A reader of SAP Nation 2.0 commented it read like a “slow-motion train wreck”. It starts with the incredible excitement and expectations when S/4HANA was launched in February : “This is the biggest product launch in the last 23 years and perhaps the company's history,"
The book then documents the meandering, the hedging and the scope changes over the next few months with statements like “Yes, all of the [more than 900 S/4j deals are all on-premise. Our cloud piece for S/4, we’re taking it step- by-step for now. “
It ends with my predicting SAP will have to “redraw its circle” and re-think S/4 and re-launch it.
Juergen Frisch of the German IS Report asked SAP executives some specific questions at the recent TechEd in Barcelona including one about industry functionality in S/4. The response (loose translation from German)
“The difference lies in the scope: technically all industry versions run on S/4HANA. But only some of them have the full coding optimized for S/4HANA. This number is to increase. Industry-oriented roadmaps shall show when which industry solution is part of S/4.”
S/4 in the cloud
“it was not intended as a vehicle to shift customers to the cloud. It brings that option, but the choice is with the customer.”
How can SAP be so imprecise about a product launch it called its “biggest in 23 years”? Because that is the norm in the enterprise software industry. The book looked at long launch cycles and even longer customer adoption timeframes around Oracle Fusion and next-gen products at J.D.Edwards, Infor, Microsoft and earlier at SAP.
I finished writing the book in August.
Soon after, Apple showed the world what a real product launch should look like. On Sept 9 it announced iPhone 6s. It released it on Sep 28 - 3 weeks later. In a couple of days it had sold 13 million units! It was its most successful product launch ever – and it is no slouch when it comes to new products.
Before you dismiss that as consumer tech and toys, think of the design complexity. Just one feature in 6s – the 3D Touch – required incredible amount of planning
“Working with Corning, Apple created pliable iPhone cover glass. Swipe it, and the phone works the way it always has. But press it, and 96 sensors embedded in the backlight of the retina display measure microscopic changes in the distance between themselves and the glass.”
That was just one feature. Now think of all the planning with the contract manufacturer, Foxconn, hundreds of component suppliers, 3PLs like Fedex to get 13 million units out. 5 million in a couple of days would have qualified as a successful launch. Think the strain 13 million put on that supply chain.
But Apple keeps doing it. So do many other companies. In contrast, enterprise software has little credibility when it hypes up new products or new releases, then takes years to deliver, and decades to get customers to migrate.
KarenAnn Terrel, CIO of Walmart, summarized that sentiment when on the main stage at SapphireNow she said
“I hope to see S4/HANA delivered in my lifetime. It’s on my bucket list.”
On my bucket list is to hear, for once, an enterprise software vendor say on a quarterly earnings call
“5% of our revenues this quarter came from our just announced product”
And I am setting the bar pretty low with 5%.