Strategic Tradeoffs At SAP

During this week’s Sapphire conference SAP co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott repeatedly stated that their goal is to make SAP the market leader for on-device, on-premises, and on-demand enterprise solutions. This very bold statement raises two simple questions:

  1. With what products and values does SAP want to be the leader? Does the company want to win the technical innovation race or the business optimization and intimacy race?
  2. How does the leadership goal translate into meaningful operational commitments? Does SAP have the determination and resources required to win in all categories? 

We don’t have clear answers to these questions, but the next couple of months will show whether and how this goal translates into organizational capabilities. Right now, we just need to wait with patience for the next change and live with the — hopefully incorrect — impression that SAP is pursuing three strategic tracks simultaneously: intimacy, innovation, and growth.

I strongly agree with Paul Hamerman, who recently observed that SAP's success as a company will be a function of how well it looks after the best interests of customers and how it links innovation to customer value — not growth.

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