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Trimming fat on the NetWeaver diet

In the first part of our interview, Joshua Greenbaum, principal consultant at Berkeley, Calif.-based Enterprise Applications Consulting, helped us understand the relevance of Master Data Management to the SAP community. Today Greenbaum tells us why so many people fear SAP upgrades and how NetWeaver can whip you into shape.

What's the biggest issue for SAP customers today?

Joshua Greenbaum
Upgrades, upgrades and upgrades. At Sapphire this year, approximately one-third of the customer base had made a commitment to upgrade. The rest of the customer base hasn't. That's a lot of customers who have yet to choose an upgrade path. But SAP says its upgrades aren't costly.
And they're not. But there is a huge psychological problem. Look at me. I'm running Windows 98 right now. To be honest, it would take me a day to go buy a new system. But I don't want to find out what won't work in the new system. If it keeps working as well as it is right now, I'll live with it. That's the mentality a lot of customers have. What are customers doing instead?
I have seen a phenomenon where the customers who do not have an upgrade path are tempted to fill their productivity and automation gaps with non-SAP, non-NetWeaver products.

For more information

Read Part I of Greenbaum's interview

Visit our NetWeaver center

I have seen a lot of cases particularly in the last year where third party vendors are walking into SAP shops an saying 'Here's a problem I can solve it for $300,000 and you can avoid a full-blown upgrade.

This has not gone unnoticed by SAP. You should expect to hear a lot of this issue in the future.

But you see the benefits of upgrades – and NetWeaver?
Absolutely. When you look at a company doing lean manufacturing, for example, you see the real end goal is to make the company part of a lean supply chain – not just a lean company within its four walls.

NetWeaver is a much better platform for supporting these systems than the old SAP platform. That's if you want to do 'lean' with a capital L. Then NetWeaver is going to be a much better platform for you going forward.

What about installing only pieces of NetWeaver?
If you want to have NetWeaver functionality -- such as MDM -- or run an xApp, you can do so by running a separate instance of NetWeaver independent of the rest of your R/3 implementation.

You can still have interoperability with the rest of R/3 via the XI layer or the portal, though but it won't be as clean as if you upgraded the entire environment to MySAP Business Suite and NetWeaver.

What is the status of SAP's xApp strategy?
The xApps story is one that is going to go through a number of phases until it's finally cooked. There are more and more xApps around but there are not enough. That's a big issue SAP is now trying to address. They recognize it.

There have not yet been enough of successful partners who have developed xApps.. One of the big questions that SAP has to answer is how hard -- or how easy -- they make it for a third party to develop an xApp.

Don't they want as many as possible?
Yes, but you don't' want a lot of junk. That does nobody any good. SAP has been out front in the past, saying this that a lot of product development for large companies is not very well done. They want to be very careful.

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