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Decoding the SAP Buzzwords Print E-mail
Article Index
Page 2

Hot: "NetWeaver BI"
Cooling off Rapidly: "Business Warehouse"
Ice Cold: "Business Information Warehouse"Why? Rest easy, BW folks. The strategic importance of BW is only increasing. This is one name change that has nothing to do with product obscurity. The reasoning behind this is similar to the IT-versus-Business Process example: SAP wants BW to sound more business-friendly and less technical.

I actually had a high-level SAP BI manager admit to me that SAP has renamed the BW product to avoid the inference that BW is just a data warehouse, which is perceived as a "techie geek" kind of product that requires a staff to manage. SAP wants users to think of real-time analytics and intelligent reporting as part of their daily world.

The image of having to call a tech person to explain how to run a query is not what SAP wants to promote. Nor does SAP want folks to think they need to crack open a data warehousing book in order to make use of BI. So, with the NetWeaver 2004s release, we have BW built right into the NetWeaver engine, but of course it is now called NetWeaver BI.

To reinforce this point, there were five references to NetWeaver BI in this batch of SAPPHIRE press releases, with no mentions of BW. There were also three additional references to "intelligence" as pertains to intelligent systems and networks. "Smart systems" are in, wasting time trying to get different databases to talk to each other is out. For BW professionals, these BI trends are very positive.

We can now go further: every quality SAP professional needs to have some level of BI awareness. Certainly Hasso would agree; in his keynote, he used the BI Accelerator as the prime example of "in-memory databases" that he believes are a crucial technology going forward.

Boiling Hot: "Enterprise SOA"
Colder than Expected: "ESA" (Enterprise Services Architecture)
Why: When SAP launched its own version of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), they decided to call it ESA. Subsequently, the "ESA" phrase was marketed heavily. Less than two years later, we see the ESA term fading. SAP now relies on the phrase "Enterprise SOA," and "ESOA" is starting to appear also.

So why would SAP drop "ESA", which seems to be a more efficient abbreviation? Perhaps SAP realized that the buzz around the "SOA" phrase was too entrenched to compete with. The likely thinking is, "if you can’t market against it, hop on the SOA marketing train and let it carry you." More evidence of this decisive terminology shift: this URL, a fact sheet on ESOA, has ESOA in the URL itself:

Notice there is no mention of ESA on this page at all. SAP’s own official page on the new SOA platform also has ESOA in the URL: In the batch of press releases, SOA got 40 mentions while ESA had zero. By using the commonly-used "SOA" terms, SAP is making clear that it is not building proprietary tools, but outward-facing components that any company on any platform can talk to.

Despite the move from ESA to ESOA, one thing is certain: SAP is still going to emphasize SOA constantly. SAP’s head start over Oracle on a proven SOA platform may be its biggest competitive advantage. Terms don’t lie: every SAP professional in the field owes it to themselves to get their feet wet in this technology as soon as possible.

Real Hot: "Duet"
Hot but Cooling: "Portals"
Why? While NetWeaver Portals is still a big part of the SAP product line, SAP is not emphasizing Portals in its literature the way it once did. Meanwhile, the visibility of Duet, SAP’s "user friendly" partnership with Microsoft, continues to increase, with a couple of high-profile Duet announcements made at SAPPHIRE.

The numbers tell the story: the press releases use the term "Duet" 44 times. Meanwhile, NetWeaver Portals was used four times. So there’s a shift in emphasis, but why does it matter? It matters because when Portals was first released, SAP envisioned that corporate users would work primarily through their SAP Portal.

Basically, SAP wanted to control the corporate user’s desktop the way Microsoft controls the desktop of the individual consumer (you can never fault SAP for ambition). The Duet emphasis is SAP’s partial surrender to Microsoft on this matter. Yes, SAP is still pushing Portals as the interface of choice whenever possible, but if users prefer to work through Microsoft Office and access their SAP data through Office apps, SAP will make it happen.

The lesson? Don’t impose something on the market that the market will not accept. Fight battles you can win. SAP has a chance to be *the* leading "Enterprise SOA" innovator. It has no chance to beat Microsoft Office on the user’s desktop. The only real surprise is how cozy this partnership has become. I would guess that SAP’s Small-to-Medium Business (SMB) executives feel less warm and fuzzy about Microsoft than SAP’s Duet team does.

No, Microsoft is not going after SAP’s Fortune 100 ERP clients, but it’s going to be a formidable SMB competitor. How this will affect the Duet partnership remains to be seen. But for now, the image of one set of hands shaking and another set in a thumb war is an odd but accurate one to describe this "partnership."

As for how the Duet emphasis will affect SAP consulting opportunities, it’s hard to say. Portals consultants will still get a lot of work. Most SAP pros will want to have Portals in their tool kit, but it’s good to understand that SAP users will access SAP data from a variety of applications and platforms. It won’t be "all or nothing" either way. Many users will rely on Portals and Duet working in concert.

Hot at the Moment: "Innovation Without Disruption"
Cool to Most: "Disruptive Innovators"
Why (and who cares?) This one is an inside joke between me and myself, but I have personally gotten a kick out of SAP’s conflicted emphasis on the notion of "disruption." Before this year’s conference, I was told on more than occasion that "Disruptive Innovators" were on a list of SAP’s "job titles of the future."

There was even a feature on this a while back that I participated in. Perhaps that explains my surprise that a major theme of CEO Henning Kagermann’s keynote was "innovation without disruption." So what role does a "disruptive innovator" have in an SAP environment that promises "innovation without disruption?"

For emphasis, the phrase "without disruption" appeared in the conference press releases eight times. SAP’s point? Once companies upgrade to the latest SAP "foundation release" (mySAP ERP 2005), they will be able to add new components without the business disruption an upgrade typically causes. For this reason, I expect "disruptive innovator" as a job title to disappear as a whimsical idea that got stuck halfway up the flagpole.

There will continue to be some "technology conquers all" types who roll it off their tongues during PowerPoints. In fact, I ran into a couple of BI folks who used this term frequently. Since they worked for SAP, I asked them about this apparent contradiction. They provided me with a sincere but convoluted explanation that involved not disrupting the technology or core processes but "disrupting along the edges."

My guess is that SAP would not endorse this view, if only because any attempt to clarify this nearly-irrelevant point would result in more head-scratching and a muddier message. As for those who plan on continuing to innovate, SAP would surely say "go for it!" Just keep your disruptions to yourself until further notice. As one Basis consultant said to me, "I don’t need a disruptor on my project." We then drank a toast to "innovation without disruption," and thus ended my time at ASUG/SAPPHIRE 2007.

I hope you enjoyed this piece on SAP’s changing terminology. I knew when I wrote it that it would likely be a little dated within a year’s time, but who knows, if there is enough interest, perhaps I can make it a yearly feature. If nothing else, I hope this piece will convince others to become keen observers of SAP terminology. Decoding the buzzwords will give you a clearer product roadmap, and that’s a good map to have if your ultimate destination is a successful SAP career.

Site Manager's Note: This article originally appeared on in an edited format. What you have just read is the complete and unabridged version, released for the first time for readers of


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