A number of Forrester analysts from the Asia Pacific region attended the recent SAP analyst event in Singapore. Meetings with SAP global and regional executives and a large number of detailed breakout sessions over the 1½-day event all clearly indicate that SAP is continuing to try and reposition itself as a true generalized application platform player.
At the core of (almost all) initiatives is the HANA in-memory database technology. Whatever the problem, HANA will solve it (said with tongue planted very firmly in cheek). While the technology clearly has immediate performance benefits, particularly for existing SAP clients, net-new customers will likely need to compare the value of SAP’s offerings with others much more seriously.
Insufficient flexibility for business customization, poor ease of use, and long implementation have become major complaints about SAP’s core products by many SAP clients in China. Despite SAP’s wide adoption by large enterprises in China, including Nongfu Spring (the first one in APAC using HANA — in-memory computing platform — in production) and Sinopec (ranked No. 5 in Fortune 500 in 2012), these client issues are problems for SAP for its continued expansion into the China market. SAP uses its SAP Labs network across the globe to deliver local market-oriented solutions for different geographies. In my recent visit to SAP Labs China, one of the four hub labs that drive corporate product strategy and execution of global projects, I found that SAP is taking the right steps to integrate local requirements and deliver product capabilities that address the above issues:
Solutions customized for China regulations and business practices. SAP Labs China developed not only localized solutions for general purpose such as Golden Tax features, which is mandated by the Chinese government for its interfacing national taxing system, but also key solutions for local industries such as business real estate, international commerce, public finance, and healthcare.
More ease of use. To solve the ease-of-use problem, including the user interface look and feel and usage behavior of the product, SAP Labs China reinvented finance user experience and business processes for Chinese customers, and it also optimized the user interface for its human resource module.
SAP is advertising for a new Director Of Pricing & Licensing. The job description states “The Strategic Pricing Director is a key member of SAP’s Revenue Strategy and Pricing Group. Pricing is a critical component of SAP’s overall strategy and go-to-market activities.” Duties include:
· Develop and implement pricing strategies based on economic and competitive dynamics.
· Price products and services appropriately based on the value customers receive.
· Define and drive pricing strategy for new and/or existing solutions.
IMO, SAP does many things very well in the pricing and licensing domain. I cite it to other publishers as an exemplar of best practices in a couple of areas, such as its pricing by user category, use of business metrics for parts of the suite that deliver value independent of manual use, and tying maintenance volume discounts to conditions such as centers of excellence that filter out users’ basic support calls. However, SAP does have room for improvement, in terms of Forrester’s five qualities of good software pricing, namely that it should be value-based, simple, fair, future-proof, and published.
Considering those goals, and as an advocate for software buyers, here are some things that I’d like SAP to add to the job description:
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.
The big news in the ePurchasing software market yesterday was SAP’s acquisition of Ariba. This blockbuster deal will extend SAP’s position as the largest software vendor in the ePurchasing market. It also brings into the SAP fold one of the most innovative companies in this market – a company that has a fair claim to having begun the whole market in the late 1990s.
Still, as my title suggests, I’m not convinced that this acquisition makes strategic sense. I think there’s a real risk that this turns out to be a deal where one plus one equals 1.75, not two, let alone a multiple of two. Reason one: the tremendous duplication of products between the two firms, and thus the problems of product rationalization and internal competition. Reason two: the Ariba Network, which is the main rationale for the acquisition, is based on an idiosyncratic pricing model that in my view is unsustainable at current rates and thus will not generate the kinds of revenues that SAP is expecting.
Let me first state the case for why this could be a good deal:
SAP has a goal of significantly increasing the portion of its revenues that come from SaaS subscriptions, so adding a projected $342 million in subscriptions revenues in 2012 (on an annual basis – SAP’s share for the year will be about half that) helps SAP reach its target of $2 billion in SaaS revenues.
Ariba has correctly recognized the economic value in operating a supplier network that stands between corporate buyers and suppliers and facilitates their transactions. SAP’s acquisition of Ariba now gives it control of and revenues from the largest of these supplier networks.
At SAP SAPPHIRE (SAP’s biggest user conference, May 14–16), SAP announced that it has deployed more than 1,400 instances of Rapid Deployment Solutions (RDS) at more than 1,000 unique customers. These solutions help customers deploy SAP modules in as short as a few weeks at a reduced price point by productizing typical configurations. SAP boasts cost savings typically in the 20% to 40% range versus similar deployments that do not utilize RDS.
SAP has more than 70 of these solutions currently available. Additional solutions are available through partners like Accenture and TCS. RDS solutions are available in a wide range of areas like CRM, Sourcing, Financials, and even SAP HANA.
SAP positions these solutions as “lego-like,” meaning that customers can build one on top of the other and can customize and extend as much or as little as they want.
Our take? These RDS solutions are a great way for companies to quickly realize value out of SAP, an issue which has long plagued the SAP community. Even clients who need to go far beyond what an RDS offers and create a much more customized deployment might be able to jump-start their project with an RDS. However, these offerings are not available in all horizontal or vertical areas. SAP customers who want a complete solution heavily tailored for their industry-specific needs will likely need to turn to SAP’s ecosystem of pre-built solutions, rather than lighter-weight RDS offerings.
Around 60,000 global movers and shakers of all things mobile once again descended upon Barcelona to attend the leading annual mobility event, the Mobile World Congress (MWC). This year’s main themes centered on metadata analytics, the customer experience, and over-the top business models:
The big data opportunity fueled the fantasies of almost all MWC attendees. In the case of telcos, data analytics is seen as the driver for improving the customer experience and developing new markets. Telcos talked a lot about the opportunities of analysing user behavior and turning user data into the new operator currency. The context- and location-aware nature of mobile solutions makes the big data opportunity particularly attractive. However, despite the talk, there were practically no case studies of operators that have succeeded in monetizing data on a large scale. Progress regarding data monetization is slowed down by a lack of clear business models, but also by an OSS/BSS infrastructure that does not support real-time or near real-time analytics. Moreover, privacy concerns also act as a drag on the uptake of data analytics. Equipment vendors such as Nokia Siemens Networks, meanwhile, showcased their customer experience management and analytics solutions for telcos. The solution combines analytics and the actions that operators must take to correct or improve the end user experience, such as a level one call handler pushing the correct settings to a phone or a marketing manager setting up a marketing campaign.
Oracle Corporation announced its purchase of Taleo for $1.9 billion on Feb. 9, 2012, signaling a major shift in its stance on software-as-a-service (SaaS) and talent management applications. The transaction is expected to close midyear 2012, subject to regulatory and stockholder approvals.
Oracle has long held a “we can build it better” position on talent management, learning, and recruitment applications but struggled to compete with best-of-breed talent management vendors like SuccessFactors (recently acquired by rival SAP), Taleo, Kenexa, Cornerstone, and SumTotal Systems. Oracle has been reticent to offer these (or any other) applications via SaaS, preferring a licensed/on-premises business model that provides early revenue recognition versus the deferred revenue model of SaaS.
In fact, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been outspoken in his anti-SaaS stance in recent years, changing his posture somewhat with the Oracle Public Cloud announcement at last October’s Oracle OpenWorld conference. Meanwhile, the HR apps market shifted overwhelmingly to the SaaS (subscription-based) deployment model, which has become virtually ubiquitous in recruitment, learning, and talent management and is also growing in core HRMS via ADP, Ultimate Software, and Workday.
By acquiring Taleo, Oracle puts itself back in the game for SaaS recruiting and talent management. Taleo is a market leader in recruitment automation and has a competitive portfolio of products across performance, compensation, and learning management. The $1.9 billion deal price is more than six times Taleo’s 2011 annual revenues of $309 million, a high premium but substantially less than the $3.4 billion and 11-times revenues that SAP recently paid for SuccessFactors.
The proposed acquisitions of SuccessFactors by SAP, and of Emptoris by IBM got me thinking about the impact on buyers of market consolidation, in respect of the difference between dealing with independent specialists versus technology giants selling a large portfolio of products and services. Sourcing professionals talk about wanting “one throat to choke,” but personally I’ve never met one with hands big enough to get round the neck of a huge vendor such as IBM or Oracle. Moreover, many of the giants organize their sales teams by product line, to ensure they fully understand the product they are selling, rather than giving customers one account manager for the whole portfolio who may not understand any of it in sufficient depth. Our clients complain about having to deal with just as many reps as before the acquisitions. They all now have the same logo on their business card, but can’t fix problems outside their area, nor negotiate based on the complete relationship. It seems that buyers end up like Hercules, wrestling either with a Nemean lion or with a Lernaean hydra.
The acquirers' press releases tend to take it for granted that customers will be better off with the one-stop shop. Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP, said, “Together, SAP and SuccessFactors will create tremendous business value for customers.” While Lars Dalgaard, founder and CEO of SuccessFactors, talks about “expanding relationships with SAP’s 176,000 customers.” Craig Hayman, general manager of industry solutions at IBM, said, “Adding Emptoris strengthens the comprehensive capabilities we deliver and enables IBM to meet the specific needs of chief procurement officers."