I suppose some of my colleagues in the SAP field would consider me a rather blunt fellow because I always try to convert the fancy diplomatic messages I am confronted with into plain text. Sometimes I can be a bit slow and it takes me a long time until I figure out what something really means. Let me share my newest discovery and entry in the Geek’s Dictionary: The Walldorf Kiss of Death.
The Walldorf Kiss of Death is what occurs when SAP announces that they are really tired of something and would everyone like to know that they will henceforth ignore it whenever possible, but nevertheless honours all legally or otherwise binding obligations around it.
In the technology area, it occurs when they consider a technology so out-dated or non-strategic that they would love to throw it away and never give it a second thought, but acknowledge that it has adoption among customers whose investment must be protected. Henceforth, they will support it, i.e. handle OSS messages and fix bugs in Support Packages, Notes, and Corrections. But they will usually not use it in new developments or add features, no matter how hard customers cry for them.
So how do you know when something has been given the Kiss of Death by SAP? Well, the next time you talk with an SAP executive or someone else who has insight into SAP’s strategies and the obligation to be diplomatic, and you ask about a particular technology that may or may not be on the death list, watch out for the key phrase:
“…will be/stay/remain with us for a long time.”
That is, in my experience, how they rhetorically apply the Kiss of Death.
On a related note, the German employees of SAP became really nervous when then-CEO Léo Apotheker said in an interview that
“We achieve about 80 percent of our sales outside Germany. But our roots are in Walldorf, and we don't want to cut them off. Otherwise we'll lose our identity.”
The Walldorf engineers must have been afraid that this would be their kiss of death, their ticket to obsolescence, and right they were. Thankfully, Léo’s successors did not follow up on that.
Now, with SAP TechEd 2010 Berlin and Las Vegas right behind us and Bangalore ahead, it is high Walldorf Kiss of Death season, so watch out for all those announcements about the long-term commitment to technologies that smell funny.
By the way, if you ever read Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Singularity is Near”, you will find very similar phrases in his ideas on how the robotic descendants of mankind will regard their biological predecessors: We will always be special to them, and we will stay with them for a long time.