Forrester Critiques SAP's Data Management Tools

Loraine Lawson

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.

And then there was this post-titled "Open (Letter) Season on SAP," - from Duncan Jones of Forrester's Sourcing and Vendor Management Professionals, which included this:

"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.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 2, 2010 7:25 PM John Evans John Evans  says:

Loraine, good recap of the discussions on this topic. The big caveat you noted at the beginning is 'homogeneous.' Almost no company-and perhaps even SAP itself-has a 100% homogeneous systems landscape. We have certainly not run across any, and at least 50% of our customer base runs SAP applications. And they are getting what everyone wants: faster and more cost effective solutions that run across SAP and non-SAP applications and data. This is particularly true in the BI, data warehousing and MDM markets. It isn't sufficient to harmonize just product data or just customer data and do it just in SAP (or any other single vendor's application). True business value from an MDM initiative is going to come from being able to cover every master data domain, across vendor stack lines, and target specific business problems where they can demonstrate a rapid return on the investment. The customers that focus on addressing the business need and avoid an incumbent vendor bias are the ones who are winning in this area. Those companies that can't or won't overcome this bias are likely to continue to be frustrated.

Apr 8, 2010 9:03 AM Aaron Zornes Aaron Zornes  says:

AMR (the former analyst firm), Gartner and the MDM Institute have had orange/checkered 'CAUTION' flag up on SAP MDM since 2007 repeatedly

No news there what is news however, is that the BOBJ array of middleware (data integration, data quality, et al) has yet to make a major impact on the SAP MDM product family in our view to accommodate the heterogeneous reality and that SAP has yet to crack the code to get B2C user case (customer data integration) working in SAP MDM

SAP MDM 7.1 is a very high quality product, and SAP deserves kudos for early recognition as a software vendor that 'got it' early in terms of the importance of MDM to an application package delivery roadmap/strategy execution for B2C-style customer data integration (CDI) remains problematic in our experience however, supply chain MDM is a core competency for SAP MDM suffice to say almost all of our several hundred manufacturing, CPG, and high tech MDM consulting clients are committed to and executing well enough on their SAP MDM initiatives   the future of SAP MDM seems murky sometimes due to certain churn at SAP (A2I executives leaving YE2009), and the fact (like MSFT Master Data Services) that it does not contribute significantly to SAP profitability (minimal revenue associated with the product)-this also contributes to a lack of focus at times at SAP on MDM

SAP MDM is alive and well for manufacturing, CPG, and high tech in North America.

Nothing has changed

Aaron Zornes

Chief Research Officer

The MDM Institute

Apr 8, 2010 6:32 PM Helmuth Guembel Helmuth Guembel  says: in response to John Evans

Clearly, SAP does not have the expertise on MDM that it has in its core domain. Hard to have a stellar reputation if you have 850 licenses out of which 250 are in production. Maturity is an issue here.

I also believe that it might be better not to source from an apps vendor when it comes to middleware that link apps and their data unless that apps vendor has a sizable business in the middleware sector that is independent of its apps business. Middleware has a different lifecycle and it needs to be application agnostic.

At this point, it is questionable if SAP will ever be a significant player in the middleware area outside of its own turf. The margins that SAP is dreaming of are not to be had at this time with MDM.

With SAP being in need of a new vision, any middleware purchases from SAP can only be tactical complements of existing landscapes. MDM may very well be part of a larger strategy involving other data integrity and data quality features - well deserving a strategic decision as it may become a linchpin in a future apps strategy that should never exclude alternate sourcing.

Apr 9, 2010 12:54 PM Shaun Snapp Shaun Snapp  says: in response to Aaron Zornes

Some of the comments seem to take it as an assumption that SAP MDM is at least holds the potential to add value to the client. I have yet to see an MDM project go in as advertised and the emphasis on the tool is removing the emphasis from the method, which is far more important. Right now SAP, IBM and Oracle MDM are primarily smoke, pushed by the major consulting companies as a way to bill their accounts, with very little real output.

May 15, 2015 9:22 PM Shaun Snapp Shaun Snapp  says:
Looking at my last comment on this article its amazing that this was now five years ago. All of the vendors that pumped up MDM owe the industry an apology. MDM software was roundly very poor, and MDM now is managed just about as it was prior to the MDM bubble. MDM is not even a popular search term anymore, being replaced with MDM -- Mobile Device Management in the search results. The feature of all of these topics is that no one ever admits when they were wrong, they simply move on to make more predictions. Reply

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