Local Sybase offices wait for global green light

SAP acquisition presents overwhelming opportunity for local Sybase operations

A month after SAP finalised the $US5.8 billion acquisition of mobility and data warehousing company Sybase, local offices are waiting for the proverbial green light to begin integration.

Sybase’s managing director of Australia and New Zealand, Dereck Daymond, told Computerworld Australia that staff were excited about the transition and that plans were in motion to see better integration and collaboration between the two companies.

“What we’re going to be doing within the next couple of weeks and it’s kicking off right now, a lot of the SAP architects are going to be going on training, we’re starting to do a lot of cross-training across the board as to how do these products work, how do you position them, every sales person in SAP is going to be able to demo these mobile applications to their customers, so that is going to be spread out across the board,” he said.

Daymond said he expected the regular infrastructure and back-end equipment would be consolidated under SAP globally, but that the acquisition wouldn’t significantly affect Sybase personnel beyond cross-training with SAP products for the short term.

While local Sybase offices “aren’t in limbo”, the company is waiting on a go-to-market strategy from global headquarters, something Daymond said he expects within a few weeks, but that would likely only happen once executives determine how to differentiate between the two companies and their products.

SAP Co-CEOs, Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott, met with Sybase CEO, John Chen, and SAP President of Asia Pacific Japan region, Steve Watt, this week to lay out the integration and business plans of the acquisition following a similar meeting held for the US region last month. At the Asia Pacific press conference held for regional media, both the SAP Co-CEOs and Sybase’s Chen stressed the necessity for Sybase to operate as an independent subsidiary of its parent company, while also affirming the importance of the BRIC countries - Brazil, India and China - to both company’s expansion plans over coming years.

Analysts predict the companies will spend the first three months determining the right combination of product portfolios between Sybase and SAP, and how to deal with the overlap that exists between the two, although executives stress this is minimal. They also saw little confirmation in how exactly the existing Sybase suite of products would be used, but the Asia Pacific Japan meeting this week in Beijing, China saw Chen commit to a nine-month timeframe for the first mobile middleware platform based on SAP, rather than the previous Oracle, databases.

A software development kit (SDK) released alongside the platform is expected to afford developers the ability to link existing SAP back-end databases and information to Sybase’s mobile front-end without actually porting the SAP applications to mobile devices.

“One thing that SAP has realised that we have to get into is the concept of consumability. If you think Gen X and the way they consumed applications and business functionality in their organisation, it’s very different to the way that the Gen Y and the ‘Millennium Kids’ will actually consume technology,” John Goldrick, SAP director of the industry and solutions group for Australia and New Zealand, said.

“What Sybase give to SAP is a whole raft of ways of addressing consumability in the marketplace that we weren’t involved in before or, if we were involved in, we were dependent on partners like Sybase, like some of our other partners to actually provide us that capability. What we get is we get to expand from where we are internally in organisations to expand externally in organisations, and from us that’s a huge leap forward.”

For Sybase, the acquisition yields huge benefits too. Chen told members of the Beijing meeting that the mobility company would be able to move out of the financial and telecommunications verticals that had become its stablemates, and into any of the 22 different verticals in which SAP was already a leader in its own right. The delivery of SAP back-end applications through Sybase’s platform would likely be leveraged to use that opportunity, one that Daymond said had already registered a “tremendous amount of interest” locally.

“People are curious and our job is to get out there and try and educate people as to what we actually bring to the party,” he said.

Though known for its mobility aspects, Daymond said other core aspects of the company’s product portfolio - including business analytics, data warehousing, and the monopoly Sybase holds on SMS and MMS message switching - were yet to gain as much traction in Australia.

Nevertheless, the opportunities presented to Sybase through the acquisition remain a key point for Daymond.

“We’re taking it carefully because they are a much bigger organisation than we are so we don’t want to get swamped by it,” he said of SAP. “As Sybase we can’t cater for all of the demand and there was never the intention that we would.”

The issue of what potential increase in remuneration could be delivered to Sybase employees as a result of the extra workload is yet to be resolved.

“Compensation drives behaviour as we all know, people will work on things that they know they’re going to get paid for and they’re not going to work on things that they know they’re not going to get paid for.”

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