SAP co-chief executive Jim Snabe went on the offensive at the company's Influencer Summit 2011 in Boston on Tuesday, promising "innovation without disruption" across mobile, cloud, in-memory computing and its core systems, and offering new features to its on-demand customers every quarter.
Snabe was keen to impress that, despite the firm's near 40-year history of designing and building "core" business software, the German firm is making huge strides in newer technology categories.
In a dig at arch rival Oracle's disruptive updates, Snabe claimed that SAP is able to offer continuous improvements to the firm's flagship on-premise Business Suite product.
"We've decided to go from annual releases of enhancements to quarterly opportunities to consume innovation," he said. "From next year these are the new features you will be able to consume on top of the Business Suite without any upgrade at the pace you want."
Snabe said that as a result Business Suite will not need another upgrade until 2020, although some analysts questioned the strategy.
Ray Wang, chief executive of Constellation Research, argued that there may still be too much disruption for customers.
"#SAP customers won't be able to handle quarterly updates in on-premises world. They need to be in #saas to do this," he tweeted at the event.
The SAP UK & Ireland User Group sees things slightly differently, however. "The important thing here is that SAP is giving customers the choice in how and when they adopt some of the innovative technologies and solutions the company is developing," said chairman Alan Bowling.
"This is a smart move by SAP, as it means those customers who have not yet moved to the latest versions of ERP now have more incentive to do so. It also makes it much easier for users to invest further in new SAP modules."
Elsewhere during the keynote there were the usual bold predictions - "we want to reach one billion people with our mobile solutions" and "Hana can replace data warehouses" - as well as some admissions that things haven't always been done right in the past.
"You don't get things right if you take an on-premise solution and throw it into the cloud. We've tried that, trust me," said Snabe.
Most interestingly, however, he argued that SAP could actually begin to differentiate in the cloud by offering zero integration time and a great user experience.
"That is kind of a new thought for SAP," Snabe remarked. About time too.
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