It’s Cloudy Business….the second in a series for UKISUG – Musings on SAP

“I’ve got the answer to our IT challenges! Let’s move everything to the Cloud.” Sounds simple doesn’t it? Overnight, the challenges of keeping my data centres secure and operating, patching the servers, and ensuring hardware and software is updated, become a thing of the past. Oh, and my internal customers can have everything they want really quickly and cheaply as well.

I’ve heard this so many times from software and service salespeople, but also from the non-technical people within the businesses (who have been talking to a salesperson!).

So, is the Cloud ‘fake news’? Well, no…and yes. Without a doubt, Cloud should offer:

  1. Distinct advantages of scale – utilising the bigger is ‘better and cheaper’ principle.
  2. Increased focus on the business – you no longer have to worry about the technical side.
  3. Scalability and flexibility – the ability to easily ramp up and down to meet demand.
  4. Connectivity – operating in the Cloud should allow you to easily connect with others.

Sounds good so far? It really does, doesn’t it?

So, if you have decided Cloud is for you. How do you get there and what do you need to do? There are some really important questions that need to be asked in the following three areas:

Migration

Which of your existing solutions can you move, and when? Can all your essential functionality and also customised set-up be reproduced in the Cloud? Do you have to keep technical elements in-house for whatever reason? Can you go Public Cloud or do you need Private Cloud?

Cost

Is it really cheaper? Do you understand the costs of your operation now and in the future? What are the transition costs? Is there a business transformation (change) exercise to undertake as well? How are you moving the data? How much conversion needs to take place? What are your hardware asset write down costs? Is your existing on-premise solution fully depreciated? What are your staff reduction plan costs? Does your business model require a phased move or a big-bang? What’s the cost of connecting to other software solutions (especially ones not owned by your primary provider)?

Contracts

There are a number of questions you should ask when it comes your software contracts, and with Cloud it is no different – in fact, you should be asking more questions! Is there an exit clause allowing you to terminate in a controlled way and what is the cost? Are there data migration tools, both in and out? Who owns the data? What happens if the provider becomes insolvent? What is the uptime and downtime of the software (remember global time differences)? When and how are software updates released? Is the service you are buying guaranteed irrespective of the provider’s software changes? Where is the software housed? What are the penalties for service failure (a moot point because no service in this case is no business for you at all)? What is the licencing model and can it go up and down (and by that I mean all the way down)? How are price increases managed (you need to reflect this in your model)? Can you have any custom development and who owns the IP for this? What is the turnaround time for custom development and how is it charged both for development but also for licencing? What are the security warranties for the service? What’s the dispute process (don’t forget in this case the supplier literally holds the cards – they can just stop supply, and your business)? Make sure you have a procurement professional involved from the outset and prepare to bolster that person with good legal support.

This is just a list of starter questions, but my experience tells me the answers are not as clean or clear as you might expect, and that the sales team will definitely not know all the answers. Be prepared to demand that you have real experts demonstrate the benefits, and don’t ever rely on spoken undertakings. Make sure you see the things that are important to you, and bake them into your contracts. Remember every organisation is also now an IT organisation and you are handing its inner workings to someone else – it has to be right!

If you get the right answers that are documented – remember, ‘in God we trust, in others a piece of paper,’ then great – the Cloud becomes clear and sunny skies beckon!

SAP unveils the future…….

An interesting couple of days at SAP SELECT in Berlin. An event where Hasso Plattner, and Bill McDermott unveiled the latest set of solutions. S-Innovations or the simple set of business functional areas represent a completely redesigned set of enterprise functionality designed to exploit the full potential of HANA. What was quite astounding was the way this technology changes the rules for how IT is run, and at the same time throws away the rule book for businesses.

Firstly imagine an enterprise IT system where that data compresses from 1TB to 9GB, runs on a single server, has almost instant response time, where data updates no longer take place, where records can’t lock and batch jobs no longer exist. As the data doesn’t change then development and testing take a completely different path. That is pretty remarkable!

But it’s what that means that is so important – as everything is a calculation on the fly – how you work can change, dramatically. So to work out sales and see profit – instantaneous or nearly so – a press of a button. So as long as the actions have taken place – billing, cash movements, payments, stock entries etc. – you have your financial position. So period ends become simply a different date filter selection. And then of course you can execute simulations of business changes with the live data, as these won’t change the data – just the result you see.

With billions of connected devices, the internet of things, with this type of capability collecting and using the data directly from many more billions of sensors in them becomes practical in your enterprise system.

Is this a fairy tale, a story of slide ware, of future technology? No, it is here now, and only those who take the journey of investment early will capture the real benefits of this scenario where early adopters really will prosper.

Hopefully more news around this at our 2014 Conference in 7 days time.

 

 

2013 Conference – selling very well!

Get in quick to get your tickets. If your supplier or SAP partner is exhibiting or an affiliate member contact them to see if they have a discount code arranged before booking.

Apart from the excellent conference sessions (especially looking forward to Jim Snabe and Mandy Hickson), the Gala Dinner and Evening will be the best we have ever run to celebrate 25 years of success and growth as a User Group.

NOTE: The main conference hotel – the Birmingham Crowne Plaza has sold out already – still spaces in other affiliate hotels.

conf 2013

The new User Group blog

As you may know my tenure as chairman of the UK & Ireland User Group recently ended with the ‘baton’ now in the capable hands of Philip Adams.  While I will remain heavily involved with the User Group and will continue to blog here on the Sapusers blog (when time allows!), I heartily recommend you check out the new User Group blog.

The new blog will be the place to find all the latest User Group news and updates about the 2013 User Conference, which promises to be our best yet!

Fighting Fraud with SAP

SAP recently announced its new Fraud Management tool, an analytics application designed to help users improve fraud scenario analysis and adapt to changing fraud patterns. By using this to execute complex analytics on big data sets, using in-memory computing and other advanced processing techniques, the tool is designed to help SAP users better prevent fraud .

Currently in “controlled” (limited) release, the final version is expected to come in three initial flavours of Fraud Management: an insurance claims fraud offering, another designed for use in the public sector and a cross-industry application (for use in, for instance, the purchasing function). It’s certainly true that fraud is a pervasive risk in businesses:  according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the typical organisation is at risk of losing up to five per cent of its revenues to fraud. If that figure sounds surprising, it’s even more so to hear that that this translated to a total global fraud loss of more than $3.5 trillion in 2011. While not all of this fraud may be addressable, it’s clear that the cost of fraud can add up for businesses in many sectors.

Here at the User Group we await to hear more about the product ahead of its final release later in the year.  If you are an SAP user wanting to find out about the latest product updates network with your peers, please check out our current calendar of webinars and SIGS taking place throughout 2013.

Going Mobile

At Mobile World Congress last month in Barcelona, SAP made a number of announcements concerning mobility.  Here is a roundup of some of the notable ones:

SAP announced the launch of its new Mobile Documents app, an enterprise-level app which gives users a single point of access to files and file-sharing capability from any mobile device. When combined with SAP Afaria for mobile device management, it promises to provide businesses with a complete system for securing mobile devices, apps and content.

In addition, SAP also announced a new partnership with Ericsson, which aims to jointly market and sell their cloud-based, Machine to Machine (M2M) solutions and services to enterprises through operators. The aim is to help enhance enterprise efficiency in business processes such as maintenance, remote service, inventory, logistics and road transport management, vending and customer experience management. Clare McCarthy at Ovum noted that, “The solution already has endorsements from Telenor and 3UK, so it is clearly fulfilling a market need.”

SAP even went as far integrating its take on Near Field Communications (NFC) technology into a vending machine to show how users can purchase soft drinks with NFC-compliant devices. Indeed it seems like we have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes what we can do with mobile applications!

Mobility will again be a big topic at this year’s User Group Conference, so make sure you sign up to take advantage of the current early bird offers.

No need to be disappointed that Sapphire Now is cancelled

We recently heard the news that Sapphire Now 2013 is being cancelled in Europe. It’s a shame that SAP has decided not to host its annual event, as many users have found it a good forum to hear the latest from SAP senior management. However SAP did instead announce a ‘renewed focus on dedicated customer-centric events’ for its 2013 strategy, alongside plans to expand its SAP Forum events in order to compensate for the loss of Sapphire. Hopefully we’ll hear more about these soon.  However, the good news for UK&I User Group members is that we have SAP’s co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe confirmed as a keynote speaker at our User Conference in Birmingham this November.  

It looks like this is going to be the biggest year yet for the conference as we move to the ICC for the first time. We’ll be providing users in the UK and Ireland with the opportunity to hear from SAP’s experts and its partners on the latest innovations, with over 70 breakout sessions on a wide range of topics. At the same time, users will have the chance to network with peers and speak to them regarding how they are using SAP technology. Remember there are some cracking early bird deals at the moment, only available if you book early, saving up to £300 per person.

For more information about the SAP User Group conference, click here.