Driving down the cost of maintaining SAP systems and leveraging new technology will be central themes at this year's annual SAP user event. In a keynote address titled 'Growth through Innovation,' SAP CEO and chairman Henning Kagermann will hammer away at SAP's message that the company's new NetWeaver platform and its enterprise services architecture (ESA) are smart ways to tap IT budgets for all their worth.
Held this year for the first time in the city of New Orleans, the three-day event is expected to draw 7,000 members of the SAP community to Morial Convention Center, May 11-13.
SAP plans to introduce several new products, including an industry-specific solution, Defense and Security, targeted at federal and state governments. A set of best practices for small and midsized businesses and a new code development for SAP's customer relationship management offering are also on the Sapphire schedule, according to SAP spokesman Bill Wohl.
"This 'growth through innovation' is a theme Henning started at last year's SAP keynote presentation," Wohl said. "How can our customers grow their businesses in a fairly stagnant economy?
" We are seeing that 60%-80% of IT budgets are tied up in just keeping things up and running," Wohl said. "Henning will talk about how SAP helps customers push down the operational side of business. Essentially, we're talking about moving money from the left pocket to the right pocket."
It was two months ago that SAP introduced its newly integrated NetWeaver platform and new licensing and support road map, code-named 5-1-2. The new 5-1-2 plan establishes clear guidelines for support and pricing at a time when SAP customers are voicing concerns about getting lost on SAP's upgrade path.
How to move from SAP's longstanding core product, R/3, to its enterprise services architecture will be a big part of the Sapphire agenda, Wohl said.
Of course, the Sapphire schedule also includes Thursday night evening entertainment. This year's lineup includes the Funk Brothers, Chaka Khan, Aaron Neville and Joan Osborne.
SAP is putting a new twist this year on the opening ceremonies, and the company has assembled a panel loaded with politicos and pundits. Hosted by economist and journalist Stuart Varney, the panel includes James Carville, adviser to Bill Clinton and Karen Hughes, personal adviser to President Bush.
The opening keynote address will be given Wednesday morning by Kagermann. Later the same day, executive board member Shai Agassi will give a NetWeaver presentation, detailing the integration platform that is now at the core of SAP's long-term technology strategy.