Just three months after SAP acquired SuccessFactors, a cloud leader for human capital management solutions, for $3.4 billion, it has now announced the acquisition of Ariba, a cloud leader for eProcurement solutions, for another $4.3 billion. Now, $7.7 billion is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time on two companies that hardly make any profit. But it’s all for the cloud, which means it’s for the future business opportunity in cloud computing services. So far, so good; SAP has invested and acquired quite a number of cloud companies over the past years: Frictionless, Clear Standards, Crossgate, etc. The difference in this most recent acquisition is the big overlap with existing solutions and internal R&D.
Following the first wave of cloud acquisitions, SAP was sitting amid a zoo of cloud solutions, all based on different platforms: ePurchasing, CRM-OnDemand, BI-OnDemand, Carbon Impact, ByDesign, Streamwork . . . They all used very different technology, resulting in big integration and scale challenges behind the scenes. The market welcomed with open arms SAP’s announcement 1.5 years ago that it would consolidate its cloud strategy on the new NetWeaver platform for both ABAP- and Java-based cloud solutions.
Lurking in the tech channel shadows are the various manifestations of the newly emerging e-channel: online application stores, online communities, group buying sites, and e-purchasing services. For example, the number of small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) that sourced software products from online application stores increased almost 40% from 2009 to 2010. (I’ll publish the 2011 channel numbers next quarter.)
Joining the application store ranks of Intuit Marktplace, NetSuite SuiteApp.com, and salesforce.com AppExchange this year have been Adobe Marketplace, Cisco AppHQ, Constant Contact Marketplace, Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, and Microsoft Office 365 Marketplace. Online communities OfficeArrow, OpenForum, and Spiceworks now offer software products. You could imagine e-purchasing services, like Rearden Commerce and Concur, expanding their travel services domain to other B2B products and services (like software). And this is just the tip of the iceberg – believe me, there are a lot more tech vendors and communities that will launch e-channels in the next six months.
All this e-channel activity, from both the provider and customer sides, has got to toll a warning bell for traditional channel companies – and their vendor partners, who have to keep them appeased. Perhaps most vulnerable are the DMRs (direct market resellers) (although the DMR gorilla, CDW, is taking strategic steps to expand its services portfolio in becoming more of a solutions provider).
I’ll be researching the impact of this emerging e-channel further, so if you have ideas or perspective to help guide my research, please share.
Many of the case studies you've seen me write about are B2C. But in the report on ROI of Social Media, I gathered data on B2B companies too. Here's a list of B2B communities.
Many people know Intel by their catch tune, "Inside Intel." And what's inside are the most amazing microprocessors that allow us to do great things back 25 years ago people could only imagine. Key to having been an innovator is always innovating. Intel- when they first came out with a new chip-- think back to the 286 processor and then transition to the 386. They met with some resistance in getting computer manufactuers to be interested in the chip. Why would you need more computing power?
So instead of staying stuck or ditching the product, Intel brought together a multidisciplinary team of individuals to tackle the problem. The net-net is that the team realized that its the end-user who is really their customer! when they went into computer shops and talked to the customers, they asked, "Would you like to be able to have many files open at once? Would you like to be able to run graphics programs, plays games, etc...." The customers responded positively with, "Of course we would!" That drove the computer store operators to tell the computer manufacturers to get those intel chips in their computers. Ah... I love that "voice of the customer" story.
But what I love more is that Intel innovated, why? Because they listened. That's a skill most companies don't have. And with social media, Intel has put their listening on dual processor tubro charged power. They know that their ability to innovate and lead the market is based on harnessing the power, knowledge and collaboration among customers, resellers, etc.. and Intel.