SAPTechEd: Maintaining enterprise IT momentum through an economic downturn

Sitting here at SAP TechEd08, one nagging question gets in the way of appreciating the (few) announcements and case studies. With the collusion of forces we see in the enterprise today – decreasing budgets due to the uncertain economic climate; the importance of spending money to increase efficiency; and a ground swelling of support for new technologies – what will happen to the enterprise market in the next 12 months? Will immediate term economic reality outweigh the momentum in the enterprise? I’d rather think momentum will carry the day, but what forces will drive that? SAP has provided some insight into some of these forces today.

SAP seems to be thinking carefully on what strategies will help keep momentum flowing. One comment made is that while SAP software can become indispensable, in itself it is not sufficient. SAP is aware that enterprise software must become more usable, by a wider range of users. It also means that SAP must be aware that different types of organisations, and indeed, even different parts of an organisation, move at different speeds.

Another concept brought up repeatedly by SAP is the democratisation of innovation, a fancy way to say “let’s share the cost.” Democratisation of innovation, in SAP’s view, takes a few forms – working with value chain partners and even customers to create applications and widgets; building community with SAP “mentors” who share knowledge and case studies as well as through business process experts (SAP recently announced a BPE certification); and by empowering the actual user to be able to tune SAP processes on their own, without the support (or hindrance) of IT.

Of course, SAP has been criticized for stymieing developers by making the tools too expensive and to a limited group of people, potentially jeopardising the reach of the community. It will be interesting to see if SAP liberalises its developer programme in light of this philosophy.

In a fireside chat with Zia Yusuf, executive vice president, platform solutions, discussed a related note, the role of open source. Clearly, the proponents of open source in the discussion feel SAP is far from embracing open source, although SAP proclaims to be quite pro open source – as long as certain limitations and conditions (avoiding lawsuits was a key theme) are met. I fully expect to see SAP create a clearer policy, and possible embrace, of open source in the future.

For real time insights from the author, follow “idarose” on twitter, and the conference twitter stream at #sapteched08.

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