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jonerpdemojam.jpg Jon has been tackling key SAP issues (like SAP certification and HANA) since 1995. Get the latest from his blogs, YouTube channel, and iTunes feed.

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Podcast: Jon Reed Interviews Thomas Wailgum of on the Pros and Cons of SAP Print E-mail

podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"Thomas Wailgum on the Pros and Cons of SAP, the Impact of SaaS, and the Search for the Owner of the ERP License Plate"
Podcast Interview Date: August 1, 2009
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Thomas Wailgum, Senior Editor of and the man behind the "Enterprise Software Unplugged" blog, is a self-described "wiseass." Those who follow his blog know that he isn't afraid to mix it up a little bit and poke a little fun at ERP heavyeights. What you might not know is that Thomas has been at for 13 years - an amazingly long time given the ups and downs of dotcoms and online media. I wanted to get Thomas on a podcast and ask him how the ERP market has changed over his years at, what he has learned from his interviews with CIOs, and get his take on the pros and cons of SAP in today's market. Thomas is also a fun ERP presence on Twitter, so you may want to follow him there.

I also wanted to find out how Tom sees Software as a Service (SaaS) impacting the ERP marketplace. He's also on the hunt for the owner of the "ERP" license plate in Connecticut, so I wanted to give him a chance during the podcast to formally seek out the owner. Before the podcast ends, I put Thomas on the JonERP hot seat and ask him what he would change about SAP if he were a member of the Executive Board. But in my opinion, the highlight of the podcast was our discussion about whether ERP vendors should be prioritizing customers over shareholders. As Thomas told me before the podcast, "the shareholders are winning." We had an interesting discussion on this podcast about how that dynamic could be changed, and the difficulties of doing so.

If this thirty minute podcast is too soft in volume for you, I will include a link to a louder version of the podcast at the end of this timeline. However, please note that I found the sound to be a bit distorted in the louder version, which is why it is strictly a backup for those who are driving/travelling and need the volume boost. 

Podcast Highlights: 

2:15 Thomas was driving in Connecticut when he saw someone with an ERP license plate. Who is this person? Jon and Thomas discuss. Please contact Thomas if you have ideas, he wants to interview the driver. 

3:25 Bloggers in this market has different agendas, for example Dennis Howlett and Vinnie Mirchandani see themselves as "buyer advocates." How does Thomas see his work with and what is thie purpose that drives his work?

5:20 For listeners that don't know anything about Thomas Wailgum, what's one clue to his personality that will give people a better sense of the man behind the blog? Thomas describes himself as a "wiseass" and his goal is to bring some "irreverance" to the often-dry ERP market and to bring insights from as an "impartial observer."

6:50 How the ERP market has changed since Thomas first started working at The impact of Y2K, and how the last couple years seem be leading to a new era of increased customer choice via SaaS and other innovations.

8:47 Thomas frequently talks with CIOs about ERP packages, and not just SAP and Oracle. What has he learned about today's ERP market through these interviews? Thomas explains why the ERP purchase and/or upgrade decision can be a career-defining move for CIOs who average 3-5 year terms in their positions. 

11:40 "Big ERP" is largely a two horse race between SAP and Oracle, with occasional shots across the bow from Microsoft. Thomas has been a pretty sharp critic of "big ERP." What does he see as are the biggest flaws of the "Big ERP" approach? Thomas cites the "addiction to maintenance fees" and raises the question he often gets during his conversations with CIOs - where is the value in these fees? Thomas points to the rise of Rimini Street third party maintenance as an example of why reform in needed in this area. 

13:33 Thomas has followed SAP for a long time, so I asked him: waht is SAP's greatest strength in the current market? He cited the product quality, then turned the tables and asked me the same question. I talked about the strength of SAP's business vision and the technical savvy behind it. This leads into a discussion of Tom's own interview with SAP CTO Vishal Sikka and SAP's challenge of harnessing the right amount of innovation at the right price for its customers.

18:40 "Software as a Service" is one of the biggest innovations and game changers we have seen in the ERP market. And yet SaaS comes with its own share of hype and starry-eyed proponents that think Saas will change everything in the ERP world and solve all ERP market problems. Where does Thomas stand on Saas?Thomas admits to sometimes being perceived as a "starry eyed proponent" of SaaS, and he talks about why he sees SaaS as a healthy competitive development in the ERP market. And it's not just theory to Thomas, he cites a couple of real life examples of SaaS success, including GE's use of SaaS for global supplier management and Chiquita's selection of upstart SaaS vendor Workday. 

22:00 My podcasts always try to translate ERP trends into skills trends. I asked Thomas what kinds of skills do you think ERP consultants should be pursuing in an era where many basic technical skills (and back office processes) are globally sourced? He responded by emphasizing the importance of strengthening certification programs for all ERP vendors as a way of better benchmarking skills qualifications.

23:20 In our discussion leading up to this podcast, we talked about the tension for ERP vendors between serving SAP customers and serving shareholders. Thomas told me "the shareholders are winning." I asked him why this is a problem in his view? This led to a discussion of the challenges of putting customers first and realistically how ERP vendors could do this and not alienate shareholders. No easy answers are offered, but there are ideas floated about how to get the message across to shareholders that investing in customer intimacy is a much better long term return than simply losing customers due to service problems. Thomas uses an example of Oracle flaunting its maintenance fee revenues and SAP backing down on Enterprise Support and listening to its customer base. 

28:30 Thomas, goes on the JonERP hot seat. He's been named the newest member of the SAP Board and is asked to make one or two recommendations for changes to SAP - but the catch is that is must be a benefit for both its investors and customers. Thomas shares his recommendations, and the guys move into their closing comments.

Louder version of podcast file:
Podcast: Listen Now!






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