This content is part of the Essential Guide: SAP Sapphire Now 2014: Special conference coverage

Free SAP Fiori excitement tempered by questions about true cost

SAP Fiori UI and apps are now free, but enthusiastic attendees at Sapphire Now were unsure how much development work is involved.

ORLANDO, Florida -- Users and industry analysts had mostly positive reactions to SAP's announcement that it would no longer charge for its Fiori user experience technology. But the reality that implementing "free" SAP Fiori could still be expensive wasn't lost on anyone, as questions lingered over cloud and middleware requirements.

"It's going to take some capital investment I wasn't anticipating," said CR Caton, director of ERP strategy at Verizon Services Corp. based in Ashburn, Virginia. Caton and his colleagues had just come from a chat on the show floor at last week's Sapphire Now conference with an SAP Fiori representative, where they learned they would need SAP NetWeaver Gateway middleware.

It's going to take some capital investment I wasn't anticipating.

CR Caton
director of ERP strategy, Verizon Services Corp.

SAP said NetWeaver Gateway and its OData protocol are mandatory components for running Fiori apps and announced that its River Rapid Development Environment will support the HANA Cloud Platform, which makes it suitable for creating or extending Fiori apps. The vendor also said it will offer user experiece (UX) advisory and implementation services for a separate fee.

CR Caton, director of ERP strategy, Verizon Services CorpCR Caton

Like Caton, two other potential users of SAP Fiori were excited about its claims to simplify interaction with complex applications but unsure how to implement it.

An application manager at a major oil company who did not want to be identified said, "We love the free Fiori," adding that his users complain about SAP not being user-friendly. "There are still a lot of things we're learning." Screen Personas -- Fiori's role-based personalized dashboards -- and its transactional apps for finance are of particular interest.

However, which apps will be available for on-premises deployment and which ones have to run in the cloud is a sticking point. "I was told that on-premises is coming, [but] they're evaluating whether they'll have [Fiori] for on-premises, non-HANA," he said. "Seventy-five percent of the Fiori applications require that you are using SAP HANA. They say that they are going to be 100% both: HANA, non-HANA."

Marion Pastor, global team lead for SAP finance and controlling at Cleveland-based welding company Lincoln Electric, said Fiori is "nice," but wondered how much time and expense is involved in getting it to work with SAP's latest finance software. "I want to know if the new [general] ledger has to be implemented to be able to use Fiori," she said. "For us to be able to do that at this point is going to be an undertaking."

Free SAP Fiori slogan wins over analysts

CEO Bill McDermott announced the change in SAP Fiori pricing to whoops and loud applause in his keynote speech to the conference. "Some of our customers, as well as our user groups, felt SAP shouldn't charge for it," McDermott said. "I agree. Now it's included. And if you already bought it, don't worry. We'll give you a credit."

The move came after months of growing complaints among SAP customers about the $150 per-user price for a perpetual license. Cindy Jutras, principal of Windham, New Hampshire-based consultancy Mint Jutras, said she heard the complaints -- many of which came from members of ASUG, the biggest SAP user group and co-sponsor of the conference.

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"The most solid pushback I heard was on the HCM [human capital management] side," Jutras said. "It was the same increased fee you had to pay, but you had to pay it by employee." With the policy change, users will get SAP Fiori for free as long as they already have licenses for the underlying applications. Some, however, will find that they also need HANA to get the full benefits of Fiori, she said.

But those benefits are substantial, according to Jutras. "One of the big misconceptions that people have is that Fiori [products] aren't applications, but they are," she said, referring to the 300-plus applications that SAP is also providing for free. SAP is going a step further by developing Fiori "cockpits" for managing business processes, including the material requirements planning dashboard that was demoed onstage and shows key metrics in the supply chain, such as part shortages.

Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said making SAP Fiori free was a good move that gives customers a more modern interface and easier software adoption. It also helps SAP encourage broader adoption of Fiori and allows it to bolster its conference theme of simplifying complex applications.

"This settles the question of what the value of being a maintenance-paying SAP customer is in [regard to] new innovations like Fiori," Mueller said. "Customers should nonetheless consider the business case for adopting Fiori, as license payments are only a small portion of overall enterprise software costs."

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