Shai Agassi's resignation from SAP so soon before Sapphire 2007 left many wondering what he might have said in his keynote address.
Wonder no longer.
"There was a noticeable vacuum at this past week's Sapphire," said Michael Doane, founder and chief intelligence officer of Peachtree City, Ga.-based Performance Monitor LLC. "Shai Agassi, who has long been the most articulate and memorable voice at SAP, did not take the podium, though his recent blog makes it clear that he planned on being there."
Well-known for being passionate about the work of SAP and quick with a "Shai-ism," Agassi has been a must-see keynote speaker at SAP events since he took over SAP's technology development in early 2003.
Agassi resigned from SAP abruptly a month before Sapphire. Previously considered the heir apparent to CEO Henning Kagermann, he will reportedly pursue an interest in environmental policy and alternative energy sources. He had obviously prepared a keynote address.
Agassi writes that his presentation would have addressed "the three axes (plus the x-factor) of thinking we have applied to SAP over the last few years": functionality, openness of platform and the simplification of SAP, with the "x-factor" being "the ecosystem effort that [SAP] drove in earnest since 2004."
Agassi called functionality the most fundamental of the three.
"SAP programmers define themselves by the transactional modules they have built over the years," Agassi's blog read. "And they continue to evolve and drive those modules from the key genome of transactional process understanding so unique to SAP."
Openness of platform, according to Agassi, was introduced with the NetWeaver platform and involved a couple of key decisions. The easier of the two was whether SAP should buy a platform or build one itself.
More difficult, according to Agassi, was this question: "Should [SAP] document our engines through Web services in ways that will enable smaller ISVs to build solutions that target our core Suite accounts."
The simplification of SAP is about making it easier for customers to consume SAP solutions without the waste -- or "SAP Tax" as Agassi called it.
"The thought process was fairly simple," Agassi said in the blog. "Find places where people had to perform tasks that did not provide direct business value and eliminate them through better design or better packaging of the products."
Agassi also addressed the notion, put forward by some analysts and prognosticators, that SAP should get "back to basics" after his departure.
"It is important, in my humble opinion, that SAP does not go back to anything," Agassi writes. "The path forward that the company had taken over the last four years was the right path, and if SAP needs anything at all it is acceleration, not an about face."
Agassi was one of the early evangelists for NetWeaver and service-enabling SAP's products, identifying Web services and service-oriented architectures (SOAs) as part of a fundamental shift in the way companies buy software.
More recently, he has been a key voice behind SAP's on-demand CRM and mySAP ERP (now dubbed SAP ERP 6.0) enhancement package strategy.
Support for Java in NetWeaver and SAP opening its products to Web services standards are key to SAP's success, Agassi said. Oracle's lock-step following of SAP into similar decisions is further proof that the technology strategy is sound, he said.
"While enterprise software firms seek differentiation from their competition, an adherence to certain technological best practices contributes to success and open standards," Doane said. "In that light, when SAP does something just like Oracle, or vice versa, it should not be taken as an example of being a follower but of being an adherent to common sense."
Agassi states his feeling that "the team at SAP has been doing a great job," and expresses confidence that the company will be successful long into the future.
"The work that the entire product teams had embarked on will continue and the path is the right one," he concludes. "We were getting the products like CRM to not only cover more functionality -- but more importantly I also saw them getting simpler to deploy improved usability and opening up through a multitude of Web services. That story cannot be turned around, nor will it be -- SAP is marching forward to success."