To some of the high priests of SAP punditry, the departure of John Wookey in mid-April was apocalyptic. Wookey had been leading SAP’s fledgling Line of Business OnDemand applications team: His steady demeanor and business-software knowledge was deemed by some analysts as necessary to launch the products that were helping to morph the Old SAP into the New SAP.
Other SAP watchers, however, felt that life would go on at SAP—that SAP’s bench was deep enough that Wookey’s departure would ultimately amount to inside baseball conjecture. After all, Wookey’s boss, Peter Lorenz, was still at the helm. And a lot of the heavy lifting had been done on OnDemand—Sales OnDemand, for instance, was getting some decent reviews from analysts who were given a sneak peak.
True, Wookey was (well, still is, of course) a swell guy who knew the business. He just decided to leave SAP (for family reasons) a bit prematurely than most probably expected, which included his replacement.
“It did surprise me,” says Kevin Nix, who was named the new head of Line of Business OnDemand Solutions on July 25. Nix came to SAP in 2009 when SAP acquired Skydata Systems, which built mobile business apps and Nix had cofounded. The SAP executive sponsor of the acquisition? John Wookey.
To say that Nix is a Wookey disciple might be bit of a stretch, but they do have a history together (at Siebel, for instance). During his first major interview in his new role, Nix praises his predecessor’s work. The immediate path that Nix and his team of more than a hundred SAPers will follow with Line of Business OnDemand products, he says, will largely be the route that Wookey charted.
“The vision he had for CRM, and ultimately for all the Line of Business products, was exactly the right vision,” Nix says. “The time is now to build a different type of application that, while still addresses the needs of the business, places even more emphasis on the needs of the individual trying to get his work done.”
Why Nix Is Bullish on Line of Business Apps
The SAP Line of Business OnDemand product set consists of just two today: Sourcing OnDemand and Sales OnDemand. (Travel expense management and talent management offerings are supposed to launch during the next year.)
Sales OnDemand, in particular, has garnered a lot of attention. It’s certainly an area in need of fresh thinking: Salespeople are notorious for their reluctance to use CRM and sales-force automation systems; and when they do, they’re also known to have little time or regard for data quality. Nix is aware of the historic difficulties, including an overreliance on email as the de facto sales-management system.
And yet he’s bullish on Sales OnDemand because it adds a social dynamic layer to actual sales activities, dedicated private work spaces for salespeople and built-in analytics capabilities that provide contextual data to both individuals and sales teams. Context is everything, he contends, because Sales OnDemand can now show salespeople how it’s “actually helping them do their job.”
Nix sees two areas for OnDemand software expansion. The first is what he calls hybrid CRM solutions—similar to two-tier (or subsidiary) rollouts of OnDemand apps that connect back to the SAP CRM 7 on-premise mothership back at HQ.
The other is mobility, which is no surprise given his background. During the interview, I presented him with an example of what many SAP customers are facing: IT knows all about the mobility imperative; but for various reasons, many have yet to dive into mobile applications and related initiatives. (At a recent ASUG New England chapter meeting, an audience show of hands verified this trend.)
Nix is sympathetic to their plight. “It’s impossible to ignore [the mobility imperative] given how fast and successful devices are being launched,” he says. IT’s reluctance stems from the fact that initial forays into mobility—before iPhones and App Stores—were “science projects, with heavy IT involvement” and “the cost structure was prohibitive,” Nix says. “You couldn’t get a business case.”
Today, however, it’s a different story, he claims: Out-of-the-box functionality has become the norm, and the science projects are the exception. SAP sees no reason why well-designed business apps shouldn’t be enterprise ready, he says. The vision, which Nix says he and Wookey have discussed in the past, is to make downloading an enterprise app as easy as downloading a ring tone.
Is SAP Really Committed to OnDemand?
In a recent video, SAP watchers Jon Reed and Dennis Howlett debated the merits of Sales OnDemand, among other topics. (Both had been given separate briefings and demos on it.) Reed and Howlett alternately praise and criticize the new application in the video. To Reed, one question rises above all: “I’m still waiting to see how serious SAP is with these Line of Business solutions,” he says.
That, in fact, is a viewpoint that Nix addresses when asked what the biggest misconception about Line of Business OnDemand applications are. “That SAP is not committed to SAP OnDemand,” Nix says.
As to the question of what Wookey-driven strategies he will change, Nix says the changes will be minimal.
“I think the world of John, and many of the successes that myself and the team will get credit for are in large part due to what he did,” Nix says. “The [OnDemand] trajectory [set by Wookey] is one I plan to continue with and with very little modification. He had them all going in the right direction.”