Can SAP learn to speak SME with A1S?

SAP faces tough challenges as it prepares for the September 19 launch of A1S, code name for the company's new small business offering, to be delivered in the form of software as a service (SaaS). A1S represents SAP's hope to expand into the important small and medium enterprise (SME) market.

SAP faces tough challenges as it prepares for the September 19 launch of A1S, code name for the company's new small business offering, to be delivered in the form of software as a service (SaaS). A1S represents SAP's hope to expand into the important small and medium enterprise (SME) market. While SAP faces competition from established SaaS vendors, such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite, that's not the company's biggest problem. No, the real threat lies within SAP itself, and consists of this big vendor's challenge to reinvent itself as company genuinely friendly and attractive to small customers. SAP's small business initiatives date back at least ten years, when AcceleratedSAP (ASAP) was developed to reduce implementation time and cost. SAP's initiatives for small and medium companies continued through the nineties and on to the present day, with programs such as SAP All-in-One, Business One, and PartnerEdge. Despite efforts to become small-friendly, SAP has been unable to shake its reputation for being big, rigid and difficult to deploy. Fellow ZDNet blogger and Enterprise Irregular, Josh Greenbaum, recently called SAP "liquid concrete," in reference to this "bigness" problem. Following this line of reasoning, a reader of this blog comments:

There's an interesting article about SAP this week in the German magazine Spiegel. The deputy CEO of SAP [Léo Apotheker], who can speak several languages fluently, states in it that he is now having to learn the language of the "Mittelstand" (medium sized businesses). One imagines him hearing such things as "zu teuer, zu kompliziert, wie viel Berater?!" (too expensive, too complicated, how many consultants?!) and responding "I'm sorry, I don't really understand what you mean, you'll have to run that one by me again".
The big A1S question is simple: can SAP learn to speak SME fluently? [Disclaimer: I was CEO of the company which developed the AcceleratedSAP tools, and its successors, for SAP.]

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