strategy will be felt most "among some of the verticals SAP is trying to address, [such as] banking, retail and telcos," Pang said.
Rapid Pace of Change
With the mobile market changing at a rapid pace, Pang questions whether enterprise customers will be willing to wait long enough for SAP and Sybase to get their full mobile application portfolio to the market. The move to mobile applications "is a mass migration that is going on right now. The SAP strategy is going to be more effective if it directs all of its energy toward these strategic verticals" as soon as possible, he said.
While SAP will benefit from its Sybase acquisition simply by gaining the revenue stream from the Sybase relational database and mobile data access technology, it's uncertain whether the product roadmap the two companies presented on Aug. 19 will deliver the strategic market advantage they are looking for, said Pang. "I don't think that we are going to have a good idea about whether the marriage of these two companies will bring tangible benefits to a large number of SAP customers" until 2011 or perhaps even later.
Mobile is the New Desktop
SAP executives confirmed during the Aug. 19 briefing an earlier promise to continue operating Sybase and an independent subsidiary. John Chen will continue as Sybase CEO and assume an important position on the SAP management team, according to the companies.Furthermore SAP confirmed that it will focus its joint product development in three areas:
- enterprise mobility
- business analytics
- enterprise information management
The overall goal of this product development will be to make SAP "the only company in the world to deliver the full suite of enterprise software and next-generation business intelligence on any device at any time" anywhere in the world, said SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott.
Before the acquisition, SAP partnered with Sybase to bring the SAP Customer Relationship Management suite to mobile devices. A major driver of SAP's decision to acquire Sybase was to meld the two companies' technologies to bring the broader SAP Business Suite to a mobile environment, McDermott noted. Now, SAP is also promising to bring its Business ByDesign Enterprise Resource Planning suite for small and midsized companies to its mobile platform.
It was clear that Sybase was already "a leader in Japan and especially China, which as we all know is now the second largest economy in the world and a place where we need to grow our business," McDermott said. Mobile technology has enabled business uses in China and Japan "to skip the desktop all together. In fact the mobile is the new desktop," he added.