IT: “Simple, Scalable, and Sexy”

There’s no doubt that the UK & Ireland SAP User Group Conference 2011, which took place from November 20 through 22 in Birmingham, United Kingdom, was a resounding success. With more participants, more exhibitors, and a wider range of topics than ever before, the annual conference just keeps on growing. For the first time, Steve Winter, the new managing director of SAP United Kingdom & Ireland, introduced himself to participants, and SAP’s CIO Oliver Bussmann also made an appearance. In addition, industry analyst Ray Wang, who gave his view of the IT – and especially the SAP – world at the conference in 2009 was back to share his thoughts again. So it was not without reason that Alan Bowling, head of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group, was visibly proud at the opening of the event.

Smart Move: SAP Business Suite 7 Maintenance Until 2020

“The event gets better from year to year, and for this we thank our committed volunteers and the whole team, but also SAP for its support,” Bowling said. Although SAP and its users still don’t see eye to eye on all matters – especially with regard to licensing and price models – he believes that the relationship with SAP in the United Kingdom and Ireland has greatly improved as a whole. “The extension of standard maintenance for SAP ERP 6.0 and SAP Business Suite 7 until 2020 was a smart move by SAP and showed that the company was listening to us,” he added. Together with SUGEN, the global SAP User Group Executive Network, Bowling claims that they have achieved very much and are continuing to work on bundling customer feedback and addressing it to SAP.

The new managing director of SAP UK&I, Steve Winter, also promised to listen and to intensify cooperation. Winter, an American who joined SAP from PeopleSoft in 2005, has been in the country for almost three months and wants to use his entire organization to improve contact with users. “We want to continue to drive innovation with you and support you in the areas of on-premise/core, mobility, and cloud technology,” he said. Or, in the words of Colin Sharp, who is responsible for looking after the user group from SAP’s side: “We would like each and every customer to profit from the advantages of working with us. That’s why all of our users should be part of the user group, whether they use core SAP, SAP BusinessObjects, or Sybase solutions.”

Jahrestreffen der SAP-Anwendergruppe Großbritanien und Irland (Foto: UKISUG)
The UK & Ireland SAP User Group annual conference. (Photo: UKISUG)
Ray Wang
Industry analyst Ray Wang discussed social media and mobility in his keynote. (Photo: UKISUG)

Social Media and Mobility: The Consumerization of IT

Preparing for the future, however, entails more than better cooperation. In his keynote, industry insider Ray Wang revealed other trends that are influencing the sector – and the wheel is turning fast. “Five years ago, we were talking about service-oriented architecture; three years ago, it was the financial crisis; and today, the topics are social media and mobility. Who knows what’ll be next?” he asked. For Wang, it is obvious that information technology is getting much closer to consumers than ever before. Cell phones and smartphones are IT devices that people really use, almost as extensions of themselves. Ideally, they are simply “there” and usable without much effort.

Everyone’s data has to be available all the time and from any location – so a cloud is needed to contain such huge data quantities, Wang explained. Furthermore, this data needs to be more than just available: It must be manageable and interpretable – in other words, analyzable and visualizable. And social networks hook everything up and channel data flows. “Mobile devices are the new interface, and the cloud is the new back end. Social networks form the interfaces, and analytics help us to process the information,” Wang continued.

For companies – and especially their CIOs – this means taking a critical look at where they stand and reacting appropriately. What new business models are the result? Am I properly positioned for this? Is my strategy correct? Have I got the right people?

The “I” in CIO

Today’s chief information officers need to ask themselves these questions. “What people want is information technology that’s simple, scalable, and sexy,” Wang claimed. This has to be harmonized with other requirements, such as (data) security, sustainability, and compliance. That’s why the CIO of today should, ideally, combine four more I’s: infrastructure, integration, innovation, and intelligence. This means that the right IT infrastructure correctly synced and integrated with the network of suppliers, customers, and partners enables innovation and new business opportunities, if you ensure that the right information gets to the right person at the right time.

As far as SAP is concerned, Wang views the acquisition of Sybase as a good move. “Mobility is a lifestyle, and with Sybase, SAP has opened itself up to this lifestyle more than any other ERP provider,” he said. Databases shouldn’t be neglected, either, and will play an even bigger role in the future. Wang also sees progress in the line of business solutions, which SAP provides on demand or as SAP Rapid Deployment solutions for fast implementation. And he believes SAP HANA, which is currently in the limelight at SAP, represents the future – not just for SAP, but for the entire industry.

Wang couldn’t resist adding a little joke here: “You know what HANA stands for, don’t you? Hasso’s next generation appliance.” This was a reference to Hasso Plattner, chairman of the SAP Supervisory Board and co-founder of SAP, who first announced SAP HANA and helped to drive it. Nevertheless, Wang made one thing clear: “In-memory technology will be where everybody’s going.”

Alan Bowling, Vorsitzender der SAP-SUG UKI, eröffnete die Veranstaltung. (Foto: UKISUG)
Alan Bowling, Chairman of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group, opened the conference. (Photo: UKISUG)
SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann explains the company's IT strategy. (photo: UKISUG)
SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann explains the company's IT strategy (photo: UKISUG)

SAP HANA Service Pack 3

Oliver Bussmann, SAP CIO, couldn’t have had a better introduction. Bussmann showed what he and his team have achieved when it comes to being the first to implement these new technologies in-house. Under the tagline “SAP runs SAP” and with his personal iPad, he gave an insight into the new mobile world of SAP and beamed up live access to data that was on a main memory database at SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf, Germany.

“CIOs have just two options: Either they open up to the new reality or they get overtaken,” he explained. And as someone who manages the IT systems for 70,000 users in 20 countries and at 251 locations, he knows what he’s talking about. “We, as an IT department, are always the first ramp-up customer for new solutions and work closely with our development departments during such times,” he said. All CIOs need to look at the value of new technologies and how they can be implemented. SAP IT did this with SAP HANA and the mobile solutions.

“We upgraded our internal SAP NetWeaver BW to release 7.3 and now, with SAP HANA SP3, we can benefit from all aspects of in-memory technology,” Bussmann said. Reduced load times and faster processing times are just the beginning, he continued. The internal SAP CRM solution also runs on SAP HANA, so that the entire sales pipeline is processed in a matter of seconds and can be viewed in real time. “Our sales pipeline is always available and up-to-date for all sales colleagues and the management team,” he said. Just to prove it, Bussmann took his iPad and logged onto the SAP CRM Sales app, from where he directly accessed data. The audience watched as he reviewed the sales figures for 2010 and sorted them according to geographies, industries, and types of sales.

11,500 SAP Employees Use iPads

But he thinks it’s important for mobile solutions not to be restricted to the board room or to field sales staff. SAP is the world’s third biggest user of iPads, with some 11,500 employees working with Apple’s tablet device. In addition, 5,000 iPhones and 22,000 BlackBerrys are in circulation. The Sybase solution Afaria is used to manage the devices. “We have just started using the first Android tablets and are also looking at deploying the BlackBerry PlayBook.”

“In 2012, we want to have a closer look at Windows Phone,” Bussmann continued. For many of the conference participants, such themes are still a way off, but Bussmann’s practical tips were well appreciated: How do I deal with the multitude of devices? What about administration and remote control? What security issues are there? SAP is testimony to the fact that all these questions can be solved – with the right strategy and, of course, with the SAP and Sybase product portfolio.

With the Twitter hashtag #ukisug11, you’ll find the latest information and discussions about the conference. And is there, too: @sapinfo and @sapinfo_de