My Enterprise Advocates colleague Vinnie Mirchandani takes the high ground in a discussion about the forthcoming SAP Influencer Summit conference juxtaposed to the Sapience event. As is often the case, Vinnie addresses the issue square on. Here's a taster:
I am presenting mostly on how to manage systems integration, application management, hosting, upgrade costs around SAP. Some of these line items have been out of control for a long time, and others look bloated compared to emerging cloud metrics. SAP customers who have no intention of uprooting SAP have every intention in managing these costs (which can make up 70 to 90% of TCO in an SAP shop). How is that anti-SAP?
The last few weeks I have fielded many questions from investment bankers keen to know whether SAP will get the price increase on maintenance it signaled back in July 2008. They see things through a single and often ill informed lens. SAP is way more complex than top line quarter driven sales suggest. It's hard to stomach but they seem willing to come back for more. Why? Blind faith or fundamental analysis informing them of multiples that defy competitors glittering PR?
Earlier this month, fellow Advocate Ray Wang addressed the issue of value from SAP innovation. To my eternal shame, I cherry picked Ray's UK user group presentation that led some to assume he was slamming the company when in reality he was drawing attention to innovations that customers are not consuming. As sure as night follows day media attention focused on the negatives without any depth of analysis or understanding about user needs.
The last couple of days I've listened to a woefully ill informed 'analyst' paraded as a SaaS/cloud 'expert' diss'ing SAP's Business ByDesign. It turns out said person isn't part of the SAP analyst program and hasn't done the sort of deep dive Brian Sommer and I prepared a while back. Go figure.
This evening I was unable to take a SAP Mentor call that would have touched upon Constellation, a melding of business analytics and social computing with the promise of contextual relevance that has huge potential to drive value. Instead I see a poorly informed editorial on the topic conflated against Google Wave. I had to respond against what I believe is claptrap spoken about one of the great IT companies.
Shock - horror - the curmudgeon's curmudgeon doing an about face? Not at all. I called up my SAP Mentor leader and explained that trying to participate in a multi-way mentor call while driving through the southern Spanish highlands was probably not a great idea. At the same time I expressed my displeasure at the dim witted and contrary SAP PR effort in keeping Constellation under wraps when I already know that large, global business reps are developing superb value add ideas.
Here's the reality. SAP has developed the best and most open blogger/analyst program of any software company I know. When I suggest they might wish to include this or that person, they usually listen but with incisive questions about the person's credentials. SAP takes the good with the bad, calls me out when I'm wrong (correctly) yet continues to provide C-level and increasingly unfettered customer access. When I am particularly miffed they listen and try to fix. In times past I would be lucky to get the call. That's either a good thing or sado-masochistic. You decide.
What SAP's program does is provide us with a rich tapestry of opinion against which we can offer the kind of analysis that is not necessarily comfortable yet hopefully reflective of a company that is trying hard even though it appears to be failing. But then you have to ask this: For all the negatives SAP has to endure, will you bet against a 35+ year survivor with $18 billion in revenue that for all its faults continues to put its hand out to its sharpest critics?
In thinking about Vinnie's analysis I was minded of the griping conversations I had with user group members last week. He's right. While there is plenty of room to grumble, I didn't hear a single company ask how they'd move away from SAP. They might wish to augment with cloud/SaaS offerings but that is far and away agin' the notion they'll be taken out. Oh - and did you hear about SAP trying to shed its 'not invented here' stance?
Bringing this bang up to date, I said to the analyst I met yesterday: "Even in Zach Nelson (CEO Netsuite's) wildest dreams, he would not declare SAP victory in any of the markets he's choosing to compete." He said so to me on video. Vinnie's version:
Zach is one of the most realistic CEOs I have met. He knows there are business functions, certain locations where SAP customers cannot justify the SAP footprint where he has a shot in the SAP customer base. Will he replace SAP at headquarters in large customers? Highly unlikely any time soon.
And that even though I playfully gave Zach the audience punchline: "Buy Netsuite."
Let's not get ahead of ourselves people. Instead let's recognize that while SAP has one position and Advocates have another, there is no 'anti-SAP' sentiment in play. That would be nonsensical. This is a company that for all its faults is prepared to listen and kind of act on what critics say. Can you say the same of Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Infor....???
Re-iterated disclosure: I am an SAP Mentor. SAP has been a past client and on attended events pays my T&E. I have executed no paid for work with the company in the last 12 months.