Global CIO: 10 Ways To Optimize Your SAP Investment - InformationWeek
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Global CIO: 10 Ways To Optimize Your SAP Investment

A Forrester principal analyst offers 10 suggestions built around three key questions to help you optimize your SAP investments.

Do you find the recent changes in leadership, strategy, and services at SAP somewhat startling? A European firm that has, for a generation, projected an aura of conservatism and stability in the face of Internet fads, suddenly starts outpacing West Coast wunderkind Oracle in replacing CEOs. It's like the parish priest going punk.

Do these changes have you questioning what SAP's plans and direction might mean for you? Firms entering 2010 with an eye to growth and business-strategy enablement want to know: how can we get the best value from our investment in SAP?

At Forrester, we field hundreds of SAP-related inquiries from our global clients each year. We recently concluded a week-long SAP Jam, a series of teleconferences for our clients addressing the core issues facing SAP users. By analyzing the many questions posed to us over the last two years and during these sessions, we identified the top three areas of concern facing SAP end users. Forrester's advice on how to navigate each issue should help you avoid going aground on the shoals of change:

1) Navigating The Latest Trends In SAP Services

The SAP services market is undergoing significant change: provider consolidation, changes in pricing models, new delivery options, and cloud-based deployment. At the same time, businesses struggle with finding the best services provider for their SAP project and the best delivery, pricing, and deployment models to ensure value, ROI, and success in achieving business goals. Consider these key insights when navigating the SAP services market:

a. How should SAP users select implementation partners?

Select partners for cultural fit, innovation and industry expertise. When building a contract, make sure to detail expectations and goals up front to incent desired outcomes. And don't be afraid to revisit the basic assumptions that formed your partner strategy in the past, as your changed business environment likely means that you now have different priorities. For example, as you move into a growth phase, rapid deployment may now be at the top of your list.

b. What are the benefits of offshore IT service providers?

SAP users should take time to weigh internal IT makeup, skills, and strategic direction against third-party support models. Use offshore IT service providers to gain cost advantages and skills, especially where you're having trouble attracting and retaining the talent you need to support your growth strategy. While India will continue to be the dominant market, alternative geographies (such as European "near-shore" countries) can also be attractive in terms of time zone, language, and skill set benefits.

c. Isn't SAP late in developing a cloud strategy? What does this mean for SAP users?

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It's true that Oracle has the advantage of a single code base and architecture for both cloud and on-premise offerings. However, Forrester expects that SAP and its ecosystem partners will make strenuous efforts to catch up. Be sure to continually assess SAP SaaS/cloud options, and be sure to convey your requirements to SAP in no uncertain terms, to make sure SAP knows what it needs to do to not only keep, but grow its business in your shop.

2) How Well Is SAP Addressing Data Management And BI Requirements?

Information management has emerged as a hot topic and high priority for many global IT organizations today. Firms want to know how to capitalize on SAP's strengths, as well as how to mitigate weaknesses in technology domains like business intelligence (BI), data warehousing, data integration, data quality, metadata and master data management. Our advice to SAP clients is as follows:

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