Should you buy into SAP's MDM solution? What about the German-based company's data integration tools?
Well, it depends, according to Forrester: Are you already an SAP shop? Is your IT landscape homogenous? If you are, Forrester says SAP's data management tools-data warehousing, master data management (MDM), data integration and data quality software-are a good choice for you-though there are a few "addendums" you should consider.
But, for the rest of you, there are probably better choices, according to this TechTarget article covering a recent Forrester teleconference about SAP.
For instance, Forrester notes that Business Warehouse scales to the 40-50 terabyte level; competitors scale to the hundreds of terabytes and sometimes even petabyte level. Forrester also calls out SAP's Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA) for providing inadequate support for integrating data from non-SAP data sources.
The two improved SAP products seem to be SAP Business Objects Dta Services and the new version of SAP's MDM platform-MDM 7.1. Forrester analyst Rob Karel says it provides better support for multiple data domains. That said, he does warn, "but most of their experience is in managing material masters in a relatively homogeneous apps environment."
Actually, there were a lot of caveats like that. Analyst James Kobielus recommends Business Warehouse for those invested in SAP, noting it's " a good solid data warehousing platform and BWA is definitely a strong front-end data warehouse appliance," but then adding, "keep in mind that there's a number of deficiencies in the overall BW product as it stands today in terms of scalability."
Likewise, SAP's MDM is fine, but you're going to have to invest in BusinessObjects Data Services or another vendor's data integration and data quality tool if you want it to work in a heterogeneous enviornment.
This isn't the first piece where Forrester's offering a hard-hitting criticism of SAP. Karel chided me recently for using the words "hatin' on" on my Twitter feed, and he's right. I retract it; it's not like Forrester has an emotional grudge against SAP or anything.
Still. I think it's safe to say the research firm certainly isn't shying away from criticizing the mega vendor. But maybe I'm just noticing it because research firms so seldom speak out in a collaborate way about a vendor's shortcomings. I pointed this out to Karel.
It turns out, this is part of a series of Forrester "Jam Sessions," where analysts collaborate on blogs and webinars to discuss the most strategic vendors, Karel told me via e-mail. SAP was just lucky enough to be first, but Oracle, IBM and others will soon have their turn in the sun.
When it comes to the criticisms of SAP, however, it seems the analysts are echoing the complaints of Forrester's client base. Last week, you'll recall, Research VP and principal analyst John Rymer said SAP middleware caused "a lot of heartburn among clients." In this week's TechTarget article, Karel is quoted as saying clients are more frustrated with SAP's MDM than any other master data management solution.
"Large software companies such as IBM, Oracle and SAP focus predominantly on license sales. It wasn't customers' unhappiness, resulting from the Enterprise Support blunder, that caused SAP to fire its CEO and rethink its approach. It was the fact that you showed that unhappiness by voting with your purchase orders, delaying projects, going to competing vendors, and causing SAP's license revenue to plummet. When Jim and Bill promise to "accelerate the pace of the innovation we deliver to you", the d word is a euphemism for sell'."
Clearly, SAP has a tarnished image. The real question, then, becomes, can SAP fix it?
Yes, SAP can, Karel says - the Germany-based company certainly has the talent and resources to address the problems. What's unclear is how SAP will prioritize these issues - and when they'll be addressed.
In the meantime, Jones did offer a few tips on how customers can push SAP to deliver on the promise to be more customer-focused. For instance, he suggested organizations ask SAP to give them an account manager without a sales quota. But his first recommendation is pretty telling:
"Unlike most of my fellow commentators, I'm not going to tell SAP how to run its business. Instead, I'm going to give you, its customers, a suggestion on how you can cut the cost of your SAP environment. You ready? The answer is 'buy less stuff from them."
Alas, that's easier said than done. As Jones points out, companies tend to defer to their current vendors-and SAP is ingrained in a large number of organizations. Its name might not be as well known among the general populace as Microsoft, IBM or even Oracle - but key business leaders, including the CFO and HR director, certainly do know it, and the odds are heavily in SAP's favor that they're using it.
But perhaps Forrester's jam sessions will give SAP a wake-up call to the discontent apparently brewing among users.
The TechTarget article includes more details about Forrester's assessment of SAP BWA, SAP MDM 7.1, SAP Business Objects Data Services. You can also purchase the hour-long teleconference for $250 on on the firm's Web site.