SAP Has Managed A Turnaround After Léo Apotheker’s Departure
In February 2010, after Léo Apotheker resigned as CEO of SAP, I wrote a blog post with 10 predictions for the company for the remaining year. Although the new leadership mentioned again and again that this step would not have any influence on the company’s strategy, it was clear that further changes would follow, as it doesn’t make any sense to simply replace the CEO and leave everything else as is when problems were obviously growing bigger for the company.
I predicted that the SAP leadership change was just the starting point, the visible tip of an iceberg, with further changes to come. Today, one year later, I want to review these predictions and shed some light on 2010, which has become the “Turnaround Year For SAP.”
The 10 SAP Predictions For 2010 And Their Results (7 proved true / 3 proved wrong)
It's nice to see that SAP has managed the turnaround to leave the recession behind and pick up growth again. The company reported a strong 34% SW revenue growth in Q4 2010 as compared with the previous year - "The strongest software sales quarter in SAP's history" as stated by Co-CEO Bill McDermott. However, one has to keep in mind that one year ago SAP was in deep crisis and reported a YoY -15% SW revenue decline in Q4 2009 followed by the departure of CEO Léo Apotheker in February 2010 and other subsequent executive changes.
Indeed Q4 2010 was the strongest SW sales quarter in SAP's history but the fourth quarter is always the strongest in SAP's annual sales cycle. Actually Q4 SW revenue declined for 2 years since 2007 (€1,4 billion) to 2008 (€1,3 billion) to 2009 (€1,1 billion), and it was about time to turn around the curve again. While Q4 2010 was the best SW revenue quarter, the full year 2010 was still not the best in SAP's history. In 2007, SAP reported total SW revenues of $3,4 billion, followed by 2008 (€3,6 billion), 2009 (€2,6 billion), and now total SW revenue 2010 with €3,3 billion – SW revenues are still below the level of 2007! While total revenue (€12,5 billion) looks to be back on track, net new SW license revenue still remains a challenging point in SAP's balance sheet!
The new Q4 2010 revenue announcement is a very positive and promising signal, but the company needs to continue to innovate its portfolio to accelerate again new SW revenues for long-term sustained growth.
SAP customers shouldn't worry about the financial hit. SAP can pay the damages without having to rein back R&D. The pain may also stimulate it to greater competition with Oracle, both commercially and technologically, which will be beneficial for IT buyers.
Was the award fair? Well, IANAL, so I can't answer that. But my question is, if the basis of the award was "if you take something from someone and you use it, you have to pay", as the juror said, does that mean SAP gets to keep the licenses for which the court is forcing it to pay?
The $1.3 billion verdict in the Oracle v. SAP case is surprising, given that the third-party support subsidiary of SAP, TomorrowNow, was fixing glitches and making compliance updates, not trying to resell the software. The jury felt that the appropriate damage award was based on the fair market value of the software that was illegally downloaded, rather than Oracle’s lost revenues for support.
A news article by Bloomberg provides further insight into the jury’s thinking and the legal process. Quoting juror Joe Bangay, an auto body technician: “If you take something from someone and you use it, you have to pay.” Perhaps SAP should have made its case more in layman’s terms.
SAP is in a very difficult position, in that it faces the same threat of revenue loss from third-party support. It was unable to convincingly defend its entry into the third-party support business for fear of legitimizing a business that poses a similar threat to its lucrative maintenance business as to Oracle’s.
What happens to the third-party support business going forward? The size of the award potentially dampens customer interest in moving to third-party support, particularly with another case pending of Oracle v. Rimini Street. The SAP case, however, does not invalidate third-party support as a business. Third-party support, if carried out properly, offers an important option for enterprise application customers that are looking for relief from costly vendor maintenance contracts.
For SAP, the verdict is not only painful, but it prolongs the agony, because it is compelled to appeal the verdict. SAP certainly has the financial wherewithal to pay the damages but was hoping to put this embarrassing debacle behind them.
I have been working on a research document, to be published this quarter, on the impact of 8-socket x86 servers based on Intel’s new Xeon 7500 CPU. In a nutshell, these systems have the performance of the best-of-breed RISC/UNIX systems of three years ago, at a substantially better price, and their overall performance improvement trajectory has been steeper than competing technologies for the past decade.
This is probably not shocking news and is not the subject of this current post, although I would encourage you to read it when it is finally published. During the course of researching this document I spent time trying to prove or disprove my thesis that x86 system performance solidly overlapped that of RISC/UNIX with available benchmark results. The process highlighted for me the limitations of using standardized benchmarks for performance comparisons. There are now so many benchmarks available that system vendors are only performing each benchmark on selected subsets of their product lines, if at all. Additionally, most benchmarks suffer from several common flaws:
They are results from high-end configurations, in many cases far beyond the norm for any normal use cases, but results cannot be interpolated to smaller, more realistic configurations.
They are often the result of teams of very smart experts tuning the system configurations, application and system software parameters for optimal results. For a large benchmark such as SAP or TPC, it is probably reasonable to assume that there are over 1,000 variables involved in the tuning effort. This makes the results very much like EPA mileage figures — the consumer is guaranteed not to exceed these numbers.
With about 41,000 attendees, 1,800 sessions, and a whooping 63,000-plus slides, Oracle OpenWorld 2010 (September 19-23) in San Francisco was certainly a mega event with more information than one could possibly digest or even collect in a week. While the main takeaway for every attendee depends, of course, on the individual’s area of interest, there was a strong focus this year on hardware due to the Sun Microsystems acquisition. I’m a strong believer in the integration story of “Hardware and Software. Engineered to Work Together.” and really liked the Iron Man 2 show-off all around the event; but, because I’m an application guy, the biggest part of the story, including the launch of Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, was a bit lost on me. And the fact that Larry Ellison basically repeated the same story in his two keynotes didn’t really resonate with me — until he came to what I was most interested in: Oracle Fusion Applications!
To paraphrase Charles Dickens, Q2 2010 seemed like the best of times or the worst of times for the big software vendors. For Microsoft, it was the best of times; for IBM, it was (comparatively) the worst of times; and for SAP it was in between. IBM on June 19, 2010, reported total revenue growth of just 2% in the fiscal quarter ending June 30, 2010, with its software unit also reporting 2% growth (6%, excluding the revenues of its divested product lifecycle management group from Q2 2009). Those growth rates were down from 5% growth for IBM overall in Q1 2010, and 11% for the software group. In comparison, Microsoft on June 22, 2010, reported 22% growth in its revenues, with Windows revenues up 44%, Server and Tools revenues up 14%, and Microsoft Business Division (Office and Dynamics) up 15%. And SAP on June 27, 2010, posted 12% growth in its revenues in euros, 5% growth on a constant currency basis, and 5% growth when its revenues were converted into dollars.
What do these divergent results for revenue growth say about the state of the enterprise software market?
I joined an impressively large crowd at SAP’s World Tour event in Birmingham,UK, last week and was able to spend an hour with Tim Noble, head of SAP’s UK and Ireland business unit, and Chris McLain, who leads SAP’s team focusing on its 150 largest accounts in EMEA. I'm writing an update of my 2007 report "Effective SAP Pricing And Licensing Negotiation" and wanted to know what they thought about the clash between traditional deal-based sales incentives and Forrester’s clients’ need for commercial flexibility and more recognition, by their key software providers, of the wider relationship. It’s a topic I’ve raised before (http://blogs.forrester.com/duncan_jones/10-03-19-open_letter_season_sap), and I was very pleased to hear some things that SAP is doing to reduce this conflict.
I explained why, from my research, software vendors’ insatiable craving for recognizable license revenue at the expense of creating shared incentives for success is damaging to customers and to the vendor. Both Tim and Chris clearly understand the problem. Tim keeps reps on the same accounts for several years and rewards them for metrics such as customer satisfaction to avoid the revolving door sell-and-run approach that characterized software selling before the advent of SaaS. Chris has a team of Global Account Directors that works with local sales, pre-sales, and delivery teams to provide the holistic view that Forrester clients want and struggle to get from SAP’s competitors.
Some days ago at Forrester’s IT Forum in Lisbon (June 9-11) I gave a presentation together with my colleague Andy Bartels on the IT market recovery (we predict a 9.3% IT market growth in 2010) after two economically challenging years in 2008/9. In fact, we were making the point that the market rebound we currently see is not simply a recovery but the beginning of a new IT hyper growth phase fueled by a new wave of innovation.
A strong driver of this innovation is what we call Smart Computing at Forrester: the integration of physical world information into intelligent IT-supported business processes in 4 steps: Awareness (via new sensor technology), Analysis (with advanced BI solutions), Alternatives (including rules and process engines) and Action (in industry business applications), plus a 5th feedback loop of Auditability for tracking and learning.
A well-known example of smart computing solutions is smart metering in the Utilities industry. In another presentation in Lisbon, a colleague asked the audience, a room full with all the leading IT service companies, who all had an initiative running with smart metering – everyone in the room raised their hands. Then he asked who actually had more than 1-3 (pilot) projects running – and almost no one raised their hand.
Is smart metering just hype that everyone is jumping on or what is the reality of the lighthouse example of smart computing at this point in time?
TECH DEVELOPMENTS: I have been re-reading Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail in preparation for a session that Chris Mines and I are running on adapting to the Next Big Thing at Forrester’s IT Forum 2010.* Last week, I attended SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Orlando, listened to co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe, and met with McDermott along with other Forrester colleagues. The juxtaposition of the book and the event caused me to wonder: is SAP like one of the highly successful companies in Christensen’s book that failed to adapt to disruptive technologies? As Christensen noted, “the managers of the companies studied here had a great track record in understanding customers’ future needs, identifying which technologies could best address those needs, and in investing to develop and implement them.”
Everything that McDermott and Snabe said was consistent with these characteristics. They talked about how companies were facing a world of mobile, empowered customers; their need to be connected with each other to optimize the value chain through to the end consumer; the desire for new process flows; and the importance to them of fast decision-making. They identified a combination of on-premise, on-demand, and on-device solutions that SAP will be offering to meet these needs. They discussed SAP’s investments and new offerings in these areas, including its acquisition of Sybase for its mobile solutions and real-time analytics capabilities.