SAP’s Bigger Picture: The AppDev Play

Although I attended some sessions related to BPM and operational process intelligence, last week’s trip to SAP TechEd && d-code 2014 gave me a bit more breathing room to look at the bigger picture — and aspirations — of SAP and their business technology offerings.

I started coming to SAPPHIRE and TechEd when SAP released a BPM product, which means that my area of interest was a tiny part of their primary focus on ERP, financials and related software solutions; most of the attendees (including the analysts and bloggers) at that time were more concerned with licensing models for their Business Suite software than new technology platforms. Fast forwarding, SAP is retooling their core software applications using HANA as an in-memory platform (cloud or on-premise) and SAP UI5/Fiori for user experience, but there’s something much bigger than that afoot: SAP is making a significant development platform play using those same technologies that are working so well for their own application refactoring. In other words, you can consider SAP’s software applications groups to be software developers who use SAP platforms and tools, but those tools are also available to external developers who are building applications completely unrelated to SAP applications.

They have some strong components: in-memory database, analytics, cloud, UI frameworks; they are also starting to push down more functionality into HANA such as some rudimentary rules and process functionality that can be leveraged by a development team that doesn’t want to add a full-fledged BRM or BPM system.

This is definitely a shift for SAP over the past few years, and one that likely most of their customers are unaware; the question becomes whether their application development tools are sufficiently compelling for independent software development shops to take a look.

Disclaimer: SAP paid my travel expenses to be at TechEd last week. I was not compensated for my time in any way, including writing, and the opinions here are my own.

One thought on “SAP’s Bigger Picture: The AppDev Play”

  1. Sandy, you call it AppDev – I call it a Platform play. I think SAP has been trying to become a platform player for over a decade and its something I explore quite a bit in my upcoming book, SAP Nation. This shift started with NetWeaver, which was introduced in 2003, and continued with its $7 billion BusinessObjects acquisition in 2007, followed by its $6 billion Sybase acquisition in 2010, and has accelerated with an intense focus on HANA over the last few years. This strategy reflected the belief that the business applications market had matured and it made more sense to enter even tools markets where much bigger players like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle had dominant market shares. In the meantime, however, they have been collecting billions in maintenance and their partners have been charging even more supporting applications. That “old economy” costs customers over $ 200 billion a year in the book’s model. Many customers resent the fact that SAP has been so focused on “moving away” from applications rather than helping optimize value from applications.

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