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July 21, 2005

SAP a closed culture

Further to what DJ has written on the subject of SAP and it's state of health, I'd like to add a feeling about the culture.

SAP has a very closed culture - as do a lot of software vendors, who believe that it is enough to open up to a select few strategic customers, with respect to enhancing internal development.

Convergence is a funny thing, because again, I read my regular new letter from Doc Searls( SuitWatch), and he made a mention of a relevent theme. It goes something like this: all the really cool and innovative stuff happens out there by a few hardcore actors - not Corporations. These few develop an idea, and figure out how to monitise it later. The key thing to note there, is that the people involved are often unattached to a commercial entity, and do not have corporate baggage weighing them down - they travel light, and fast.

The point that I'm trying to bring home here, is that SAP has no culture, and hence no strategy for engaging these "Alpha Geeks", the visionairies, out there to keep ahead of the innovation curve - leaving them to forever play catchup. I believe it shows, in the very examples that DJ laid out - both the problem of baggage (bad technology choices such as frames), and and the repeated use of other Corporations rubbish technologies to satisfy a sudden panic in recognising being left behind (ITS server based on MS IIS, or the Business Connector based on WebMethods, or J2EE - a complete white Elephant that will be repeatedly threatened by things like Rails).

There is no easy answer to this, but allready, there are signs showing that the traditional ERP sector is being tested by various combinations of Open Source - Compiere, TinyERP, OFBiz - to name a few. How long is going to be before one of these ventures manages to strike the right balance between Open Source style Open Development, and making a commercial success/ecosystem happen?

Feel free to (dis)agree :-)

Here is another article with convergent themes that says it better than I could - Motherhood and Apple Pie

Posted by PiersHarding at July 21, 2005 12:41 PM


seems to be opening up fast. if i call analyst relations forget it, but if i just cruise over to SDN there is a lot of interesting information there. SAP is further ahead with netweaver than i realised. shame they wont talk to people like me, but there you go.

and ryan is a GREAT communicator, isnt he

Posted by: james governor at August 4, 2005 6:17 PM

On SDN you can find a lot of crap and some gems. Unfortunately, the gems mostly fall from SAP - meaning of course that unless SAP lets the gem fall, nobody knows about it.

In the former times, SAP's application logic was written in ABAP - open source - in the sense that anybody could understand it. Now I obverse, despite the benefits of open source - SAP is tending to hide the source in Java classes. The newer product offerings are more closed than the "closed" ABAP applications ever were.

Posted by: Andrew Barnard at August 22, 2005 10:53 AM