SAP = BPM? Revisited

Scott Francis
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Never one to let a chance to say “I told you so” pass me by, I thought we should recap coverage of this year’s SAP TechEd 2011 in Las Vegas.  I’m not surprised by the lukewarm reactions to the BPM part of SAPs presence, because I’ve written about SAP’s lack of BPM vision before. First, there’s Jim Sinur, of Gartner:
Bottom Line: If the SAP BPM architects and technicians can show customer value that catches top managements eye, the wait will be shorter. Right now, it looks to be another two years. With that said, look at what SAP has done in BPM from two years ago. http://blogs.gartner.com/jim_sinur/2009/10/14/teched-09saps-bpm-and-brm-progress-to-date-watch-out-for-construction-cones/
I guess Jim and I are on the same page.  It is *always* another two years with SAP.  Two years from now you’ll be amazed.  Except you aren’t – because two years later, they tell you it’ll be another two years. But, let’s turn our attention to Bruce Silver’s coverage.  After all, earlier this year he was pretty optimistic about SAP’s BPM.  So what did Bruce have to say?
At this week’s SAP Tech Ed conference in Las Vegas, BPM is definitely off the main track.  The only other BPM analyst here that I recognized is Jim Sinur of Gartner.  The keynote sessions were all about HANA, SAP’s new in-memory analytics platform that is the key to reinvigorating the entire SAP portfolio (at least the parts they still care about).  HANA-enabled BPM won’t come until 2012, but it should provide a significant performance boost (process transactions per hour) as well as powerful real-time process analytics.
Started out sounding pretty down on BPM… But Bruce hasn’t given up on BPM with SAP:
But it would be a mistake to say that SAP has not made significant progress in BPM.  It has, but you had to skip the analyst sessions with the execs and go to the breakout sessions from the BPM product managers to hear about it.  Those sessions were, on the whole, excellent, many of them hands-on with the tools.  In that sense, Tech Ed is the mirror image of IBM Impact, where BPM sizzle was all over the keynotes, but almost no details were available in the breakouts.
(Actually the IBM breakouts had a lot of detail – and got some coverage on our blog.  The analysts just need to break out of the special analyst sessions!) Bruce notes: “Where conventional BPM (such as NetWeaver BPM/PI) emphasizes BPMN-based activity flow, embedded processes involve transaction events where the order of occurrence at runtime is more flexible.”  But later notes that the embedded processes can be visualized as BPMN diagrams.  Hm.  It sounds contradictory on the surface, but I’ll assume not. Bruce also mentions “Gravity” – the Google Wave integration and BPM implementation.  But, he’s comparing a (still) “shaky” beta product with BlueworksLive, which has been in production and serving customers for more than 5 years (updating roughly every 6 weeks). Focus matters a lot for big organizations like SAP, IBM, and Oracle.  At IBM, I’m seeing the focus (for now).  At SAP, I’m seeing some progress, but it looks uneven.  Driven from a level lower down the management chain.  It doesn’t get top billing.  Instead – top billing is HANA and in-memory analytics?  Odd. Or it would be, if BPM were on the front burner.