SAP users slowly warming to the cloud

 New research released today by the UK & Ireland SAP User Group has revealed that SAP users are now starting to consider SaaS (software-as-a-service) or cloud computing to deliver business-critical applications to their organisation. 61% of the SAP users surveyed said that they saw their organisation using SAP’s SaaS offerings in the future. However, the research also revealed that nearly three quarters (73%) believe that SAP had been slow to bring its SaaS suite to market. In fact, 16% of respondents said that they ended up using another vendor’s technology in another area of their business because SAP did not have an appropriate SaaS offering for their needs.  

“It is clear that more users are now starting to consider SaaS as a way to deliver applications to their business” said Craig Dale, Chief Executive of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group. “Rightly or wrongly, SAP has been criticised for being slow to bring its SaaS offering to the market, but hopefully the result is a more robust and compelling offering. Users potentially stand to benefit from SAP’s hybrid approach whereby organisations have some processes in the cloud, whilst others are kept within the business. This means that users don’t have to put their business-critical processes in the cloud if they feel it is too risky, but can still reap the cost and flexibility benefits for other areas of their business.” 

Currently, only 17% of those surveyed said that they were using SaaS/cloud computing to deliver business-critical applications to their organisation. However, nearly half (49%) said that they planned to use such services in the next 12-18 months, indicating a growing acceptance of this new delivery mechanism for IT. Interestingly, the research revealed that over half of the respondents (55%) thought it was more difficult to establish and meet SLAs by keeping all their applications in house, indicating that they actually see the cloud as a better way of meeting their requirements. 

Unsurprisingly, reduced costs (35%) and quicker deployment times (32%) were cited as the biggest benefits for using SaaS/cloud computing by users. However, when it came to the biggest barriers, opinion was much more evenly split. Compliance/data protection fears (34%) were cited as the biggest barrier, followed by lack of control (26%), lack of customisation (20%) and the risk of network / server outages (20%). This highlights that there still needs to be a lot more education and reassurance when it comes to organisations deploying SaaS/cloud computing services in the future. 

“Following SAP’s recent announcement regarding its new Business ByDesign ERP suite, there will no doubt be a lot of renewed interest in software-as-a-service from SAP users. With any technology adoption, it is essential that you look before you leap. Therefore, in the coming months, and at this year’s annual user conference, we will be aiming to further educate our members on the pros and cons of SaaS as different organisations will have different business needs,” added Craig Dale. 

“The research findings reinforce the fact that SAP believes in a hybrid model that combines on-premise and on-demand offerings, a mode that allows customers to evolve their businesses and choose which offering fits which business need best. We have been listening closely to our customers’ needs directly and through our relationship with the SAP User Group, and as a result will continue to offer both of these options providing our customers with the choice and flexibility they require,” said Tim Noble, Managing Director, SAP UK & Ireland.

Noble continued, “We truly believe we came to the marketplace early enough with SAP Business ByDesign. Innovation is more than just having great ideas and developing nice software. Innovation is only innovation when it is also implemented at the customer and being used productively. This is why we have been working with pilot customers until now to ensure the solution is robust and ready for volume business.”

 The UK & Ireland SAP User Conference 2010 is taking place in Manchester, 21-23 November 2010. During the conference there will be a dedicated stream on SaaS where delegates can find out more about SAP’s SaaS offerings and how they could benefit their organisation. 

The survey questioned 100 SAP user organisations in the UK and Ireland providing a snapshot of members’ views on SaaS/cloud computing and the business challenges they were facing.

User Group Conference 2010 – update

I thought it worth updating on the state of our annual conference. It is 4 months to go and we have already received a high level of bookings – the record number from a single member organisation is 13 attendees – which gives you an indication on two counts, that of value for money and also that you had better book before the spaces run out! On the exhibitors front we’re not far from full as well so again please don’t miss out. See the conference tag on my blog and book your places as soon as possible.

SAP UK & Ireland MD promotes multi-channel software strategy

In the above article  SAP UK & Ireland MD Tim Noble promotes the strategy of what I term “hybrid” solutions. SAP’s Business-by-design product offers perhaps one of the best examples of this if you already run SAP core solutions.  Think of it this way – how many times have you linked things to SAP – the answer is many! And the challenges that you were presented with were a different data dictionary with all the associated field and string differences – on all sides of the fence. Not to mention the differing security aspects, archiving and hardware challenges and so on.  Add to this that in-house focused solutions, if they have a small end-user base are disproportionately costly, then the ability to buy services that link fairly easily to your main investment offers some great possibilities that today, in our ever increasingly financially challenging world, may be the only way forward.

I’m on record as pushing this with SAP because I think it gives SAP users a way of getting more out of the existing investments for less.

Earlybird Rate ends midnight July 9th

Conference places (as in previous years) are already selling well. You have until tomorrow night to get them at the lowest earlybird rate – don’t miss out!!

Getting intelligent with your business data

Gartner predicts that by 2012 more than 35 per cent of the top 5,000 global companies will fail to make insightful decisions about significant changes in their business and markets, because they lack the right information, processes and tools. In today’s competitive environment, this can mean the difference between company success and failure. 

The challenge for both companies looking to implement business intelligence (BI) with standalone systems and those that will add it onto an existing ERP system, is how can the data that is gathered be used effectively? 

There are several mistakes that businesses make when it comes to implementing a BI project. 

  • Most organisations fall into the trap of having a loose BI reporting strategy, but no idea of what processes to use and why. This can leave the BI project floundering because there are no guidelines on what data to gather and how it will be used.  
  • Organisations underestimate the time and effort required to implement BI properly, as well as the impact it will have on existing processes. Underestimating the business resources needed, how long it will take and failure to plan how the organisation can continue “business as usual” operations during the project can cause serious productivity strains.  
  • Lack of end-user training.End users directly experience the impact on existing processes and will need training on what the new processes are. Without training to demonstrate why new processes are necessary and how they work, there will be reluctance to use them resulting in lower productivity, confusion and errors.  
  • The majority of organisations fail to undertake post-project analysis to see what value they are getting from the implementation. Often after a project is completed, the organisation is gathering data but doesn’t know if it is using it correctly. As a result, there is no quantitative or qualitative proof to justify the expense of the project.  

Adopting best practice

While mistakes are easy to make, adopting a few best practices can turn BI implementations into successful, value-creating projects. One of the most important best practices is not to treat BI as a point solution for just gathering data. Instead, it should be integrated into business processes, ideally throughout the entire organisation. However, in order to do this support is essential. Many organisations mistakenly leave the championing of BI to the IT department. Yet, IT should only be in charge of supporting the processes. Instead, board sponsorship is crucial, as is having as many senior stakeholders involved as possible. For example, the chief financial officer and chief executive officer should be involved, as well as stakeholders in each business unit such as HR, procurement and IT. 

Ensuring an intelligent return

After spending significant funds on a business intelligence solution, business units and IT need to work together to determine exactly what information is required and when they need it in order to avoid the common mistakes made with business intelligence implementation. Organisations should carefully plan their strategy to ensure they get maximum value from BI, otherwise, they’ll have nothing to show for it and won’t be able to demonstrate its value. However, when done correctly, BI can arm organisations with the critical information needed to become more agile and flexible, allowing them to respond faster to changing markets and giving them an edge over the competition.

The User Group is currently involved in the BusinessObjects charter, aimed at increasing engagement and collaboration between SUGEN and SAP to better meet the needs of SAP BusinessObjects customers.  This stands to benefit the entire SAP user group community, as new and existing users look towards business intelligence deployments in the future.  In the coming months we hope to update members regarding how the charter is progressing, so watch this space.