Meanwhile, uproar over SAP's controversial move a few years ago to raise support fees has largely died down thanks to the passage of time and some eventual concessions by the company, including the restoration of a standard support option. But the trade-off was that SAP scrapped an initial plan to produce KPIs (key performance indicators) proving the value of its upgraded, more expensive Enterprise Support. In January 2010, an SAP executive told IDG News Service that the goal was to "evolve" the KPI program into something useful but less time-consuming for customers involved in it. Sapphire may be a good place for SAP to update the crowd on where those plans lie today.
ASUG is planning to focus on core issues at Sapphire. The group is launching a new initiative at Sapphire aimed at helping customers get continual return on investment for their implementations. "Many customers go through technical upgrades and don't adopt everything," said Chairman Anthony Bosco, who is also CIO of the services firm Day & Zimmerman. "If you were to implement your system today based on what you know now, you probably would have a lot more turned on." For companies with a mature SAP platform, "it's a good time to optimize," he said.
Wild cards to keep an eye out for at Sapphire
- Some will be searching for signs of friction between co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott. The two have split focuses, with Snabe closer to product development and McDermott overseeing sales. That hasn't stopped rumors of power-jockeying, although actual public evidence of such is pretty scant.
- In a related note, the profile of CTO and executive board member Vishal Sikka at the conference will also be scrutinized. Sikka, who has been referred to as SAP's "third CEO," recently told IDG News Service that while he is very close with the CEOs, he considers his boss to be company founder Hasso Plattner, and that Snabe and McDermott "basically leave [him] alone." That kind of comment and the fact that Plattner and Sikka are scheduled to deliver a keynote address together at Sapphire will no doubt have speculative tongues wagging about the balance of power at SAP.
- Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has made a tradition out of pulling a surprise guest onstage during his annual OpenWorld keynote. The list of luminaries has included Billy Joel and Arnold Schwarzenegger. SAP has booked rock icon Sting to entertain Sapphire-goers, but most likely he'll stick to the concert stage.
This leaves an opening for someone more aligned with SAP's core business, and who better than Hewlett-Packard CEO Léo Apotheker? Sure, Apotheker was forced out as SAP CEO by the company's board last year, leading to the ascendance of McDermott and Snabe, so there might be some lingering tension there. But SAP and HP have always been tight partners -- a bond that is only closer now given Oracle's entrance into the hardware business -- so anything is possible.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com.