SAP SapphireNow attendees heading to Orlando looking for answers

SapphireNow attendees are looking for answers to a long list of questions on issues ranging from mobility to the acquisition of SuccessFactors and SAP’s long-term cloud strategy.

Jerry Cavalieri isn’t attending the upcoming SAP SapphireNow 2012 conference in Orlando, but he has three things he’d like to hear more about if he were.

“Mobility, mobility, mobility,” the CEO of HPC America, a consulting firm that advises utilities companies running SAP systems, wrote in an email.

Like last year, the chance to hear more about how the plan for SAP mobility is evolving -- from the Sybase Unwired Platform to its ecosystem -- is a major draw for this year’s attendees, including those like Philippe Winthrop, managing director at the Boston-based Enterprise Mobility Foundation, a think tank that focuses on mobile computing.

Winthrop said he was also interested in seeing what kind of apps SAP and its mobile partners would be offering this time around. SAP and its mobile partners will be rolling out a far greater number of applications compared with the relatively modest amount announced last year, the company has promised.

For more on SAP SapphireNow

Read what SAP customers were looking to learn at last year’s conference

Read the rest of last year’s coverage to get a picture on how SAP’s plans are evolving

Listen to this podcast on what SAP had to say about HANA and in-memory computing

Winthrop said he’d be looking at the practical applications of what those vendors are creating.

“I want to see how end-user organizations are mobilizing their workplace with SAP technology,” Winthrop said.

Schmoozing and networking

Don Whittington, CIO for Florida Crystals, a maker of natural and artificial sweeteners, said he’s hoping to find out more about software SAP is developing around food safety monitoring and supply chain management specific to the commodities industry -- and to provide input on what’s eventually included in the software.

Whittington, who currently serves on the ASUG board, will be there to mostly network.

“Time spent with peers is probably the most valuable,” Whittington said about the event. “Not only do you have the chance to meet with ASUG or SAP executives, but also talk about SAP and SAP solutions with peers, and learn about what they’re doing.”

Hearing from others about why projects didn’t go as expected with a project is invaluable, he said.

“As an executive, and as a CIO, it is an opportunity to go and do a lot of things, to multi-task, all at the executive level," he said. "With a little bit of planning, you can make it a very efficient event."

SuccessFactors and SAP’s cloud strategy

While nobody doubts that SAP HANA will again be a big theme this year, Jon Reed, an independent analyst and head of JonERP.com, wondered if SAP made its recent announcements around mobility, in-memory and its database technologies so that it could focus on Software-as-a-Service technologies.

“My thinking is that one reason we had that event is so that SAP can devote more time at Sapphire to cloud stuff," he said. "I’m expecting a lot of cloud talk.”

While one part of the SAP cloud strategy became clearer with the recent purchase of SuccessFactors, a maker of on-demand human capital management (HCM) software, questions about existing and future applications are still on the table, especially around line-of-business software, according to Reed.

“Career OnDemand is getting folded into SuccessFactors, that’s been announced,” Reed said, referring to SAP’s performance management application that was scheduled for May 2012, but conflicted with a similar application in SuccessFactors’ portfolio.  

Reed wondered about SAP’s other cloud applications, such as Sales OnDemand, and Travel OnDemand. “We know they’re continuing, or at least we think they are, but they’re built on a platform that’s part of SAP’s past architecture,” Reed said.

Others, such as SAP HCM consultant Steve Bogner, will be looking for more details on the integration between SAP and SuccessFactors -- namely, a clear, detailed development path for SuccessFactors’ main HCM application, EmployeeCentral, which SAP has committed to bolstering.

“What functionality is going to be released, for which countries, and when?” Bogner asked.

Bogner said he wanted to see some tangible progress and demonstration of the integration between SuccessFactors and SAP HCM, given that a lot of people will have on-premise SAP HR and use SuccessFactors’ talent management application, for example.

“SAP says that they’re going to develop the integration and have that packaged for customers so that you can more or less turn-key it, but what does that look like?  What’s the pricing? What’s the functionality going to look like?” Bogner asked.

“Some vendors are good at announcing things,” he said. “Until I see it, that’s when I can translate the benefits for clients.”

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