Here at the European half of SAP’s global customer event, I had a chance to ask some questions of one of SAP’s co-CEOs, Jim Hagemann Snabe. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to ask for some advice to my country’s leaders on how to manage a two-party government, because it seems like he and Bill McDermott are very happy with their own coalition.
It's very encouraging that Hagemann Snabe, along with other SAP executives I’ve met here, acknowledge that SAP has made missteps over the last year or so, although they are still very confident that they know how to fix the company’s problems. There’s a thin line between positive spin and misplaced over-confidence, so hopefully, in private, he recognizes the challenges he faces. Still, I’d like to see more willingness to accept that SAP doesn’t have all the answers and to get advice from outside the organisation, to help it become customer-centric instead of sales-transaction-centric
Both CEOs want to talk only about new revenue opportunities: increasing SAP’s addressable market, the potential of new on demand products including Business ByDesign, and mobile solutions based on the proposed Sybase acquisition. I asked Hagemann Snabe to explain how he’d improve the value for money that existing customers will get for their maintenance revenue. He mentioned the introduction of customer choice between the Enterprise and Standard support offerings, although that isn’t much of a choice since CPI increases on the latter make it cost almost as much as the former. He also stressed the importance of the ‘Innovation without disruption’ enhancement pack system, which will now be delivered in one simultaneous release each year, across all product lines.
Recently, SAP announced a definitive agreement to acquire Sybase for $5.8 billion, at $65 a share, a 44% premium over the share's three-month average price. The transaction is expected to close during the third quarter of 2010. Sybase will operate as a standalone unit under the name “Sybase, a SAP Company,” and be run by Sybase’s management team.
Although execs from SAP and Sybase have stressed mobility, real-time information, in-memory, and analytics benefits that come from this acquisition, the increasing pressure from Oracle cannot be undermined. Oracle’s stronger focus of stack level integration and selling around applications, middleware and database, and recent acquisition of SUN has put pressure on SAP.
SAP-Sybase Deal Offers A Lot Of Synergies
SAP and Sybase offer many benefits ranging from in-memory technologies, databases, analytics, and data integration to mobility and ILM.
Most of us have already heard that Sybase will become part of SAP — or, to be more precise, that SAP and Sybase announced that SAP's subsidiary, SAP America, Inc., signed a definitive merger agreement to acquire Sybase. When this acquisition takes place, there will be various impact areas across SAP and Sybase’s combined portfolio. Rather than discussing this big picture, I would like to focus on SAP for Banking.
For those of you unable to attend, I will summarize some of the content that I presented on SAP’s overall growth and innovation strategy. SAP has a double-barreled product strategy focused on Growth and Innovation.
The Growth strategy rests heavily on the current Business Suite, which includes the core ERP product that is used by approximately 30,000 companies worldwide. SAP claims that it touches 60 percent of the world’s business transactions, which is hard to validate but not all that hard to believe. The main revenue source today is Support, which comprises 50% of the total revenues of the company at more than 5 billion Euros annually, and it grew by 15% in 2009. Other growth engines include:
Hopefully you’ve all read SAP’s co-CEO’s open letter to you (http://ceos.blogs-sap.com), and also some of the great responses such as this one: http://bit.ly/b5foPD . With all these open letters flying around, I thought I’d write a slightly different one. Unlike most of my fellow commentators, I’m not going to tell SAP how to run its business. Instead, I’m going to give you, its customers, a suggestion on how you can cut the cost of your SAP environment. You ready? The answer is “buy less stuff from them”.
Actually, it is not as facile as it sounds. Many companies that I speak with automatically favour their incumbent vendors for new projects, while their IT vendor managers complain to me about their negotiation impotence. You won’t be able to get the contractual protection you need, such as limits on CPI maintenance increases, unless you make them a condition of future purchases. Large software companies such as IBM, Oracle and SAP focus predominantly on license sales. It wasn’t customers’ unhappiness, resulting from the Enterprise Support blunder, that caused SAP to fire its CEO and rethink its approach. It was the fact that you showed that unhappiness by voting with your purchase orders, delaying projects, going to competing vendors, and causing SAP’s license revenue to plummet. When Jim and Bill promise to “accelerate the pace of the innovation we deliver to you”, the d word is a euphemism for ‘sell’.
Sikka made two comments that indicate how he's thinking about the NetWeaver portfolio.
1. In response to my question about whether SAP is concerned that Oracle's ownership of Java will put it at a disadvantage, Sikka started by highlighting SAP's work on Java performance, but then noted the availability of good open-source Java software to support the requirements of SAP customers.
After the recent board changes the strategy will change too
After the recent board changes at SAP the message we could read in most news was like ‘new board – old strategy’. Along with the board changes SAP did not announce (yet) any significant strategic changes. But what good is it to change the board and leave everything else as is?
The recent SAP board changes are just the visible tip of the iceberg of much deeper changes SAP will and has to go through to renew itself as a leading IT vendor. Below are 10 predictions for changes in SAP’s strategic direction I expect within the next 10+ months:
1. More SAP Board Changes Will Come
Additional board changes will further strengthen the product & technology focus and competence within the SAP board. See also Forrester’s blog on the recent SAP board changes: SAP CEO Resigns – Long Live The Co-CEOs
2. Business ByDesign Will Get Back Into SAP’s Strategic Center
Business ByDesign will become again the corner stone of SAP’s growth strategy and the successful introduction will mark a ‘make it or break it’ milestone for SAP.
3. SAP Announces The Next-Generation ERP
SAP will announce a next-generation ERP solution to regain leadership in its core business area and it will likely be based on the ByDesign platform.
4. SAP Changes Its Cloud Strategy
SAP will rework its whole On-Demand strategy and will unify and align all components based on the ByDesign platform. See also Forrester’s recent blog on SAP’s On-Demand strategy: SAP Is Skydiving Into The Clouds.
Thursday’s announcements of additional SAP leadership changes raise more questions than they answer, but a commitment to changing the direction of the company is clear. SAP announced the departures of John Schwarz, head of the SAP Business Objects unit, and Erwin Gunst, Chief Operating Officer. Gerhard Oswald, Executive Board member in charge of global services and support, assumes the role of COO. In addition, Peter Lorenz has been promoted to Corporate Officer, looking after the SAP SME solutions portfolio. These moves follow the resignation CEO Leo Apotheker a few days ago, as well as the appointments of Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe as co-CEOs.
Gunst’s departure, due to health reasons, was expected and was mentioned on Monday in a call with analysts and press. More surprising is the departure of Schwarz, formerly CEO of Business Objects, a respected executive who led the integration of Business Objects following SAP’s acquisition 2 years ago. It is appears that Schwarz’s departure had something to do with his not being named CEO or co-CEO, but the real reasons are likely more complex. SAP appears to be in the midst of a transition to younger and more energetic leadership, and Schwarz’s career may have had limited upside given that Executive Board members are encouraged to retire at age 60 (he’s 59).
The changes are consistent with Chairman and co-founder Hasso Plattner’s return to hands-on leadership of the company. The remaining SAP Executive Board members, co-CEOs McDermott and Snabe, CFO Werner Brandt, COO Oswald, and CTO Vishal Sikka, will be expected to carry out Plattner’s directives to restore the company’s momentum.
On Super Bowl Sunday, February 7, 2010, SAP announced that CEO Leo Apotheker’s contract will not be renewed and his resignation is effective immediately. In his place, the company appointed co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott. Both executives are already members of the SAP Executive Board, with Snabe in charge of product development and McDermott in charge of field operations prior to their appointment as Co-CEOs. More importantly, perhaps, Supervisory Board Chairman and cofounder Hasso Plattner has stepped up to take a more active role in overseeing the company’s direction. Apotheker’s departure was not a surprise for most industry followers. His contract was up for renewal things were not going so well for SAP of late. Just a week and a half prior to today’s announcement, SAP reported its 2009 financial results, in which total revenue declined 9% for the year (to €10,671) and software revenues declined by 28%. During his watch, customers become disenchanted over the mandatory migration and price increase related to Enterprise Support, as well as overly aggressive sales of featured products, including analytics. Mr. Apotheker couldn’t have been expected to perform miracles in a down economy, and can’t be blamed for the false starts with Business ByDesign that he inherited. In fact, Business ByDesign has seen significant progress during his tenure and is now ready for market. In addition, Apotheker was instrumental in launching SAP’s strong commitment to sustainability during the past year. With the appointment of co-CEOs Snabe and McDermott, SAP continues a long-standing tradition of promoting CEOs from within. Co-CEOs, in fact, have been used before, most recently with Apotheker serving as co-CEO with his predecessor, Henning Kagermann, during the transition period leading up to Kagermann’s retirement.
SAP changes its board structure to focus again on product and technology
2009 was a tough year for the whole IT industry but SAP’s performance (-8% in total revenue and -28% in software revenue) was somewhat below the results of many other leading IT companies. The product launch of Business ByDesign is years delayed and clients are still unhappy about the way the new Enterprise Support was introduced. No question, SAP is currently in a difficult situation. At this point SAP announced yesterday that CEO Léo Apotheker’s contract will not be renewed and his resignation is effective immediately. In his place, the company appointed the two board members Jim Hagemann Snabe, responsible for product development and Bill McDermott, in charge of field operations, as co-CEOs.
After 20 years of service with SAP it would not be fair to blame Apotheker, who was certainly instrumental for SAP’s tremendous growth in the past, for the challenges SAP is currently facing. Over several years the company shifted from its traditional strengths, such as products, technology, quality and reliability to a strongly sales driven entity. In fact the whole board of SAP was slowly replaced by a team of pure sales professionals. Product innovation and quality, or customer satisfaction was no longer in the center of corporate strategy, but replaced by sales performance and quotas. In a press and analyst call today Hasso Plattner, Co-Founder of SAP and Chairman of the Supervisory Board, acknowledged that mistakes e.g. with Enterprise Support, were made, but the whole SAP board was involved and it was not Apotheker’s fault.