In time for Labor Day weekend reading, 2.0 is starting to show up in book stores (print at CreateSpace and ebook at Amazon). As with previous books, I will be excerpting 10% of the contents over the next few weeks.
2.0 looks at the prospects of S/4HANA which SAP launched in February of this year. Chapter 2 looks over 20 pages on the launch in New York and subsequent updates in Orlando and elsewhere.
- As an innovation author, I find one of the most enjoyable topics to write about is the birth of new products and initiatives. Product launches have become increasingly sophisticated. You have to marvel at how Apple managed the launch of the 3G version of the iPhone in 2008. It was launched in 22 countries, followed by 50 more countries over the next few months. The logistics of producing tens of millions of units with its contract manufacturer, Foxconn in China, then shipping them around the world via FedEx and coordinating with hundreds of country- specific phone companies has raised the bar for complex yet well-coordinated product launches.
I have also written about new versions of humbler products like Lexmark printers, more complex products like Boeing planes and breakthrough data centers like those at Facebook. I like to talk to the designers marketers and project managers about how they decided on which features to include, the engineering challenges they faced, the launch logistics and the risks they balanced.
So when McDermott announced a next-generation product in February 2015, “our biggest launch in 23 years, if not in the entire history of the company,” I was excited and went back and re-read some of the case studies in my books and the questions I had asked of each.
- On that day in New York Dr. Plattner and Leukert only had 45 minutes for their presentation. However, they have elaborated their passion for in-memory computing in a 300-page book, The In-Memory Revolution: How SAP HANA Enables Business of the Future. The book (with the obligatory disclaimer that it is not “official SAP communication material”) describes the genesis of the S/4 product starting back in March 2012 and internal debates at SAP on how best to design a “nondisruptive” next gen product.
- Maybe we have all been spoiled by Apple product launches, and in particular by Steve Jobs’ signature “one more thing” portion of the speech where he usually introduced something spectacular. McDermott’s “one more thing” (at SAPPHIRE in Orlando) came across as odd. He chose to have his staff demo the Concur (a 2014 SAP acquisition) travel expense management product. Now, travel administration is a nuisance in most companies, but from the largest application vendor in the world you expect bigger initiatives.
- I asked an executive at a flagship customer in one of SAP’s major industry groups if he thought it would be ready to move to S/4 by 2020. His response: “I think 2020 is too aggressive. SAP’s 25 industry groups will massively compete with each other for R&D investment dollars...”
- If you analyze Enslin’s comments, the S/4 adoption to date is modest. Simple Finance has been talked about for over a year and you would expect more customers to be live. Logistics functionality will not be available till later this year, and it is not that interesting to many of SAP’s customers in banking, services and other industries. Many of the early adopters like Shell are trying out multiple projects—so, the “137 running projects” Enslin mentions are at a small fraction of the 900 plus customers who are supposed to have bought S/4.
- The SAPPHIRE event in Orlando, three months later, did not shorten the list of questions and it looked like SAP would have to keep clarifying the scope of S/4. When you are dealing with complex enterprise software that is not totally unexpected, but it sounded more like a “rolling launch” where the final shape of S/4 would not be known for months, or even years.