CHICAGO -- Carl Wilson stewed for nearly a year.
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He sat among 300 fellow SAP managers during last year's SearchSAP.com Conference and heard SAP America president and CEO Bill McDermott's message to R/3 users: Don't bother migrating to Enterprise, move instead to mySAP ERP.
He took that recommendation to his superiors at the Holcan NASC home office in Sweden, who then conferred with SAP AG headquarters in Walldorf, Germany. Wilson hoped that he might be able to Web-enable his business processes via mySAP, but that expectation was dampened when he found out that Walldorf didn't agree with McDermott's recommendation. Holcan was staying on the Enterprise road map.
Fast-forward a year to Thursday at this year's conference and McDermott standing on the same stage and making the same recommendation. Wilson relayed his Walldorf experience to McDermott yesterday in front of 300 peers who were anxious to hear what he had to say -- and likely to run into a similar cultural divide.
"SAP needs to work harder to help companies on both continents with common answers and solutions," Wilson told SearchSAP.com later. "He kind of danced around my question."
McDermott reiterated what he said a year earlier.
"The fact of the matter is that many companies have gone to Enterprise, and it's been right for them," McDermott said. "Different strategies work for different customers. I stand by my remarks. It's right to get to mySAP ERP and get on board with NetWeaver. In the end, you will see it my way."
While SAP managers like Wilson may agree in principle that McDermott is right about the value and capabilities of mySAP ERP, few can make a business case for it right now, especially if they've recently moved off R/3 to Enterprise.
Volkswagen of America, for example, is close to a year into a live SAP R/3 4.6C implementation, according to Justin Beltramo, strategy and integration leader. Upgrading to mySAP ERP might not sit well with C-level management, despite the legitimate benefits the new technology would bring.
"One comment I got from our financial guys is that we just spent all this money to do this, and now you want to change?" Beltramo said. "We say change is an ever-evolving process and we have to stay leading edge through these changes. My personal opinion is that I think you just cannot make a blanket statement across the board like [McDermott's]. Everybody has different needs. SAP isn't even for everyone."
Enterprise is SAP's latest R/3 technical upgrade. MySAP ERP is a smaller, less expensive version of mySAP Business Suite that offers customers full NetWeaver capabilities. NetWeaver is SAP's integration and application development platform that brings SAP into competition with IBM's WebSphere and BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic platform.
McDermott said customer comprehension of NetWeaver is greater today than a year ago, and that growth will continue into next year. He also said that SAP has a great challenge getting customers past what he called the "myths" that SAP was complex and pricey. As for pricing, McDermott also touched on the issue of whether Oracle's possible takeover of PeopleSoft would enable SAP to raise prices.
"You should not expect us to exert pricing pressure," he said. "We are a trusted adviser. It's not our stated intent to do this in the future."
McDermott addressed the cultural question as well Thursday, claiming to have autonomy from Walldorf.
"You have to be part of SAP to appreciate the connection AG and myself have," he said. "They recognized early on they have to have a leader who serves customers in a unique way, a way that's germane to the U.S. and Canada. I am autonomous."
As for Wilson, he'll keep trying to make a business case for mySAP ERP.
"I think we can," Wilson said. "We'd like to be able to present everything in a Web-based format and take those synergies, like with mobile technologies, for example, to great benefits. But this had been bugging me for a year."
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