“The crisis accelerates the trend towards the cloud”, Franck Cohen (Workday)

Franck Cohen, one of the most important figures at SAP in Europe for 10 years, had retired. However, the pull of the ERP and his friend Chano Fernandez – Co-CEO of Workday – will have been strongest. Franck Cohen fell again. The opportunity for us – and for all CIOs – to benefit from his analysis, which is both detailed and synthetic for the sector.

Continuation of the article below

In the first part of this exclusive exchange with LeMagIT, he came back to the underlying reasons that make it difficult for historical publishers, including SAP, to “tarnish” themselves.
In this second part, Franck Cohen decodes the strategy that led SAP to develop HANA, the evolution of the ERP market for very large groups, and why Workday managed to break into a trend that was very favorable for cloud ERP. .

SAP HANA: a technical success, but an opportunity for competition

LeMagIT: But SAP wanted to do a clean thing with HANA? Is it a mistake in fundamentally reinventing SAP?

Franck Cohen: No. First of all, I think HANA is a huge success technically. You have to say it as it is. It’s an excellent database, in memory, in columns, with lots of innovations and patents pending. HANA questions the status quo and the influence of Oracle in this area.

It was the idea elsewhere. For me, HANA is the first database that confuses all of this a little. She kicks the anthill.

“The fundamental point to understand about HANA […] is that all existing ERP systems were designed with the limitations of relational databases in mind. “Franck Cohen Workday

The fundamental point to understand HANA, and therefore everything has been rightly rewritten, is that all existing ERP systems have been developed with the limitations of relational foundations in mind. Since we cannot query millions of data elements in all directions, we had to create intermediate aggregates – at all levels – in case a person asked the question about sales by country, by category of products, etc. This data had to be available somewhere.

All systems are therefore littered with indices and aggregates in order to solve the problem of response times for large amounts of information.

Hence the idea of ​​a basis that enables an immediate response regardless of the volume of data, without the need for aggregates. With HANA and S / 4HANA you can attack data directly.

The also consistent idea was to move from an agnostic vision to a more proprietary vision. Today SAP offers its own database and nothing else.

LeMagIT: Yes, but this is exactly what its competitors point out, who see HANA as an opportunity …: “As long as you carry out a migration (and not an update), you can also see what needs to be changed on the market,” we say You. Is that how you see it now that you’re at Workday?

Franck Cohen: It is a reflection that seems legitimate to me.

I really think S / 4HANA brings performance benefits to SAP customers. There is no doubt. The code is also more compact. It’s easier to manage and easier to customize. There are certain advantages.

The fact remains that when we talk about a technical migration, it effectively gives the company the opportunity to look for other solutions. And that’s very good! It seems to me that being in competition is always good. A monopoly – or forced migration – is never good.

Today’s benefit to having SAP and wondering about S / 4 is that you have the option to also look at Oracle and Workday, which are the other two viable options in large enterprises. It is good for everyone.

Working day, alone in the backyard of SAP and Oracle

LeMagIT: You say “the” two alternatives, not “two alternatives”. Are there no others for you (Infor or Microsoft Dynamics for example)?

Franck Cohen: In my experience, it’s very rare for Tier 1 and Fortune 500 to see anything other than SAP, Oracle or today’s Workday. Objectively there is no one else. Microsoft Dynamics is more intended for subsidiaries of large groups or smaller companies. In addition, until recently, Microsoft used SAP itself.

“For me there are only three main players in the Fortune 500, although there may be exceptions depending on the industry and region. “Franck Cohen Workday

Franck Cohen: Be careful, I’m not saying Infor, Microsoft, and a whole host of other ERPs are not viable. They are perfectly fine, but for SMEs / SMEs / ETIs with a turnover of 1 or 2 billion. If we make 15 or 20 billion, they are no longer suitable. Firstly, they do not have sufficient functional and technical coverage. And then they have limitations that stem from their past: They come from small businesses. SAP, Workday and Oracle come from large companies.

In addition, today we find a lot of working day in the Fortunes 100, for personnel management and now for the financial part. So for me there are really three main players in the Fortune 500, although there may be exceptions depending on the industry and region.

LeMagIT: In your opinion, what is Workday doing successfully against the other two “big boys”?

Franck Cohen: Workday has an advantage in this fight. Although it is the smallest of the three, it is technically the most modern solution. It’s the only one built for the cloud from the start.

“The working day has an advantage in this struggle. Although it is the smallest of the three, it is technically the most modern solution. “Franck Cohen Workday

For example, at the heart of Workday is a tool that is not very well known and not very “sales-oriented”, but which is very interesting and symbolic of it. It’s a configuration tool called the Workday Business Process Framework. [N.D.R. : WBPF]. [WBPF] This option allows you to change the processes in real time. You can change the settings, add tests, rules, etc. During this crisis phase, companies that had to close factories could develop new workflows or change their decision-making process almost instantly. And without having to keep a data center open.

With SAP or Oracle, most of which customers use an “on prem” ERP, the offices had to be kept open because in certain cases it was necessary to be physically close to the computer to close accounts are located. It works like this. Furthermore, most of the workflow changes required very specific development or configuration that is not accessible to the user. For me, WBPF shows a real difference in terms of agility.

In all honesty, I think the recent crisis will accelerate the cloud trend. Which is a big plus for Workday.

LeMagIT: Is Workday really one step ahead of your vision for S / 4HANA in cloud mode or in Oracle Fusion?

Franck Cohen: Let’s say it’s in the way they built their stack.