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SAP Podcast: Jon Reed Interviews Krishna Kumar on TechEd '07 Print E-mail

Podcast Interview Date: October 12, 2007
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To get an inside look at the key developments from SAP TechEd 2007, Jon Reed sat down with Krishna Kumar of Enterprise Horizons. Krishna was a presenter at TechEd 2007, and he is becoming a thought leader in the SAP community in terms of how to get a real return on investment from eSOA and Enterprise Services. As a technical visionary who has watched SAP's product line evolve for many years, Krishna has a knack for breaking down SAP technology in simple and precise terms. Jon turned to Krishna to help sort through what was real and what was hype at TechEd 2007.

The goal of the podcast was to place the events of TechEd 2007 in the context of SAP's "Enterprise SOA" technology stack. SAP is clearly staking its future on eSOA, but what does that mean to the SAP project team and the SAP consultant? Is eSOA just hype and if it's for real, what consulting skills will be needed to succeed in the "eSOA era"? And how will SAP's Business Objects acquisition, which occurred immediately following Tech Ed, affect these trends and the future of SAP overall?

In this thirty-six minute interview, Jon and Krishna cover these issues and more, including:

- The focus of Enterprise Horizons and the specifics of Krishna's SAP background.

- Krishna's take on the main themes of Tech Ed 2007, such as: the emphasis on BI and analytics, the surprising level of emphasis on eSOA over SAP's core business functionality, and the obvious absence of Shai Agassi.

- Why SAP has shifted its focus from emphasizing exposing its core apps as eSOA services as opposed to looking at the core business processes such as order fulfillment, financials, and supply chain management. Krishna explains that was what missing was a clear demonstration by SAP on the business value and return on investment of eSOA.

- The Business Objects acquisition, which took place after TechEd and which to some degree dwarfed all of the TechEd news announcements. Krishna shares his thoughts on the BO purchase, including the challenge of integrating the BO code base into SAP, and why the BO acquisition is of "monumental importance" to eSOA. Krishna explains that this will accelerate the trend of exposing analytics as services and leveraging connections to outside partners.

- The SAP BBD (Business By Design) announcement, and why Krishna has a cautious take on Software as a Service (SaaS). Krishna also explains why this current evolution of SaaS may be more successful than the previous ASP models due to the impact of the "Internet Cloud." Krishna also describes how a BBD customer might be able to expose a service through an "on demand" platform, and why eSOA is integral to an on-demand solution.

- Krishna gives his perspective on why the evolution to a "Business Process Consultant" is important to SAP, and why he thinks that the distinction between functional and technical SAP professionals was always a false dichotomy. Krishna tells us why the ideal SAP consultant has always had a functional and technical skills combination.

- Krishna then details what skills functional and technical consultants need to pursue in order to remain relevant to the SAP software of the future. Krishna talks about the end of the silo functional consultant, and why functional consultants need to understand the Internet touch points of service enablement. Krishna also talks about how Business Intelligence and NetWeaver fit into the technical skills picture. Soon, the technical consultant will have to learn to talk business or "become a dinosaur." There is time to act, however, as Krishna believes this will be a "slow metamorphosis."

- Jon asks Krishna about how the SAP customer base should perceive eSOA, given that SAP often hypes its new solutions to the point that customers can become jaded. Krishna has a provocative viewpoint on this: he believe that when it comes to transactional ERP systems, service enablement and SOA is indeed overhyped, almost to the degree of the dotcom hype. Then, Krishna explains why the real payoff for eSOA is through analytics, and that this is where the real eSOA payoff will be. 

 - Krishna tells us how best-of-breed Internet content "mashups" are the real "killer app" of the eSOA era, and how they can be tied back into ERP-based analytical applications.  

- Jon asks Krishna if you truly have to invest in the latest SAP releases and all the expenses and organizational change involved in moving to eSOA, or if you can get started on earlier releases. Krishna explains that SAP customers can dabble in eSOA at almost any point, because it's really just "RFC on steroids," but that to truly build an effective eSOA landscape and consume and publish a range of services, you will eventually need to be running NetWeaver and ERP 5.0/6.0 and beyond.

- In the final segment of the podcast, Jon asks Krishna to use his company's product to illustrate a very important point: how companies can tie in best-of-breed Internet content providers into their BW/BI analytics engine in order to get a powerful visual grasp of key business planning and ROI functions. Jon tells Krishna that Home Depot, one of the most advanced SAP eSOA customers, has used a similar "mashup solution" to take advantage of BI/BW data and content from third parties that would be cost-prohibitive to develop internally.

- Jon asks Krishna about the minimum requirements needed to use a product like his company offers, and we learn that the minimum requirements are simply BW 3.x onward, in a nutshell. This is an example of how there might be a different enterprise services roadmap, that would focus on Business Intelligence, and then leverage that data and mash it up - without worrying about the cost and challenge of service-enabling core ERP transactions.

- Krishna provides a "market demographics" example of how an eSOA service could be "mashed up" for real business value.

- Jon asks Krishna to illustrate why these visually oriented "spatial analytics" can provide a much more powerful business case for eSOA that executives can understand and grasp much more quickly than a detailed white paper. He asks Krishna about the example of using demographic mashups to analyze which neighborhoods are viable for a retail store expansion. As Krishna says, this is the "true power of eSOA," beyond the hype.

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