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Look for SAP to lay out a roadmap of where it’s taking the S/HANA platform at the upcoming Sapphire Now conference, say several longtime SAP watchers.
“It’s relatively obvious that the spotlight is going to be on S/4HANA and we’d like to see as many details as possible,” said Joshua Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting, based in Berkeley, Calif. “They’ve raised lots of expectations, but there have not been enough answers so far. I expect that over the week there will be many discussions about what it is, how you get it, and what you can get from it.”
Greenbaum is particularly interested in hearing how SAP plans to migrate implementations from previous versions or competing platforms onto S/4HANA, and wants clear directions from SAP. “The main question they need to answer is: ‘How does the customer base move forward?’” he said.
Indeed, SAP will have to do a much better job of getting its message out than it did last year, according to Jon Reed, team blogger and cofounder of Diginomica.com.
“Last year’s keynotes were somewhat disastrous, as they bantered about in a way that people found very hard to follow,” he said. “The message was ‘simplicity,’ which goes completely against the grain of most users’ experience with SAP. This year adds up to a significant opportunity for them to tie things together.”
SAP needs to include as many details as possible in the roadmap it unveils, said Paul Hamerman, vice president and principle analyst at Forrester Research, which is based in Cambridge, Mass.
“I think it's important for SAP to detail which components will be available when, and in what deployment modes -- on-premise, managed cloud and public cloud,” he said. “I think they will attempt to do that at Sapphire, but customers will need to carefully consider what the roadmap means to their business, and whether they perceive enough value to move forward sooner rather than later.”
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In addition to the S/4HANA product roadmap, the analysts expect lots of play from other parts of the SAP universe.
“I suspect that S/4HANA will be the focus of the main stage, as it combines all the right messages -- simple, cloud, and of course, HANA,” said Cindy Jutras, president of Mint Jutras, based in Windham, N.H. “I am also anticipating some SME [small-to-medium enterprise] announcements, but I am not sure that those will take center stage. While 80% of SAP customers are SMEs, that’s not necessarily the audience that goes to Sapphire Now.”
Attendees should also expect to hear much about the SAP Business Network, which links SAP with the other companies in its portfolio, including Ariba, Fieldglass, and Concur.
“I expect a lot of talk about the Business Network, which is a considerable collection of assets if SAP can get it working in a meaningful way,” Reed said. “S/4HANA and the Business Network are really two separate stories, and it will be interesting to see how SAP connects them.”
“I will be interested in what Steve Singh will do in his new role,” Greenbaum said. Singh, CEO of Concur, was named to head SAP’s Business Network Strategy in January 2015. “They will need to clarify how they will blend all these moving parts into a contiguous whole, and they have to do a very good job of articulating this to the customers.”
SAP’s Fiori user experience (UX) will also be prominent during the week, according to Greenbaum.
“Fiori is definitely part of the strategy. They are making a big push to upgrade the users’ experience and not just have the same old transaction screen,” he said. “They’ve made a tremendous effort towards usability, and it shows.”
He added that competitors like Microsoft Dynamics and Oracle PeopleSoft have put a lot of effort into improving the user experience, and that SAP must show that it’s keeping pace.
However, many attendees may be looking for good, old-fashioned ERP messages, Reed said, and SAP has to strike a balance between satisfying this audience and pushing them into the brave new world of S/4HANA real-time processing.
“SAP must show you all the steps and help you get to S/4HANA,” he said. “Because if you just show me what is and how to get there but don’t offer the tools and support, it causes a great deal of frustration.”
See coverage of last year’s Sapphire Now conference
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Learn what analysts said about the Concur acquisition
Read our coverage of SAP Sapphire Now 2016