As I turned on recording on my Tablet PC, SAP executive board member Shai Agassi joked that the last time we talked, it got him into trouble. Two years ago, he told me about SAPs forthcoming NetWeaver platform and its transformative move to a service-oriented architecture. Now "its here," he said in a conversation two weeks ago in his Palo Alto, Calif., offices.
But in detailing the core of the NetWeaver architecture and what he calls "a proactive business event network," he may have once again opened the kimono a bit too wide for comfort. "[First] it was about management of resources, then it shifted to management of information. Now were shifting into management of time," he said.
"A customer is calling, and their product is not there. Or an XML message comes in ... Im doing an RFP [request for proposal], and I have 30 minutes to respond to a TI or an AMD." A series of questions is triggered: Is the product in inventory? If its an exception, who deals with it? Whats the relationship between this product, this customer and the people in my business? Can I bring the event to resolution in 28 minutes?
"Were dealing with millions of events a day—in e-mail," Agassi said. E-mail, he said, is unpredictable, successful only seven out of 10 times; the other three times, you lose the deal. And the impact only worsens with major long-running processes such as projects, product life cycles, and mergers and acquisitions.
Betting on Web services two years ago has allowed SAP to shift the debate from suite versus best of breed to the transformation into a services-based architecture. Timely modules, such as its Mergers and Acquisitions software, provided R/3 customers a rapid return on investment; and the announced product innovation module xApp and the unannounced ViewPoint prioritization engine will accelerate strategic development and enhance competitiveness.
Context is NetWeavers secret sauce—the master data and the analytics around it. It answers questions: With whom have we met at the customers company? What have they bought already; how quickly do they act? NetWeavers event processor acts on that context, converting time-sensitive alerts to instant messages and sending them to interested parties—for example, to a product manager for a product mentioned in the event.
"We take a lot of these resolutions and capture them, not for the sake of recording the history but to find repetitive patterns," Agassi said. These ad hoc scenarios are in turn captured as guided procedures and offered as resolution scenarios when the event next occurs.
Agassi and SAP are betting NetWeaver and its modules will trump the technology platforms they sit on. Despite its vast resources and desktop primacy, Microsoft is lagging behind Google in capturing metadata and behind Java-based phones in mobility. SAP is ahead of all those competitors in the race for control of context and the real-time platform.
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